Thoughts for the week’s end

Song number one is not a fuck you song
I’ll save that thought until later on
You want to know if there’s something wrong?
It’s nothing
It’s nothing

Fugazi, Song Number One

I’m not sure how I made it this far without listening to Fugazi, and maybe I’m forgetting something, but I think I did.

This week I listened to their first few albums and had a blast. Music like this always brings back the best memories of playing in rock and roll bands. Sometimes I’m not sure I had a great reason for stopping. I know my day job “demanded” a lot—I worked too much and got paid too little. Was it that I was broke and tired of driving my crappy car into the city every week for rehearsal? Of all the things I wrote about, why don’t I ever explain that!?

And how on earth is the Myspace page still up! There’s a throwback photo for you. 😂

Jeff posted about his comfort meal—grilled cheese and tomato soup with hard-boiled eggs—and asked for others’.

I’ve been thinking all week about my answer. There are a lot of great foods, but nothing that really pops into my brain as “comfort”. That said, I have a lot of great memories around grilled cheese and tomato soup (without the egg, which I should definitely try).

There’s a good chance Michelle and I made that for dinner at least 3 times a week when we first met. It was one of our meals of choice while hosteling in Ireland and is always a right answer. Once for St. Patrick’s Day we actually ordered Brennans bread and Knorr tomato soup mix from Ireland so that we could actually recreate the experience.

The photos I had on Instagram from that day are now on, which is nice. One perfect meal, which is absolutely comforting, is:

I very much enjoyed Om’s post, “Dealing with not knowing“. Please go read it and I will also steal a quote from Edvard Munch that he used:

I was walking along the road with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.

Edvard Munch, on why he painted the Scream

I am never going to look at that painting the same way again.

I’ve done well this week at maintaining focus. Last week’s “find a single focus” has started working pretty well.

First, I’ve paid a lot of attention to the way I think things should go and the way that things do go.

One example is that I often think I should start working by 8am in order to have a productive day and wrap things up by 5pm. But in reality, I’m never ready to sit and start working at 8am. I’d also like to be a bit more mindful to how the day begins. After accepting that, I moved how I thought about my schedule around and the days have started much nicer.

So thumbs up to accepting the reality of a 9am start when that’s when you start every day.

And second, I tricked my brain! Last week’s bookmark moving has completely paid off. Instead of reactionary visits to COVID dashboards and news sites, I have to go hunting for them. This usually causes me to just turn back to what I was doing, which is a welcome change.

Happy Friday—it’s pizza night. Stay safe and home. 🍕

A COVID-19 log 2/n

Another week. 🥃

I donated blood on Friday morning after reading of a blood shortage in the inland northwest. I’m happy to have been in a position to donate and I’m very happy to have done so in a county yet to have confirmed a case of COVID-19.

But. It was pretty stunning how cavalier the donation bus was. I made an appointment for 10am under the assumption that only a couple people would be donating at the same time and only a few people would be on the bus at once as a way to maintain physical distance.

I was the first to arrive at the bus and was sent to the front door of the hospital before boarding so that my temperature could be checked as a way of screening for symptomatic donors. My temperature was normal, so I went back and waited just inside the bus door while the blood team finished their prep. After a couple minutes I sat down with one of the people to answer a bunch of questions even though I had filled out a fast track form ahead of time.

I was still the first person to actually get setup on a bed and it wasn’t too long before all 4 were full. Once things were in full swing there were probably 8 or so people crammed onto this lovely bus. The air circulation was good and things seemed sterile, but the lack of masks and lack of any concern for distance was really a disappointment.

As Stephen later mentioned, it would be interesting to see a comparison of how many lives are saved with the blood we donated and how many lives may be endangered due to SARS-CoV-2 spread on donation buses.

I only stayed on the bus for a few minutes after I was done. Not thinking, I grabbed a bag of Doritos—how am I supposed to pass up chips!—and sat for my post-donation snack. Of course, if I was somehow already a carrier, I spent that whole time polluting the bus air. All for a bag of chips and a little conversation. Normality is a vice!

As I walked away from the bus I looked back and saw a decent line of people waiting to donate. They were huddled as close as could be, chatting as if everything in the world was normal.

So. While I’m happy to have donated—it really did feel like I was doing something to help—I can’t see donating again in 8 weeks unless I can be sure that the practices have changed.

“If anyone is living a normal life today, you are not doing what we need for you to do if we are going to save lives in this state”

Governor Jay Inslee


Many local businesses are starting to focus on establishing delivery services and providing take-out instead. While this may not be entirely fair, we’ve decided not to order take-out from restaurants as the chain of how food is handled is just too unknown at this point. That said, this food safety article from Serious Eats is full of interesting information that I want to explore further. Once we get into the routine of the new normal, it may make sense to order out from time to time.

I was happy to place an order with our local brewery for cans of beer, something that can sit for a few days before we start consuming it.

Arrival. 👾

As of today, Whitman county has its first confirmed case of COVID-19.

We’ve been expecting this for weeks and really have just assumed it’s been hanging out undetected while people are asymptomatic or experiencing mild symptoms they attribute to a cold or the flu. The general lack of test availability means we have little visibility into how things are spreading unless someone has severe symptoms.

The part that has me confused is “the patient has recovered and is self-isolating at home.”

It’s excellent that they have recovered, but what does that mean? Were they in the hospital with symptoms, were they self-isolated at home the entire time with light symptoms? I’m still fuzzy on how long it takes for a test to complete and how long someone may have had to go about their daily lives before finally being eligible for one.

Earlier in the week, a Pullman firefighter was quarantined after contact with a patient that was displaying possible symptoms. They were released from quarantine less than 24 hours later (I think) because the test came back negative. Also good news, but I was surprised to see that our county had the ability to test someone with a 24 hour turnaround time.

All very confusing. I’m sure it will stay that way for quite a bit.

Pullman itself halted many services on Monday of this last week.

Most city services are closed to the public or open by appointment only. The library is closed and encouraged folks not to return their books yet. Bonus? There are a couple books that both Michelle and I will have a chance to read now. 📚

If you’re reading this column, I’ll assume today is shaping up to be very different than a normal Tuesday.

You may be working from home. You may be teaching your children how to do long division. You may be wondering about how many hours your manager can carve out for you this week at work. You’re likely hyper-alert to every cough, sniffle or sneeze within a two-block radius.

Craig Staszkow – “Committed to staying agile, keeping readers informed

The Moscow-Pullman Daily News has done a great job of adapting and is turning out really informative local stuff daily. The introduction of a community bulletin that lists all of the various closings and changes to business hours was a welcome addition. And they’ve lowered the paywall on all coronavirus related articles.

I feel good that I finally subscribed to a print paper again!

On Thursday, WSU suggested students don’t return from spring break if they are able. It sounds like more groups are pushing their teams to work from home. Earlier in the week, the university announced extreme social distancing measures that limit the number of non-essential people on campus. Jake published a great post on how to manage a research lab remotely. It will be interesting to see which of these practices various labs adapt and keep when this is all over.

A poorly inserted graph showing a rate of increase in COVID-19 cases in Washington State.

Last week Washington State had 769 confirmed cases. We crossed 1000 on Tuesday and are just shy of 2000 on Sunday. It appears that the number of cases has doubled every 5 days for the last two cycles. If that maintains, we’ll cross 4000 on Friday and 8000 on April 1st. Hopefully the messaging across the state of Washington has done it’s job and the curve will start to flatten sooner than that.

It has been interesting to watch how data has started to come together. The State of Washington went from seemingly unreliable numbers to a page that is now updated once a day with specific county information. They also launched an ArcGIS page with mapped data by county.

Our county went from having nothing to something that at least shows a rough set of case data. My guess is now that we have a case that data will start to get more accurate.

It must be nuts for things like JHU and The COVID Tracking Project to find accurate numbers across the country and the world.

A thing to remember when this is over: Sharing health data in a pandemic in 2020 is something county websites all over the country are figuring out how to do individually. Maybe there’s a better way?

Things are starting to feel a little less normal.

We ran out of fresh apples and bananas this week. Rather than chance frequent trips to the store for fresh produce, it’s time to switch to frozen and canned for a bit.

CDC ads are appearing everywhere. I had already seen them as promoted Twitter moments. While driving back from giving blood the other day, I found myself in awe at this message on hand washing and covering your coughs and all I could think was how eerie of a thing it was to hear on the radio.

Tonight’s Westworld had a similar ad in front of it as well, though was mostly strange because of the upbeat music that accompanied the cartoonish illustrations.

We’re still able to enjoy walks in the neighborhood, but it is really weird to cross the street back and forth when coming across other groups of people.

One of the very much strange things is the almost visceral reaction to hand-shaking or close contact among strangers in movies. We watched Girlfriends (1978) on Friday night and both cringed when the main character shook the hand of somebody she met at a party. Distance yourself!

It will be interesting to see what movies are made after this has passed.

We have been successful at video chats. Our local friend group hung out over drinks on St. Patrick’s Day and a few of us had another session on Wednesday. We’ve been making good use of our recently spun up Slack organization and have relied on Zoom for the face to face. Next we’ll have to figure out some games!

Hang in there. And if anyone does want to have a Zoom beer, give me a shout! 🍻

Edited March 23, 2020 8:53am: I opined too much on the current state of affairs at WSU and have removed a couple unnecessarily critical paragraphs as well as some misinformation as to how the university is managing the pandemic. This weekly log should be reserved for personal experiences, links to sources, and careful criticism after more thorough research.

Thoughts for the week’s end

“Find a single focus.”

Is what I wrote down on a few pieces of paper this week. Sometimes in large text! The repetition is starting to work. I’ve been closer to focused as the week goes on, but there is also just a lot going on!

The News and our collective reactions to The News has been the most detrimental to my focus and I changed a few things that have made an immediate impact.

  • I moved the Twitter icon to a different area of the screen on my phone. This causes me to hesitate before opening and I think reduced the number of times I went through with it.
  • I removed the app icons for The Guardian, The Washington Post, and The NY Times from one of the main screens (Android) so that now if I want to look at them I have to go hunting among all of the other apps. This process reminds me that it’s okay to avoid them for periods of the day and I usually stop.
  • I removed my COVID-19 and Regular Reads bookmark folders from the bookmarks toolbar. I was using those as quick shortcuts to various graphs and news sites. Because they were quick shortcuts, I… drum roll… quickly visited them!—frequently. Now that they are off screen, I am visiting them much less.
  • I re-added Twitter to my block list, something I first tried in January. This makes it harder for me to visit Twitter and reduces the amount of time I spend on it.

These are all strategies that help delay the delivery of updates. Just because things are happening in the world doesn’t mean I need to know them now. There’s nothing actionable I can do anyway!

I am grateful the population density of Pullman means daily walks outside can still happen in a responsible way without much effort.

We’ve been averaging 3 or so walks around the neighborhood each day. Luckily we have a nice (quaint?) primitive trail system a couple blocks away that can get us off pavement for a bit.

I only knew part of the Dry Fork Creek Natural Area’s backstory until I looked up that article just now. So great!

When I walked downtown to drop off our city bill the other day, the neighborhood seemed super quiet, which is a weird thing to think about a neighborhood that is already super quiet. I don’t doubt I’m projecting.

The espresso machine is fixed! Except it wasn’t the espresso machine.

Michelle cleaned the machine and replaced the silicone ring. We tried a thousand different grind settings, watched videos on proper tamping, started deciding there was just no hope, etc, etc…

Then, I decided to try and clean the grinder just in case there was something going on with that. I made it sparkle, but we still had bad coffee. And at some point, all of the coffee started tasting like garbage—except for the moka pot, which is proving to be exceptionally resilient.

And then! I finally looked up some troubleshooting info on Baratza’s website and saw that the plastic around our ring burr was in fact missing a few pieces. This explained the unknown plastic pieces I saw when I opened up the grinder. 🙂

These missing plastic pieces were causing (I think) the ring burr to be very unstable. This meant that it wobbled or otherwise moved around while the machine was grinding and the grind came out coarser than normal and super inconsistent.

I ordered a new ring burr from Baratza, received it a couple days later, and voila—beautiful, fine grinds. And espresso is back!

Baratza sets an excellent example. They make great grinders. Every piece of the grinder can be ordered on the web. And they included a “Don’t Dump It – Fix It!” sticker with the shipment that is going on the laptop. 🙌🏻

I enjoy Björk so much.

This week I found myself working chronologically through all of her standard albums, ignoring the live and remix releases.

Often, I’ll get my fix just by listening to Post. Army of Me is such a great opening track. I also find myself at Debut again and again—once again, Human Behavior is such a great opening track.

I’ve realized this week that I absolutely love Homogenic. There’s so many layers and the album just feels good all the way through.

When listening to Vespertine, I remembered that I somehow ended up listened to it while looking out the airplane window over Iceland one time and it was an almost magical soundscape. The next time I flew over Iceland I was very excited for the repeat.

I decided this time around that Medulla is the strangest album—though I really enjoy Who Is It and Triumph of a Heart.

Volta is a lot more fun than I remember and I’d like to hear her redo “Declare Independence” with a heavy metal backing band for some odd reason.

Biophilia is calming—there’s a perfect track for this era, “Virus”.

Vulnerica is excellent for brain getting work done.

And I’m not sure what to think of Utopia, it is getting late, but it feels similarly calming to Biophilia.

Anyhow. One day I’ll give her the same treatment I did Steve Earle 8 years ago. I need to revisit that post and fix all the Rdio links.

The first day of Spring came this week, the earliest it’s arrived in 124 days. We were lucky to have sun and I was lucky enough to go for a walk outside in a t-shirt.

I hope anyone reading this is doing well!


A COVID-19 log 1/n

I can’t help but record a few thoughts so that I have something to look back on when reflecting on this period as a future me. I may try to do this weekly for as long as there’s something to say. Be safe, y’all!

“We’ve never dealt with anything like this before. Everyone’s reaction, no matter how unlike mine, is normal.”

This is what I keep telling myself while navigating the news and reactions around COVID-19. It’s taking us all some time to collectively get on the same page. It seems like it’s happening, though there will be plenty of people that take longer than others and plenty of people who decide not to change.

A few days ago there was somehow still a widespread attitude—which is hopefully easing off—that if you aren’t in an at-risk category you can feel free to go about as if nothing has changed. Unfortunately, we know that many coronavirus infections are spread by people who are not showing symptoms, so that line of thinking causes a significant problem to the greater community.

Our county does not have a confirmed case of COVID-19 yet, though testing has been extremely minimal—the county had something like 14 total available test kits last week. Washington has 769 confirmed cases as I write this and will probably cross 1000 within the next 48 hours and 2000 by the end of the week. It’s hard to imagine it has not made its way to this side of the state with so many people traveling back and forth to Seattle weekly via car and plane. And many students will likely come back to Pullman after spring break in a week to participate in “distance learning” from their dorm rooms and apartments. WSU has continued to maintain that the university will be operational. They have so far only suggested that at-risk employees work from home.

Our local chamber of commerce has been encouraging people to continue to support local businesses and there’s a good chance many people are not yet worried. The mood does seem to have changed a bit in the last few days. My guess is that Pullman, as a small rural town, will do relatively okay overall, though WSU has a history of poorly managing community spread.

It was announced this evening that Governor Inslee will be signing an order tomorrow morning to shut down restaurants and bars across the state. This comes only a couple days after the announcement of a state-wide school closure through the end of April.

Things like this should cause some pause and start to change WSU and Pullman’s positions. 🤞🏻

The statement “the novel coronavirus, SARS-COV-2, causes COVID-19 in humans” took a few weeks before I paid enough attention to actually parse into its pieces so that I understood. Now it feels like something I won’t ever forget.

I don’t remember ever hearing the terms “social distancing“, “community spread”, or “flattening the curve” before, but here we are: learning.

At the moment, Michelle and I are coming to terms with and embracing the importance of social distancing. I’ve also been starting to use the words “physical distancing” (thanks Eric) as we really will need to lean on each other in the coming year.

I already work from home almost every moment of the week—beyond the handful of visits to coffee shops, something I am very grateful for. For the last week we’ve reduced the number of reasons to go out and engage with public spaces. No gatherings with people, eating in restaurants, and no visiting multiple stores at a time. On Wednesday I had an excellent book club with 4 others over Zoom. I’m open to trying other types of virtual gatherings over the next few months.

It was February 26th that we decided to finally buy a couple large bags of rice and a few extra canned goods as a way to start stocking up without going overboard. Over the last few weeks we’ve filled in a handful of other staples. We’re thankful to have already had a chest freezer with a good amount of frozen broth, meat, soups, and vegetables. From a caloric and nutritional standpoint, we’re good to stay inside for quite a while if needed.

I’ve also settled on a “this is likely safe” routine for buying some more perishable or last-minute items. I’m okay walking into a store—hopefully at an off time, spending a few minutes picking up items, checking out, coming back home, and washing my hands. It seems smart to avoid trips to multiple places as it increases the number of possible touch points and times I may inadvertently touch my face.

We are still enjoying the outdoors, something we’re lucky to do because of our rural surroundings. It’s perfectly safe to go for hikes and walks and soak in the fresh air and sun. It would be tough living in a large city and trying to establish a good routine for getting out while keeping distance.

However prepared we are, the chances seem good that I’ll be infected by SARS-COV-2 in the next year or so, along with a large portion of Americans and much of the world.

None of this really scares me as an individual, though I definitely don’t look forward to it and definitely hope I’m wrong. Even though I was a heavy smoker for much of my 20s and even though I have had pneumonia, it’s hard to imagine being diagnosed with COVID-19 and not being able to manage it. Of course thinking we’re invincible is one of the things humans are best at, right?

I’ve only scratched the surface on thinking through the long-term global impact and the news we’re going to be dealing with as things get worse. A global event like this is shaping up to be something “we”, our living generations, have never really had to experience.

It would be so nice to know that we have acted in time, that the curve will flatten, and we’ll all feel a little silly a few months from now that we reacted so strongly.️

Thoughts for the week’s end

More than anything right now I want it to be warm enough that we can open all of the windows and the house can just take a nice deep breath.

I have worn my light jacket more than my heavy jacket in the last week while walking around the neighborhood and I’ve started using it as a relative happiness measure. Spring is almost here!

My favorite part about this jacket (or “technical hoodie”) is how I wasn’t even looking for one, but it was 50% off on a clearance rack, fits perfect, and is exactly what I need for non-rainy fall and spring days.

Of course somehow I’ve also found myself wearing a heavier hoodie over a long sleeve t-shirt when at home this week, which makes no sense at all.

I didn’t mention last week that I do realize people all over the world use a moka pot every day without a recipe. Dump pre-ground coffee into the basket until it’s kind of full, fill the base with water, screw the top on and put it on the stove.

I have no idea how this works for other people! I’ve failed miserably every time I try to be nonchalant about it. So I’m okay having a “recipe”. 😂

Tweeting is to talking what polling is to voting.

I really enjoyed Jill Lepore’s commentary in The New Yorker this week, “The Problems Inherent in Political Polling“.

Max von Sydow passed away. I didn’t recognize his name at first, but when I saw his face, I immediately remembered him (among many other roles) as Karl Oskar from The Emigrants, a movie that follows a 19th century Swedish family during their preparation for emigration to the United States. I read the book during our trip to Sweden last year and had a lot of fun using it as an imaginary gateway into what things may have been like.

I have a whole separate draft post recording how I’ve been processing COVID-19, so I’ll leave most of it out of here. But of course there are words to say.

Even though our county does not yet have a confirmed case (is it possible to confirm what you don’t test?), we are taking the approach of participating in social distancing. It seems to be the best thing to do early—even before you are at risk—to help the community at large. It worked in St. Louis in 1918.

That SARS-COV-2 appears to often be spread by people who do not show any symptoms helps solidify that as the right decision. Even as relatively low-risk carriers, we could increase the risk to our community.

Which means… tonight we had our first ever remote book club via Zoom! It worked out really, really well—much better than I expected. Still great people, still great conversation.

One thing I started to pick up on is how interesting it is to see everyone’s face at once. When you’re sitting around a table or on a couple of couches, you’re often turning your head to look at who is talking and not catching all of the reactions. I’m not sure which is better, because in person reactions are definitely more… personal? But it’s pretty cool.

Our book was Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers. It was an interesting and quick read, though I’m always wary of reading his books. I feel like a statistic repeater when I’m done.

“Did you know?”, “Did you know?”.

And then I’m not sure if I really know or if I’m just repeating statistics. Which is actually great for the thesis of the book because when I read Gladwell, I default to accepting that he’s writing the truth.

It was still a fun read and we had some great discussion around almost every chapter. So I’m happy to have read it, but I’m still wary of Gladwell. 😂

Today Happy Prime will have its first ever Friday lunch online instead of meeting downtown. It will be a bummer not to hang out in person, but I’m also interested to see how it goes.

Happy Friday! 🍻