Saturday, September 09, 2023

COVID Round 2

Friday evening, Petunia told me one of her best friends at school had tested positive for COVID. Her friend had a scratchy throat so had worn a mask to school, but went home early and by evening tested positive. I opened more windows, turned our main air filter up a notch, and moved our little air filter into Petunia's room. We tested Petunia the next morning - negative. But her luck did not hold. By Sunday evening her throat was scratchy and Monday morning she tested positive. She went into her room and the rest of us nervously hoped for the best. It had been about a year since our last boosters so we knew we were probably vulnerable, but maybe we'd get lucky. Just in case, my husband moved to the guest room since the way our weekend plans had worked out, I had spent the most time with Petunia over the weekend. 

I woke up Tuesday to a scratchy throat, so I tested myself. Negative. But something was off, so I decided to stay in my room after work, close the office door while working, and wear a mask when I came out to the common areas. My husband decided to work in the garage. Wednesday, my throat hurt more and I was getting tired, but I was still negative. Same thing Thursday morning... I was clearly fighting something but I wasn't feeling terrible and I was still negative. But Thursday afternoon I got achy and developed chills so I tested again and this time I was positive. 

I emailed my doctor to see about getting Paxlovid. I spent most of Friday sleeping. My husband found the pulse oximeter I'd bought in the early, panicky days of the pandemic so I could check the value before my call with my doctor. I was surprised to see how low my oxygen saturation was -  it was down to 94. I normally read at 98. When the triage nurse who called to set up the appointment with my doctor asked how I was breathing, I told her I thought I was doing fine. The pulse ox said otherwise! I told the doctor the reading and was encouraged to get Paxlovid, use my albuterol more, and to keep monitoring my pulse ox. If it goes to 92 I am supposed to go to urgent care.

I started the Paxlovid last night and definitely feel better today. My oxygen saturation is up to 96. I am still tired but in a "I want to stay in bed and read" sort of way instead of a "I think I'll just take my 5th nap of the day" sort of way. 

Petunia has felt fine since Thursday and is hoping she tests negative tomorrow so she can go to her volleyball clinic. I suspect she'll still be positive, but we'll see. So far, Pumpkin and my husband are testing negative, although both say their throats feel a little off. We've all scattered to separate rooms. We meet up for dinner outside, sitting far away from each other.

I'm sad to see my "no-vid" status go, but glad I avoided it for as long as I did. Remember at the beginning when we all just wanted to avoid it until we were vaccinated and there were treatments? I do wish they'd have gotten the new vaccines out in time for the start of school but also acknowledge that it was unlikely I could dodge COVID forever since I have two children in school and am also out and about more myself. 

On the bright side, I've finished two books since exiling myself to my room: A Half-Built Garden, by Ruthanna Emrys and The Alarmist, by Dave Lowe. The first is a first contact story set in a future in which at least some humans have started to deal with climate change. It is interesting and ultimately hopeful about the future of humanity. The second is a memoir written by a New Zealand scientist who was involved in some of the early research into how we humans have been changing our atmosphere. It is a sobering reminder of our wasted opportunity to heed the early warnings about increasing CO2, but also a great look at what it took to set up some of the early experiments that demonstrated the impact we were having on our atmosphere and an honest memoir of a life in science.

And with that, I think I have used up my tolerance for being upright and will lay back down and start another book. 

(Here is the write up of our first experience with COVID, also courtesy of Petunia's classmates!)

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Summer Thoughts

We're recently returned from our big summer vacation - it was a bit of a friends and family tour in that we saw friends or family at every stop. But it was also a really great vacation to wonderful places (Rarotonga and Australia) so I'll try to write something about it over on Adjusted Latitudes soon. We came back to some busy weeks at work and with Petunia's summer activities, and since we once again took our summer vacation to places where it is winter (albeit some of the places have pretty mild winters!) I want to take advantage of the San Diego summer now that we're home.

Which is a long-winded way of saying Petunia and I made our first real beach trip of the season today and it was awesome. Beach trips are so much easier now that we don't need to haul a bunch of toys along and everyone can happily walk 20 mins from the parking spot I found to the beach.

San Diego has been spared the worst of the heat dome, but summers here definitely have more warm days than I remember from my grad school days (more than 20 years ago). This summer, it seems like the connection between the hot summer and climate change is really making it into the mainstream news stories, which is good. We need people to realize climate change is real and it is here. But so many people seem to have a resigned "this is the coldest summer of the rest of our lives" attitude that I don't think is helping. It doesn't have to be if we decide we don't want to just accept a future in which the climate situation just gets worse and worse. 

One of the things I do on long flights is listen to podcasts on repeat - listening lets me dose off and get some sleep, but by putting the podcast on repeat I end up hearing most of the podcast, anyway. This was particularly true on our flight home from Australia, since it left at 10 a.m. and my body wasn't having any of my brain's attempts to convince it to get some sleep.

The podcast that was on repeat the longest on that flight was the recent Volts episode about enhanced geothermal energy. It is such an optimistic episode! Geothermal can provide a source of firm clean energy, meaning that it doesn't not depend on the sun shining or the wind blowing. It has been limited to specific areas with geothermal activity, but now, using the same technology developed for natural gas extraction, it can be deployed in many more locations. The first commercial-scale enhanced geothermal energy plant is now online. To quote from the podcast:

"Last week, the geothermal developer Fervo Energy announced that its first full-scale power plant passed its production test phase with flying colors. With that, Fervo has, at long last, made it through all the various tests and certifications needed to prove out its technology. It now has a working, fully licensed power plant, selling electricity on the wholesale market, and enough power purchase agreements (PPAs) with eager customers to build many more.

EGS is now a real thing — the first new entrant into the power production game in many decades."

This is a big deal. It is just the latest reminder that we have the technology we need to change our climate future. We "just" need the political will to make the change a reality. 

But juxtaposed against that optimistic podcast, on the same flight out of Australia there was a large contingent of Australian firefighters flying to help fight the wildfires in Canada. And as soon as I switched out of vacation mode and checked the news sites, I saw news of heat waves in the US and Europe. 

But I still think we can change our trajectory. There are a lot of fights to win, and there is a lot of work to do. But if we resign ourselves to a future in which every year is warmer than the last we won't even try to win the fights and complete the work. We need to try.

With those thoughts in mind, when I came back from vacation I thought I should do something to offset the carbon spewed by our flights. Since general carbon offsets are hard to assess, I decided I would go all in and pay for carbon removal - i.e., direct air capture of carbon. As far as I can tell, there is one option for that: Climeworks. Before I decided to send them money, I wanted to do a little more research on carbon capture. Luckily, another one of my favorite climate change podcasts had an episode on carbon capture that I found very helpful, and when the expert being interviewed said she buys carbon capture credits I decided we'd do it, too. We're just working out how much per month to commit to and how much to send to a climate change charity (and which one to choose - I'm looking at the options described in this Vox article right now.) We donate to a charity every month and decided that this month we'd pick a climate charity, so now I just have to figure out which one to choose. 

I'll be making my choices tomorrow, since this was meant to be our July charity.  

Anyway, that's my summer so far. How has your summer been?

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Just Some Random Things

I thought that perhaps when I stopped posting on Twitter I might write more here, but it hasn't worked out that way. I do occasionally post over on Post or Instagram, but mostly I lurk. I haven't stopped lurking on Twitter but increasingly it feels like I should. 

I thought that maybe I'd waste less time scrolling and spend more time reading, and that has sort of worked out. I am finding it depends greatly on how much I am enjoying whatever book I'm reading. I think I need to get more ruthless about abandoning books that don't grab me in a couple of sittings. It is not like there is a shortage of things to read. 

I have started using my library to borrow ebooks instead of just buying from Amazon. Now that I'm reading more, my habit of just buying the book was going to get expensive. I try to buy the book more often if it is a less well-known author but to be honest it sometimes just comes down to whether there's a waitlist on the book at the library. 

I just posted a comment with some books I've enjoyed recently over at Grumpy Rumblings so I won't repeat them here. I will say a bit more about the books that didn't make the list, though. Over the Christmas break I reread The City and the City by China MiĆ©ville and loved even more the second time through. It is just such an interesting, mind-bending book. So I went looking for something similar. I utterly failed. I found a list of books other people had recommended as similar and while I could see the reason for the recommendation they were both so disappointing that I won't list them here. One hinted at really interesting things in the world they built but never did anything with them, leaving the world feeling flat. The other did a good job world building but fell down on characters. Both wrote women characters that didn't feel real at all. They often read like the enactment of the author's fantasies. It was terrible. I had forgotten what a hard time some sci-fi writers have with writing women or even making a world in which women can have some true agency. Blech.

The closest I came to the William Gibson or The City and the City feeling in reading recently was The City Inside by Samit Basu. This book had a believable and interesting world, believable and interesting characters... but ended without really tidying things up. Maybe there's a sequel planned. If there is one, I'll read it, but I prefer books to leave me feeling like I read something complete, even if there is a sequel.

In other news in my life... I had two business trips in January. I caught a terrible cold on the last day of the second trip and brought it home to share with my family. My husband and I are still coughing - it is a month later for me! - but my kids got over it really quickly. That was a nice stark reminder that we're aging and so are our immune systems. 

The business trips were good, but as much as I like to travel, I'd be happy not to have any more trips for quite awhile. Business travel is its own class of travel and now that my kids are old enough to let me read uninterrupted at home, the business trip has very little to offer me. (I used to enjoy getting to snuggle into bed and just read in the evening - a rare treat back when my kids were little.)

Work continues to be intense, but I am slowly getting a handle on things and am cautiously optimistic that by the time it is beach weather here I will actually be able to deliver on my promise to take more half days to take Petunia to the beach.

Now that I only cough occasionally and not constantly, I am trying to get back into my exercise routine. So I think I'll sign off and go out for my Sunday morning run/walk. It is a glorious day here. I hope you are all keeping well!

Sunday, January 01, 2023

Hello 2023

Happy New Year! 

I have had such a bad run of success with New Year's resolutions/intentions/goals that I decided to try something different this year. I wrote a list of all the things I'd like to improve upon. I did this quickly, without thinking too much about it. I figured this would get me the list of things that are most on my mind. Then I looked at the list to see if there were any themes. And there were - three themes emerged:

- Own my age

- Make healthier habits

- Enjoy life more

My plan is to try to let these three themes guide my decisions in 2023. Petunia wanted a specific "wellness journal" for Christmas. My sister and I got our wires crossed and both bought it for her. I was too lazy to take the one I bought back, so I gave Petunia the cash and kept the journal for myself. It is not at all what I'd have picked if I went shopping for such a thing, but it will do. I needed something like it to track my diet and sleep as I try to identify possible triggers for the supraventricular tachycardia episodes and so I will use it for that and also for setting monthly goals for my three themes. We'll see if that helps me actually do the things I want to do this year!

What do the themes mean? Well, owning my age is the category that encompasses things on my list like "find a new 'uniform' now that my old one isn't so flattering anymore" (my "uniform" is my go to easy type of outfit - I had one for casual and one for work. Both need updating.) Making healthier habits is probably self-explanatory. It includes things like "do something active for at least 10 minutes every day" (I feel so much better, physically and mentally, when I do this!) and "decrease my alcohol intake" (it crept up in the lockdown phase of the pandemic and I never did a post-pandemic reset - now is the time). Enjoy life more has things like my ever popular "take more walks on the beach" and "read more" - but also "actually do all the things on our family fun list" (our performance in 2022 was abysmal). 

We'll see how this system works. Maybe if I do well with it, I'll be shopping for a wellness journal of my own next December!

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Goodbye 2022

I've written so infrequently here that I can't do the type of wrap up post I used to do, where I picked my favorite post from each month. I don't know if I'll ever get back to posting regularly. I enjoy writing but I am not sure what I want to write about here these days. Perhaps that will become clear in 2023. I just read through the few posts I did write this year and it was nice to review them, but more and more things need to be left out of my public writing because my kids are big and my career is changing... and so even writing sort of anonymously there are things I feel like I shouldn't share. Sometimes I think I should just get a journal, but I know from many past attempts that it would not get used much. 

Anyway, I felt moved today to look back at the year.

In January, Petunia got covid and we spent a week with windows open and masks on. She recovered uneventfully and none of the rest of us have had covid yet, as far as we know. I have to go on two work trips in January and I half expect that one of them will bring my covid-free streak to an end. However, when we started the school year in August with no mask mandate I was sure my kids would both get covid soon, and that hasn't happened. So what do I know? I'll wear my mask on the planes and hope or the best.

I also learned that the occasional weird heart incidents I had were supraventricular tachycardia. It is, in the words of my cardiologist, annoying, not life-threatening. I've had a few more incidents this year and am slowly getting to the place my cardiologist predicted I'd get to: more annoyed by the incidents than creeped out by the cure (an ablation). So far, I've just been trying to remember to carry metoprolol with me everywhere. However, it isn't an instant fix and I am not particularly good at the vagal maneuvers that will reset my heart without the metoprolol, so the annoyance factor is growing. Also, the metoprolol pill is just a little bit too big for me to swallow without water and so technically I should also carry water with me everywhere. 

The year was dominated by my career decisions, at least in my own head. I am glad to have the decision made, and am happy with how things have turned out... but still not 100% sure I did the right thing. Time will tell. Or at least, time will march on and the path I'm on now will continue and the alternative one I chose not to get on will drop away.

I turned 50 this year. I celebrated with my sister and my closest friends in Big Bear. It was lovely. I do not find it bad to be 50, but yesterday I came across this McSweeney's article about wearing tunics and had a good laugh. I had just been thinking that perhaps it is time for me to start shopping at Chico's. "How old am I? I'm tunic years old."

I was thinking of starting to shop at Chico's because I've failed to lose the weight I put on in the lockdown year and although I have plans for a healthier 2023 (of course - every new year I plan to adopt healthier habits, and sometimes it works) I doubt I'll slim down enough to avoid the need to shift my style to the tunic years. I'm surprisingly OK with that, too. 

I've been thinking about how little we actually know about what a woman's weight should do throughout her life. Everyone struggles with weight gain around menopause and maybe there's actually a reason for that. Maybe we're putting on weight to get us more healthily through our older years. Of course, my fondness for cookies, ice cream, and beer (not necessarily all at once) exacerbates any natural trend and so while I wish for better data on what normal actually is for women as we age I will also make my annual attempt to develop healthier habits. 

This year, I bought a rowing machine and for awhile I had a good 2-3 times per week habit going. That got disrupted, but I still row at least once most weeks and I still like the machine. 

Last night, we did the "family wii tournament" that Petunia had put on our family fun list for the year, and while I sucked at Mario Cart and broke a wine glass playing tennis (our living room is just not big enough for a four person game!) I had fun with the dance game. Petunia said I should do that instead of rowing, and I told her that I like rowing but that maybe she and I could have weekly dance tournaments, too.

This year saw a surprising amount of travel for me. In February, we spent the long President's Day weekend at an AirBnB in Desert Hot Springs. There was the birthday trip to Big Bear and also a family vacation to New Zealand - our first time seeing my in-laws since December of 2018. In October, I flew to the UK for a work event and then on to Berlin for a conference. It had been a long time since I'd done any serious travel on my own and it was good for me to have to find my way around London and Berlin without my husband's freakily good spatial sense to rely on. I had a good time. In early November, I had a very short visit to NYC for an interview (one of the job options I ended up not taking) and then Mr. Snarky and I had a weekend in LA for a concert. I jokingly called that short stretch of time my great cities of the world tour.

We celebrated Thanksgiving in Arizona with my family. We no longer all fit comfortably in my parents' house, so we rented an AirBnB nearby. I enjoyed being able to walk around downtown Mesa - it has changed a lot since I lived there, and is actually now a place I could encourage people to visit. If you ever find yourself in downtown Mesa, be sure to get empanadas and also check out the new fry bread place nearby.

My parents came here for Christmas. It was wonderful having them here. I took the week between Christmas and New Year's off and powered through a list of some of the things that have been sitting undone most of the year. My desk is now clean and we finally took the last of the kids' Lego (and 6 bags of other things) to the thrift store.

It was a pretty good year, all things considered. I am hoping for 2023 to involve less time thinking about my career directions and more time just enjoying the damn good life I have. I hope you all have a happy, healthy new year, too!