Kate's Queen City Notes

Blundering through Cincinnati, laughing all the way


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Ramdoms

I saw the new Star Wars movie. I am overwhelmed with conflicted feelings. I suspect that if the nostalgia was stripped away, my opinion would be quite clear not at all mixed. It was a bad movie. It jam-packed a whole load of stuff in there, and none if it without the nostalgia was very good. And really, my expectations should have been tempered by the fact that my 8 year-old taste and my 43 year-old taste is quite different. That’s all I have to say about that.

I think I have finally found a technique for sharpening my knives on water stones that works. I am not going to bore you with details, but just know I have been fumbling in the dark with these damn stones for two years getting mixed results. I finally tried a different approach by putting the blade to the stones at a 45 degree angle, and that seems to unlock slice-off-a-finger sharpness. It makes my heart sing when my chef’s knife sails through a whole pineapple as though it’s an overripe pear.

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I just finished this book. If you want to feel really dark about Google, Facebook, and Amazon taking over the world, this book will deliver. I was already sympathetic to the ideas the author puts forward in this book when I picked it up. The book has left me even more sure Elizabeth Warren is right to start enforcing antitrust laws, although personally I wouldn’t stop with big tech. I would look at media companies and internet service providers too.

When technology comes to into an industry it promises efficiency and low prices. And on those fronts it usually delivers. But there are costs that are often not obvious at the outset. When tech came to the food industry we got time saving tv dinners, fast food, sugar-filled breakfast cereal, and enriched white bread. There’s no question these things saved time, but looking back on it 40 years out, it seems quite clear that the hidden costs for these items were our health and fitness, the extreme suffering of farmed animals, and the tons and tons of chemicals that make farming monocultures possible. The thing big food figured out is that we don’t have enough self-control to pick the broccoli over the Cheeto.

When the internet came for newspapers it promised increased access to information and to liberate information to the masses. It promised to democratize the voices that could be heard. And it did both of those things. But I would argue that second promise, democratizing who can have a voice, was always a doubtful of that “benefit.” I know a lot of people who think crazy shit. And. After years of being a bartender and working in the service industry, I never had some romantic notion that all Americans are geniuses just waiting for a platform. Lots of Americans are idiots, but almost all of us believe we are geniuses just waiting for a platform. Some days I think I am in the idiot camp, some days not.

It’s now pretty clear the internet swallowed advertising funding, and left only crumbs for journalism. The cost has been the closure of newspapers. We went from having about 1200 newspapers in the 1940’s to having 400 in 2014. It turns out giving away your stuff for free only works if you have a ton of venture capitalists propping you up. Side eye to Silicon Valley.

Adding in the social media companies just hung boatloads of data around the basic fact that we lack the self-control to pick broccoli over Cheetos. Mark Zuckerberg is more than happy to wash his hands of the matter and say that’s it’s our own fault if we cannot pick the broccoli. See. There’s whole charts to display why Mark Zuckerberg can abdicate the morality of what he chooses to elevate in people’s news feeds. We’re clicking it like little rats in a cage, so therefore his hands are clean.

Tech has played the same game through history. It “disrupts” an industry by substituting a lower value product for a higher value one with a side of more efficiency and then pockets the difference. In food, we traded home-baked bread for frankenfood wonder bread. In music, we traded making music with others, a social and creative act, for sitting passively around a radio. In media we traded a proliferation of local news sources for a handful of national ones. And in social media we traded face to face interaction, rich with information and connection, for banging out insults at someone else online who might be a bot. And still we are stuffing our faces full of Mark Zuckerberg’s Cheetos.

I am on a Facebook break. It’s given me more time to read and do Spanish lessons. That’s not a surprise. What’s a surprise is how it’s also given me space in my mind. I didn’t realize how much of my headspace was consumed with looking at my life as an outside observer generating content for my facebook posts. I’ve come to a conclusion that whatever I was projecting in those posts was more an avatar of myself than not. And to what purpose am I performing my life? I don’t connect with people so I can play a role. I connect with people hoping to reveal my degrees my authentic self. So what exactly am I doing on facebook?

I don’t know that I will delete my account. I do know that my interaction with it will be diminished significantly at the very least. I have until to January 1st to think on it.

A few final things. I am almost finished with book 3 of the Game Of Thrones books. Catelyn Stark did not deserve all the shit she got. Even so, I am really enjoying the books. The bathroom is coming along. Subflooring has been put in. All the electrical and plumbing has been moved and set. We’re getting close to tile time.


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Crazy Cat Lady Ho!

I had my first shift volunteering for the Ohio Alleycat Rescue this morning, and it was super. First off, everyone there are crazy cat people. In other words, I was surrounded by my people. Secondly, there were cats everywhere. Which delights me on its own.

I cleaned litter boxes, floors, and surfaces. And after an hour and a half of that, I got to spend the last half hour in the kitten room. And I got to fulfill a dream of being in a kitten puddle. I had a ginger licking and purring at my ear while one of the six black kittens flopped down in my lap to ravage my hoodie strings. It was basically 30 minutes of pure joy.

I’ve avoided doing this sort volunteer work. I thought it would make me either adopt far too many cats, or make me sad. But I wasn’t pulled in either of those directions today. I am sure it helps that this rescue is not only no kill, but also one of the main reasons Hamilton County has a no-kill status. It left me thinking that I should have done this sooner.

I would be lying though if I didn’t admit that the little ginger was trying very hard to make me his human. He and a sweet tabby just put themselves as close to me as they could the entire time I was in there. But I have been without a black cat for entirely too long, so my resolve is pretty strong.

One of the adorable black kittens.


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Bathroom Reno: Be Gone Tub

Here’s a thing I wasn’t expecting. I wasn’t expecting there to be hex tile under the tub. I thought the tub was original, but now that I am seeing a different flooring under it, I am not so sure. It seems more likely the tub was put in later. But then that also seems to indicate the floor in the square pattern also isn’t original.

 


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Heart Troubles

I’ve always had what I call palpatations. They were infrequent when I was younger, and often I would attribute them to the tremendous amounts of coffee I’d ingested. In the last year they’ve stepped up their game, a thing that’s distressing along side my significant reduction in coffee a few years back.

After several trips to the cardiologist and a month wearing a heart monitor, I was diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia. Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) is an abnormally fast heartbeat that originates above the ventricles in the atria or AV node. The doctor suggested putting a doodad into my femoral artery and working it up to my heart and frying the tissue that’s sending out the additional electrical impulses. That sounded bananas to me at the time, so I opted for his second suggestion, which was medication.

I took the meds for a couple months, and although they didn’t have any disastrous side effects they did make my performance at the gym decline a bit. So, after some weeks sticking a doodad into my femoral artery sounded less and less bananas. Doodad it is.

In the weeks leading up to the proceedure I noticed a pit in my stomach when I would think about it. When my PTSD rears its head it smells like a box that was just brought up from the basement. It looks like it’s just an old pair of shoes, but it smells like dank mildew of 100 years.

After sitting with if for some days, I realized that I’ve not needed to rely on another human to take care of my physical needs since I was a child and my dependence wasn’t optional. And the last time I was too small to care for my own physical needs, they weren’t always met. There it is. That’s where the dank mildew is.

There’s no reasoning with trauma-based anxiety. It just is. I could think of one thousand ways this situation was different, but that sort of thing only flies upstairs. It never filterns down to the basement.

The days dwindled and I found myself putting a gown on, and trying to answer medical history questions while Dominque shaved the “field” which was basically my crotch. The procedure isn’t invasive in the sense that my chest wasn’t cracked open, but it is in the sense that it involved wounds two inches to either side of my lady parts. And this fact explains why once in the operating room I was covered head to toe in blankets apart from my crotch, which was on display.

And this really gets at the crux of why medical procedures are weird. You find yourself in social and physical situations that are unimaginable under any other circumstances. All of the nurses were very nice, but when they asked if I was doing ok or needed anything I thought, what am I going to say to that? No, my crotch is numb because it’s 60 degrees in here, and I would really like to rip this IV out. Of course I always said I was fine, because there wasn’t really any other answer I could give.

During the procedure the doctor needed to goad my heart into SVT rythms. Since mine acts up during exercise that meant that I couldn’t be very sedated, and that they put adrenalin in my IV. So, while the nurses were telling me soothing things my body’s chemistry thought I was being chased by a bear. They were using electric impluses to rev my heart up to 250 beats per minute, note that extreme exercise shouldn’t yield more than 160 bpm. So, that’s how I spent 3 hours. My bare-ass crotch in the air with chemicals appropriate for being chased by a bear coursing through my body, and having my heart pounding so hard it felt like my lungs didn’t have enough room to breathe.

It’s a wonder I didn’t have a panic attack or two or several. But that’s one of the odd things trauma can do. Sometimes when I am truly under duress I pull through like a champ. It’s because I’ve had lots of practice at surviving when the house is on fire. Because my house has been on fire hundreds of times.

Unfortunately, the doctor wasn’t able to isolate where the SVT rhythm was originating. He called my heart excitable. And when he irritated one area all its neighbors would put out different SVT rythms in sympathy. That was a whole load of metaphor because I cannot possible use the medical language to describe what he found. The point is they couldn’t complete the proceedure.

Frosty crotch for no good reason. So, I am back to the meds and taking it easy for a week until my femoral wound site is healed enough for me to go back to my normal activities. The good news is SVT won’t kill me, and the meds aren’t insufferable. I’ve also learned that my capacity to tolerate physically uncomfortable and mortifying things is quite high. I’ve learned to ask a new questions when evaluating medical treatment. Is there information you might learn during the process that might show you I am not a good candidate for said treatment? How frequently does this happen?


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Last Look: Bathroom

We’ve remodeled every square inch of our house apart from this last bathroom. Here’s a last look at it in all it’s 1920’s dysfunctional glory. This gem has zero electrical outlets. It has very little storage. It has a charming DIY handheld showerhead, and a nursing home inspired oh-shit bar. It features cracked tile on both the walls and the floors. The toilet has a tank large enough to water an entire village with each flush. The tub has been cemented into the middle of the room, because of course you want that sexy surround curtain rod hanging from the ceiling. Saving the best for last it has a pedestal sink that is too low, features elaborate contours that yields precious little flat space to put useful items like say-soap. It has a recessed spigot to put the water flow out of reach of almost anything you might wish to get wet. Oh, and it has no over head lighting and no ventilation. Wonderbar!

I need to take a moment to lay waste to pedestal sinks. This pedestal sink, in particular, was what we washed our dishes in when the kitchen was being renovated, and this is how I grew to especially hate the spigot on it. It’s recessed to the very edge of the sink, making the vastness of the sink itself completely useless. But, put that a side a moment, pedestal sinks are profoundly stupid, and I just want to make a case for their eradication, except for use in small power rooms or half-baths.

In the bathroom in which you bathe and get presentable, I ask you, when do you not require a surface for putting stuff on? At the very least, you need a place for soap. But apart from that everyone who isn’t a hermit uses some sort of hair grooming products or devices and something to clean their mouths. That’s the least. Most women will have a whole host of other stuff.

The only thing a pedestal sink is good for in this context is forcing you to put all your junk on the damn toilet-or worse the hairy floor-when you’re getting ready. That kicks off a whole thing were you remove and replace all the junk you need to use from wherever it’s stored-because it sure as hell isn’t sitting in the precious 3 inches of available space on your damn pedestal sink-to and from the toilet. NO. I am telling you no more. Never another pedestal sink in a full bath again. I don’t care how small that damn vanity is.

Now that that’s off my chest. Here’s pictures of the old bathroom. And below those a video of it. Good riddance monster toilet and pedestal sink.


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Runs With Scissors

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. This thought comes to me often when I encounter new tech. At the dawn of the internet era I thought easy and instance access to information would unquestionably make the world a better place. I thought democratizing the ability to produce content would usher in a new time with vibrant and healthy discussion. 

Instead we have anti-vaxxers and trolls. The democratizing of voices has primarily revealed that many of us are cruel and stupid. Throwing off the gate-keepers of information has left each of us struggling to sift the good content out of the oceans and oceans of bad one google search at a time. Because it turns out that creating good content is hard and being kind isn’t our first instincts, and when you’ve got a little glowing screen in your hand it doesn’t draw the best from us. 

Watching this play out in real time has made me ask a new question when assessing new tech. That new question is what is the worst that this thing might accomplish if used or abused. Enter deepfakes. In summary, artificial intelligence can produce believable video and audio that is fictitious. Have a look at Steve Buscemi’s face on Jennifer Lawrence’s body with her voice if you want to have nightmares. If you want to read more about deepfakes have a look at this article about it from The Guardian

Can you imagine a video of Elizabeth Warren surfacing on election night saying something super racist? Because I can. Sure the video will be debunked pretty quickly. But that sort of thing would spread like wildfire on social media and leave negative emotions that I don’t believe a debunking will clear off immediately. 

We only see the benefits of new tech. We never consider the costs. The guys who developed the deepfake tech did so for the movie industry. They hope to make post production fixes without calling the actors back to reshoot. They hope to better match visuals to translations into different languages. Sure. That’s all good. 

But my god. We already cannot align on what reality is. How can you in good conscience put something else out in the world that will only make truth less and less clear? 


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Seeing With My Eyes – Squirrel Edition

I cannot believe that I am this many days old and have only now learned that squirrels make leaf nests in trees. They make them when there’s no hollowed out little nooks in trees available. I only know this now because I’ve just Googled this topic. But mere moments ago, I had no idea squirrels, creatures that I adore, make nests out of leaves and branches.

I’ve noticed what appear to be big balls of leaves and twigs in a number of trees surrounding our house. I’ve wondered over them. They are too big and look too messy to be birds’ nests. They almost look haphazard enough to be a collection of branches that just got stuck together, but they are a bit too dense for that explanation.

I came about this revelation moments ago. Motion outside my office window drew my eye. I looked and saw a squirrel running across a branch carrying a twig a bit larger than itself with multiple leaves hanging off of it. It ran to one of these bunches of leaves and twigs, disappeared in it, deposited the branch and leaves, and scurried back out. Within moments he was back with another mouthful of tree detritus.

I was astonished and tickled. Partially, I was astonished that this explanation for the leaf balls is so obvious, that I’m not sure how I missed it. Partially, I was astonished to learn that I had no idea where squirrels slept and was blissfully unaware of this gap in knowledge. I was tickled to watch a squirrel build his nest. And I was tickled to encounter my own ignorance of my gaps in knowledge, as discussed in yesterday’s blog post.