Categories
3. Other Things Whimsy Writing Life

1000 words about nitrile gloves because why not?

Blue nitrile gloves are The Bestest Thing Ever, and I may never again bake (and clean up from baking) without wearing a pair. I know I’m late to the party, but I’m excited and this is my space for gushing & ranting, so here goes.

The rest of the world has known about these forever, right? I mean, I’ve been watching contestants use them on Great British Bake Off for years, and medical personnel wear them all the time. Why did it take so long? Look. All I can say is, I had no reason to believe they were special. I also saw most people go barehanded if they could, same as I go barehanded as much as possible.

My perspective shift started in spring 2021 when I developed wicked serious eczema on my hands and feet. I left it untreated for months except for moisturizing because I didn’t know what it was. I’d had occasional eczema breakouts in the past on my knees and feet, but they’d itched like crazy, alerting me to the need to heavily moisturize the areas and then ignore them until they cleared on their own.

This time? The hardened, scaling (splitting, bleeding) skin on my hands and feet ached and stung where it split open, but it didn’t ITCH. I only went to the doctor when the weird thick skin, the bleeding bits, and the numbness began to worry me. The doc was surprised it didn’t look like I was aggravating things by scratching the outbreak spots. (Guess who is really, REALLY good at tuning out sensations my brain decides aren’t relevant?)

Yah, anyway. Nine months later, things are not yet fully under control. I’m making headway, pinning down triggers and managing flares, but it’s slow going. Any abrasion or minor scrape on my hands or feet becomes an instant new outbreak, plus skin affected by eczema is terribly fragile and prone to tearing. So every time I get one set of torn fingertips, knuckles, toes or heels calmed down, another spot or thre**e rips open. And then all the other spots act up harder.** Lemmee tell you, typing with open gashes on your fingertips is not the funnest thing ever.

So I have been wearing gloves Rather A Lot. The day I came home with the eczema diagnosis I bought rubber dish gloves, cotton moisturizing gloves, a box of disposable vinyl cleaning/food handling gloves, and yes, a box of blue nitrile gloves.

Why so many different kinds? Firstly, I wanted different options to try. I have always hated wearing gloves. My hands feel smothered. I hate the loss of sensation. I hate the bulkiness. So I didn’t have much Glove Experience. Secondly, because the doctor recommended using gloves whenever doing things that might irritate the skin. The problem being my hands, that meant I was going to need All The Gloves.

EVERYTHING was a hazardous activity and dishwashing was a freaking Red Flag Danger Zone. (Not only does soaking in hot water aggravate the outbreaks, but also I react to an ingredient found in liquid soaps.)

Every type of glove had its downsides. Dish gloves are an absolute PITA to put on and take them off constantly while cooking and cleaning as you go, plus that requires twisting and pressing and creates friction, which is a potential for new tearing every time. Cotton gloves are useless for wet tasks. Work glovesw (which I didn’t buy because I already had lots because gardener herem, hello) are awful for anything requiring dexterity.

And vinyl gloves rip easily, get annoying when wet, and are lousy for tasks that require fine motor control. And they’re one-use only at best. For tough activities I might go through 2 pair. Grr. Wasteful.

And NONE of those gloves be worn while using electronic devices with a touchscreen or a trackpad.

The nitrile gloves? Their downside was that they were expensive and something I’d never used before. Plus they looked like vinyl gloves crossed with latex gloves-which I had used but loathe because they’re tightly clingy and I have tactile issues. (see: “I hate gloves as a general concept,” above)

I only bought the blue ones because at that time the store only allowed purchase of 1 box of vinyl gloves per visit, and I was afraid I might run out. Since I never did, the blue gloves sat unused for months.

Spouseman took over much of the washing-up duties & many other hand-related chores, but baking is a me thing. Between my hands hurting a LOT and not being able to easily clean up as I go, kitchen puttering hadn’t been much fun for a long time.

And then I had a big eczema flare RIGHT WHEN IT WAS TIME TO BAKE CHRISTMAS COOKIES. GRR.

I’d resigned myself to wearing the vinyl gloves, but ew, I dinna wanna, and I was feeling all GRUMPY when noticed the neglected box of blue gloves languishing under the box of the other kind.

And inspiration struck in the form of: “What the hell, why not try them?” Maybe they would last through more than one washing-up between batches and I wouldn’t have to keep changing them & feeling tlike a Wasteful First-World Bad Environmentalis

I went to work measuring, and stirring and scooping and washing with my blue-glove hands, and HOLY FUCKING WOWZA. I’d been hoping they would be tolerable, but NO. A bunch of things were EASIER than if I wasn’t wearing the gloves.

Handling sticky dough. Greasing the baking dishes. Getting all the dough out of the mixing bowl. Washing up. Everything was easy again. I could feel things tright through the material, and it didn’t tear. Oh, and at least for me, the gloves even worked with my phone screen.

So. Bottom line, I now fucking love blue nitrile gloves, and they are my go-to handiwork accessories.

Temps are gonna be in the single digits tomorrow night, so I’ll be baking biscotti (double bake time = double the extra warmth for the house) I’ll for sure be wearing my favorite new gloves.

That is all for now, except here’s a random cat picture, because Pippin is the cutest.

Until later!


** I’m extra-annoyed that one new trigger appears to be eggs. Not eggs in things, but eggs-cooked-alone. (like, say, scrambled, which I had been LOVING for the 4 years since I stopped having other allergic reactions to them) GRRRRR.

Categories
Detours Furbabies Writing Life

My Latest Distractions

Chateau Herkes is now home to two (TWO!) 10-week-old kittens. Meet Pippin and Merry, also known as Peregrine the Perilous and Meriadoc the Mellow. Pippin is the tabby, Merry is the tuxedo.

Their arrival continues a lifelong tradition of stumbling across Just The Right Cats at Just The Right Time.

These little furmonsters showed up on the life radar and landed in our family by a string of coincidences so unlikely no one would believe it if I put it in a fictional story.

I mean. Really.

It starts when we happen to take a neighborhood walk at the same exact time the owner of a home a few blocks away happens to be out front walking one of his cats on a lead. Okay so far. Reasonable. Believable.

Also entirely believable? That Spouseman and I stop to chat with a fellow cat person. We’d never seen anyone at this house, but the garage was often left open to cat-height, and we’d seen cats come & go & peek out the windows.

We introduce ourselves and admire the fine cat who is lounging upon the grass, and we enquire whether it is a Maine Coon, as it is Huge And Fluffy and Gorgeous. Conversation ensues. It turns out Fester Sylvester (the cat) is inDEED a Maine Coon, and also the son of one of the other cats in the household. There’s even a visiting cat, a breeding queen who was accepting the attentions of suitors.

Coincidences are racking up! Now we have a fine gentleman who is not only the owner of several felines, but also an owner of pedigreed Maine Coons and someone who works with breeders in the area. Still believable, but a certainly a fortuitous encounter for us about-to-look-for-Maine-Coons people!

We admit we love MC’s and will be on the search for some soon, and explain our situation.

I’ll summarize that situation here as briefly (HAHAHAHA me, brief?) as possible.

It’s been two years and two months since our beloved Scootercat died. He was big, black, talkative, and rambunctious, and for 18 years he enjoyed fabulous health other than some serious arthritis in his hips. His decline in his final months was swift and relentless. When things reached a point when we realized we were holding onto him for our sakes, not his, we found the strength to let him go, but damn, it was hard.

We always intended to get another cat or two or three, but the time was never right. First we were grieving, Then we were relocating from our old home to a new one (an even older house, as it turned out) Then we began upgrades and updates on the new-old house, with all the stress, noise, dust, and upheaval attendant on such projects. Inflicting all that change and stress on new pets felt like it would be One Thing Too Far for everyone involved.

Now let me pause to make 100% clear that this house has clearly been a well-loved bungalow since it was built. The previous owners did a beautiful job of maintaining the original interior and modernizing essentials like windows, kept up on repairs, and did critical kitchen and bathroom remodels. But it was built in 1929. All the individual upkeep work was due for consolidation, and other parts were due for replacement. It took time & money and DID I MENTION THE CONSTANT UPHEAVAL?

Anyway.

The last major work involving concrete saws, drills, rumbling earthmovers & strangers coming in & out of the house just wrapped up. (It was all very pandemic-safe, no-contact, outside-ventilated areas, exterior entrance to the basement FOR THE WIN)

The night before our fateful walk, actually–we’d decided it was FINALLY cat search time!

So here we are, standing on our neighbor’s front lawn, sharing our saga of “finally ready to bring cats into our home,” and he says, “My girl had a litter of kittens in March. Want to see them?”

Now what are the odds of that? Uh-huh. Multiply that by the odds that both kittens are amazingly friendly and sweet and just PERFECT, and also not yet under contract to anyone else? Yeah.

That’s how it works for us, I guess. Fast forward a couple of weeks, and our new furry overlords are officially members of the family and rulers of their domain.

That domain currently consists of a Kitten Safe Zone (for overnight and other times they can’t be supervised) plus the kitchen/family room/Spouseman’s office area. As they master the finer points of ambulation, coordination, and personal hygiene, more areas of the house will be opened for conquest.

I’ve astonished myself by getting ANY writing done in the last week, but I have! In some ways I work better when I have a reliable schedule PLUS a distraction to push against. These little guys are plenty distracting as well as totally adorable.

They will be on social media, but I keep the best material non-public. You can support me by signing up here for the free monthly newsletter that comes straight to your inbox, ask for an invite to my Very Quiet Discord server and/or follow this blog.

Two final pics to tempt you into newsletterland:

I’ll share the stories of my past cats in future posts. Unless I forget.

That’s all the all for now. Until later!

Categories
3. Other Things Writing Life

Making Big Small Plans, also grumping

I spent a pleasant while this morning pondering how to celebrate the impending completion of my Covid Armor Build. Whatever shall I do first? Grocery shopping? A trip to Ikea? The GARDEN CENTER? So many indoor possibilities! Maybe I’ll do multiple indoor outings on a single trip!

I won’t be eating out, though. No. Look. I didn’t enjoy eating in restaurants Before Pandemic. Some things haven’t changed. Okay, maybe I’ll hit our local pizza joint (outdoor seating) and/or my favorite breakfast place. (no bar) On occasion. But that’s it.

Anybody else got big plans?

I’ll be masking up when I go into buildings, obvs, because there’s still a mandate but also because *other people* can’t tell I’m vaccinated. It would be unkind to upset & frighten strangers for my own convenience or worse, to “prove a point,” and I dislike deliberate unkindness. Maybe that’s because I’ve been providing customer service to the public for most of the last year. The only hostile, nasty people? The ones who believed with the fervor of religious converts that no one should be wearing masks.

Here’s a funny thing. Not funny-ha-ha, but funny strange. I have known people who physically couldn’t wear masks. Guess who never made a peep about not being able to go places during the pandemic because they would have to wear a mask? Yeah. Them. They also have health issues that made curbside service & delivery big things in their lives already.

I admit I’m not looking forward to the awkward social phase between mandatory mask wearing and the eventual new cultural set point. My hope is that people accept the supreme healthful usefulness of masking up in public during any pandemic, like our annual flu seasons or when rhinoviruses and tamer coronaviruses make the rounds of the workplace. Or outdoors during freaking pollen hell season. If wearing a damned mask in shared indoor spaces while not eating, drinking or having a direct conversation w/someone hard of hearing means I don’t have to deal with sinus infections eight months of the year? Watch how fast I mask up.

Look. No one has said people have to wear a mask on their own property or outdoors where they can keep to a safe distance. If you’re determined to Own The Libs, if you like to watch people scatter before you & get flustered because you’re Free and they’re sheeple? Fuck yourself AND don’t go into shared indoor spaces to hassle strangers.

Oops. I digressed into a rant. Hm. Quelle suprise.

Anyway. Knowing that being exposed will no longer put me one bad dice roll away from death or permanent incapacitation is already making a major improvement in my life. Lightening the stress load creates some serious giddiness, oh, yes.

There are always dangers in the world. There aren’t many I can mitigate by something as simple as getting a shot. (Once, or once a year, whatever. Vaccines work. Even ones that require boosters.) Yah, variants, yah, still risks, but going into buildings is now no MORE riskier than it ever was. That’s hallelujah time.

Anyone wants to talk about why these new vaccines are safe, effective and also why the mRNA ones are a freaking aMAYzing, exciting world-changing scientific advancement? I’m here for you. You have questions? You have worries? I can answer questions without mockery and I respect worry over new things. NEW SHIT IS SCARY. I’d be happy to chat. I don’t expect to convince you. But I can listen. And share what I have spent a LOT of time learning.

But if you want to insist that these new vaccines are Bad By Nature Because <insert reasons you read or heard from someone?> and you won’t answer my questions about the provenance of their expertise? No, thanks, then. That isn’t conversation. That’s attempted prosyletization, and I’m not into that.

“You have your opinion, I have mine,” and “I guess we listen to different experts,” are the defensive shields of bullshit collectors. If you raise a bullshit shield at me, I will walk away from you. Admitting you would rather defend your position than meet in the open marketplace of ideas is admitting you have no interest in learning.

Expertise isn’t “elitism.” It’s a skillset. Being a doctor doesn’t give it to someone. Being a scientist doesn’t give it to someone. Getting older doesn’t give it to anyone. No professional title or amount of time reading about a thing GIVES expertise. You getexpertise from doing the work of critical analysis and crunchy data research. By questioning and then accepting new information. Collecting arguments that back your existing suspicions is the opposite of science and the enemy of personal growth.

Argh. Here we are again. I started off this post just wanting to share a bright thing in my day and detoured into harumphing. Twice.

On balance, I’m still happy & hopeful. But the cranky is clearly still there, simmering underneath.

Probably best I sign off for now. Until later!

Here’s a grumpy penguin picture as a reward for getting this far.

BY THE WAY! If you mainly want books & writing progress posts, those go to the email subscriber newsletter first. Sign up right here:

Categories
Book reviews Media Consumption Writing Life

Writer Reading Report: Spring 2021

It’s long past time I posted one of these. Why, you ask? Excellent question, invisible internet reader.

TL;DR: I have been reading a lot, and the review situation is Out Of Hand. Skip down to the list.

Sticking around fot the long version? Cool. First, there’s the draining prospect of writing full reviews. They take mental energy to parse out, to make sure I’m saying exactly what I mean and nothing else. Recommending verbally is easy. I babble freely, chipping out remarks until the point emerges from the solid block of words. The conversational flow carries off all the false starts, vocabulary stumbles, digressions, parantheticals, and general mayhem that occurs whenever I attempt to impart information with words. (Trust me, the whole write like you speak thing does NOT work well when you think non-sequentially.)

I hope to get ratings & blurbs onto retail sites for all the books listed below, but no promises, because–second– in addition to the energy suck, I’m cratering on the executive function aspect too. The longer the list gets, the further behind I fall, the harder it is for my brain to get a grip on beginning it. I want to get this done to get it the heck off my mind, but I can’t get it done unless I start. Vicious damned cycle, that one.

General exhaustion plays into it too. Bodies & brains do what they do, and mine have been tag-team tackling me with increasing do-nothing demands. I keep looking back on non-productive days and realizing my “lazy lack of motivation” was really physical pain/brain fog/stress-distraction in disguise.

The number of days I’m fighting petty, niggling issues (vision fatigue, aching wrists, tired fingers, sore hips, brain-nopes…) gets higher each year. And beating back the “but maybe I AM just lazy” conditioning is wicked tiring all by itself. I am daily thankful that I’m in a living situation where health needs that would interfere with earning abilities don’t threaten my survival. BUT I DIGRESS. Quelle suprise. ANYway.

I’m doing an end run around the problem.

Here’s a list of just the titles & authors of what I’ve read since the beginning of the year. There’s everything here from hard scifi to steamy romance, horror to humor. If you like things in a hierarchy, sorry, this isn’t one. They’re listed in order of how they came to mind, which has ZERO to do with how memorable, exciting, or cool they are.

  • Mazes of Power & Transgressions of Power Juliette Wade
  • Black Sun Rebecca Roanhorse
  • The Secret Chapter Genievieve Cogman
  • All The Courtney Milan books I could get my hands on
  • Sorceror To the Crown (reread) & The True Queen, Zen Cho
  • The Bear & the Nightangale and The Girl In the Tower, Katherine Arden
  • a re-read of Lois McMaster Bujold’s whole Penric & Desdemona series
  • The newest in the Rogues to Riches series, Grace Burrowes, followed by a re-read of the quartet.
  • The Duelling Neurosurgeons (the only non-fiction on the list)
  • Afro Puffs Are the Antennae Of the Universe, Zig Zag Claybourne
  • Dark Matter edited by Sheree Brown (the only anthology on the list)
  • JurassiChrist, Michael Allen Rose
  • A Year of Flash Fiction Jamie Lackey
  • The Hound Of Justice, Claire O’Dell (Jane Watson series, start with A Study In Honor)

I loved each and every one of these. They all get high recommends.

(Yah, but K, what’s that even mean? It means, “If you read that genre & the cover blurb appeals, these are worth your time to pick up and evaluate for yourself.” I adored them. Your mileage may vary.)

Master of Poisons by Andrea Hairston is one last title I must mention. It gets my All-thumbs-up 5-star bookseller recommendation, but I can’t list it as “read” because I DNF’d.

It’s a glorious book packed with incredible world-building and peopled with multifaceted, fascinating characters. And the prose is magnificent. But. It wasn’t the right read for me when I tackled it. This happens. I plan to attempt it again in a year or two. It might be right for you right now. PLEASE check it out.

Pretty sure I’ve missed a book or five in there, but that’s the not-quite-midyear list. I’ve already recommended these authors to folks word-of-mouth style on the regular, and getting this written gets me a big step closer to putting quick & easy deli-style reviews up on sites. Eventually. One or two at a time.

And now, onward to the next read!

Currently high on my TBR stacks: Bone Swans by C. S. E. Cooney, a re-read of all the Murderbot stories by Martha Wells, Galactic Hellcats by Marie Vibbert, Storm Of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse, The Brothers Jetstream: Leviathan by Zig Zag Claybourne (because I read bk 2 first) and Sycorax’s Daughters if I have the brainspace for another anthology so soon. Oh, and A Wizard’s Guide To Defenisve Baking by T Kingfisher.

Here’s a cute library cat as a reward for getting this far.

Photo by Flickr on Pexels.com

That’s all for this edition. Until next time!

Categories
3. Other Things Whimsy Writing Life

Ants. What I do when it’s ants.

Here’s proof this blog is about anything and everything. Tonight I’m writing about tiny ant season. Tiny ant season came early this year. I griped about having to perform an Unscehduled Ant Eviction on Facebook, that led to a conversation about how I get rid of tiny ants, and I promised I would write it out for some people.

And here we are.

I apply a four-step strategy to ant warfare: kill it with fire, salt the earth, raise high the walls, and poison the well.

Step 1. Kill it with fire

This is the most labor intensive phase. Everything comes off the kitchen counters. E V E R Y T H I N G. The counters all get washed w/soap & water, the floors get vacuumed & wiped down. (I confess I do not mop because I do not mop anything. Ever. Scrub on hands & knees, yes. Mop? No. ANYway.) If you suspect ants got into drawers, the drawers get opened, anything with crumbs or possible food smells on it gets tossed & the drawers get washed with soap & water.

It’s a royal PITA. And avoiding having to do it more than once a year is why I’m big on the salt the earth & raise high the walls prevention elements.

Step 2. Salt the earth.

Diatomaceous earth, to be precise, or DE for short. You have to block ants from returning once you’ve cleaned away the ant scouts & their scent trails. DE is my first choice for barrier protection. It’s non-toxic, safe for pets, and a generally fabulous insect death- dealer. You’ll want to wear a dust mask while working with it, because tiny dust particles are bad for your lungs in general and awful for triggering allergies, but hey! Everyone has masks lying around these days, right? How convenient! A little line along the baseboards does the trick if your only choice for barrier protection is indoors, and you can dust generously along the foundation of a house outside as well. Yes, it’ll wash away in rain, but it’s cheap & you can re-apply.

ALTERNATIVE: you can combine steps 1 & 2 and engage in chemical warfare. The windows get opened, the fans go on, and I spray permethrin-based ant death spray along every baseboard and at the bottom of the tile backsplash, also the wall behind the stove, and around any plumbing pipe accesses under the sink. (pick your own brand. I recommend ones that use no fragrances. But only permethrin ones. None of that heavy organophosphate bullshit.) It’s death and barrier all in one.

But if you want to go pesticide-free, you can skip the spray. Wash everything, then lay down DE.

And shouldn’t have to write this, but…yeah. NO POISON NEAR FOOD SURFACES EVER.

And let’s pause for a quick commercial.

Step 3, Raise high the walls.

Eliminating the temptation of food is THE essential aspect of long-term victory over ants. I was raised in an area where bugs & mice were impossible to keep out, so I know all open food has to be kept in sealed containers & all dishes have to be washed or inside the dishwasher before bedtime. But I don’t live in a pine flat converted to a subdivision anymore. So every winter Spouseman & I get slack about defenses…until one of us discovers a gleeful parade of ants partying on the countertops or lurking inside a kitchen drawer. So. Once the house has been reclaimed and the defenses are built, everything gets sealed in glass or plastic. Period. The cat’s food (when we have cats) goes on a tray with just a teensy bit of water in the bottom. (It kills the ants dead. So delightfully simple.

Pro tip: If it’s REALLY bad, upturned lids filled w/water or oil under table legs keep ants off the dining room table. Or other furniture.

Step 4: Poison the well.

Put out ant baits near any potential entry point. Ant baits do work, but they work really slowly and not universally, so they’re basically a long-term maintenance element in the defense effort. Thus, they come last. And they’re the simplest. I mean, there isn’t much to them other than, “unwrap & place where the cat can’t sniff them out & decide to play with them.” Oh, wait. Ant bait granules outside around the foundation too. Outside the line of DE, if you’re using that. Two layers of protection are better than one!

And there’s no need to feel quilt about laying out something that might be bad for other insects. It isn’t. Baits aren’t pesticide. It’s borax, like for laundry. Chemistry!

That’s it. That’s the post. How I get rid of ants. I know, in my last post I said I would write about the books I’ve read this spring, but this was overdue. Also I’m a little mush-brained from dealing with…life stuff.

NEXT-next time I’ll list off the books, most of which I’ve already recommended online here or there. Pinky swears.

Until later!

Look. I don’t know why this image came up on a search for “cute ant” photos, but how could I resist?
credit: ROMAN ODINTSOV on Pexels.com