Thoughts for the week’s end

I remembered what day it was several times this week and actually took time to acknowledge it. And it was great.

On Tuesday, there was even a moment where I thought it was Wednesday already! So maybe time is starting to normalize? Right.

We read Jennifer Egan‘s A Visit from the Goon Squad for book club last month. It was fun, fairly standard fiction sprinkled with some music geekery.

A thing that one of the characters, Lincoln, focuses on is pauses in music and their importance as part of various songs. There’s even an entire chart—among others—in the book titled “Relationship of Pause-Length to Haunting Power“. Exactly the kind of conversation I like to have!

One of the examples, George Michael’s Faith, has a 3 second pause at the 2:58 mark. Bernadette, by The Four Tops, supposedly has a 6 second pause, but I only count 2. I haven’t dug into the other tracks listed, but I’m assuming they’re correct.

And now that I’ve read the book and have the idea of pauses in my head, I of course notice them everywhere.

Why are you so petrified of silence?
Here, can you handle this?
Did you think about your bills, your ex, your deadlines
Or when you think you’re gonna die?
Or did you long for the next distraction?

I listened to Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill this week and sure enough, there’s a pause of about 1.5 seconds at the 3:09 mark in All I Really Want accompanied by self-referencing lyrics.

It’s a good song and I’d rank the pause as short, but powerful on Lincoln’s chart. That whole album also gets better every time I listen.

And then! While rocking out to Local H’s Pack up the Cats again this week after geeking out on it last week, I caught the almost 2 second pause in All-Right (Oh, Yeah). Talk about a song with a title that fits. 🎸

So why not create a collaborative playlist based on a thing I read in a book? Here you go.

I’m glad I looked Bernadette up tonight, it’s a good tune. It’s familiar to me now that I’ve listened to it, but I wouldn’t have known to check it out purposefully if it wasn’t for the book.

It also reminds me of something very specific that I can’t put my finger on. Oh well, next week.

I figured out a way of phrasing a feeling that I sometimes find myself having as an open source contributor/maintainer.

“I am not confident enough in the solution to summon the future energy it may require to defend the change after all of the work has been done.”

Now that I have the phrasing, I might need to think through a way of actually summoning energy. 💡

I’m going to do a photo post soon, but we walk through our local set of primitive trails at least once a day now, sometimes as many as three times, and it’s fun to all of a sudden be so familiar with a chunk of nature as it blooms into spring.

Even the cottonwood trees, which I absolutely despise, are interesting to me at the moment.

My head is finally starting to wrap around how VR could start to solve video chats. How to explain in a nutshell?

Just because you’re hanging out with a group of people in a bar or a restaurant doesn’t mean that you’re all always having the same conversation.

Someone tells a story, everybody listens. The story ends, people start asking questions or talking and then all of a sudden there are 2 conversations happening at once. If you’re on the end of the table, you and one other person may be chatting on the side about their move to a new city while also keeping an ear on the conversation next to you as it progresses.

The conversations ebb and flow. The group comes together and moves apart. It’s all very fluid and our physical signals make it all relatively easy to deal with.

On a video call, only one person can talk at once. There is no way to have a quiet side conversation while 4 others are talking unless you open up a text chat, which is something completely different.

In a proper VR video chat (or something, I don’t know), the volume of the conversation could change as you move your head. So if two people wanted to shift to the side a bit and carry on a side conversation, they could still hear bits of the main conversation, but the volume of the people speaking would change based on their virtually physical location.

Until something like that is available, every video chat is like a rigid meeting in a conference room. It’s the best we have right now—and it can still be fun! But it will also be interesting to see what it’s like in 20 years.

This week has felt closer to a normal week than it has in a while, even with everything still going to shit. Here’s to normal weeks! 🍕

A COVID-19 Log 6/n

A neighborhood cat appeared on a ledge while we were were walking by tonight and meowed out to us. I stopped and gave it a pet for a second. As we started walking again I said: “oh, that’s right, cats can get COVID“.

So that’s how things are going in week 10000.

Of course I’m not really concerned about the unlikely transfer from this friendly outdoor cat—the chance that I would touch my face without washing my hands after petting a cat in normal times is already very low, but… that the thought even ran through my head is a sign of the times.

I’ve done even better this week at avoiding the trap of the live news blog. I think I even went well over 24 hours without checking the JHU charts at some point. A little bit of avoidance and a routine go a long way toward getting things done.

I had a dream early in the week or late last week where I was out somewhere and all of a sudden felt chilled in the way you do when you have a fever. The “oh shit, I’m sick” moment hit and I of course started down the path to assuming that it was COVID.

I woke up and felt fine.

Most of my other dreams have gone back to normal. I spent an extraordinary amount of time one night trying to find a longer cable for my guitar before a show and then realized I didn’t remember how to play any of the songs. Exhausting!

We still don’t know enough about food and coronavirus, but I found “Do I need to disinfect my groceries?” interesting this week.

Takeaways: probably not, though washing is good. Stay away from people. Don’t pretend you’re good at using gloves.

The Guardian has a nice roundup of what scientists know 5 months in.

Today’s Spokesman Review editorial calling for Washington to reopen its economy soon was pretty disappointing. I don’t disagree with the need or desire to loosen restrictions on what business can be open, but it’s completely unhelpful to continue to compare COVID-19 to the seasonal flu.

Like, obviously different in so many ways. That piece without those two sentences becomes a much more meaningful editorial.

Naysayers and an absolutely inept president aside, it’s amazing to stop and realize how many people across the country and the world are taking this seriously and coming together by staying apart.

I like to think naive thoughts like: maybe this is the last gasp of the last gasp of hatred and nationalism.

Anyhow, that’s me, the optimist. Still hanging in here! 🍷

Thoughts for the week’s end

Local H’s new album, Lifers, came out last week and I’m having a lot of fun with it. Sometimes you just need some heavy rock and roll.

Their 1998 album, Pack up the Cats, has one of the closest-to-perfect track combinations ever put together. The way that tracks 4, 5, and 6 flow into each other is beautiful and still brings me so much joy every time I listen.

Tracks 8, 9, and 10 on the new album bleed together in a very similar way, just darker. So happy with this album.

More music. I’ve decided to get an electric guitar again. In hind sight, selling my guitar and corresponding gear back in 2011 was one of my least favorite decisions. It’d be so nice right now to have the half stack, a full array of pedals, and a guitar to just jam out on.

And in 2020! All of the tools available for recording music that surpass the creative ways we mangled things into a 4 track tape deck. I’m pretty excited.

Om’s post on rethinking how we support music really struck a chord (hahaha) with me this week.

In the Napster era, I downloaded a lot of MP3s. It was my way of researching music and opening doors I wouldn’t have known existed otherwise. We spent the weekends hopping between a handful of places to get used CDs and I filled in the research with actual purchases.

If I didn’t have Napster, there’s at least some chance that I wouldn’t have purchased as much music as I did. I also have no idea how the resale of used CDs works, so maybe I wasn’t really supporting anyone.

Now that I use Spotify—and previously, Rdio—for almost every second of music in my life, I don’t purchase music anymore. There’s no need because everything is at my fingertips and I “pay” for it with a subscription.

Really, I’m listening to the radio all day. But it’s a radio I have full control over and will play just about anything I tell it. This is fine for larger, more established artists that either have enough streams or have a more diverse income stream, but probably doesn’t do any favors to new artists. Even though it acts as a way for those artists to “easily” reach wider audiences.

Anyhow. I’m sure I need to complete some more thoughts there, but I do like the idea of buying albums again where it makes sense. And I joined Bandcamp finally, so I guess Om’s post worked. 😂

An example. I enjoy a lot of Spotify’s genre based playlists. Every once and a while I’ll go to something like “The Pulse of Icelandic Experimental” to try and find something that fits with focused work. This week, one of the first few songs on the playlist was “Changes“, a track from Jason Singh’s Water Songs. As soon as the trumpet started I stopped working and went to find out who it was. Luckily, Yazz Ahmed was listed as a feature musician on the track. I then looked up her stuff and ended up listening to all 3 of her albums in a row.

Then! I made my first purchase on Bandcamp. I bought the digital version of Ahmed’s album, La Saboteuse, and downloaded the FLAC files. When I streamed them to the Sonos the first time, I could immediately pick up on the difference in audio quality.

So. I guess that’s a decent example of how “radio” led to discovery led to supporting an artist in a more direct way.

The trumpet really is a great instrument. It ends up being a common denominator in much of the music I enjoy writing or working to.

I’m not done with music yet. Another album I have a lot of fun working to now is Kælan Mikla‘s Nótt eftir nótt. It’s dark and haunting in a strangely peaceful way. I don’t know how to really explain it, though I do know the vocals first reminded me of something like Le Tigre or Bikini Kill when I first ran into it.

Today I listened to it and started staring at the second track, Nornalagið and got interested in the ð character. If Google Translate is correct, Nornalagið means “witch song” in Icelandic. The ð itself is an eth and, from my quick I’m not a linguist reading, is pronounced like the th in this, except never happens at the beginning of a word.

Any ways. It better come up as a crossword clue now because I’m not forgetting that one.

I’ve had Twitter blocked on my laptop (again) for over a week now. Once every couple days I come soooooo very close to removing the firewall rules. I then recover and just get myself to close the tab I was trying to use Twitter in and go about my day.

I finally broke down so that I could post an amazing photo of my 20-year-old self in blue hair from Cycle Pinsetter’s 1999 Halloween show. That was a good time.

I came across the word antinomianism while reading Orwell’s essay on Charles Dickens.

The next morning I woke up and read how CREC churches (overall, a relatively small group, but one with a couple local congregations) have announced that they will soon start ignoring states’ isolation orders.

What’s the opposite of serendipity?

I couldn’t help but end on a non-musical note.

Sorry. 🙈

Enjoy your weekend, your coffee, your tea, your beer!

A COVID-19 Log 5/n

“Everyone has lots of ways of feeling. And all of those feelings are fine. It’s what we do with our feelings that matter in this life.”

Fred Rogers, as quoted by Jay Inslee in Monday’s press conference.

This is the week where things settle in.

I’ve conditioned myself to not look at global or local case numbers every hour. I instead check about once a day.

I’ve hidden all of my browser bookmarks to news and numbers sites. I’ll go large chunks of time without checking in on the latest-most-extreme-important headline of the hour.

I still see plenty, and I’m still learning plenty, but I’m doing a better job of taking a step back rather than pretending I can do anything with the information I’m gathering.

Part of settling in is setting new expectations in my brain for how long we’re going to be in this current state. When I do spend time thinking about the what-ifs, I find myself spinning off a hundred different threads of possibility and assigning various risk scores to them. When will I be comfortable walking into a store again? When will I be comfortable sitting and having a beer across from someone again? When might it be okay to hang out in the back yard with a few people, chairs 10 feet apart? When will it be okay to give someone a hug?

I continue to be grateful to be in a rural area of a state that made changes earlier than others. If we didn’t have a large city like Seattle seeing rising numbers in early March, it’s easy to imagine the stay at home order being implemented a few weeks later and it’s easy to imagine the spread having that much more time to have an impact. Our county had 12 confirmed cases and has now shifted it back to 11. This probably means something more like 100 total cases, though we really have no idea.

I continue to be grateful to have a partner who is my best friend. While video chats are great ways to check-in with each other at a distance, not being able to actually see and sense physical behaviors in the same way can be tiring. Having actual long conversations in person with someone about what is going on and how we’re handling it has been healthy and helpful.

We’ve established a handful of walks that keep us active, but close to home. It’s nice to have our little system of primitive trails a couple blocks away. It’s also nice to dream about the day it will be okay to go off for a proper hike on a mountain somewhere.

During our Happy Prime lunch call on Friday, we talked about how quickly time is moving. It seems like things pause for barely a minute over the weekend. Then it’s Monday. Then it’s Friday. Then it’s the weekend again.

Michelle and I are at 24 days in isolation at this point and before we know it it will be May.

What else to remember?

Washington State did announce on Monday that schools would be physically closed for the rest of the year. Inslee did leave open the (very unlikely?) possibility there may be a chance for students to gather for a couple days at the end of the year, but stressed that staying healthy is most important.

WSU will not have physical class for the remainder of this semester or the summer, but is planning on in-person sessions in the fall. I’m sure planning is also moving along in parallel on what a full virtual semester or school year might look like next year.

What a different world it would be as a first year student to arrive at a virtual university. What a different world it would be as any student to arrive on campus in fall after a 2020 that has started like this.

It’s been 24 days since I gave blood, and I’ve effectively done nothing since, but it was still a little eerie to see that a Vitalant employee from the Spokane Valley donor facility tested positive after showing symptoms on March 31. Of course it’s all very unlikely, but there’s a chance the phlebotomists on our donor bus have a home base near that location. And there’s at least a small chance that someone who donated that day was an unknowning spreader.

All very low probability, but still very easy to see how quickly connected we can become across great distances.

Contact tracing is the latest term everyone is getting familiar with, including me. So far I’ve read the announcement by Apple and Google on their proposed method for contact tracing over bluetooth between phones. Around the same time I read this great cartoon that explains some of the possibilities for a “private” solution. Joe Kent published a nice technical breakdown of the Apple/Google solution.

What I found most interesting so far was a piece by Ross Anderson that covers how app-ifying contact tracing may not be the right answer.

In the pandemic, the public health folks may have to tweak all sorts of parameters weekly or even daily. You can’t do that with apps on 169 different types of phone and with peer-to-peer communications.


the rhetoric of terror puffed up the security agencies at the expense of public health, predisposing the US and UK governments to disregard the lesson of SARS in 2003 and MERS in 2015 — unlike the governments of China, Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea, who paid at least some attention. What we need is a radical redistribution of resources from the surveillance-industrial complex to public health.

Emphasis mine. I want to read more along those lines, but it’s a statement I can connect with.

Stay healthy, y’all! 🥃

Thoughts for the week’s end

Last week was the 15th of this series, which I’m still finding interesting and in some ways therapeutic. I don’t have any kind of auto-tweet thing setup, and I often have Twitter blocked on my laptop, so I usually end up tweeting the link each week via my mobile browser.

Last week for the first time, I was able to type “Thoughts” and use auto suggest to finish the rest of the title. 😂

I spent quite a bit of time over the last couple weeks trying to think of the right clever way to implement a simple solution on a project.

Yesterday I had the epiphany that the project needed a more complex solution and all of a sudden the approach became obvious and relatively simple to implement.

Going into the weekend feeling pretty good.

When we were in Sweden last year we noticed (it was pretty obvious) lamps in just about every window in every place we stayed in that wasn’t a hotel.

At the time I found this Quora answer that seemed plausible. In a nutshell, houses in villages used to be closer together and farm land was shared surrounding the town. Over time, things were partitioned differently and the houses were moved away from each other onto their own plots of land. As a way of letting your neighbors know you were still there, you lit lamps in the window.

After spending some time trying to find historical sourcing for that, I’m not so certain it’s correct. But window lamp culture is definitely a thing in Sweden, and it’s not completely restricted to the darker times of the year.

Either way, correct or not, I kind of like the first explanation:

“wouldn’t you like to see lights twinkling through the winter darkness in the windows of those people who used to be your close neighbors? And wouldn’t you do the same for them?”

Alan Waller, on Quora

Not too long after we got back from Sweden, we rearranged some furniture and ended up putting a lamp in one of our front windows. It fits well and feels nice to have on.

This week, I realized that I like the way it fits even more now that we need to be physically distant from each other. It can be a quiet sign to the neighborhood that we’re all still here.

The split of land from communal to individual in Sweden appears to be the called the “Storskifte” or “Great Partition“, though as with everything, it seems that the actual history around things in Sweden is published in Swedish so I have some other learning to do before I get there. 😂

Om’s blog has been really nice lately.

Anne’s newsletter has been really nice lately.

One draft post I never seem to be getting to is the world of weekly notes that are out there and I had no idea existed until the last few months.

A fun thing about the weather in eastern Washington is how the temperature will swing wildly over hills and around corners.

On Wednesday, the temperature at the Pullman airport was 61. The Dark Sky app told me it was 64 in my area. The thermometer in the shade on our deck said 67. And the sunlit bedroom indoors, even with all of the windows open, was in the low 70s.

The house is getting the deep breath it’s been needing. I took two of my three walks yesterday in a t-shirt and will probably do the same today. We shared drinks over video with friends yesterday and we’ll share drinks over video with friends today.

Spring is great. If only we could meet each other in person! 🍻