I’ve been remembering a lot of things today and in the days since the Queen’s passing, and today being the anniversary of 9/11, remembering that, too.
The British are very, very good at remembering things. We’re… not but there are some memorials that we do well. Pearl Harbor is one. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is another. Some of the 9/11 memorials are meaningful to me personally (as I’m in travel, today always brings back memories of the terrible days of silence in the skies above Chicagoland during the nationwide ground hold).
In November 2010, David and I took a trip to the UK. It wasn’t the best time of the year, but it was what I could get. We were staying near Buckingham Palace, so Westminster Abbey and Parliament Square were within walking distance.
There were poppies everywhere. So on a more recent vacation, I took this picture with my plain old iPhone. I stopped using my Canon about the time we were in England. These were growing on the edge of somebody’s family Chautauqua cottage, down hill from their property and likely volunteers from a very old planting, because I was hiking along a fire road below the houses.
During the November 2010 UK trip, we were in London during the Armistice Day observances. The crowds were immense, packed in 5 and 10 deep all along the streets along the route of the parade.. We picked a spot near where the royal cars went into the back of the government buildings closest to the Cenotaph where all the royals were to lay wreaths. We didn’t have a hope of making our way through the crowds to see that, so we stayed on the edge of Parliament Square, near some protesters, but we got lots of great views of some of the veterans marching in their uniforms as they swung around the corner toward the end of the route at the Abbey..
This group struck me – there were so many like this, in different uniforms, walking or rolling along in motorized carts, solemn and proud. I loved them in their kilts and tartan trousers and wondered how many they had lost in their group over the years.
Some of them may still be with us, and if they are able, they will be there somewhere in the crowds during the Queen’s long progress toward her resting place in the Abbey. Some may stand near the roadside in Scotland, if they could get there, or pay their respects at Holyrood, where she will lie in repose until Tuesday.
When the observances get to London, I expect the streets will be completely full of people, the Tube will be jammed, and it will be much like the Armistice crowds from our visit – quiet, sad, respectful.
Naturally, it’s a logistical and security nightmare, and I’ll heave a huge sigh of relief when it’s decently done and everyone of the heads of state are safely home.
I took a lot of fairly good photos with that Canon 30D but lost interest in lugging it around when I realized it was hard to get really sharp focus while wearing glasses. The photos were all filed using an old Google app called PIcasa, but they’re still up on a web archive. Some of them ended up as banners on the blog.
There are lots of kinds of remembrance today, here in the US and over there in the UK. It’s a sad, dark, murky day here and the light makes everything outside look like it’s underwater. It’s not like the incredibly bright, sunny day 21 years ago at all. The murk suits the mood.
At approximately 1020am this morning, I was sitting in a CVS Pharmacy getting a Moderna Covid19 bivalent booster vaccine, along with a flu shot. Within 3 hours, I was having the weirdest, semi-conscious, somewhat lucid dream of my life. I may be needing tea and sympathy tomorrow if, by some reports, the second day is the kicker.
Because we’re Team Moderna here, I had been looking at the various pharmacy sites ever since the new boosters were approved by the CDC, trying to find Moderna vaccine available near me. Once again I had to go pretty far afield to find it; not as far as the very first time when I had to drive about an hour south for my first 2 vaccines. This time I only had to go 30 minutes away, which is a 50% improvement, I guess. But for my previous booster, we got to go to breakfast with family at a a nearby restaurant and then fan out to multiple pharmacies after to get our boosters.
David was off on a group gravel ride with friends, I had the morning free. So off I went, got my jabs, and on my way home caught up with a family friend via (hands free) phone as I drove.
During this call, I learned that a young family member’s toddler was never vaccinated, and is now ill from Covid for the second time. And the young family member sent a photo of a Covid test to others, asking “Does the faint line mean I have Covid too?”
That is some world-class duh-nial there, kiddo. And it’s not the first time that this family member has questioned the evidence of her own eyes on a Covid test. She also wasn’t fully boosted, though with Omicron’s ability to evade previous versions of the vaccines, that’s not surprising. I’m just irked at her for putting her kid at risk, and wonder if she’s been hanging out with other vaccine duh-nialists and listening to the other insanities.
Anyway, after getting home and toddling around, I started to feel a slight headache, so I took a couple of Ibuprofen and settled down on the couch to relax.
While in the middle of composing a tweet, for God’s sake, I was suddenly aware that my consciousness was sinking deep into the couch and taking me with it. I remember thinking “This is a hell of a side effect, like a drug. Might as well enjoy it.” I couldn’t move, but I could think, and it was dark. I was comfortable and not scared, but it seemed like a very long time went by while I was… deeply cushioned and stuff was going on around me. It seemed like there were voices. For some reason, there was something about a dog or a coyote (NOT the cartoon kind). At the time, I didn’t think I was asleep or dreaming, but the couch itself was rotated 90 degrees from its normal position and was against the living room windows.
After quite a long time in this altered state, my consciousness… resurfaced up from within the cushioning darkness and I gradually realized it was still full daylight, and then realized I was “awake” and could “move.”
It took about 5 minutes or more to figure out that I must have been asleep and having a semi-lucid dream, but it was more a kind of twilight with some ability to think. I’ve had vivid lucid dreams before and this wasn’t that. Actually, I normally don’t experience the sensation of falling asleep; it has to sort of sneak up on me while my mind is distracted (usually via music or an audiobook and sleep headphones). Today I think I actually experienced the loss of consciousness to sleep. Very weird.
I also spent a further 5 minutes or so trying to figure out if I really had been asleep, and if so, for how long. I woke up about 2pm, and had stopped for lunch before coming home, so I think I lost about 2 hours.
As for other post-booster side effects, my shoulder muscles are a bit sore and my nose is runny, but that’s about it.
David got back from his ride, totally wiped out, so we opted not to go out again for dinner with his dad (we went to a local brewpub last night on a whim). Tomorrow David has to get up ungodly early for an airport drop off; we’re hosting Guest Cat Gracie again for a week as a consequence. It’s nice to have a cat about the house.
Homescapes is a video game for smartphones and tablets that’s designed to remove money from your wallet, time from your day, and you from engagement with everything else that’s going on in your life.
It’s a match-3 type of game, very similar to Bejeweled (which I used to like a lot) or Candy Crush. It has levels to pass, and to break up the repetitiveness, it’s also an exploration, makeover, redesign game. There are periodic events where you compete head to head, within your team, or against other teams. There are also “seasons” lasting about 4 weeks where you are supposed to gather tokens to trade in to redesign areas of the game, or to change the appearance of an in-game character. There’s a fair amount of exploration; as you progress through the levels you first renovate and redecorate the main character’s family home, then a lake cabin that he buys, then an estate belonging to an estranged family member. Along the way you help “Austin,” the main character, make his parents’ lives better and fix their mysteriously neglected mansion. There’s a whole storyline with characters, separate from the simple match-3 mechanics where you gather tokens and stars to advance the “plot.”
I’m on a pretty good “team,” Freckle Juice. I thought the name was funny when I joined but I hope it doesn’t put off prospective new members who might suspect that it’s for pale people only. When I joined, it was new and I was the second or third person. The team leader is pretty engaged and expects team members to be minimally engaged, which is better than my last team. Homescapes has a “limited lives” system – you get 5 turns and then have to wait for your lives to refill… unless you pay extra for more lives. But you can ask for and give turns to teammates, and Facebook friends who connect to you in-game. Occasionally, we’re pretty successful as a a team in the weekly competitions. We won the one above for example. We got a lot of coin out of that.
Coins are the in-game currency; you can buy extra lives and power-ups (called boosters in-game). Stars are awarded for every level you clear – 1 level, one star. Hard levels, you get more coins. And then there’s various kinds of tokens; sometimes it’s a different kind of object that you match, like red bow ties (Austin the butler is famous for always wearing a bow tie) or some seasonal object (Christmas balls during the Christmas seasonal redesign event, etc.).
Currently, we’re in a sort of short seasonal event called Mysteries of Wood Escape. Here’s a walkthrough on You Tube that makes it look easy and achievable in the short time you’re given (about 10-14 days on this one). Newsflash: it’s not possible to complete unless you cheat.
Here’s a good example of Time Suck: while working on this blogpost, I absent-mindedly opened the game, forgetting that today is my “seventh day” in a row, that comes with some timed bonus power-ups. They only last 30 minutes. Can’t waste time blogging when I was stuck on a level!
But first, I’m offered an Instant Showdown against someone who may be a real player… all I have to do is create more bombs than they do in the next 6 hours. With the bombs booster activated, I’m pretty good at creating “carpet bombing” with the “disco ball” (like a Hypercube in Bejeweled). This is actually one I win at pretty regularly when I get a good start. Notice the extra bonus icon for an extra charge in dollars.
So, I clear quite a few of the standard match-3 levels, gaining just 9 of the blue energy bolts required by this “Wood Estate Mystery” event. During my run through the levels, I get irritated by the fact that having “double jet planes” which clear 4 spaces on landing” don’t always mean 2 separate planes hitting 2 separate targets – in this case, both planes went to the same target twice, forcing me to repeat the level at least once to finish it. The game design sometimes seems to “cheat” you out of a play. I mess myself up sometimes, too.
So I make good progress and clear as many levels as I can in the time allotted, gaining more energy to clear the Wood game, coins to buy my way out of trouble if necessary, and stars to advance the “main narrative” of helping Austin renovate the family homes.
But wait! I’m offered yet another side challenge, an easy looking mini-game that looks like the original ad that drew me into the Homescapes universal time/energy/star/coin black hole. Ads like this are reportedly banned in the UK as misleading as they’re not representative of normal gameplay. I knew this, very quickly, when I started about a year and a half ago (I started playing a few months before my furlough from work finally ended and I was assigned to a new set of accounts to support).
This side challenge, and many other distractions that come up, only appears when in the middle of a timed event that benefits the player.
I usually skip these as they waste time while the timer keeps ticking down, for a reward of only 50 coins and just 1 star, unless I’m close to finishing an “area” or a “day” in the main narrative and need stars.
“Woo-hoo!”, as Austin the bullet is fond of saying. I cleared a “super hard” level worth 150 coins, 12 energy bolts, and… just one star. It’s always just one star, no matter how hard the level is. At this moment, an “infinite lives” timer has just expired, but I have boosters due to the “kite event” being active as long as I keep winning on the first attempt.
Energy Suck: so I go into the “Wood Estate Mystery” with more than 220 energy bolts. The premise is you have to clear brush and fog in order to reach objectives in the story (“chapters”) and along the way, pick up coins and energy and boosters from various bushes and chests that have glowing beacons. But most of these booster bushes and chests must be accessed by a very convoluted route requiring huge amounts of energy. They rarely show up in the normal course of clearing a path in the “chapter” narrative. And sometimes, you encounter a red bomb package that clears a LOT of fog at once… but costs you 1,000 coins. And in the normal game, it costs 9,00 coins to get just 5 extra moves in a level, or if outside a level, to get 5 more lives (better value unless you’re desperate to pass a difficult level).
Energy is hard to earn, but easy… oh so easy to buy. Fortunately, Homescapes has been set so that I can’t buy anything in-game without getting David to agree to the purchase from one of his devices. This is the ONLY game or purchase that is set up like this; it’s a safety feature and I’m actually glad it’s there. I would have drained various gift debit cards otherwise.
Coin Suck: There’s ALWAYS something buy in this game. There’s a safe stuff with coins, that I earned the right to buy at a a reduced rate… 2 days into the game. I thought I was earning FREE coins. Nope.
There’s this bonus event thing that gives you boosters and coins and lives and so on as you clear levels. The goals are easy to achieve at first, and then IMPOSSIBLE to complete as you go. All to get a special “pet” that wanders around the estate, or a special profile picture. These events change monthly except that right now, it’s a weekly payment and thus is about 4 times the cost of the previous monthly bonus deals. About 3 or 4 months ago, I resolved to NOT buy my way out of hard levels any more, because I was constantly too “broke” to afford 900 coins. I also resolved longer ago than that not to buy any of the extra bonus event benefits like 8 lives instead of 5 plus more loot, because the owners of the Playrix games company are obscenely rich Russians now based in either the UK or Ireland, and I wasn’t comfortable with giving them MORE money.
So since my Homescapes team regularly seems to win or place or show in the “coin challenges” that come up every week, I’ve literally been saving my coins and not using them unless there’s a very good reason, and I keep raising my “hard deck” below which I will not go, which is currently at least 5,000 coins, but often raised to at least 8,000 coins. I’ve got pretty good strategies for not having to buy my way out of a hard level now; these include “ABC” (“always be clearing”) moves, and “XYZ” (“examine your moveZ”) for either a combination of boosters, or a move that achieves at least 2 and preferably 3 actions toward that level’s goal.
My advice to new players interested in this game is this: Don’t get sucked into it, unless you set yourself some rules to live by first. Don’t spend money. Don’t go looking for game cheats that’ll only get you banned. But do find a good team to start out with to help you with lives and tips (Facebook groups are probably the safest place to look). If you know someone who plays it, ask them if their team has an opening. Do ignore the events and redecorating that don’t interest you; they’re frustrating as you go up the levels because they’re so hard to complete and the payoff in boosters and coins isn’t worth it. Do set timers to remind you to close the game and go outside and do something else.
At some point if I keep going up the levels in my current location in-game, I’ll be in the “Tournament of Champions,” the level where people have to wait for Playrix to release new levels and eventually, new “estates” and areas around the fictional lakeside community. This isn’t ideal because as you play in “TOC” you’re not accumulating stars in order to advance quickly once a brand new area is opened (there are 3 so far). But at least I don’t plan to spend a lot of real world money from this point forward, and you shouldn’t, either.
It’s been a long time since I logged in to write a new blog post…
Some things have changed, some things remain the same.
It’s unchanged that when I get frustrated, I ragequit or stop doing something to make the frustration go away. So when WordPress for example, has big changes, I don’t want to even start my desktop, laptop, iPad, or iPhone to start a post. If it’s frustrating, I tweet, because gratification must not be delayed.
I got a new iPhone recently… this is frustrating because Apple and I have a history. A history where I have an old, old, old AppleID that somehow can’t be permanently merged with my more current AppleID. And every time I get a new Apple device, I struggle to access all of my music, much of which is attached to the old ID that was (ludicrously) associated with an ancient AOL account. The other one is attached to a Gmail account that I use now. If Gmail ever goes away (thanks, Google) I’ll be screwed again.
It’s not even a really new iPhone – it’s David’s previous one, just a newer model than my old one that still has fingerprint ID. I prefer fingerprint over face recognition because I most often use Apple Pay, a damn useful feature, in checkout lines and drive through lanes at fast food joints. David likes to upgrade with the latest and newest. I like to get used to how something works, and use it and use it until it can no longer accept required updates, so here we are.
New iPhone, who dis? Who is this person now? Struggling to reset her passwords, her applications, her LIFE?
I stopped riding my bike this year… I just… lost interest in fitness and this stemmed from being frustrated at being left behind in group rides. Also, I kept struggling with somewhat irrational fears of falling. Every small bit of progress was thwarted by my fear of … succeeding? And having positive change. So it was frustrating, and I … stopped.
I stopped blogging, obviously. So far, not too frustrated with typing on a new Bluetooth keyboard on my (also relatively new) iPad Mini. David bought that for me for Christmas, and I got this rather nice Fintie case (affiliate link) that holds it at a comfortable angle for reading on my lap desk (yet another affiliate link).
I stopped checking in on Facebook with family and friends – this was more out of a frustration with politics and how Facebook was used in 2016 to shape the hellish future we live in now. Now I mostly hang out on Twitter (and my constant posts are in a side column here, so technically I’ve been microblogging all along. I used to use G+ for this kind of simultaneous blogging/tweeting/G+ activity, but whatsoever Google makes useful, Google taketh away after it becomes essential.
I stopped sewing. I had been all gung-ho for making masks for the Tour de Cure fundraiser, for friends, and for family. But then after getting fully vaccinated and boosted, and realizing that Covid-19 was simply evolving to be less lethal but a permanent feature of life now, fabric masks seemed less protective than commercial N95s and KN95s. And I got frustrated with the technical skills required to make a fabric mask that I felt was worth the time, effort and materials to make.
I had already sort of pivoted to sewing things for myself – I’m quite proud of the little baskets, gadget holders, and placemats that I made. I have all this nice fabric. I’ll take it up again but I’m stuck on about 6 projects at once, which is frustrating… so I stopped. But I expect to unstop myself soon, as I have some unfinished projects that actually would take just about 60 minutes to complete, so maybe I’ll follow Karen Brown’s advice (of Just Get It Done Quilts) and set a timer later and… just get it done.
I stopped going to church right after Easter. This was out of frustration, too. Partly because I was frustrated with being the website maintainer, and I didn’t want to do that anymore (partly out of burnout, partly out of frustration with WordPress). Also I was frustrated with how things are done there – we’re so small and we depend on the same few people to do everything and don’t have the resources to do everything. This morning, for example, I’ll get a notification that the Facebook Live stream is starting for the 10am Eucharist, but I won’t watch because I’m irked that it’s still being done on the vicar’s iPhone with no external microphone. I got frustrated last spring after trying to convince them to invest in a better mic/streaming camera option that wasn’t expensive. I even had David talk to the vicar and tell him about options, but the technical requirements were beyond leadeship’s ability to deal with (and also the WiFi coverage is poor because it’s a crappy old donated router and repeater). So they continue to have 3 online services a week with terrible, muddy audio and an iPhone clamped in PORTRAIT MODE because they can’t figure out how to rotate the clamp 89 degrees.
Yep there’s my calendar event for choir practice, and soon for the streaming service. Not going, not tuning in. I had a text yesterday from my choir director. Am I coming back? Rehearsals start in mid-September! They miss me! But my work schedule prevents me from coming to Wednesday evening rehearsals, which start 30 minutes before I even log off for the day, and I’m 20 minutes away once I get on the road. I don’t want to swap Wednesday schedules every week with co-workers, so I’m waiting for the next shift bid and hope that my stats and standing get me a better bid position for an earlier shift. But I’m not optimistic, which is, yes, frustrating. Even if I get an earlier shift, I’m ambivalent about going back to church just yet. I’ll just get pounced on and the vicar will make the same tired “Hi, I’m Father Manny, what’s your name?” joke. Again.
I stopped being a catmom. This is a hard one. Our little cat Pearl was ill with thyroid disease for years, and rather than choosing an expensive treatment that would supposedly have cured her, I opted for using an ear salve that sort of worked, but wasn’t really helping her to gain weight. Eventually we had to change to pilling her, which was more of a struggle, and she kept losing ground. In early July, it was clear to me that I couldn’t consistently get her medication into her with various tricks, and she just lost too much weight. Finally, I took her to the vet for the last time on July 5, and petted her and praised her as she slipped away with the young vet’s help. I still need to call them to find out if there’s a little memorial ceramic tile to pick up. I keep putting that off (I may have missed a phone call or text). I miss her little meows and trills.
We had Grace (my in-laws’ cat) after I took Pearl away, and she sort of walked around looking for her for a day. Grace is kind of a difficult cat – very moody – and we were originally supposed to have her for a short weekend, take her back, and have her again for a longer stay because the ‘rents were traveling again. But Grace absolutely balked at going back in the carrier, which was frustrating… so in the end, I didn’t take her back for her “interim” week, and we had her for a total of 2 1/2 weeks. At least she got friendlier toward the end and accepted pets. She really only wants to be petted when she’s up on the bathroom sink, drinking. Fortunately, she drinks A LOT of water, so she got petted A LOT. In the end, I finally bum-rushed her into the carrier by cornering her in the bathroom during yet another drinking and petting session, and used a towel to herd her, protesting bitterly, into her carrier. BAM!
That moment of triumph was so satisfying. It was the one thing in the last few months where I was able to overcome my frustration (and reluctance to be torn limb from limb, truth be told) and get something done. Grace is coming back for a visit in early September, so I’ll have another chance at refining my cat-wrangling skills. Gonna need a bigger towel, though.
I stopped having a reasonable work-life balance about 5 months ago. This was due to a shift change where I got stuck with the closing shift. My phone stats had placed me in a poor bidding position – too few calls taken because i was taking too much time working email requests, and the calls I took were too long (because I commit the sin of being thorough, dammit, I’m good at what I do). So my workday starts at 11am, and I am on duty until 7pm on paper, but often much later if I get “caught” on a late call or find an urgent request that must be actioned. Without naming names, some of the travelers and admins I support are really, really frustrating. The tools I must use are really frustrating. The scripts I use (glorified macros, really) that fill in the many gaps in function between multiple tools are really frustrating. My job is really, really frustrating, but I can’t stop doing that. Yet.
I’ve unconsciously been doing something like “quiet quitting” recently – trying to set limits on what I do immediately after being able to log off the phones at the end of the day, but don’t always succeed. And it’s almost a given that I “work for free” for a bit before logging in for the day, just to do unproductive but necessary “housekeeping” tasks to reduce my to-do list.
About a year and a half ago, I stopped doing Second Life stuff – more out of burnout than frustration. I still have a lot of assets and probably a lot of credits built up but my main account is inactive and I can’t be bothered to log in to open a help ticket to get it reactivated. Eventually, I should close everything down and get the credits out to PayPal.
But I’ve stopped doing everything else in my life, except for playing this one game on my iPhone, that is actually pretty frustrating too. That’s for a separate blog post, more like an extended review/tips for newer players/warning for newer players not to get sucked in.
We DID go on a couple of trips in the last year, finally, that were wonderful and very sustaining. We visited family in Phoenix for Thanksgiving and went to the Grand Canyon and we visited a friend and went to Rocky Mountain National Park for a June vacation… and since then I’ve been frustrated by the lack of scenery and free time in my life here in Illinois.
I’ve been pretty frustrated by politics and the news lately but there are positive signs, too. Dems in array! Republicans in retreat! I’ve started writing #PostcardsToVoters again for some of the midterms and special elections and plan on writing more (reserving supplies for important campaigns for the Senate). But I was horribly frustrated and angry by the overturning of Roe and the successful 30-year secret campaign to take over the Supreme Court by the right. And I’m furiously frustrated by the way the toothless dragon, the NRA, can be teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and STILL be able to rouse the ammosexuals to action. It’s frustrating that horrible mass shootings happen and Congress is unable to enact much in the way of assault-weapon bans (or ammunition bans, for that matter). It would be very satisfying to see the NRA get taken down by any legal means necessary.
Hmm. It hasn’t been too frustrating getting used to this newer version of WordPress to make a simple blogpost. It hasn’t been too frustrating using this new Macally Bluetooth (affiliate link) keyboard to write it with my iPad Mini (my speed has picked up just in the course of writing this). It’s certainly less frustrating than hauling out the (old, handmedown) laptop, accepting a lot of security updates, and blogging. Or, God forbid, starting up my desktop gaming computer, ditto. This way, I can set up anywhere with my little lap desk (bought during an intense period of retail therapy via Amazon during the Lost Years).
We’ll see how it goes, getting back into blogging. And I’ll see how I might start to overcome my frustration with… everything else in my life.
Someone at church contracted Covid during Holy Week; we’ve relaxed mask requirements, but now that seems risky. Especially for those of us in the choir, and though we have “singers’ masks,” they’re not very good. Meanwhile, infection rates are trending upward, a young family member tested positive, and an older family member has an upper respiratory infection (not Covid).
It seems to me that we’ll see a summer spike as people attend large events – we’re traveling, too – and I expect that masks will be needed intermittently.
This pattern looks… hefty but I’ll make some this week and see if it’s more comfortable/less foggy than my current KN95s. I have some 3M N95 masks (“3D style”) arriving tomorrow. I will test one for “singability” and whether my glasses fog up with every sustained note and exhalation.
But I have the right kind of materials to work with:
Tightly woven cotton, especially batik, for the inner layer
Not to mention all the elastic, cord stoppers, and other notions. I took a look at the “burrito method” of construction, which minimizes center seams while adding a channel to insert boning to hold the fabric away from the lips and nostrils. My previous box pleated design kept fabric too close to my lips, my curved design has a vertical central seam.
Here’s a YouTube playlist with the original singer’s mask design, and the updated construction method.
The designer has a Spoonflower account, where I like to browse for quilting fabric for making small projects, so I have to look her up. Her construction method of the original open source pattern actually makes sense.