lately (03.31.20)

This post contains affiliate links, because I like money, but I s2g I wrote this post before adding the affiliate links and the monetization does not affect my opinions.

anothertoast - samglorious - quarantine selfie

our bathroom is kinda gross, and so am i!

SOOO. Shortly after my last update, San Francisco issued a shelter-in-place order, closely followed by California issuing a stay-at-home order. I am so, so relieved that I was able to convince my mom to take one more sick day and avoid going into work, because the shelter-in-place order came literally hours later, so it would’ve been pointless exposure to other people if she’d gone in anyway.

(My uncle is still going into work, as he’s considered an essential worker. He takes public transportation and lives in the same house as my mom, so we’re still pretty worried he could get sick (and subsequently, so could my mom), but there doesn’t seem to be much to be done about it other than being as careful as possible.)

I am not an epidemiologist, but I have vague, wild hopes that because the Bay Area has so many tech workers (almost 30% of all private sector workers, according to Wikipedia), and because so many tech companies encouraged WFH pretty early in March, with most mandating it by mid-March – I have the vague, wild hope that regionally, at least, we might’ve slowed the spread enough (by taking so many people aka disease vectors out of their typical travel + interaction paths) to buy our healthcare workers more time. More time for PPE to be produced and distributed, more time for ventilators to be produced or refurbished, more time for hotel rooms to be requisitioned as quarantine facilities, more time for people to realize how seriously we need to take this.

I’m probably wrong. But I hope I’m right.

This post is basically gonna be a wall of text given the fact that I’ve been sheltering in place, but since my last update I…

…left the house a handful of times for 1) paranoia-inducing walks around the block (followed by religious hand-washing and surface-disinfecting), and 2) starting the car engine, once, just to let it run for a couple minutes. Sunlight is great! So is fresh air! I’ve completely given up on sunscreen! A whole new world!

…made one last trip to the grocery store before settling in at home for a couple weeks. It’s been 2 weeks since my last update, and I’m hoping we can hold out for a few more days before another trip to the grocery store. We can survive on what we have in the pantry, but it’s getting kinda depressing.

On our last trip, a lot of things were sold out, so I’m just going to give my late-February self a pat on the back for preemptively buying a carton of eggs on every grocery trip (though it seemed ridiculous at the time), and for freezing an extra loaf of sliced bread. We’re down to a couple butt pieces now, and I (like everyone else) am contemplating… a sourdough starter. I’m not sure how long our flour will last us, though, between baking and feeding the starter. (I’d considered buying extra flour and sugar and yeast in early March but then decided I was overreacting. I was a FOOL.)

…made a couple batches of this Instant Pot beef stew, some of which we’ve eaten, and some of which we’ve frozen. The nice thing about this recipe (and many stew recipes) is how you can just pick up whatever solitary mystery cut of meat is left at the grocery store and season it to death and cook it for so long that it tastes perfectly fine.

…tried this apple cake-in-a-mug microwave recipe (c/o Keisha), which required slightly more effort than I’d expected, and which turned out very ugly but quite tasty.

…cooked frozen collard greens for the first time. We’d meant to get spinach, but the frozen aisle was decimated, so collard greens it was. We steamed ’em in a pan with a pat of butter, some salt and pepper, and a little lemon juice, and they weren’t bad.

…made some tortilla chips using the bag of tortillas we’ve had sitting around for ages. We used this recipe for the temperature and time recommendations, but frankly (having tried it previously) I’m not a huge fan of the recommended seasoning (or even the triangular chip shape). What we did was cut the tortillas into short, narrow strips, lay them out onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, drizzle them with olive oil and a liberal amount of salt, rub the oil/salt onto both sides of each individual strip, then lay the strips out in a single layer to bake. They can get a little chewy if they cool too quickly, so it’s better to let them sit for a couple minutes before eating.

…started eating oatmeal for breakfast again. I used to eat oatmeal almost every day, from kindergarten through college, and then I mostly switched over to boiled eggs. Eggs are pretty hard to come by these days, so we’re eating through a huge bag of slightly expired steel cut oats that my partner’s had since before we moved in together. My bowels are so happy. I love to be a poop machine.

…changed my phone lockscreen again, to Suho’s solo album artwork. Old lockscreen on left, new lockscreen on the right:

lockscreen background wallpaper - exo baekhyun obsession face chain - suho junmyeon self portrait artwork

Isn’t it gorgeous?! This is the artist’s Instagram, if you want to see their other work, or if you haven’t seen the rest of the album artwork yet, look how freakin pretty it is.

…did my laundry at this apartment again, WHILE my landlords were having an argument downstairs, which filled me with intense secondhand embarrassment, which was quickly dispelled when I realized that they’d left a smelly pile of dirty clothes in front of the washer AGAIN. I’d noticed it before, but I assumed that they just piled up their, like, outdoors-y clothes right before doing the wash rather than, perhaps, tracking sand or dirt into the house, which I wasn’t a fan of but could understand. But no!!! They had just finished a load of laundry (which I knew because they left their stuff in the dryer for 8 hours and I had to run the wash again because my clothes were sitting damp for so long), which meant they just??? Who the fuck leaves their dirty clothes on the garage floor in front of the washer instead of, like, in a hamper? A garbage bag? Literally anywhere other than on the floor of a common area?!?! ANYWAY, they suck but I’m grateful to have washer/dryer access in my building, at least.

…watched more press conferences than I’ve ever watched in my life (the mayor’s and governor’s; I tried to watch a presidential one and felt like I was losing brain cells, so I had to turn it off). It was helpful when I was so anxious that finding out news in real-time felt necessary and productive, but now I’ve accepted that I (and those closest to me and therefore most likely to be influenced by me) are already doing what we need to as individuals at this point, and I’m opting for summaries of press conferences instead.

…had some very weird, presumably stress-induced dreams. [CW: murder] In one of them, Baekhyun from EXO smothered me to death with a pillow. (I don’t know where the pillow came from, but it was not even a little bit sexy.) In another one, a middle aged white guy named Paul kept DMing me on Twitter for a date, and I kept turning him down, until one night he showed up at my house (which had huge panels of glass like the Parasite house) and shot me through the glass multiple times until I bled out and died. (This actually isn’t the most violent dream-death I’ve ever had, but the worst one I can remember was so gory that I don’t even want to describe it.) In another one, I panicked about a multimedia English assignment that was due the next day, had to contact various old coworkers to help me figure out how to get my assignment printed on newsprint, and then was informed that the assignment had been due in the year 2000, and I no longer had to turn it in.

…ordered a basic bidet from Tushy. (That’s a referral link.) It’s backordered until late April, but I’m pretty sure we’re all still gonna be cooped up at home and worried about access to toilet paper in a month’s time.

…ordered 1 overnight pad and 2 cloth liners from Aisle. (That’s a referral link.) I already own an overnight pad and a couple maxi pads from LunaPads, which is what Aisle was called before they rebranded, so I’m hopeful the quality will be the same! Cloth menstrual pads are sooo much more comfortable than disposable pads for sleeping in, and I’m hoping I can slowly cut down on my disposable liner consumption over time, because I go through a lot of them.

…bought new cases for my retainers and nightguard. (Actually I bought them in early March, well before the shelter-in-place order took effect, but I didn’t get around to using them for a couple weeks.) I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of buying my own cases instead of waiting for my dentist to offer them, but they are clean and not crusty or speckled with black spots I can’t clean off, and I am content with that.

…darned one sock. Here she is:

anothertoast - sock darning mending

These are bamboo socks I bought from SockDreams years and years ago.

…read Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins. It’s fluffy! It’s gay! It’s an escapist delight!

…read Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell. This graphic novel is angsty and gay and not really an escapist delight (because it’s about a toxic relationship), but the illustrations are really lovely, and it’s wonderfully, infuriatingly teenage.

…read Three Women by Lisa Taddeo. It was all right. I can’t say I particularly enjoyed the writing itself (something about it felt immature, like it was trying very hard to be dramatic and only succeeding about 60-70% of the time), and I feel lukewarm about the contents.

I should’ve known not to expect all that much from this book given the source of its hype (mostly straight, upper-middle-class, unenthusiastically married white women who are very online, from what I saw), but I read it anyway. I feel a bit bad that I only felt much of anything for Maggie’s story, while the other women mostly repulsed me. And I know that’s, like, part of what the book is trying to point out – that women are repulsed by other women’s desire – but it’s more the fact that I cannot find fault with a person who was sexually groomed by someone twice their age, and then later again by her high school teacher, but I can and do find fault with someone who knowingly cheats on their partner or knowingly partakes in acts that constitute cheating in the other participant’s established relationship. It is my opinion that trauma is a reason but not an excuse for hurting other people.

I don’t know. It just felt like an unnecessary story to tell, aside from Maggie’s. The whole book reads in an excruciatingly women-directing-the-male-gaze-back-onto-themselves way (which, to be fair, is in fact how most women operate), and as much as parts of it may have been relatable, it was also just very tiring and really, REALLY not what I wanted to be reading right now. But whatever.

…watched The Talented Mr. Ripley which is SUPER gay and which Jude Law is disgustingly hot in, and Bee Movie which is a 30-minute masterpiece followed by an hour of absurdity. It truly is a B-movie. (Vanessa’s husband, who I believe is voiced by the same actor who did Kronk’s voice from The Emperor’s New Groove, is far and away the best part of the movie.)

…listened to NCT 127’s “Mad Dog” on repeat for, like, ten days straight. In many ways, NCT noise is the only music capable of representing the chaos and, like, pure cacophony going on in my head these days, and “Mad Dog” is, like, 98% feral and absolutely perfect. I’ve also been listening to “Simon Says”, “The 7th Sense”, “Cherry Bomb”, “Fire Truck”, “Black on Black”, and “Sit Down!”, all of which are very noisy, like someone took an electric keyboard, lit it on fire, and used it as a jackhammer, but also continued playing synth sounds on it at the same time. It’s like a deep fried meme, but in audio form!

…also listened to Kim Sejeong’s solo ballad, “Plant”. I’ve mentioned this before, but I was introduced to Sejeong through Busted (which I only started watching for EXO’s Sehun), and it took me ages to realize she was in a girl group, Gugudan. Her voice is really powerful and emotive, and this is just a really nice song.

…listened to ONEUS’ latest title track, “A Song Written Easily”. It’s one of those delicious pop bops that sounds simultaneously upbeat and melancholy, which I LOVE. I also just really, really love Keonhee’s voice. His timbre is really pretty – like, full and clear but also a little whiny(?), in a good way that’s obviously carefully controlled. He also happens to have a lisp (probably because he’s got braces on his lower teeth), and for some reason that combination of beauty and ~imperfection… sparks joy.

…listened to and loved Dua Lipa’s latest album, Future Nostalgia. The whole album is good, but the standout track for me was definitely “Levitating”, which is so good that listening to it makes me feel like I’m… levitating.

…listened to and LOVED, like absolutely LOVED EXO Suho’s solo album, Self-Portrait. I LOVE me a rock ballad, and this is basically… all rock ballads. (See also: EXO’s “Universe”, which is hands-down their best winter ballad of all time.) I’m undecided on what my favorite tracks are, but “O2” and “Self-Portrait” were the ones that struck me most on first listen. The lead single, “Let’s Love”, is also super up my alley:

In all honesty, Suho had never been a standout vocalist for me before this, at least as far as EXO goes (obviously D.O., Baekhyun, and Chen are my top 3, but my 4th choice is probably actually Chanyeol, who’s primarily supposed to be a rapper). But I think the reason for that is that he just doesn’t get to use the best parts of his voice on most of EXO’s songs, which is a damn shame. His voice is SO pretty and emotive but (IMO) just not as suited to R&B the way D.O.’s and Baekhyun’s voices are, or to loud-ass belting the way Baekhyun’s and Chen’s are – both of which are used prominently in EXO’s discography.

But this album. My GOD, he just sounds fantastic on this album. His voice is perfectly suited to the genre, and the music is just… it feels very fulfilling? Maybe it’s the lockdown anxiety talking, but each of these songs feels like it takes you on a meandering lil emotional journey, full of sorrow and reflection, but then there’s always a Joyous Breakthrough to lead you home. I find it very satisfying.

…hosted Zoom meetings for 1) a couple friends and 2) a bunch of family members. The family meetings are 70% pure chaos because there’re so many of us, but good GOD it makes me feel so much better to see everyone’s faces and just feel reassured that we’re all here for now, and alive, and well. We’re trying to make the family meeting a weekly “family dinner” sort of thing. So far it’s been going well! My cousins and I have also played skribbl.io a few times, which works well for gamers and non-gamers alike, and my more gamer-y cousins have been playing World War Z (a violent zombie-killing game) together, among other things.

…started watching Kingdom. If you haven’t heard of it, Kingdom is a Korean drama set during the Joseon dynasty that involves political intrigue and a zombie outbreak. I am OBSESSED, but since my partner and I are watching together, we’re going through it more slowly than I would on my own. I guess that’s a good thing since there are only 6 episodes per season (and only 2 seasons out so far). Highly recommend!

…paused my Android class. It just didn’t make sense for me to continue making monthly payments for it when I’ve been having trouble focusing since January (when my coronavirus anxiety started) and feeling horribly guilty for not getting through the material quickly enough. As soon as the shelter-in-place order was announced, I decided that it was futile to hold myself accountable for not being productive enough during a pandemic when I was barely capable of performing basic human tasks like bathing. (I am very lucky in that my partner is still employed and being paid enough to support both of us when so many others are struggling in both mental and material ways. I am grateful for what we have, but I wish everyone else had it too.)

…did some writing. Actually, I’ve done more writing since quarantine started than I have in quite a while. (I know I’m not technically in quarantine since this is all, like, preventative distancing, but it’s just simpler to say.) I suspect that part of the reason for this burst of creativity is that I no longer feel guilty about writing instead of working on my Android projects, and part of it is definitely that at this point in time, it feels almost necessary to escape into a fictional world I can control.

…got more and more frustrated over the lack of adequate PPE for healthcare workers, especially in NYC where one of my oldest friends is currently working in his (very prestigious, well-funded hospital’s) ICU. It’s a fucking abomination, and I am so scared for him. I should not have to mail him my N95 masks leftover from wildfire season out of fear that he’ll die on the job because he’s inadequately equipped. This was so AVOIDABLE and I am SO PISSED. NOT PREPARING WAS A CHOICE, YOU ABSOLUTE FUCKING COWARDS.

…got more and more frustrated over the dangerous promotion of hydroxychloroquine, which is being denied to the lupus patients who need it DAILY, even though the effectiveness of it in treating COVID-19 remains to be proven. Obviously it would be great if it works out, but it shouldn’t be touted as a cure-all before it’s been tested if it means possibly killing people with conditions we know it works for.

…got more and more frustrated over the absolutely stupid messaging coming out of the U.S. about wearing face masks. I can’t think of any reason other than straight-up racism to explain why official health organizations and degree-holding epidemiologists claim that there is “no evidence” that community usage of face masks reduces the transmission of respiratory viruses. There is! There have been studies done that show how mask-wearing effectively kills off the seasonal flu in a community by making it difficult to transmit to others!

There’s a specific paper/study that’s often cited as “evidence” that “masks don’t work,” which is stupid for many reasons because 1) the paper’s conclusion doesn’t say that masks don’t work; it says that surgical masks don’t work as well at protecting the healthcare workers wearing them as N95-grade respirators, a point that nobody is trying to refute, and 2) people arguing for mask adoption by the general public (like me) aren’t trying to argue that masks are particularly effective at protecting the wearer (though they do provide better-than-nothing protection); we’re arguing that mask adoption reduces community transmission, thus protecting others from the mask wearer, who may or may not be an asymptomatic carrier and disease vector.

It’s like Americans refuse to even entertain the thought that countries that survived SARS might possibly have developed better disaster preparedness plans than the U.S. did in terms of contagious respiratory illnesses, because… Asians just wear masks out of “superstition”? It’s a “cultural difference” and Asians are just… dumber? Or just… naturally more compliant and obedient?? Like, what are they trying to say???

I could see that perhaps the misleading (and false!) messaging was supposed to discourage people from buying up medical-grade masks, which, of course, should be reserved for healthcare and other front-line workers, but why on EARTH wouldn’t they just say that CLOTH MASKS ALSO WORK??? Obviously they won’t work as well as medical-grade surgical masks, but their effectiveness is non-trivial, and to claim that an intervention/mitigation method has to be 100% effective to be useful?? In a situation where we expect exponential growth in cases??? That, in my opinion, is dangerous, irresponsible, and stupid as all fuck.

It feels like the public opinion is slowly shifting on this, though, which would be a welcome development.

I can hope.

(It is very simple to DIY a cloth mask from an old t-shirt, but if instead you’d like to purchase cloth masks to wear during essential public activities (e.g. going to the grocery store), I strongly suggest looking on Etsy for “face mask filter pocket nose wire” (and if you can find a seller who’s in your region, even better; the shorter the trip your package has to make through the postal service, (theoretically) the less strain it will put on the system).

What you’re looking for is a 100% cotton face mask with at least 2 layers of fabric (outside-facing + liner), with a pocket that lets you insert a filter material. The mask will probably be secured with elastic ear loops or non-elastic ties that go around your head, and ideally it will also have a thin wire for contouring the top of the mask to fit closely against your nose. For the filter materials, you have various options, but the Hong Kong-approved DIY filter material is simply… paper towels, from your kitchen. Or facial tissues, folded in half to form 2 layers. There are other options, like cut-up vacuum cleaner bags and HEPA filters, but they’re harder to acquire and can be difficult to breathe through.

This kind of washable cloth mask does not make you even a little bit invincible and definitely still needs to be paired with social distancing and hand-washing, etc., but its main function is to protect others from you, since you might be an asymptomatic carrier.  So be a good neighbor. Wear a mask.)

…got more and more frustrated with people (friends, old coworkers, random internet users) whose main coping mechanism for their pandemic-triggered existential dread/anxiety is to be relentlessly positive and hopeful (especially when they expect the same of others).

I just feel like it’s “people contemplating their mortality and/or the mortality of their loved ones” amateur hour, and I’ve been sitting in the back row nursing a drink for the last 3000 years. I feel like I’m being mansplained, you know? Like, I really don’t need to hear your tips on how to maintain my mental health when I’m afraid of death coming to me and my loved ones, because I am almost always, just absolutely fuckin constantly afraid of death coming to me and my loved ones. I have already figured out how to deal with this, because if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t still be alive. Avoidance via positive/escapist thoughts may be a way to survive (and it’s something I’m purposefully engaging in now, in doses!), but it will never let you thrive. The refusal to confront deeply uncomfortable negative feelings doesn’t! erase!! trauma!!!

I had an awkward discussion with some old coworkers about that article about grief that was going around, because multiple people had shared it directly or indirectly with me. I understand what the article is about, but the simple fact is that I don’t really relate to it. I don’t really feel any particular grief about this pandemic, though I did feel something like it when Trump was elected. And after a lot of thought, I figured out that it’s because when Trump was elected, it violated my belief that most people are fundamentally good or trying to be good, and it was painful to experience that disillusionment, whereas a pandemic merely verifies my belief that the world is an unpredictable and unsafe place where death is always around the corner.

I’m still struggling with this (like, I have trouble even conversing over text with one friend who is handling this like I’ve described), especially because I’ve been made fun of at various times (not by that same friend, but by others) for strongly preferring positive, upbeat media (music, movies, books, etc.), but it’s because I FEEL THIS BAD SO FUCKING OFTEN, so of course I prefer to bask in the warmth of positive, lighthearted, not-so-deep media, and I feel like people are just… finally starting to understand… how bad my “bad” actually feels.

ANY-FUCKIN-WAY!!!

My partner and I have plans to go pick up an online order of breakfast pastries and a loaf of cheesy bread (which we will take home and carefully reheat before eating) tomorrow morning. I’ve got an excellent roster of new music to listen to. There is chocolate in the house. Things can be good and bad at the same time.

But it’d be nice if things were more good than bad.

April, please be kind. I am begging you.

2 Replies to “lately (03.31.20)”

  1. I was trying to write a more cohesive comment but I failed so please accept this collection of reactions.
    I’ll definitely be using this stew recipe! I’m glad you liked the apple cake, which, I agree, completely lacks in presentation. Those nightmares you’ve decribe give me chills in the worst way possible. I always feel so wronged by bad dreams, like I’ve been robbed, but these are next level bad. I’m forever impressed by your darning abilities. I’m now motivated to try to learn this skill myself. “It’s like a deep fried meme, but in audio form!” is the best NCT’ noisy music I’ve read! Thank you for shining the light on Keonhee’s voice, I enjoyed his “Mercy” cover a lot. Honestly, I laugh every time I remember that technically EXO has designated rappers, what a concept. I lack words to express the sheer terror I feel after reading every single COVID-19 related news from the US. I’m making my mother make face masks (I still can’t use a sewing machine myself) and hopefully convince my family to use them (why are people so stubborn?). I hope April will treat you well and I wish you strength 💕

    1. Keisha, thank you for your collection of reactions. I accept them and will cherish them. I’m glad to hear you’ve convinced your mom to make masks!! I can’t use a sewing machine myself either. My grandma used to supervise me when I used her (industrial) sewing machine for very simple projects, but I can barely machine sew anything on my own now. I still have members of my extended family who refuse to wear masks (even though we are all Chinese American; obviously we’re not a monolith, but I thought we’d have similar mindsets after seeing what happened in China), but I’m hoping official guidance will change soon so more people’s opinions can be swayed. Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂 Sending you 💓 and 💪🏻.

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