This is not a huge shock. Even when I don’t go to bed at what most people consider a reasonable hour, I end up awake around the same time. Most days, my brain knows when it’s time, and *ping* I am conscious. (unless I am ill or brutally exhausted)
As it happens, I did go to bed at a decent hour, meaning before 1 AM. Double win! Awake early-ish and full of energy. But did that beginning develop into a day of big productivity?
Yes! Also NO!
There was shopping. Because toilet paper is good to have. We also needed cat food, since I failed to account how damned much kibble a 15 lb cat could suck down when I set up the autoship for Pippin’s food & litter. We probably would’ve been okay through the weekend, but probably is also called “tempting fate” and the year is due to start with a big storm is. Peace of mind is also good to have, so the expedition began!
Evidently everyone else in Chicagoland went shopping today too. So. Many. People. SO MANY HALF-MASKED PEOPLE. Look, I know it’s hard to keep a mask up over a small, snub nose. But most of the people who don’t fucking do it right aren’t kids nor did they have little button-noses like mine. They just weren’t even trying.
It’s funny how half-masked and half-assed almost rhyme, isn’t it? I think so.
I’m also glad my KF94 and KN95 masks arrived Monday & Tuesday, because yay, better filtration to block out whatever miasma the maskholes are emitting. (Also, the shaped KF94 masks are MUCH easier to breathe through under a cloth covering mask than a surgical mask) Is the filtration really better? Welp, I can’t do a proper qualitative fit test at home, but I can say they fit nice and tight to my face,unlike a surgical mask, and they blocked the smell the overripe bananas on my counter a LOT better than either the cloth or surgical masks did.
Do I need a cloth mask on top? Well, no, but it doesn’t hurt either, since they both fit well and tight (fring benefit, less lens fogging!) And I like the look of patterned cloth more than unrelieved black or white, and that means something too.
But I digress. As always.
Driving and shopping got done, and we returned home victorious with bread, milk, TP, kibble, AND the cat tree we promised Mr Pippin back around Thanksgiving (when he only weighed 13.75 lbs instead of 15.)
Then we put together the cat tree despite much interference from its intended recipient, who seemed to think chasing the unassembled pieces was the point of the whole exercise. As you can see from the pictures below, he was not being shy about claiming it for himself once we got it completed and moved the other furniture to make space for it.
After that, I settled down by the fire for the afternoon and ended up on a wonderful long video chat with bestest of awesome friends Shannon Eichorn. Tales of holidays and wordcrafting and family and pandemic were shared, cats were admired, and muchcatching up conversating was had.
Discord did not play nicely with my phone (It insisted on calling separately for audio and video, so I could not have sound or images, but not both, WTAF) and then it wouldn’t play nicely with Shannon’s laptop, so we ended up on Zoom. (I got to send a meeting invite link to someone, and it worked! Tiny tech victories are victories, right?)
ANYway. The original supper plan was to make split pea soup with the last of the Christmas leftovers, but somewhere in the afternoon I developed a craving for steak, and also I never got around to starting the soup.
Spouseman was agreeable to a change in plans, (easier to make soup on on New Year’s Eve or Day than to get restaurant takeout, or so we rationalized it) so we ordered steak dinners & cherry pie dessert from our fave local steakhouse and enjoyed our impulse celebration supper in front of another movie.
Not another Studio Ghibli. It came to our attention (thanks Netflix) that everyone in America except us had already watched Red Notice. So we watched that. Thumbnail review: plenty of pretty people and a plotline of ridiculous, complicated heisty goodness. A fun way to spend New Year’s Eve-Eve.
Pippin enjoyed surveying the room from his Top Perch for most of the movie, then moved onto my lap just in time to get in the way of me writing this. But ha-HA, I am resting the laptop on him, and am now done.
The year is almost done. I just now realized tomorrow’s post will be the last of the year. WOWZA.
1. Overheard: “That isn’t an isolation bubble. That is foam. Foam is full of holes.” Evocative. Except for the part where it’s true for most people and thus an underestimated source of risk.
2. There is a difference between rationalizing denial and accepting mitigated risks. I’m having a hard time articulating that difference, but I’m certain it exists.
3. OMFG enough of accusing people who get covid of “letting down their guard.” Stop with the judgy moral superiority nonsense. JUST STOP. Look. Precautions are not magic. Exposure happens. All of us will eventually face down this virus armed only with our immune systems. It’s inevitable. No one likes to think about that, but it’s been true since the moment this virus escaped Wuhan. You can be careful and cautious and still catch Covid. Illness isn’t a mark of moral deficiency or personal failure. It can’t be overcome by having a pure heart or warded off by Doing All The Right Things. Sitting up on a high horse and sneering at the sick is pride headed for a fall.
4. BUT WAIT. I’m equally annoyed with the other type of magical thinking, the kind that makes people think they somehow earn a free pass from environmental dangers as a reward for good behavior. I’m really tired of actively risky behavior being excused because people are “tired of taking precautions.”
FFS, does no one ever engage in analysis by analogy anymore? Every winter I get hella tired of putting on a heavy fucking coat and other extra layers of outer protection to keep from freezing. But I rarely say, “I am so tired of wearing a coat, I’ll go without.” Rarely, but not never. I weigh the risk of freezing against the potential for frostbite or death and act accordingly. Short trip to the trashcan when the temp’s in the teens? I might run barefoot w/o a jacket. Hour walk outside when it’s -10 degrees? NOPE.
This is called risk evaluation and mitigation.
Here’s another one. Every time I drive a car and come to a red light, it’s an annoyance and an aggravation and I get VERY tired of the delays to my travel. BUT I NEVER GET TO SAY, “I’M TIRED OF STOPPING AT RED LIGHTS, I’LL JUST BUZZ THROUGH THIS ONE INTERSECTION.”
Four years spent in science labs working with various poisons and caustics left its mark on me. I cannot imagine saying, “I’ve worn goggles, aprons, and gloves every time all semester and it’s a hassle, so Imma go without today.” And despite diligently taking precautions every time I was in the lab, I went home more than once with acid-eaten holes in my sleeves or a yellow dot of nitric acid on my skin. And others had worse accidents. BECAUSE SHIT HAPPENS.
So I can have both annoyances at once without cognitive dissonance. If someone’s doing all they can, weighing risks, taking the ones they deem worthwhile, being responsible about accepting and mitigating the consequences of mistakes? I’m all over empathy and ready to support in any possible way.
5. Um. But my opinion of people who thoughtfully, deliberately refuse to take precautions against infection because they are misguided, distrust all expertise except their own, and are breathtakingly selfish? Yeah, don’t come at me with the sympathy pleas. I’ll save my energy for others.
6. Didn’t get much done today because I was here ranting (and elsewhere researching) but hey. At least I’m wordsing, not mutely doom-scrolling through Facebook & Twitter, right?
7. We’re watching Shang Chi at home tonight instead of Spiderman in a reserved theater because multiple people got exposed to Covid over the holiday weekend and that news boosted the risk of 3 hours in a public place w/people outside my bubble over my comfort threshold. I mean. I could’ve stayed double-masked through the movie and felt comfortable, but that would’ve diminished the experience below my enjoyment threshold. Risk evaluation. Risk mitigation. Choices.
So. It’s Christmas cookies and comfy jammy pants ftw tonight. And this second viewing of Shang Chi affirms my memory that I LOVED this movie bunches. Top 5 in the whole MCU for me.
This isn’t the post I planned to write this week, but it’s On My Mind, so it’s the post that happened.
I could also title it, “An Open Letter to the nice veterinarian I won’t ever visit again.” But it’s mostly a rant dressed up in extra-ness, so if that’s not your thing, best skip to the cat pics at the end.
Hello, there! You seem like a good veterinarian. You have good credentials, you have years of experience, and you appear to be a knowledgeable, personable, and perfectly nice human being who loves animals. This is a great vet practice. I’ve worked with another vet & several techs here and had a phenomenally good experiences with all of them. That’s why I came back.
And yet after the one visit with you, I’ve asked the wonderful front desk staff to put a note in my cat’s file: make sure I am never scheduled with you again. Never. Ever.
Why not? (I imagine you wondering) Why would a brand new patient–patient’s owner, to be precise–so intensely reject you after so little time? Welp, a lot of reasons.
The TL;DR edition: Hi there! Maybe ask a few important questions BEFORE launching into the Clueless Pet Owner” lectures and making one-size-fits-none recommendations? Oh, and while you’re at it, save the nutritional guilt-tripping for someone it won’t emotionally demolish. KTHXBAI 4EVAH
Long-form version follows. (btw, I’m not going to name anyone. It’s an excellent vet practice, and like I said, you seem like good people who love animals, & I don’t want anger directed at ANYone.)
It starts the moment I walk into the practice. Your tech “greets” me with a folder full of vendor promotional materials touting products All Good Pet Parents Must Have, along with a vaccinations & wellness schedule for treatments your records should have shown you were already done.
Flustered & bewildered, I anxiously point out that Pips had already had everything on the vaccinations list, that he’s only there for a wellness check so we can schedule his neutering. The tech’s pivot is NOT to ask any clarifying questions like, “Oh, has he been here, we thought he was a new patient?” or “Were you taking him to a different vet?” Nope. They immediately take out the vaccination schedule and begins going through it as if I hadn’t spoken. When I repeat myself, they move on to asking whether I have any specific concerns about Pip’s health.
Beginning with a simple “Hi, is this your first visit here?” before handing over a mass of “buy this stuff or you’re a Bad Pet Parent” propaganda might have cleared up a lot of confusion. A few active listening questions about my pet’s life so far and/or my history of pet ownership seem like obvious basics to get a conversation going. But no. I was handed a folder, and the tech began explaining the schedule at me.
(Pro tip digression: if you must give out pamphlets, let the reciptient read the material in peace for a few moments in silence. Otherwise it sparks information overwhelm/brain shutdown for many of us.)
At this point in the visit, less than five minutes, the tech taking Pip’s history is neither taking me seriously nor listening carefully. This establishes that my pet is being stuffed into the category of A Case, aka A Bundle Of Symptoms. Mistakes are more likely to happen when that’s true. This is scary.
(Spoiler alert: my fears prove real; either the tech doesn’t accurately repeat what I say about Pips, or you, the vet receiving the report, don’t accurately interpret it. Either way, it’s another red flag. More on that later.)
ANYway. Your associate has eroded my trust before we can begin to build a relationship. I’m now feeling increasingly nervous about how Pips will be handled in the Mysterious Back Room where pets are taken for the real exams these days. But you don’t know any of this because you don’t meet me yourself before examining my pet.
Now, Pandemic times means you need to limit your contact. I get that, and I respect it.
But if you are NOT going to meet your patients’ owners even once before handling their animals behind closed door, you need to recognize that pet lovers will be sick with worry and defensive about the wellbeing of their animals by the time you do meet them. Also, a presentation of “brisk professionalism” will only feed the fear that my animal was getting “Interesting Medical Specimen” treatment rather than empathetic, caring, careful treatment.
The way you went from the barest of hellos into “everything looks good, he’s healthy” (‘m paraphrasing) and then straight into an explanation of how you listened for heart issues since he’s a Maine Coon and might have Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy–well. That really grated on me, especially when you added the trivia nugget that most cases of HCM are silent so there’s no way of ruling out later development.
I mean, congratulations, you’ve shown me how knowledgeable you are about the breed. Great job. Pat on the back. But SHEESH. If I wasn’t already knowledgeable about HCM, that would’ve been terrifying.
As it happens, I know Pip’s lineage is clear of HCM, so he’s got as good a chance as possible of avoiding it, AND I’m not breeding him, so there’s no “be responsible about genetics” aspect–but it still jangled my already hyperactive nerves to have it be your main, obvious focus.
It was one more indication that you see him as An Interesting Case more than a furchild.
Next up, you demonstrated you and your tech aren’t communicating by telling me the tech told you I was concerned about my cat’s meow being strange. WTAF. What I said was, Pips makes a weird noise inside his nose when he sniffs at things, something I’ve never had any other cat do, and I was worried it might be a sinus issue.
(I’m still wondering, since you did not address it. Did you even examine his nose or mouth? Are his teeth healthy? He’s teething. It wasn’t on my concern list, but given all the other trust issues, WHO KNOWS IF YOU EVEN LOOKED? I DON’T.)
At this point, I now doubt you’re hearing anything I say, and my anxiety level? Reaching low Earth orbit, propelled there by the way you indulgently brushed off my actual concern as ‘cats make funny noises, it’s pollen & dust season. It sure looks from where I’m standing like you’ve categorized me as Clueless New Cat Mom worrying over nothing. You don’t know me, do you? This is an ASSUMPTION.
Your body language indicates you consider our interaction is wrapping up satisfactorily, with all my concerns allayed by your confidence. Not that you ASKED me if there was anything I might have forgotten earlier. Not that I was in any fit state to remember anything by then.
So to finish up, you ask what I’m feeding him, like it’s a social question rather than the interrogation trap it turned out to be. Once you hear I’m feeding him KITTEN KIBBLE (O, the HORROR) you damn the brand with faint praise and deliver a trainload of unsolicited feeding advice in an “I know better than you because I’m an Expert” tone.
That’s where our possible relationship went full crash-and-burn. When you told me (again, paraphrasing) “You need to be putting him on part or all canned food as soon as possible, and here’s why, according to All The latest Recommendations,” I snapped.
Was it diplomatic of me to flatly turn you down by saying, “that’s not going to happen?” No. Was it confrontational? Sure. Put someone on the defensive for several straight interactions and then gut-punch them with a massive guilt trip, they’re likely to lash out in desperation.
It hasn’t even been 2 months since my beloved Pip’s littermate had to be euthanized due to an incurable, degenerative, congenital condition. I do not have the emotional endurance to deal with owner-shaming.
Did you query why I was so adamant in my disagreement? NOPE. You trotted out All The Usual Phrases in your attempts to bludgeon me into compliance. “Cats are obligate carnivores, dry food has too many carbs,” “cats evolved from desert animals and have a low thirst drive, they need moisture from their food,” and “cats don’t like change, gotta start changes early,” blah, blah, fuckity-blah.
Here’s the thing. You might as well have told me, “I will now use all my Expert Words to overcome your ignorant, I do My oWn rESaRch objections.”
And I understand that impulse. IDMOR objectors are legion. But challenging you doesn’t make me wrong. It means I disagree. You could have asked why. We could have had a discussion. But no. You simply kept listing dire health consequences until I insist I understand and I’ll see how things go, and you begin to realize Things Aren’t Going To End Well.
Maybe free-feeding my kitten dry kibble is sentencing Him To disastrous UTIs, Diabetes, Obesity and Early Death, but was it a necessary part of the evaluation for a 6-month-old kitten who has a great body condition score? I don’t know. I do know it left me reeling from emotional overload.
Look. I am not a veterinarian. That’s why I GO to a veterinarian. But I am neither stupid nor ignorant. I have a degree in biology & 30+ years experience working with kittens & cats in a variety of settings. I research scientific topics as a professional necessity and also for FUNSIES. Yes, I track down primary, peer-reviewed material, check methodology, and investigate citations & related works (among other things) on numerous topics of interest. It’s what I DO.
You bet I’ve done a damned lot of primary journal dives on cat biology and behavior in general, Maine Coons in specific, and medical issues in particular. Expert catchphrases don’t soothe me. They’re like fresh wallpaper. The walls beneath might be great or moldy. It looks the same, and that makes me instantly wary.
I need a professional partner in my cat’s care. Someone who will treat me like the well-read, intelligent, committed caregiver that I am. Part of that is recognizing that questions about diagnostic conclusions and objections to recommendationsare learning gaps to be filled or legitimate differences of informed opinion to be discussed, not ego challenges.
Treating disagreement as an obstacle to be bludgeoned down is not a partnership behavior. It’s bullying.
FFS, I just wanted to confirm Pippin was healthy before getting him snipped & chipped. I was not expecting to get run over by the “You Bad Pet Parent, iF yOu dO NoT Do AS I SAY, YOUR PET IS DOOOOOOOOMED” freight train.
But that’s what happened.
It isn’t my job to teach you how to not accidentally humiliate and emotionally bruise your patients’ owners. It isn’t my job to convince you I’m justified in making educated, needs-based choices that don’t mesh with your “latest research indicates” talking points. I am too old and cranky to deal with this shit, and I will not subject myself or my pet to it again.
But I do wish you well in your work with your other clients now and into the future.
–Sincerely no love, KM
Hello, reader friends! Still with me? Wow, you are dedicated. <blows kisses>. As a reward, have some new pictures of cutie-pie Mister Pippin. Now that I have this vet issue off my chest, maybe I can focus on the WIP or at least a decent post-con roundup. (Gen Con was phenomenal. It deserves a post.)
If you’re one of the people who’s felt my scorn about your take on The American Plague Situation, please know I am not sorry. (If you are not one of those people, be warned this rant is long and…um…exceedingly ranty.) So. Onward.
When you sigh about overwhelming information, muse about lockdowns maybe being too extreme, express concern that the doom predictions aren’t coming true but your friends & family are going bankrupt/ being evicted/ losing their savings, if you wonder if the prevention is worth the effort and cost, or maybe it’s exaggerated and it’s definitely confusing and we can’t go on like this forever..this is what’s going on in my brain:
OMFG OH MY FUCKING GOD NO YOU ARE WRONG AND I AM TOO SHOUTYCAPS ANGRY AT YOU & THE WHOLE FUCKING WORLD TO DEAL WITH YOUR IGNORANT BULLSHIT.
I am happy to have rational discussions about issues, and I think I have achieved that standard in most cases despite my above feels…
BUT. When you hear that edge in my voice, when you sense I am less patient than usual, less inclined to accept the validity of your ideas, and not treating your positions as reasonable, there is a reason, and it is this:
You are not reasonable. You are fucked up, AND you are identifying yourself as a direct, immediate threat to my life and the lives of people I love. I will not be chill about that.
Bad ideas come in gangs, and they beat up on rationality. “It’s all so confusing” runs with “They’re all equally bad,” “I can’t keep up,” and “I don’t know what to believe,” and they are all shitty excuses that play right into swearing allegiance to the ringleader of rational assassins, Denial.
When you hang out with the “it’s so confusing” mindset, you become the “It’s fine” meme dog. People deny their way into death by smoke inhalation every year. True story. No joke.
I’m actually in favor of letting people endanger themselves on their own time. But in the case of this pandemic, you are endangering others. Me.
So, fuck your willful ignorance. “Looking at both sides” and “I can see their point” acceptance of all ideas as equal spreads hot takes like “we can’t stay locked down, people are going bankrupt,” “But the children ARE FALLING BEHIND and having their childhoods ruined” and “cloth face masks don’t prevent disease, so are they worth the hassle?”
All those chunks of bullshit can be disputed and debunked point by point, but I have neither the patience or interest for it. No one who accepts them is doing so rationally. No one who even ponders them is thinking straight.
Look. I know news comes at us from all sides like fire hoses of fact & fiction, pouring data into the burning building of The Year 2020. But complaining that you don’t know how to interpret it all? That it’s too haaaaarrd?
TOO FUCKING BAD. FUCKING LEARN. I WOULD FUCKING TEACH YOU.
Wading through a neck-high flood of information isn’t fun. But it isn’t HARD. It’s just time consuming. Engage in source-checking, recognize and filter out data that’s tied up in bias phrasing and hidden agenda red flags, and translate hyperbole based on the facts you learn from the first two activities, and there you will find consistent, reliable information.
Please understand, my passionate horror of your attitude has deep roots. I have pushed back against the American devaluation of expertise and lived experience for decades now. The whole, “doctors disagree, so I’ll believe the conclusion that feels right,” makes my blood boil. The eager embrace of anecdote-as-proof, the trust in uninformed intuition, the erosion of respect for intellectual rigor and basic math…I have been howling and growling (and calmly educating people) about these problems for years.
But now the worship of snake oil over science is LITERALLY killing people by the dozens each day. COVID-19 is on its way to becoming endemic, and it didn’t have to be this way. We’ll be lucky if it doesn’t hammer at the fracture points in our society until they shatter and send us careening into open civil warfare. (as opposed to the undeclared war already being waged by federal & local military forces against American citizens right now. BUT I DIGRESS. Sorrynotsorry. Recognizing the seeds of dystopia is kinda my thing.)
And okay, fine. I can’t resist. I will bring the hammer of reason down on a few points.
There are social safety nets that could catch EVERYONE facing personal or business losses due to the collision of a pandemic with a private sector Gone Wall Street Wild for 30 years. Mostly in the USA we’ve gone the “full-on blatant corruption & skimming” route instead, but that isn’t the POINT.
The point is, helping people through financial and educational loss is possible. Bringing people back from the dead isn’t. And don’t get me started on the “that which does not kill us leaves us damaged” aspect of COVID-19 which is becoming clear as cases pile up.
Pitting lives against economics is a rigged game, and if you’ve been tricked into playing it, you’re a fool. Period. There will also be economic devastation if factories shut down, ports shut down, stores close, utilities fail BECAUSE TOO MANY PEOPLE WHO RUN THEM ARE SICK OR DEAD.
Is that possible? Oh, hell, yes. Likely? Maybe? We are NOT under control. We squandered the initial shutdown time without developing resources for identifying & containing outbreaks. And now the spread is skyrocketing because too many people are tired of taking simple precautions. (The dangerous magical thinking goes something like this: we did the shutdown, we flattened the curve, it’s all over and now everything is fine!)
Uh. No. We barely flattened out the curve, and never came close to stamping it out anywhere. I expect we will face breakouts for years the way we used to see with measles & polio and still see with flu…and oh, yeah, we could have TWO pandemics at once this winter if it’s a bad flu season. Viruses don’t care if they’re inconvenient.
While I’m ranting, forget the phrase “herd immunity” forever unless you are saying you are a-okay with hundreds of thousands of people dying from COVID-19 and far more facing lifelong medical complications for your hypothetical, temporary protection. At least 20-40% of the whole damned herd has to get infected to matter at all, and its benefit assumes the immunity lasts. WHICH IT USUALLY DOESN’T FOR CORONAVIRUSES. If you are okay with that, GTFO of my life, you are a monster.
Don’t believe me? Look up the tweets by the governor of Mississippi, who lays out the gruesome toll.
Oh–and all your friends who are a) swearing they had Covid last year, or b) insisting lots more people had it already and never got sick and that means the fatality numbers are inflated and c) besides, it’s mainly old people? A) No. Just. Ugh. NO. B) Check your arithmetic, even if Covid only had the fatality rate of a mild flu, that’d be 325,000 dead people or more if left unchecked, so C) GTFO, monster. And some of those healthy folks walking around are breathing death, and we cannot know who they are.
Also not all the dead will be olds. Hospitals some areas are so full of COVID cases right now that Our Federal Government is hiding the numbers from the public. Young people. Old people. Sick people. Previously-healthy people. Virus doesn’t give a damn. The cold numbers are such that even tiny percentages add up to a lotta dead. Math is unforgiving that way.
And that’s why masks fucking matter. My fitted mask cuts the risk me exposing someone virus by more than half. I can’t know if I’m a healthy spreader. The antibody tests are trash.
But everyone who won’t bother to properly cover their damned noses is doubling MY risk. The sheer, flagrant selfishness of it enrages me. FYI, you will not choke on your own toxic exhalations or suffocate because you cover your face with thin cloth or paper. *FACEPALM*
ANYWAY. Wrapping up now, I promise.
All your musing and pondering comes down to the equivalent of this: “I heard the fire alarm, but I don’t smell smoke, the fire exits are hard to find, and leaving seems like a waste of time and money, plus so many people say we can ignore the alarms because sometimes the alarms are wrong anyway so I don’t know what to believe.”
To which I say, WTF IS WRONG WITH YOU?
If you get to wrap yourself in a comfy blanket of information fatigue and refuse to educate yourself properly or keep a fucking mask over your damned nose, I get to call you a fucking accessory to mass murder.
Yes, I am judging people and finding them wanting. I hate losing faith in so many, MANY people I once respected, especially since they could do better and won’t. But alas, I am disappoint. SO DISAPPOINT.
TL;DR: Stay strong, learn the difference between snake oil and science, remember you are mortal. This ain’t over. Keep a mask on your face, keep your distance from others, and keep your pantry stocked.
And if you’re one of the people who feels the way I do, hail and well met. We shall stand in solidarity. Separately. Safely.
And next post I’ll write about my exciting book revisions, or my upcoming Gen Con events or happy garden projects…or something.