Wednesday, June 03, 2020

IPMS (Insufficient Pessimistic-Misanthropy Syndrome)

All this time I considered myself a reasonably healthy individual, when it turns out I've had a severe and apparently permanent case of IPMS (Insufficient Pessimistic-Misanthropy Syndrome).

For all my dismay over how thoroughly partisanship and the “sports bar/go-team-go” mentality has corrupted American political discourse (going all the way back to the end of Bush/beginning of Obama years, when various breeds of Democrat and Republican flipped positions on civil-liberty and government-authority matters alongside the POTUS' changing party membership), and for all the ways I feared "Even by post-2001 standards, Trump's presidency is going to be very very bad for America; Zod forbid we have anything like a 9/11-level catastrophe on his watch," in both cases I was insufficiently pessimistic, and weighed down by too much faith in humanity (or at least the subset of humanity comprising my fellow Americans).

I never thought to add “worst pandemic in a century” to the list of “potential American disasters, 2017-2021, exacerbated by a President Trump.” Even if I had, I don't recall ever considering "partisan sports-barism will get so bad that even amidst the worst pandemic in a century, the simple act of wearing a face mask or not becomes an actual socio-political symbol." Nor did I expect an appallingly high number of self-described liberty advocates to commence sneering at mask-wearers on the apparent grounds that “Basic self-care, let alone basic concern for others, are both anti-liberty principles”--best exemplified by Jeffrey Tucker's infamous tweet “Adding to my post-lockdown predictions: the face mask will be rightly regarded as a symbol of obsequious obedience and grotesque compliance with arbitrary and ignorant authority.”

Yet even if I had been sufficiently misanthropic and pessimistic to foresee and prepare for all this, I still did not expect “Amidst the worst pandemic in a century, rampaging American cops will still disregard social-distancing procedures if that's what it takes to murder harmless people.” (Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin certainly didn't bother wearing a face mask while he used George Floyd's neck as a kneeling bench. At least I don't think he did; I could not bear to watch Floyd's murder all the way through. If Chauvin did mask up anytime during those nine or ten minutes, )

And all across America, people peacefully protesting Floyd's death (and police brutality in general) have been met by police officers perversely determined to illustrate exactly why people are protesting.This is how American police behave when they know their actions are being recorded and broadcast to the world. Imagine what they do when they think nobody's watching.

Chauvin's callous killing of George Floyd wasn't the first time, nor even the dozenth time, America has seen undeniable video proof of a cop abusing if not outright murdering someone. (And that's just killings caught on video; consider the far greater numbers of people who died in police custody under deeply suspicious circumstances, but their actual deaths weren't recorded.)

Even worse, in many cases police officers who do these things aren't even charged with crimes, they keep their jobs and their pensions . Many times they even get to keep their jobs and pensions. Police unions overwhelmingly cover for abusive cops – the union's criticism of Chauvin was notable precisely because he was one of the rare times when cop unions did NOT overwhelmingly converge into a blue wall of silence.

My IPMS is flaring up again, because despite the surreal horror of these past three months, I find myself feeling … “optimistic” is far too strong a word, but perhaps “hopeful” works instead. Since the dawn of the smartphone era – more precisely, the dawn of the “practically everybody has a camera and video-recording ability nowadays, plus the ability to post this on the internet” era – “video shows American cop killing in cold blood” has practically become its own genre of reality show.

But maybe this time will be different. It's been over a week now since Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin suffocated George Floyd to death, and the protests are still ongoing. More importantly, get-out-the-vote efforts are developing in response. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court might possibly reconsider the vile doctrine of “qualified immunity,” which basically grants on-the-clock police officers the legal right to abuse people, with no means of legal recourse for their victims.

My country's heading for hell so fast it's leaving the proverbial handbasket in the dust. IPMS kept me from ever seeing it coming … and my IPMS keeps me hoping maybe, somehow, this is the start of something which will change America for the better, even more profoundly than did the civil rights movement of the mid-twentieth century.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Snagged By Rule 34

Today I learned I need to make a slight alteration to my vocabulary: specifically, quit using a certain phrase in reference to a recent unpleasant sartorial period in my personal life, and find a more appropriate alternative.

I'm a clothes horse who's been shopping at thrift stores for pretty much my entire adult life. So, between the facts "I like 'nice' clothes" and "I know where to find nice clothes (pre-pandemic) dirt cheap," for the majority of my adult existence, if you were to ask "How many nice, comfortable, flattering garments does Jennifer have for her local environment, compared to the typical American woman in her socioeconomic bracket," the answer would be "Considerably more than average."

Until recently. Four years ago, at the height of a brutally hot summer, I moved to the Deep South after a lifetime in milder, more northerly climes, and immediately discovered "The summer clothing I have now won't remotely cut it down here." Among other things: in Connecticut I could often get away with wearing a short-sleeved shirt in summer, without even needing sunblock unless I planned to be outdoors a significant amount of time -- but in Georgia, the first time I ever tried exposing my bare skin to the sun (wearing a sleeveless sundress on a 90-degree June day Jeff and I planned to spend looking at various rental-home options), my arm literally stung IMMEDIATELY when the late-morning sunlight hit it. And up north almost all of my summer clothes were made of thin cotton material, but cotton's moisture-hoarding tendencies make it intensify the already virulent humidity down here. I had a few silk summer garments, and silk is much better at repelling humidity, but it is also extremely efficient at heat retention, so all but the thinnest and loosest silk is best avoided in hot weather. Etc.

Through trial and error, I eventually learned how to dress properly down here in summer. Short version: wear lots of rayon and rayon/linen blends. For my own personal clothing/style tastes -- garments I'd choose if climate and temperature conditions were no object, and I only need concern myself with 'style/appearance' plus overall comfort -- there are scads of attractive clothes-I-like available in rayon, and until I had to quit thrift shopping a couple months ago, I was well on my way to re-establishing the status quo "The number of garments I have for local conditions, Georgia summertime version, is higher than average for a typical American woman." (Right now, thanks to rayon, I think I actually have more pairs of nice black summer pants and nice black summer jackets/blazers than I had at the height of my Goth days.)

But when I first started looking for Deep South clothes four years ago, I did not yet know this about rayon. In fact, I erroneously believed rayon was bad for hot and humid conditions, because I thought "Rayon is a manmade fiber. Polyester and nylon are also manmade fibers, and they are hideous for hot or humid conditions. Ergo, rayon probably is too." For a long time -- IIRC close to two years or so, until a friend set me straight about rayon's ideal anti-humidity qualities -- the ONLY "deep summer" clothes I bought were made of linen. And linen is relatively rare by thrift-store standards -- if I had to guesstimate, I'd say a typical thrift-store clothing rack will have 50 to 100 cotton garments for every one made of linen. Plus, linen as a textile doesn't really work well for my preferred style/manner of dress anyway -- it won't hold much of a form, but somehow always manages to look a little baggy and ill-fitting even when a garment is cut perfectly for my size and shape. Especially pants -- I have a couple of actually-attractive linen shirts, but I have YET to find the pair of linen pants that look good on me.

But in my early Atlanta days, when I was genuinely desperate for any clothes I could wear outside without sunburn or overheating, and falsely believed "Linen is the only fabric that will work in such brutal conditions," I bought myself quite a few linen garments I never, ever would've bought otherwise, not even at the < $1-$2 prices most of them cost me: shirts in awful colors and hideous styles [e.g. "ruffled frills"], some so oversized they were even too big for Jeff -- and equally terrible linen pants with ugly earth-tone colors and elastic or drawstring waists, and the first few pairs I bought were so large I had to take in their waistbands with a safety pin or they wouldn't stay up. (I did not, however, buy any pants requiring safety pins to take up the hems.)

I called these my "desperation clothes," because I bought them during that early Georgian period when I was genuinely desperate for anything I could safely wear outside in daylight. Eventually I reached the point where I quit buying desperation clothes, because I had enough that I could at least afford to establish such minimum standards as "I won't buy clothes unless they actually fit me, without safety pins" (though within those parameters, I still couldn't be choosy about color or style--and my definition of "these clothes fit" still allowed for a lot more baggy shapelessness than my usual norm).

And then, finally, I reached the point where I could also afford to say "No more clothes unless they fit AND they are in colors and styles I actually like." This got much easier once I discovered I could (and should) buy rayon for summer wear too.

At long last, I think at some point only in the past six months or so, I had enough deep-Georgia-summer clothing that I could do a culling: namely, I went through my linen desperation clothes and decided which ones I'd keep as pajamas/housework clothes, and which I'd re-donate to the thrift store. Pants requiring safety pins in their waistbands all went back to the thrifts, as did the frilly shirts because the frills made them uncomfortable to sleep in ... but I can't remember how many other shirts and pants I may have got rid of, and why. And of course, when I did that clothes-culling, I assumed I'd still be making regular thrift-store visits and acquiring at LEAST three or four new-to-me garments in a typical month -- I certainly did not foresee or expect anything like covid-19's changes to my normal daily existence.

Now that I'm stuck at home all day, and will not be making any thrift-store visits or new-clothes acquisitions for the foreseeable future, I'm kind of wishing I'd saved some of those desperation clothes -- better to wear out an oversized pair of pants I don't even like and nobody will ever see, than wear out good (or even minimum-tolerable) clothes under such conditions.

I checked the archives at a chat forum I frequent -- I know I'd talked about "desperation clothes" there before, and a couple of clothes-cullings, but don't recall if I mentioned that specific cull a few months back, or whenever the hell it was. So I typed "desperation clothes" into the search engine of the forum.

At least, I intended to. But I'd absent-mindedly typed the phrase into my browser search bar instead, so rather than search for the phrase in the archives of an obscure chat forum, I ended up doing an unfiltered DuckDuckGo search of the entire internet.

(urk)

(you might want to leave rather than read the rest of this)

Apparently -- this information is derived from the approximately 0.83 seconds I spent pondering the search results, before going back to the forum -- there exists a subcategory of porn involving women who piss themselves, presumably because they're denied access to a bathroom and eventually reach the point where they can no longer hold it in. And this particular porn subgenre comes up if you do a regular unfiltered online search for "desperation clothes."

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

More Bad News About Covid-19

The more I hear about this virus, the worse it gets. A friend of mine is in the medical field, working the front lines, and mentioned problems certain survivors (especially those requiring ventilators) face: the permanent lung scarring is already fairly well-known, but apparently another problem is kidney damage; something about the virus replacing the iron in hemoglobin, which does something-or-other with the end result that many of these poor people will either need a new kidney, or have to be on dialysis for the rest of their lives. 

When I first did the voluntary self-quarantine (voluntary meaning, I stayed out of the thrift stores and other favorite haunts even when they were still open), my basic attitude was "I'm not too worried about what would happen to Jeff or me if we caught it, as I'm sure we'd be fine and make full recoveries; I'm concerned about passing it to someone who CAN'T handle it due to immune-system problems or other high-risk factors." But at some point in the past couple of weeks, that changed to "Also I am worried about me and mine."

Another concern: the Worldometers site lists the number of people who have recovered from the virus in various states and countries -- but I have not yet found any data breaking down those who recovered: how many made full recoveries and are now just as healthy as before they got sick, how many recovered but have permanent lung damage, how many recovered but their kidneys are shot ....

Tl;dr: Don't go out if you don't have to, people. And if you DO have to, then for Zod's sake wear a mask and gloves, wash your hands, and follow the other anti-contamination protocols. Russian roulette is a stupid game to play even if there's only two or three bullets in a hundred-chamber gun.

Monday, April 20, 2020

In Georgia, It's NEVER the Right Week to Stop Sniffing Glue

The good news (relatively speaking): social distancing apparently has had some efficacy in “flattening the curve” of new covid-19 cases here in Georgia.

The bad news (no relativity needed): this news presumably inspired our thoroughly wise* and completely non-corrupt* governor Brian Kemp to announce plans to re-open the state starting this Friday, which I fear will cause those flattened curves to fill out faster than Dolly Parton after she hit puberty. As Kemp posted on Twitter barely two hours ago (blockquote contains two separate tweets):
Due to favorable data & more testing, gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbers, cosmetologists, hair designers, nail care artists, estheticians, their respective schools & massage therapists can reopen Friday, April 24 with Minimum Basic Operations. … Subject to specific social distancing & sanitation mandates, theaters, private social clubs & restaurant dine-in services will be allowed to reopen on Monday, April 27. We'll release more information in the next few days.
If the governor has explained how the hell people such as barbers/hair stylists, tattoo artists, manicurists and the like are supposed to provide their services while staying at least six feet away from their clients, I must have missed that.

Having said this: I must admit Georgia is not the only state, nor Republicans the only major American political party, to have many wise* people offering well-thought-out* ideas. Take for example Senator Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), who said today that “It's been weeks and health care workers on the front lines still don't have the PPE or medical supplies they need. We need to federalize the medical supply chain – now.”

In other words, he apparently believes the way to solve this problem is to give Trump and his administration even more power than they already have. Trump said earlier that Democratic governors have to be nice to him if they want federal aid in this crisis; I will assume Senator Murphy (whose state has a Democratic governor) missed that news report, because he was too busy formulating well-thought-out* plans to solve this unprecedented national crisis.

*I'm trying out a new “if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all” rule. Do you think it's working? Thank Zod for the sarcasm loophole.


Wednesday, April 01, 2020

A Super-Easy Quarantine Self-Improvement Tip

This sounds like an April Fool's joke, but I'm completely serious: for those of you stuck at home for the foreseeable future anyway, now would be a great time to kick your shampoo habit. I haven't used shampoo since 2009 -- I still wash my hair frequently, of course, but using only hot water and the pressure of my own fingertips to remove oil and dirt, followed by a very light conditioner (plus wide-tooth comb) to serve as a detangler. Compared to my shampoo days, my hair is far nicer and healthier than ever before -- less frizzy, far fewer split ends (I literally cannot remember the last time I found one, despite my hair being around 2.5 feet long), easier to care for, etc.

Shampoo is literally an "addictive" substance, in the sense that most people don't need it (modern detergent-based shampoo wasn't invented until the 20th century, yet clean, shiny hair existed well before that), but if you start using it, get used to it, and then stop, for awhile you'll go through "withdrawal" and be worse off than if you never started using in the first place.

Basically, healthy hair should have a certain amount of oil, or "sebum." Shampooing strips sebum from your hair, thus making your scalp's oil glands go into overdrive to make up the difference, and ... long story short, if you're a regular shampoo user, most of the time your hair is either much drier or (paradoxically) far more oily than if you'd never used shampoo in the first place. When I kicked the habit, I experienced about two to three weeks of consistently Bad Hair Days (fortunately during a New England winter, so I could hide the worst of it under a cloche hat), then my hair suddenly got better all at once: woke up one morning after an Atrociously Bad Hair Day, took another conditioner-only shower, braced myself for another ABHD, but this time when my hair dried it looked awesome -- better than ever.

At the time, I wrote a magazine article about my newly shampoo-free life (archived link here). A year or so later, an online friend of mine told me he'd shown his wife (also afflicted with long, fine, frizzy red hair) my article and a couple other things I'd said on the matter, and she decided to give it a try. Quoth he, "It took about 2 weeks for it to stop frizzing. It took another 2 weeks before she could, for the first time in her life, run her fingers through her hair. It's been 4 months and her hair looks the best it ever has. That is all I just wanted to thank Jennifer on behalf of my very grateful spouse."

{Preens}

Of course, none of this is to say "I never get frizzy hair anymore" -- I live in Georgia, after all -- but it's the frizz of "clean healthy hair that happens to be in a ridiculously humid environment," as opposed to the frizz of dry or damaged hair.

Seriously, people: ditch the shampoo and make do with a very light conditioner (nothing advertised as "moisturizing" or "for dry hair" -- those products are for regular shampoo users with unnaturally low sebum levels). If you give up shampoo now, your hair will indeed look icky for a couple weeks, but it will return to normal and look better than ever well before this quarantine is likely to end. (And you'll save a small fortune on shampoo costs, too.)

Friday, March 27, 2020

Pandemic Hurricane Prep: Get Started Now

Serious advice for anyone living in places where hurricanes and similar natural disasters are a possible threat during certain parts of the year: start washing and saving the plastic bottles (caps included) containing soda, juice, iced tea, Kool-aid and similar non-dairy beverages, even if you're usually wont to throw these bottles out with the garbage or recycling. I say this based on concern that, if supply chains and business overall remains wonky when hurricane season starts in June, buying the recommended 14-day supply of bottled water will be a HELL of a lot harder than it already is under those conditions.

Do not, however, save and re-use plastic milk jugs or any other containers that once held dairy drinks (which includes a lot of coffee beverages); no matter how many times you wash and sterilize it, you can never be entirely certain you got rid of ALL traces of milk proteins, which make microbes grow like crazy.

I already have a large collection of one-liter and one-gallon bottles (which originally held Jeff's preferred brands of club soda and unsweetened iced tea). If I had a big house and basement with lots of storage capacity, I'd just buy pallets of bottled water and be done with it; however, I live in an apartment which simply does not have the storage space (or strong-enough shelving) to hold 48 gallons of water at approximately one cubic foot and eight 1/3 pounds per gallon. So instead, I keep only a 4-day supply of pre-bottled water on hand, plus enough clean plastic bottles to hold another 11 or 12 day's worth. Here's a list of tricks I've learned over the years:

1. If you don't have enough shelf or floor storage space to easily hold all those bulky (though lightweight) bottles, you can put them in large unused garbage or lawn bags and hang them from the ceiling of a storage closet or some other out-of-the-way space. Weight is not an issue with all those empty plastic bottles; only actual volume of space is an issue.

2. Easiest way to wash and sterilize bottles (assuming clear transparent plastic): rinse out each bottle, then give it a squirt of liquid dish soap, add hot tap water full blast until the top of the soap suds start coming out the mouth of the bottle. Then cap the bottle and give it a good shake several times, enough for the soapsuds to get a chance to go against all interior surfaces.

3. The difficult/annoying part of washing bottles is actually the rinsing, and making sure not a TRACE of soap remains in any of them. The least-annoying method, I've discovered, is: dump all the hot soapy water out, then fill it with cold tap water slowly enough that the traces of remaining soap are NOT agitated into suds. Do this until the water overflows the bottle, then dump everything out. Depending on the shape of the bottle, you might need to repeat this process anywhere from two to four times to make sure every last bit of soap is gone.

4. Of course, drying out the inside of the bottles is the part that takes the longest, because YOU can't actually dry them; you can only wait for the water to evaporate out of those narrow bottlenecks. Weather permitting, I've found the best way to do this is to arrange the bottles on a drying rack by a window, with direct sunlight shining in/on the bottles. Otherwise, I set up the drying rack in an out-of-the-way part of the house.

5. If you are going to partly fill bottles of water to freeze, DO NOT use bottles or jugs with irregular shapes; stick with symmetrical bottles, ideally cylinders rather than squared-off bottles or anything with angles. I learned this the hard way when I prepared for a hurricane last year (which, luckily, did NOT hit me after all): took a hollow-handled jug which originally held a gallon of iced tea; filled it about 80 percent with water (leaving room for the ice to expand, of course); and due to the irregular shape of the bottle, the ice ended up expanding in ways that completely split the bottle. Since I did not lose power, I only had to discard a giant irregularly-shaped ice cube plus a bunch of plastic shards; had that ice melted it would've been a LOT messier.

6. I reserve the right to add to this list later if I remember anything else.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Covid-19: Euphemisms for the Duration

Sociology poll (preceded by an explanatory personal anecdote):

When I was a young kid -- single-digit age -- like all members of Generation X I lived a life of extreme cartoon deprivation, compared to kids today: other than Saturday morning cartoons, the only ones I could watch on a regular basis were old (1930s through 50s/earliest 60s) shorts which originally aired in movie theaters, but by the time I came around you'd find them on local indie TV stations that mostly aired whatever syndicated content could be had cheap. Since a lot of those cartoons (Woody Woodpecker, Tom and Jerry, Max Fleischer's and Tex Avery's oeuvres) came out in the early 40s, I actually got a "feel" for certain aspects of daily life in World War Two before I had any inkling of their contemporary equivalents -- for example, I had a vague understanding of how "ration points" had to be considered whenever you'd buy food at the grocery store, loooong before I knew anything about the importance of checking the unit price of an item in order to get the best deal (e.g. "Paying $1.50 for the 20-ounce bottle is a better bargain than paying $1.00 for 10 ounces").

Thanks in large part to those cartoons, I also knew that during the war, many Americans referred to it as "the duration" -- certain businesses would sport signs saying "closed for the duration," people (or anthropomorphic animals) would talk about doing things only "for the duration," etc. Obviously, this was used as shorthand for "the duration of this war." And now, almost immediately after covid-19 brought about radical changes to my ordinary everyday life, I started referring to "the duration" -- I just checked the archives of a chat forum where I hang out, and in just the past three days I've mentioned such sentences as "Texas has also banned abortions for the duration" and "Jeff's workplace has [instituted various changes] for the duration," among others -- and of course, I have no idea if I came up with this phrase "on my own," so to speak, or if I am merely defaulting to a usage I learned as a very young child watching cartoons older than my parents.

So, here's a question for all of you: what phrases, abbreviations or euphemisms, if any, have YOU been using when discussing the quarantine and other covid-19 issues?
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