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sad news

For those who know him and have not heard elsewhere, I’m so sorry to report that Stephen, aka leboyfriend, died last night. He was in England, hospitalized with Covid-19 and other complicating factors, and passed away in his sleep.

I wish he’d gotten to marry his fiancee Imani and live for many more happy years. His is the most generous spirit I’ve ever known.

Stephen Llewellyn in a white shirt, seated and smiling

Life at home

I started working at home on Monday. Remote Desktop is so neat— the laptop I checked out from work controls my office computer, so I have my desktop, all the files, software, et cetera. Some things still take much longer because of the switching back and forth between windows on the laptop screen instead of spreading out over two monitors.

Work was very busy this week, payroll deadlines and a grant proposal and I’m also filling in for someone in our sister department who’s off having a baby. Sang and I can go for a walk at lunchtime and eat together.

I’m expecting Portland to issue a Shelter in Place order any hour now, but it won’t change my plans or activities, as the grocery store and walks are my only destinations now. Trader Joe’s on Tuesday morning was very cheering. There was a line waiting for the store to open, a very long line, but that was because people were queueing up six or more feet apart. Staff controlled how many people entered the store at once, and seniors got to go first. There was a two-per-item limit on everything but frozen food and fresh single items like bananas (oh, and one-per on toilet paper). As soon as the staff announced that, I felt great relief, because I wasn’t competing with the people around me and decision-making became much easier. And everyone was kind and upbeat. It made me feel really good about my neighborhood.

I registered for another class in the graduate publishing program this spring, Publishing for Young Adults. Unexpectedly taught remotely, of course. I am practicing my Zoom skills. But I think it’s going to be really good for me; look at my coursebooks that I’ll be reading instead of the news.  Stack of young adult novels in a leafy backyard
I am extremely fortunate to be so well set up going into this, and very worried about those who are not. Wishing for health and safety for us all.

never pay

parking meter with graffiti "NEVER PAY!"

I used to adhere to a “never pay for parking” philosophy. It meant, for instance, parking at the big movie theater and riding the light rail across the river to go downtown. (Oh Fareless Square, you are not forgotten.)

Now I feel relief that I’ve let go of that and am both able and willing to pay for parking. And I’ve decided not to sweat the five cents for a paper bag, either, if I didn’t bring enough totes to the grocery store.

Middle age, I guess.

 

Not-Hourly Comic Day, or, Five on the Third

sharpie illustration of a keyboard. text: I dreamed I was playing a C major scale. It had been awhile. The 3-1 and 4-1 thumb tucks could go in either order, I realized.sharpie comics. Panel 1, woman with food, coffee, books on couch, with cat approaching thinking "Incoming for LAP TIME!" Panel 2, 2 women and cat looking out the window where cats are growling. "There's a chain link fence between them."sharpie illustration of showerhead. Text: too stinky to go to the gym without a shower first... future showers: 1. gym 2. wash hairsharpie illustration of sedan. text: "a last drive" of the corolla--third "last" so far.two-panel sharpie comic. Panel 1: 2 women walk along a street, their conversation is "REDACTED." Caption: We talked over Sang's current fic assignment. Panel 2: 96 checked out, 6 holds ready, 4 no 5 no 6 gobacks. Checklist: 1. fewer checkouts than years I am old (not checked), 2. net fewer checkouts after this trip (not checked), 3. still under 100! (checked)

What you would see next if I hadn’t run out of steam:

  • Cooking packed lunches for the week! First Lentils Monastery Style from our old favorite Diet for a Small Planet

because we happened to have some Swiss cheese. A batch makes two bowls plus two packed lunches. Needed nine packed lunches. So on to pasta puttanesca, one of our workhorse lunch recipes. I keep thinking it’s vegetarian and then remember the anchovies.

  • Watching the Downton Abbey movie! It was silly. Sanguinity kept pausing it to say things like, “THAT’s what they do swelling music for? Is that SLO-MO?” and “Oh NO!! A person of the wrong social class has to set up CHAIRS! (beat, beat) In the RAIN!” The slavering approval of the servants for the masters and the system was really a bit much. Still, shiny! I’m going to pass it on to a friend recovering from illness.

Fences talk, books win

It is still dark when I walk home from the bus, evenings. I was not expecting a glowing rabbit on Harold Street.

Glowing origami-style rabbit on a nighttime lawn with house in background

I like January’s honest cold, better than the frequent chilly setbacks of springtime that start in February around here. Still, the last several photos I took on neighborhood walks seem to be of fences with a certain aesthetic:

weathered board fence with a plastic skull mounted on it

when Halloween decorations are too good to take down

iron fence with garland made of tinsel and photos of eyeballs

not sure which holiday this was for

gate with posted signs: "no soliciting" and "warning: strange dog"

strange…how exactly?

fence with sharpie graffiti "READ THE BREAD BOOK"

Turns out The Bread Book is an anarcho-communist manual. I tried the first few pages but it wasn’t for me.

On a brighter note, this morning I checked Twitter and remembered it was ALA Youth Media Awards day! I live on the west coast and am not a librarian, so I will probably always experience it in silence, sipping coffee in my bathrobe while feeling celebratory bursts.

My favorite book of 2019, Sal and Gaby Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez, won the Pura Belpré Author Award! 

I don’t read a lot of picture books, but one I loved, Infinite Hope by Ashley Bryan, won a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor. It’s autobiographical, with many excerpts from Bryan’s letters home during World War II, when he was in an all-Black company stationed on Omaha Beach during D-Day, burying fallen soldiers and shuttling out to the ships to unload gear as a stevedore. It’s also about how he stayed alive as an artist in the face of racism and war. A treasure. cover of Infinite Hope

And this was the first year that the American Indian Youth Literature awards got announced at this event, instead of separately a month or two later. The Middle Grade Book winner is Indian No More, written by the late Charlene Willing McManis (Umpqua/Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde) with Traci Sorell (Cherokee), and with this beautiful cover art by Marlena Myles (Spirit Lake Dakota, Mohegan, Muscogee Creek): cover of Indian No More In it, Regina is a kid when her nation loses federal recognition in the 1950s, and her family ends up moving away to LA, where the other kids only know about Plains Indians, through the distortion of TV and movies (so they think she’s weird and fake). Its publication was a collaborative labor of love among several Native and POC women, and seeing a kids’ book about disenrollment (and near where I live) feels important.

cover of PET, by akwaeke emezi

Stonewall honor!

cover of Red, White & Royal Blue

my Christmas Eve book won an Alex award!

cover of Scary Stories for Young Foxes

Newbery Honor: I haven’t read this one yet but asked the library to buy it and they said yes!

 

January 1, 2020

Traditional new year’s photo of the park:

park with Doug firs on an overcast day

It may not look as inspiring as it has other years, featuring neither snow nor sunshine, but after the nasty cold that consumed a week of my life, I was happy to get out on a walk and see it.

I pulled together my 2019 reading list yesterday, and my favorites were all kidlit:

  • Louise Erdrich’s Birchbark House series
  • Robin Stevens’ Jolly Foul Play, fourth of the Wells & Wong mysteries and my favorite so far (but I’m not caught up yet)
  • Sal & Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez
  • Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman. I liked Seraphina and Shadowscale fine, but thought this was a big step up in writing and emotional complexity.
  • The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson
  • Mao and Me by Jiang Hong Chen, translated from French by Claudia Zoe Bedrick.

I read Mao and Me again, last night and this morning. It’s a picture-book memoir of the Cultural Revolution, seen through the eyes of a boy age 3 – 13. I love the art, with lots of black ink and several images together on a page.

picture book page with three panel illustration of a boy and his grandmother playing cards

But most of all I love how somehow amidst the big events and big emotions there is room to sit there quietly beside the author with it all. The ending is part of this:

For a number of years now I have lived abroad, but I return to China regularly to see my family. My parents have not moved. The city of my childhood has changed a lot, yet my apartment building has stayed the same and the tree in the courtyard is still there.

I don’t know if this has explained it at all, but I’m not that much of a picture book person and I haven’t been able to bring myself to take this one back to the library. (I mean, I will. There are limits on renewals. So I will, eventually, buy a copy and take this one back.)

Reading Wednesday on Friday: Sal & Gabi Break the Universe

The view from my office window this morning…was there a backup at the airport, or what?

eastern sky from Portland, with contrails in a spiraling pattern

ETA: there was a backup, but at SeaTac, where fog necessitated spacing the planes more widely. Portland was the holding pen with-runways-if-necessary


cover image Sal & Gabi Break the Universe

This had been sitting on my bookshelf for a few months. I think I’d been passing it over because it looks like a standard-issue wacky middle-grade buddy novel, plus it’s a Disney imprint, so…

But then I saw it had six nominations in the Heavy Medal mock Newbery listings, and there was probably a reason it was on my shelf in the first place, so…

It was so good! It’s funny, and it kept surprising me, and something about the logic of it all reminded me of Daniel Pinkwater. Not directly in style, but if there were a Pinkwater Award for humorous middle-grade fiction, this would win it.

Catnip: arts magnet school, supportive families, alternate universes. Plus Miami Cuban culture and Type 1 diabetes representation. Thanks, Rick Riordan, for reading the author’s adult short-story anthology, calling him up, and inviting him to write for kids! I mean, that’s fantasy fodder all on its own.

And I love living in the future, because just as I got towards the end, I saw news of the sequel on Twitter:

I go to waste

Yesterday Sang and I went with a vanful of college alumni to the dump! It was a tour kindly provided by a chemistry alumn who’s worked for Metro for 28 years. First was the solid waste transfer station, where commercial haulers and the general public bring trash. Sang and I had been there in the 90s, when we bought our house and discarded its very gross old carpets.

A large pile of pallets and tree limbs in a sunlit warehouse

They sort out what they can to reuse or recycle. (Curbside recycling is collected and processed elsewhere.) This is the woodpile. Painted and treated wood is ineligible, so it’s mostly pallets and tree limbs.

Then we went to the adjoining Hazardous Waste facility. Our host worked here until recently; we saw the little lab where he’d worked his first job, testing unlabeled stuff people had brought in by dipping test papers into it and maybe adding something and setting them on fire, until it was ID’d enough that they knew what to do with it. Outside was a grove of rescued (rather than hazardous) gnomes and statues.

View past a forklift to a collection of garden gnomes and similar statues by a curb
The last stop was the MetroPaint facility where leftover latex paint is remixed into standard colors and resold, a process paid for by the industry. The machinery wasn’t running on a Saturday, but an employee obligingly started up a giant mixer so we could go up a ladder one by one and see an enormous vat of dark brown paint being stirred. All the equipment had lots of paint on it.

Machinery covered with many colors of paint drips

Many people have worked for decades to make a five- to fifteen-percent difference in our overwhelming local (yet globalized) waste stream. It’s not nothing, but in Star Wars terms it’s a very small resistance force in the context of the empire.

I think everyone in the van would agree that change will happen, if it does, at the policy level. Yet conversation on the way back kept slipping into individual purity, like where is the one place in one suburb that you can drop off your #6 plastic for recycling, or how someone managed to find a school that wanted his hundreds of yogurt cartons for a project, or how a startup is delivering certain brand-name products in reusable containers like milk was delivered in glass bottles in the old days.  I passed around some leftover trick-or-treat candy wondering if it was a faux pas because of the wrappers, but that was ridiculous no one said anything.

Friday Five

  1. What’s a food or drink whose bottom is better than its top?  Bubble tea! Also lentils monastery style from Diet for a Small Planet, because you grate the Swiss cheese into the bottom of your bowl before adding soup.
  2. What’s at the top of your weekend agenda?  I bought basil last weekend and haven’t made it into pesto cubes for the freezer yet, so that’s first priority.
  3. When did you last wear a non-hat covering for your head?  Um…I don’t wear scarves on my head much, and it’s been too warm for hoodies, and everything else is a hat? If my bike helmet counts, I wore it yesterday.
  4. What tunes did you spin this week?  Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven Is A Place On Earth” is my current earworm, because someone I follow on Twitter was proposed to (successfully) while it played in the background. And last night Sang and I started watching the fourth season of Shetland and both of us remembered how much we liked the music.
  5. When were you last on the roof of a building?  A few weeks ago when I checked out our rain gutters. Which need… something. Another drainpipe? Adjusting so downhill is toward the existing drainpipes? I’m hoping YouTube can help me figure it out before rainy season.

Questions courtesy of f.riday5.com

must dash

wooden library shelving cart with a stenciled 18 and a taped-on printout of the alphabet in capital letters

I concluded that the alphabet is laminated and staff mark it up… but for awhile I pictured people shelving until all the letters looked weird and they forgot the alphabet and needed a cheat sheet.

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Happy Labor Day! Being a little bit active in the AAUP is one of the few things I’ve done that’s felt usefully political in the Trump years—when elected representatives seem unlikely to keep or change their positions in response to my phone calls, and donations seem like a miniscule drop in the political-money ocean. Last week I sat in as an observer during bargaining; the union believes things go better when as many of the people actually affected as possible are in the room, even silently. (Even reading a book or typing away on a laptop. Donuts were also involved.)

We do interest based bargaining, so for the entire hour I was there, they were at step one of seven, framing the problem to be talked about. It’s easy to see why bargaining starts in the summer even though the contract’s not up til the end of November.

Not all chapters of AAUP are negotiating collective bargaining agreements; I enjoyed this account of guerrilla organizing by adjuncts in my hometown.

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Unusual that two pieces in one week would make me think anew about dashes—

em dash compared to a semicolon in this one, as in

I thought hanging out would be great—a chance to finally see the city, just like Aunt Lillian wanted.

I thought hanging out would be great; it would be a chance to finally see the city, just like Aunt Lillian wanted.

And here, an en dash for a relation that isn’t numbers or dates or place names, like author–editor relationship or either–or, and how it differs from a hyphenated adjectival construction:

Amir was an Asian–British scholar and something of a polyglot.

Amir was an Asian-British scholar and something of a polyglot.

In the first example, with an EN DASH, Amir’s Asianness and Britishness have equal weighting. In the second, with the HYPHEN, ‘Asian’ is modifying ‘British’ and carries less weight.

Things to keep an eye out for in the wild, anyway.