The COVID Crisis in India

How do you lead and govern over a billion people?

I cannot wrap my head around that.

The news of the health crisis in India, skyrocketing new cases of COVID-19, is truly heartbreaking. So many humans are suffering, and the response locally and globally seems to have been very poor.

I can’t help but think of the millions in poverty, severe poverty, who can’t do anything to help themselves, much less others. The crowding in such a densely populated country is problematic. The country itself is a superspreader event, and isolation seems virtually impossible.

What are citizens in positions of privilege doing? Can they do more than their fellow humans lower on the socioeconomic ladder? Isn’t there anything that can be done?

I don’t know what I can do personally yet, only because I haven’t done enough research. But if there’s a place to donate for vaccines or masks or hand sanitizer and soap; if there needs funding for places for quarantine or anything else, I have to help. Somehow.

Spot the Difference

I hung up the hammock today! Felt symbolic.

Not in an overly deep way. The weather is finally warming and keeping relatively steady. And Z really likes the sensation of lying and swaying at the same time. Very soothing.

Both Z and Reilly get the summer off at the end of the school year, and so much relaxing and playing will happen. These summer months are often pleasant.

Got a text the other day from a friend. She and her husband are both fully vaccinated, and she told us as soon as we say the word, they’re game for hanging out.

We are, too.

When people have come over in the past year, they’ve worn masks, and they didn’t stay very long. How will it feel to loiter for hours with friends again? Maskless, even? Will it feel…wrong?

Speaking of, I’m cooking up a post about masks. Not sure if it’ll be indignant or not. Just kidding, I’m pretty sure my thoughts will be carrying some heat.

Anyway: warm weather, friends, so much time in the back yard. Reading, gardening, snoozing.

That’s the hammock.

It’s back up, everyone.

A Comment I Made on YouTube, then Deleted

Last Wednesday I watched this panel, previously recorded:

They discussed Black activism and broader inclusion in the arts. These 90 minutes are well worth your time.

As soon as the discussion finished, I left these remarks in the comment section:

This discussion was so insightful, and so necessary. This is the day after riding on the cautious optimism of the Chauvin verdicts, then going to bed with the news of Ma’Kiah Bryant and waking up this morning angry. I’ve been trying to learn how to support Black people, to empathize deeply, to unlearn the ingrained racism that I grew up with while – as an Asian American, in this past year particularly – feeling unsafe as I read headlines of Asian hate. Navigating all these human paths, all the nuance, is so important. Listening to the wisdom of all the artists on this panel was encouraging. I loved how you all supported each other and acknowledged the process of becoming better, being intentional and uncomfortable, chipping away slowly at racism in the arts, making small, deliberate yet significant efforts to be more inclusive, to create belonging in lesser represented groups. I wish I knew about this series sooner, but I will go back and watch the previous episodes. Thanks so much for this.

I let the comment sit there, not knowing what to expect. There weren’t a ton of views at the time. Mine was the first and only comment. After a whole day with no other engagement with the video, I began to feel self-conscious about my comment. Did I say something wrong? Did I offend anyone? Was this video not for me? Should I have pointed out how vulnerable and willing to learn Hilary Hahn was by expressing to this all-black panel how much she didn’t know yet? Perhaps, to all these questions.

By Friday morning I decided to delete the comment. I felt that it wasn’t my place to say anything. And I’m perfectly fine working behind the scenes. (Obviously in my own blog space I feel more comfortable.)

Anyway, that’s all I have. I do want to see more diversity and representation in the arts. More access to opportunities. Better funding for access. An eventual unwinding of privilege to allow for truly equal opportunity for all.

I don’t know if this makes any sense. Just sorting through thoughts, I guess.

But I do want to donate to organizations, like Project 440, whose mission centers around opportunities in the arts for youth in minority groups.

If you have the resources, you should donate, too.

Living Close Enough to Nature

Utah is beautiful in the spring. It’s undeniable. Watching flowers bloom and color return to the world invigorates my soul.

One of our cherry trees has reached full bloom. It’s starting to drop its petals to make way for leaves and fruit. Those petals on the ground almost look like snow. Spring here tends to be temperamental and unpredictable. It could still snow, but the vegetation will keep insisting it’s spring. And I will only agree with that idea.

Our apple tree has started to bud. The fruit won’t show up until the fall, but the flowers right now sure brighten my day.

I built that swing and that bench last spring, as the overwhelming desire to do something with my hands during the pandemic and isolation prompted me to, well, build stuff. We’ve enjoyed sitting and swinging under that apple tree this past year. We’re gonna do a lot more of it.

The view of the neighboring farm always calms my spirit. I mean, look: the big field, the red barn, the (blurry) horse. To think I wouldn’t be living here long-term. Utah has succeeded in changing my mind. So grateful we live here.

From Instagram, 25 April 2021

To go with the vaccine post from earlier today.

You already know this, but this coming Saturday is May 1. You know how excited and obnoxious I can get about my month.

I got my 2nd dose of the Covid-19 vaccine this past Thursday evening. Those who experience side effects, those hours are rather bothersome, but then those hours are over, like a switch flipped, and you’re feeling normal-ish again. Except now I’m immune. Well, in two weeks I’ll be fully immune.

Before my vaccine appointment I had a checkup with my doctor. My first one since 2017. A nurse and a med student were with him in the exam room with me. The nurse took my vitals: BP 123/79. HR 60. Wt 99.2. O2 96%. [By the way, I’m 4’10”, in case my weight happened to concern you.] The doctor looked at my bloodwork and said I was super healthy; that my cholesterol levels were better than his; that I was one of the patients he didn’t have to go to med school for. He had the med student give me a breast exam, which, at the time, was sorta comical, like maybe it felt like she was spreading and poking pizza dough with her fingers? She also gave me a pelvic exam, and she couldn’t find the strings to my IUD. The doctor checked and located them, but the IUD had shifted nearly into my uterus. So he inserted a clear speculum and showed the med student how to resituate the IUD. And I hummed a little tune as this was happening. And this caused cramps the same time as the vaccine side effects. The re-placing the IUD, not the humming.

Oh, is this too much information?

COVID-19 Vaccine, Dose 2 Symptoms

I got my second dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine last Thursday night. I ended up feeling a lot of the same symptoms as the first dose, but more intensely.

The aches were a little more pronounced. Thursday night I slept horribly.

Friday I experienced chills, a different experience from the first dose. Took a hot bath. Took a couple of naps with a space heater nearby and under a couple of blankets. As a result of trying to keep my body warm, my Fitbit reported that I burned as many calories as I would on a day of jogging 25-30 minutes on the treadmill. Very interesting.

Even with my Friday naps, I slept really well that night.

Saturday morning, outside of a slightly tender injection site, I felt so much better.

So glad to be on the other side of this.

Two weeks, and I’ll have full immunity.

Cool.

Ink

21 August 2019 I got a tattoo. I had been thinking about getting one for a long time: what it should be, how big it should be, where to put it.

I decided on a hummingbird. In many cultures this animal represents joy, happiness, good luck, and positive energy. Love and playfulness. These are all things Z embodies. I mean, spend two minutes with her and there’s no denying it.

I also like the idea of how quickly its wings move yet gives the impression of stillness and calm. The average hummingbird beats its wings 53 times per second. This speed allows it to hover mid-air, to take its time as it siphons nectar from various flowers. As hard as it works it presents beauty while seeming to enjoy life.

That’s important.

There are tons of images of hummingbirds all over the internet. At first I didn’t know if I wanted something more realistic or fantastic or simplistic. Somehow I decided on simple and clean.

I went to a tattoo studio that a coworker likes and set up an appointment. A week later I walked in with a printout of the image I wanted. We talked about size and placement. I wanted it on my right shoulder, and if I got it big enough, he could use the colors that were on the printout, and they would be easy to see. I went for it.

The artist made a template of the printout. He suggested that the hummingbird should be facing inward, aesthetically speaking. I trusted all of his advice, because this was my first tattoo, and I didn’t know what the hell I was doing.

I lay on his table, and the artist got to work. The whole thing took just over an hour, maybe 70 minutes. A few times the pen buzzed against bone, which sort of hurt, compared to the merely annoying pressure of the rest of the piece. All in all, relatively quick and mostly painless.

I spent the next two weeks applying ointment to the tattoo and covering it with clingwrap. I spent the two weeks after that moisturizing it with lotion. Reilly helped with applying ointment and bandages from time to time.

It still looks as good as it did a year and a half ago. I love this reminder of the people in my life who possess hummingbird-like qualities, especially our glorious Z.

No regrets here.

80s Basement Lecture Series

In November 2016 we bought a house. We moved in the next month. The idea of having the space to host events or parties crossed my mind. Our basement looked like hasn’t been updated since the 1980s, and this is where we set up the TV for movies and games. In February 2017 we started a quarterly lecture series, and we would hold each lecture in our 80s basement living room. We’d invite people over, we’d eat treats, and speakers would be our friends.

2017

18 February – Satire, by Reilly Ryan

Reilly started of our series with a fun discussion about satire. He provided a few written and video examples; he talked about his thesis, which discussed whether a show like Family Guy (compared to the Simpsons) was satire. (I actually blogged about this lecture here.)

20 May – Poison Control Center, by Amber Johnson

Amber is Reilly’s older sister. She talked about the Utah Poison Control Center, where she works. She provided pointers on keeping our homes safe and what to do in the event of a poisoning. Since this lecture she has been promoted to Director of the UPCC, which now also doubles at the Utah Coronavirus Hotline.

19 August – Horror, by Jonathan Smith

Jon knows a lot about horror movies. He spoke to us about horror films and the commentary they provide about family. We watched a few excerpts from classic scary movies and analyzed them.

11 November – Introduction to Fan Studies, by Melissa Beattie (Skype)

Melissa, a professor, talked to us about the ins and outs of being a fan. We talked about fanfic. She mentioned a lot of pop references and talked about fan events and culture such as Comic Con, as well as the history and basics of fan theory.

2018

17 February – Bali and Gamelan, by Gavin Ryan

Gavin is one of Reilly’s brothers. He presented a lecture about Bali music and culture, and he brought some Gamelan instruments for a performance.

26 May – Immunohistochemistry and Libraries, by May Ryan

I talked about the app that I maintain for work. I also talked about the importance of libraries.

25 August – Semiotics and Tarot, by Bridgette Tuckfield (Skype)

We learned about tarot cards! The history and meanings behind signs. A very cool discussion.

10 November – Nigerian Literature, by Kylie McQuarrie

Kylie presented the work of several African authors, and how important they are in context of war and oppression.

2019

23 February – COLD Podcast, by Dave Cawley

Our biggest crowd. Dave had released his true crime podcast just a couple of months before. We were lucky to have booked him before all the other speaking engagements came along. For us, he told the Susan Powell story and gave background on all the footage and other artifacts that enrich this story.

4 May – Fur Foxen concert and Q&A

My hairstylist happens to play cello and sing in a band. We invited them to give a really nice, chill concert and answer some questions about their process.

24 August – Highway Typefaces, by Marjorie Smith

Very fun lecture about the history of highway typefaces, which includes some surprising drama. Everyone probably now notices the details of freeway signs now.

23 November – Visual Effects, by Ryan Sonderegger

Ryan talked about some of the technical aspects of his work. We discussed some of his more well-known projects. Very fascinating.

2020

22 February – Cheese, by Joseph Peterson

We sampled so many cheeses! Some were awesome; some required an acquired taste. We paired cheeses with crackers and breads and fruits. It’s always fun to discuss food.

We didn’t miss a quarter for three years. All of these lectures were amazing. We learned about so many really interesting things. We gained a deeper understanding of social issues and other cultures. This was also a chance/excuse to get like-minded friends to gather in a safe space, a tiny blue dot in the middle of our obnoxiously red county. We aired our grievances and frustrations with the political climate. (We closed on our house just before the 2016 election.) We loved being able to hang out with such wonderful people.

Lectures went right up to the cusp of pre-pandemic and pandemic times. We haven’t even held a lecture since then. Not even online, though I’ve toyed with the idea. But we’ve all been dealing with isolation and anxiety and everything else that came with the pandemic. We’ve been depressed and cabin-fevered; wanting to break out into society and wanting to keep the blankets over our heads at the same time. These have been difficult times. But with vaccines becoming more accessible and as more people get vaccinated, we’ll be able to gather safely soon. Hopefully.

I miss those guys.

Karim Dabbèche Animation to Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 19, II. Scherzo: Vivacissimo, Performed by Hilary Hahn

I have included watching this video into my daughter’s morning routine:

We listen to the whole thing. Z may wander during this piece, but she makes sure she watches the part where the main character falls out of the subway train. It seems she also likes to watch them stand up after falling down. Which is pretty dang cool.

The other day I scrolled through comments to this video and came across this opinion.

To be honest, I knee-jerked when I first read this. Like, I was sort of offended? But I didn’t need to be. I didn’t spend a lot of time trying to understand this person’s perspective. I get it: Hilary Hahn is mesmerizing to watch. But without really knowing this commenter, maybe I’ll try unpacking what they said here.

Disclaimer: This is not a defense of Hilary Hahn, as she does not need defending. This is a rebuttal of an opinion of a YouTube commenter. That is all.

I’m a fan of Hilary Hahn. Oh, me too! She’s so talented. She has great energy as a performer. A beautiful personality, and very gracious to her fans. I mean, here Commenter is setting up for the but of their comment. I can feel it.

I appreciate her sincerety [sic] and commitment to her music. I agree! She’s very sincere! She’s very committed to her music. Both are not always simultaneously present in famous musicians or public figures in general. The way she presents her 100 Days of Practice demonstrates both of these qualities in spades: she offers valuable music and life wisdom, and in the 100 days themselves she shows her dedication to her craft. Plus she provides videos of her practicing, so we get to see her every day during this time. This would be an easy thing to feel entitled to. Even as her adoring fans we are not entitled to see Hilary Hahn every day.

That said… “but…”

I would rather… Commenter is stating a preference, which they are absolutely entitled to. People like what they like. Just like I’m stating my preferences right here. Which happen to mostly disagree with Commenter.

I would rather watch her play the music than watch animations. Commenter seems to be dismissing the work of the animator here (as a preference, but still). Hilary Hahn has made an effort to work with Karim Dabbèche in his interpretation of this Prokofiev work. This is a collaboration of interpretations. A different expression of Hilary’s “sincerity and commitment to her music.” And why not promote other artists? Dabbèche is clearly talented, and this video is legitimately cool, and Hilary testifies that it captures the spirit and weirdness and charm of Paris. This work also overflows with real representation of diverse backgrounds and cultures, which is really what we need. It’s refreshing, frankly. That she has played an active part in bringing this video to reality says a lot about her generosity and breadth of creativity as a human being. And she wanted to share it with us. I’m so grateful she did.

I mean, right?

Done ranting now.

Supergroups I’m Currently Into

I’m With Her – bluegrass, Americana: Sarah Jarosz, Sara Watkins, Aoife O’Donovan. Because I’m a long time Nickel Creek fan, I happened to come across their individual projects. I’ve seen both Punch Brothers and I’m With Her live, and they are fantastic. The solo pursuits of these ladies here are remarkable, too.

The Highwomen – country, bluegrass, Americana: Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby, Maren Morris, and Amanda Shires

I saw Brandi Carlile in concert a month before the pandemic shut everything down. It was a transcendent experience. My mother-in-law was listening to a lot of her music in her last months, and listening to all of Brandi’s stories and songs during her concert sort of took me out of my body and reunited me with Carla. I don’t care how cheesy that sounds.

Our Native Daughters – Black Folk, Americana, bluegrass, sort of unclassifiable? these ladies kick ass at writing about the Black experience: Rhiannon Giddens, Amythyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla, and Allison Russell

I’ve been a fan of Rhiannon Giddens for a while, as well as Allison Russell in her other band, Birds of Chicago.

I need more of this.

If you haven’t already, check all these groups out.