life

Professional Cat Hazing: $350

I regret to inform you all that Pye is fat.

He’s always been a big cat — one of his paws can fill my palm, and his legs are as big around as my wrist — but he’s also exhibited a lot of anxiety around having food available to him At All Times. (This is a pretty common thing for rescue cats.) Trying to balance his physical needs and mental wellbeing has led to a boy who is, while very tall and weirdly muscular, also kind of a chonk.

He and Kiko had their checkups and booster shots not too long ago. Because of the pandemic, it was all very distanced. My partner dropped them off in the parking lot, a tech took them in, and he waited outside until the visit was over. When both cats were returned to us, we were given the verdict: They were healthy, he needs to lose weight, and he was also a gigantic asshole by the way so here’s a standing prescription for gabapentin, to be given to him a half hour before every future vet visit.

He looks so innocent when he’s sleeping.

“I feel like I just paid almost four hundred dollars for them to tell me he’s fat,” my partner lamented.

“I mean… kind of. But they also pointed out that he’s kind of a dick. And he got booster shots!”

“… Three hundred and fifty dollars for someone to roast my cat.”

And so, Pye has a special robot butler that dispenses special Chunky Boy Cheerios for him at regular intervals. He loves this, because the only thing more dear to his idiot heart than food is machinery. (You should’ve seen how excited he was to “help” the maintenance guy fix the dishwasher in our old place. Or the time he similarly attempted to help my partner repair a printer that Pye had, for some reason, diligently packed full of coconut bark.) Because he is extremely adept at drawing bizarre conclusions about things, he’s decided that, if he whines and flumbuses around in a specific way, the Benevolent Gods of Tasty Food will cause kibble to appear in his bowl with no input from either my partner or me. It has led to several impromptu a capella concerts at 3 AM.

He will sing for you the song of his people.

Kiko, meanwhile, has a special pink teacup and snack plate to eat and drink from, because she refuses to drink out of bowls and demands to be accompanied to her food and I have lost control of my life.

Fortunately, Pye’s managed to stop gaining weight on this regimen, despite his food anxiety. He hasn’t lost anything yet, but, with luck (and monitoring his food and increasing his activity level) he’ll get there. If not, this kid’ll be eating corrugated bran puffs for the rest of his tiny life.

crystals, life, Witchcraft

Top 7 Crystals to Hide in Your Relatives’ Homes So They Stop Falling for Weird Toxic Bull@#$%

Good morning!

If you’re like most people, you have at least one person close to you who will occasionally come out with some completely bonkers, destructive nonsense. Unproven conspiracy ideas like, “vaccines are a conspiracy to implant tracking chips in everyone (posted from iPhone)” or “Jewish people caused the oil crisis by always getting their groceries double-bagged at King Kullen.”

(I have heard both of these unironically from actual human people.)

You might think this person is mostly cool, save for one or two beliefs that you’d swear were the byproduct of some kind of brain worm. You might also just be obligated to spend time around them, because you’re a dependent and they’re related to you. Maybe you just hold out hope that they’ll someday become the people they were before they got wrapped up in the fringe. If trying to talk to them or send them actual empirical data doesn’t work, here are the best crystals you can strategically plant wherever you’re forced to interact with them:

Lapis lazuli

Lapis has a hell of a reputation. For one, it’s been used in everything from cosmetics to artistic masterpieces, so it has some strong associations with creativity and expression. It’s also blue, which people who work with chakras will recognize as the color of Vishuddha, the throat chakra. (It rules expression and communication.) This means that it’s a pretty rad stone to have on you when you’re forced to defend yourself against accusations of being a NWO shill or secret lizard person from space.

Lapis has another talent, though. It’s often called the “Stone of Truth.” Its energy is said to help the user uncover hidden truths, both about themselves and the people and things around them. Most of us wouldn’t necessarily consider the idea that multi-level marketing schemes are a scam designed to profit off of people’s desperation to be a “hidden” truth, but you’ve got to meet people where they are.

Emerald

Now, I’m not suggesting that you drop a bunch of dosh on a fancy table-cut emerald to cram under your uncle’s recliner this Thanksgiving. You can get tumbled emeralds that aren’t gem quality, but are still emeralds and will still work for our well-intentioned-yet-nefarious purposes.

The idea here is that emeralds are tied to the heart. People who work with chakras consider them a stone for Anahata, the heart chakra. Even if Hindu tantrism isn’t your jam, emerald has a reputation as a stone for love and compassion. (Like instilling more compassion in the hearts of those around you who have notions about a super secret “gay agenda,” for example.)

According to color magic, green is also associated with growth. This is typically taken to mean increase, as in an increase in prosperity, fertility, and so forth. But green is associated with growth because of its connection to plants and nature — a lush, green plant is a successful, healthy, thriving one. You can empower a tumbled emerald to help your family grow and develop as people before you hide it behind the TV.

Amethyst

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a list of calming, meditative crystals that didn’t include amethyst somewhere. There’s a reason for that. This stone is associated with things like divination and meditation, sure, but it’s also very relaxing and enhances a person’s connection to their intuition. (That means that it might be able to amplify the tiny voice inside your grandpa that says that maybe Democratic Socialists aren’t coming to take his toothbrush.)

Amethyst is also credited with increasing the user’s spiritual awareness and guarding against psychic attacks.

Smoky Quartz

Smoky quartz is pretty much clear quartz that, like Bruce Banner, was exposed to radiation and came away with some extra powers. It’s said to be helpful for grounding, as well as filtering energy and transmuting the negative into the positive. This means that it can help keep things on a smooth, even keel when Aunt Karen gets a couple of glasses of eggnog in her and starts ranting about immigration.

Rose Quartz

Ah, rose quartz. Any love-drawing crystal spell or list of stones for heart-related matters is basically guaranteed to include this pink stone. The thing is, it’s good for a lot more than just flowery, hearts-and-chunky-angel-babies romantic love. It’s also very rad for compassion, friendship, and familial love.

Like emerald, it can be helpful for getting people to meet you where you are. It can encourage the opening of hearts and minds. While lapis is a better choice for getting people to see the truth, rose quartz is better for getting them to see people as people, with the same pain, fear, hope, and aspirations as they have.

Black tourmaline

Like smoky quartz, black tourmaline is a weapon against negativity. It’s a very powerful energy filter, and can help neutralize bad vibes. Large specimens (especially ones intermingled with spangles of golden mica) look extremely cool, which means they’re great for keeping in your own living spaces to ensure that nobody’s bullshit sticks around to bother you. Smaller stones are good for keeping on you as a protective amulet, or, as the title suggests, stashing around anywhere you’re forced to be.

As an FYI, crystals that act as energy filters need regular, thorough cleansing. Think of them like vacuums — they can suck negativity up, or even transmute it into positive energy, but that canister’s gotta get emptied sometime. The more crap they come in contact with, the sooner they’ll need to be recalibrated with a cleansing.

Spirit Quartz

Spirit quartz also goes by the names cactus quartz and fairy quartz. These are quartz points (usually amethyst or citrine) that are entirely covered in tiny, druzy points. This makes them all spiky, like cacti.

Spirit quartz help in a number of ways. Amethyst is a stone for introspection and harmony, as was mentioned above. All of those tiny points effectively amplify this energy and send it out everywhere. The druse also symbolizes many tiny units working together in a cohesive whole, so it’s great for fostering feelings of community and cooperation.

Amethyst spirit quartz is also said to be particularly helpful for getting rid of negative attachments or entities. It can’t get rid of the weird radicalizing podcasts your cousin insists you check out, but it can help pull their hooks out of him.

As with anything involving crystals, make sure yours come from an ethical source. Sadly, much of the mining trade (not even just the crystal trade — a lot of crystals are byproducts of mining for gold, platinum, lithium, and other materials used by the electronics industry) relies on exploited labor and environmentally damaging methods. Always know where your stones came from, and how they got to you.

Many, if not most, sources say that it’s unethical to perform magic or energy work on someone without their consent. While it’s nice to abide by the rules, sometimes you have to do the wrong thing to get the right thing done. The energetic toll of trying to get someone to be less hateful, or less absorbed in destructive conspiracy theories and hoaxes, is going to be way less than, say, casting a love spell on an unwilling target. Use your own judgment. If you belong to a marginalized group and need to do something to keep yourself safe and sane, do it.

life

Trafficking doesn’t look like you might think it does.

I’m gonna get cranky and serious for a minute.

The Epstein case and Pizzagate hoax brought child trafficking into the public eye.

Well, the “public eye.”

For some sectors of society, human trafficking has been a known reality. People were aware that there was danger, just like they’re aware that breast cancer exists. Just look at the long-running efforts to find answers about missing Indigenous women for one example. Unfortunately, narratives surrounding human trafficking have begun to solicit attention by playing to a very specific type of fear — the fears culturally pushed on middle- to upper middle-class white women. This isn’t an uncommon tactic, either. To paraphrase Henry Zebrowski’s comment about a true crime documentary, “Are ya scared, ladies? Are ya scared?”

Look at it this way. How many posts on social media have you seen about “unpublicized numbers of missing children,” or pieces of paper, flowers, or plastic bags used to “mark” cars for kidnapping attempts, or families being targeted at Walmart, IKEA, or the grocery store? Many of them aren’t even new, they’re just making the rounds again.

The trouble with these stories is that they put forth a picture of human trafficking that ends up doing more harm than good. While concerned about strange people at gas stations, shops, and parking lots, they’re overlooking what human trafficking is, how it works, and what it looks like. These stories overlook these things in favor of a more dramatic image that strikes a chord in the people most likely to make sure they’re posted over and over again. And they do it in ways that might actually be putting kids in danger.

I’ll give one very specific example. There was one mother who was concerned about her kids getting snatched. She always held their hands in public, never let them out of her sight in crowds, and even had nightmares about someone kidnapping one of her children. She paid far less attention to the fact that one of her kids was of a marginalized gender and orientation, mentally ill, and suffering from living in an unstable home. In focusing on the idea of tot snatchers, she had overlooked the things that were actually dangerous.

These were things that a potential trafficker saw. Maybe it was the way the kid carried themselves, their worn, ill-fitting clothes, or the fact that they were walking home down an otherwise-vacant street, alone, long after other kids had already left school. Either way, he crept on this kid and tried to convince them to get in his car for “a ride home.” He even held out his watch as he circled around behind them, encouraging them to get closer, to see exactly how late it was.

Abductors choose their victims the way a hyena picks out the sick and injured.

Luckily, I panicked and ran for it.

I second-guessed myself afterward, too. Maybe he was just trying to be nice. Maybe I was the asshole here, getting an innocent man in trouble. When he turned up the next day with a group of his friends, harassing my local crossing guard to try to find out where I lived, I decided that I was probably right the first time.

Not all kids are so lucky. My experience was an outlier in some ways. For one, this guy was a stranger to me — the majority of kids (76%) are snatched by those they know. (He also could’ve been a garden-variety serial killer, but I’m giving him a very, very small benefit of the doubt here.)

There are other reasons why posts that say things like, “we should be publicizing the numbers of missing children the way we publicize COVID numbers” are severely missing the point. The number of people who aren’t concerned about missing children is vanishingly small, and always has been. Who would this statistic help? The only people who have somehow managed to remain unaware of child trafficking until now are the people who haven’t experienced a reason to pay attention. A statistic isn’t going to do it.

It also plays into several myths about human trafficking. A significant number of trafficking victims aren’t “missing” at all. Trafficking doesn’t require someone to disappear. People forced into labor against their will are trafficked, even if they never go missing. A teenaged girl whose boyfriend exploits her vulnerability to convince her to perform sex work to earn money for him might go home to her unknowing parents every night. She’s still being trafficked.

Not all trafficking victims see themselves as missing, either. They may have genuine feelings for the person trafficking them, and think they are helping. They may not be desperate to leave their trafficker, or seek help to do so. Believe it or not, some may not want their families to find them.

Lastly, of the roughly 800,000 children reported missing yearly in the US, a huge number of them are victims of parental kidnapping — one source claims over a quarter, while the Parents.com page linked above claims 49%. (The discrepancy may lie in the fact that almost half of all kids kidnapped by a parent aren’t considered missing by the other parent.) There’s also the number of runaway and homeless youth: 1 in 10 young adults between the ages of 18-25, and 1 in 30 children between 13-17. This includes kids who ran away or were kicked out. Conflating missing children with trafficked children overlooks a vast array of other reasons kids disappear, as well as a ton of kids who actually are being trafficked.

There are also children trafficked by their foster or adoptive parents. The situation of “rehoming” “problem” adopted kids is a very deep rabbit hole that’s outside the scope of this post, however. It’s also somehow manages to be even more depressing to write about.

Anyone can be trafficked, but some people are much more likely than others. Human traffickers are like other criminals, they don’t want to go after a target that’s more trouble than its worth. They don’t want to snatch someone who will draw attention. People who have exploitable vulnerabilities — who are walking home late and look lonely and uncared-for, who have been kicked out of their homes for being gay or trans, who run away from an abusive family, who are recent migrants who experience difficulty navigating a new language and country — are the easy targets.

If this was about murder instead, trafficking victims would often fall into the category of “the least dead.” They’re the people who tend to attract less attention and coverage when something bad happens. Few criminals want people to take an interest in their activities.

This doesn’t mean that all kinds of people don’t get snatched by strangers. It does mean that posts and memes focusing on that specific scenario do a disservice to the very people that need to be protected. It’s kind of like posting about how huffing drain cleaner can give you lung cancer. While true, it’s also not a very effective way to prevent lung cancer.

The Epstein case also narrowed the focus to sex trafficking. In reality, human trafficking encompasses far more types of labor. By playing on the media-friendly fear of sexual violence, it draws attention to one very specific type of child trafficking. How many memes about missing children examine the amount of trafficked labor it takes to pick vegetables, butcher meat, mine ore, or sew garments? They don’t, because that doesn’t garner enough attention.

The thing that really shits me is the bone-deep irony of people who purchase counterfeit designer goods reposting memes about human trafficking. Not only do counterfeit goods rely on trafficked labor to produce, they’re a significant income stream for organized crime syndicates. So is sex trafficking. Purchasing fakes doesn’t just save the buyer money — it incentivizes human trafficking and puts money directly into the pockets of the organizations that profit from it. Fake purses create a market for trafficked kids.

Tl;dr, human trafficking is an enormous problem that goes way, way deeper than is often represented. Memes about protecting oneself and one’s family from kidnappers, or publicizing numbers of missing children versus COVID numbers aren’t helpful, and may be actively harmful by misrepresenting what trafficking looks like. Even if they’re well-intentioned, they end up supporting an agenda different from actually ending human trafficking.

Blog, life

This window’s an entire mood, though.

I feel like I’ve kind of left this blog in the dark lately — as much as I keep intending to come back and write more, I am so damn tired still, my people.

Here’s the teal deer:

  • My partner and I moved. This place is endlessly delightful so far, our new space is pretty much perfect for us, but the whole process of pulling up stakes and going to a new spot is still pretty exhausting. And I say this as someone who enjoys moving!
  • I’m coping with a bothersome and seemingly long-term side effect of the vaccine I chose. I knew I was going to have a rough time, I’m dealing, I’m surrounded by wonderful help, but it’s taking a bit of getting used to. Either way, I will gladly take it over a ventilator or “long COVID” any day and twice on Sunday.
  • My partner recently lost someone very important to him. It’s not my place to go into someone else’s personal tragedy, but it has impacted our family. If you aren’t vaccinated, please don’t put it off. If you can’t be, please take every possible precaution to protect yourself and those around you.
  • I have new clients, and a much heavier workload now than I did before. The money’s awesome, and the work is interesting and right up my alley. It taps me out a lot, though, so by the time I’m done with paid writing I end up coming to my “New Post” page with my brain basically the consistency of custard.
  • I’ve been painting a lot. It’s easier on me, and doesn’t tax my brain, body, and creativity the same way that writing does. There’ll be lots of new prints in the shop, and plenty of originals too!

That’s pretty much it. There are a lot of new developments in my life, but most of them are okay. I’m immensely grateful to my guides, the spirits around me, and the Shining Ones that things have been as manageable as they have.

Did I mention how much I love this window? I do. I really do.

I hope you’re all doing well, too.

Also, as a PSA: Ivermectin does have uses beyond killing parasites. That said, the only information supporting ivermectin as a possible treatment for SARS-CoV-2 involved a) an experiment involving primate kidney cells in a petri dish, not a living human, and b) a cocktail of multiple other drugs, not ivermectin alone, c) in a hospital setting in areas where vaccines and first-line treatments were unavailable. It doesn’t have a studied, documented survival benefit for people with COVID-19, and its uses, dosage, and administration are still in the realm of the theoretical. Despite its promising results in vitro against Zika, HIV, dengue fever, or yellow fever, it hasn’t shown any actual clinical benefit against these viruses, either. Remember: In vitro isn’t the same as in vivo. In vitro studies are barely the first step to demonstrating that a medication actually does anything. A lot of things will kill or inhibit viruses in a petri dish, including bleach and flamethrowers. That doesn’t mean that they’ll do so in a living organism, or that the dosages required to make them do so won’t kill that organism.

There’s a theory that ivermectin might help COVID-19 by acting as an anti-inflammatory, but there are already much safer and already-tested anti-inflammatories on the market.

It’s also important to consider that ivermectin is made to kill parasites, which are eukaryotic organisms. Humans are eukaryotic, too. There are dangers in misusing antihelminthics that do not exist with, for example, antibiotics.

It’s still an interesting drug that does more than act as “horse dewormer.” Let’s not get it confused, though — the ivermectin paste sold at tack shops and Tractor Supply is horse dewormer. It’s compounded with binders, flavoring agents, and other inactive ingredients that very likely haven’t been tested for safety in humans. Those using it are inadvertently submitting themselves for a safety study in whether or not FDA-unapproved artificial apple flavoring causes stomach cancer.

Take it from someone who has absolutely been poor enough to have to resort to animal medication in the past — don’t. If you’re gung-ho about experimental treatments, agree to participate in a clinical trial. If you’re hoping for anti-inflammatory benefits from ivermectin, ask your doctor for a recommendation for an NSAID. If you have worms, send your doctor a stool sample. Until it shows an actual clinical benefit, not just a maybe-promising in vitro experiment, please skip the ivermectin. Look into the history of the people and organizations touting it as a cure. Be at least as skeptical about it as you would be about other COVID treatments or preventatives.

Blog, life, Plants and Herbs

The Winding Skyline Drive

I didn’t think much when I posted a picture of a cool rock. (It was columnar basalt, which always reminds me of some surreal, alien landscape out of Kenshi.)

“Hey,” a friend replied in not-those-exact words, “There’s a neat example of that not too far from us.”

“Oh sweet,” I approximately replied, “Where?”

And so that was how my partner and I ended up loaded with snacks and music, navigating our way down a gorgeous scenic drive through Shenandoah National Park. When I say scenic, I’m not messing around, either — it was gorgeous, the kind of beauty that pictures can’t really do justice.

Of course, we tried anyhow.

You know how when the landscape is uninterrupted for far enough, you can see the way the hills fade to blue in the distance, and the shadows of the clouds moving over them? I live for that.

We even stopped for a bit of a hike at Compton Gap, where the columnar basalt was. The entrance to the trail showed a picture of it, but we weren’t able to find the specimen itself — the trail branched, and I think we ended up taking the wrong fork. Not that I minded at all. The air was fresh and sweet, the trail was quiet save for the song of birds and bugs, and everything was a fresh, deep green so intense, it almost didn’t seem real.

There was a small mushroom friend (a Russula, I think), bright orange trumpet creeper, and some very busy insect buddies — including a spicebush swallowtail and an American bumble bee!

The drive was long enough that we were in the midst of golden hour on our way back. The sun painted the clouds shades of pink and lavender, and the light took on that warm, comforting, well… golden tone. We paused at all of the overlooks to soak it up, relishing the warmth radiating from the granite rocks, and the cool, fresh breezes all around.

We’re planning on going back in the autumn, when the leaves start to change. It should be amazing!

life

I tried so hard, and got so far.

I grew my hair out.

Well, attempted to.

This actually met with some success — I got it to about 3″ long, though it seemed to reject any any all input from paltry things like combs, hair spray, or gravity. Instead, it insisted on sticking straight out from my head like some kind of mutant dandelion.

Alas, my dreams of eventually having hair that did as it was told were not to be. I felt like I found one (1), single, solitary, lone hair of a different texture, which put my brain into some kind of search-and-destroy fugue state. Long story short, I ended up staying up until 6 AM feeling through and plucking hairs until I found it. This resulted in a roughly quarter-sized bald spot, a bit of blood, and an appreciable amount of concern on my partner’s part. It wasn’t the baldness that bothered him, just the fact that I was on edge enough to end up unintentionally hurting myself like that.

Obsessive compulsive disorder: It’s not like they show on TV!

And so, in the grand tradition of getting rid of things that no longer serve me, I busted out the buzzer.

Honestly, I love having a buzzcut. The only reason I had attempted to grow my hair out was for a change of pace, and to see if I could. A buzz is the ultimate low-maintenance hairstyle, and it keeps me cool in the swampy DC heat. Plus it’s just less stressful — I can’t worry about how my hair looks or feels if I don’t have any. Unlike the patchy spots from trichotillomania, there’s no hiding a buzzcut, either. If you’ll pardon the expression, a shaved head dramatically limits the number of fucks I have to give.

Really, I don’t think this whole thing was triggered purely by the existence of one slightly different hair. I mean, I have a scar on my scalp that makes an entire chunk of my otherwise-straight mane grow in a 4c curl pattern. The real culprit?

Houses.

*organ music sting*

I love my apartment, but we’ve outgrown it. The longer we’ve lived here, the more we’ve discovered things that are rapidly turning into dealbreakers. If we owned the place, we could just change them. Alas, we do not.

And so, my partner and I struck out on the journey to homeownership. From what we’ve gathered so far, the process for first-time homeowners goes like this:

  1. Scope out real estate in the area in which you’d like to live.
  2. Call a housing counseling agency.
  3. Go through their first-time buyer educational program.
  4. Make sure you have enough money for a down payment and closing costs.
  5. No, not like that.

Stressful, yeah?

Both of us are almost pathologically afraid of debt. (My credit report looks like a 16 year old’s. I avoided student loans by drawing furry porn to pay my way through college.) The idea of buying more house than we can easily afford is, frankly, terrifying. So, short of trying to find a really good deal on a former meth lab/murder shack, we’re taking a detour.

We’re moving to a different apartment closer to the area we want to buy in. It’ll alleviate some of the pressure we feel living here, give us an opportunity to save more, and let us scope out the local culture and amenities.

Fortunately, since this’s much lower-stakes than house buying, I won’t pluck myself bald within a fortnight. Wish us luck!

life

Pfizer, round two: Fight!

Last month, I wrote about my first bout with the Pfizer COVID vaccine. Things went pretty well, dizziness aside. I anticipated that this time wouldn’t be quite so easy — if the first shot really worked, my immune system should’ve been primed to absolutely lose its shit when it encountered the second shot, right?

Right.

To recap: I have idiopathic intracranial hypertension. In addition to completely sucking in its own right at the best of times, it means that I can’t take a lot of medications, and need special consideration during many medical procedures. You’d be amazed at the sheer number of otherwise-totally-innocuous things that can raise your intracranial pressure. For most people, this isn’t a big deal. If you have intracranial hypertension, it could be the difference between life and death by stroke — or, at least, the difference between life and a sudden and very uncomfortable needle in the spine.

There’s not a lot of info about intracranial hypertension. Before the program discontinued, I actually signed myself up to be a research subject so I could help add to the limited bank of knowledge doctors and researchers have about the condition. That’s why I wanted to record how the vaccination process went for me — so other people with this condition, or who care for people with this condition, might be able to derive some comfort, know what to expect, and be adequately prepared.

Anyhow! The second shot sucked.

I didn’t experience any dizziness, which I thought was a bit odd. It was my primary side-effect the first time around, almost to the point where it was the only indicator the shot was really doing anything. This time, though, I had the whole enchilada: a confirmed fever (about 101°F/38.3°C), joint pain, body aches, insomnia, a very-definitely-vaccine-related headache, nausea, and even some itchy irritation in my lungs. Just like the first shot, the side effects appeared about twelve hours after getting it. Most of them lasted roughly two days.

The first night, I think I managed to sleep a total of forty five minutes, and every one of them was weird. At some point, I sent my partner a garbled and vaguely threatening message about manga, and said my joints felt like they “were made of legos.” Somehow, despite sleeping for less than an hour, I’m pretty sure I had at least six hours of wavering, half-awake dreams. I was so thirsty, I would’ve drunk a mug of ketchup if someone had handed me one.

All told, while things were very uncomfortable for a bit, I’m happy that my immune system reacted the way it did. It recognized the viral DNA, and mounted a defense against it. To be honest, it was at least as fascinating as it was deeply annoying, just knowing that this shot was deliberately triggering disease-fighting mechanisms as old as time. That’s a neat concept!

If you haven’t received your second shot yet and asked me about it, I’d probably give you the following advice:

  • Your side effects might be completely different this go-round. I expected to be dizzy, just more so. I wasn’t dizzy at all — instead, it seemed like I got all the side effects I didn’t have the first time.
  • You’re probably going to want to have the next day off.
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) doesn’t list increased intracranial pressure as a side effect. It’s also the drug recommended for dealing with vaccine-related fevers and aches. While I choose not to use any because I’m weird about that, it’s a potential option for other people in a similar position.
  • Have a lot of ginger tea prepped and refrigerated. It’ll help with the heat and nausea.
  • Drink a lot of liquids. They’ll probably tell you to do this when you get your shot.
  • Seriously, drink a lot of liquids. They’re not kidding.
  • Have some extra pillows to support any achy joints/sore arms/etc. during the night. I’m pretty sure my knee pillow was the only reason I got any sleep at all.
Blog, life, Plants and Herbs

In the conifers.

As much as I love cypress trees literally any time of year, November to early December is my favorite time for them.

Why?

Because they make everything smell fantastic.

Bald cypress trees turn orange and shed their needles in autumn to early winter — as I write this, most of the ones here are, indeed, impressively bald. The result is a carpet of needles mingled with sticky, resinous cones.

The cones are particularly interesting to me. They start out as small, hard green buds. Sometimes you can find them on the ground as early as October, but they don’t really ripen for another month after that. Then, they expand and become almost crumbly, their scaly surfaces separating and falling apart to reveal the fragrant seeds inside. That’s when it’s really nice to find a stand of them and pick up a few from the ground. I live for the smell of the rich, autumn soil, the earthy-spicy-sweet smell of decaying leaves, and the fresh, piney, almost citrusy scent of cypress resin. If I can meet some mushrooms or a neat patch of lichen on the same trip, I’m ecstatic.

(I’m a pretty easy organism to please, all told. I’m pretty much a beetle with different ideas.)

We went and gathered a few cones not long ago. I keep a small jar of them on my altar, right next to a bald cypress knee. The seeds, I sneak into various concoctions — nothing ingestible, though. While cypress trees are generally not considered poisonous, they’re not edible, either. It’s a bit of a bummer, if you ask me. I’d love to be able to have it as a twist on pine tip tea.

After that, we took a trip to the arboretum. Naturally, there’s not much to see this time of year — the flowering dogwoods are not, the lilac is long since asleep, and the oaks and maples are skeletal — but there’s a kind of architectural beauty to a lot of the bare trees. Now is when they get to show off colors and patterns in their bark, the strange, Escher-like twists of their branches, and all of the other things leaves hide in spring and summer.

Most of the conifers, of course, are still going strong. I met a Norway spruce that I found especially pretty — I hadn’t realized that their immature buds look like flowers before, their papery brown petals unfolding like tiny roses.

It wasn’t late when we arrived, but this time of year, the early sunset and angle of the planet slants the sunlight in a way that makes everything look almost surreal. It’s a cold beauty, but I love it.

A cat snuggled up in a hotel bed.
life

I’ve been translating my cat.

I mean, that’s not what’s kept me busy for the past twenty or so days, but it’s a small project I’ve embarked on.

(What did keep me away was an absolute ton of paid writing. It’s hard to write all day and then still feel like I want anything to do with words by the time I’m done. This is especially true when that writing involves hours of researching things like metallurgy and UV-C lighting. By the end of it, my brain is tired and feels like the tail end of a discarded boba tea.)

About a week ago, my S.O. and I found the app Meow Talk. It claimed to be able to record cat noises and translate them into something understandable to humans. I consider myself pretty perceptive when it comes to figuring out what these nerds are trying to say to me, but, admittedly, I was curious. How accurate could a cat recording app really be?

A fangy-toothed cat sleeping upside down.

As it turns out, eerily so. It correctly interpreted all his weird little greeting chirps as “Hello.” He also tells the fridge “I love you,” and responds to my attempts to smooch him with “I AM IN PAIN.” Like I said, accurate. Meow Talk isn’t even paying me for this endorsement. I’m just genuinely surprised and tickled that someone was able to interpret my cats weird little trills and yowls. I haven’t yet managed to capture one of his weird 3 AM TED Talks to no one, or the paid mourner-style wailing he does every time we move a piece of furniture, but I’m working on it.

It doesn’t really work on Kiko, but she primarily communicates through touch. If someone makes an app that can turn little paw-taps into human speech, I’d be all over it. So far, I’ve managed to figure out her “please sit by my bowl and watch me eat,” “smooch my head,” and “roll over, I need to nap on your stomach. It’s an emergency” bops, but she’s developed a very robust punching-based language that defies interpretation a majority of the time.

If you have a cat, especially a vocal one, I recommend messing around with the Meow Talk app. It’s fun, if nothing else, and could be informative. Especially if your cat has a weird attachment to appliances.

life

Dirt, Moss, and Cypress Knees

One of the really hecking sweet parts of having more physical endurance now is that places I already loved to go have opened up a lot more to me. Take Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, for one.

It’s a very quietly beautiful place most of the year, other than summer when the lotuses bloom in a sea of brilliant pink. It’s never very crowded, there are always plenty of places to sit, and you rarely hear people over the orchestra of insect calls and birdsong. Even the city traffic dulls to a low, forgettable roar in the background.

Even though the gardens are arguably at their best in summer, I like them the most in autumn. My favorite part of them isn’t the lotuses, really (though I have a certain appreciation for their alien-looking pods), it’s the bald cypress trees.

I love bald cypress trees. They’re my favorite tree. I love their scent (I once knelt down to take a picture of one, and ended up ruining a good pair of jeans by permanently staining the knees green. I felt embarrassed afterward, like a child ruining a set of school clothes on the playground, but sweet, fresh smell of crushed cypress needles was almost worth it). I love the way their needles turn brilliant orange in autumn. I love that they’re one of the few weirdo conifers that actually loses their needles in winter. I love the way they grow, in the liminal space between land and water. I love their alien-looking knees — mistaken for people, animals, and even monsters once they get large enough.

A bald cypress tree with a set of knee-like protuberances on its roots.
Knees!

Anyway, before I launch into another paean to bald cypress trees, all of this is to say that we took a long walk in the park and it was pretty nice. The boardwalk is especially pretty this time of year, with the leaves falling on it like confetti in shades of burgundy, vermillion, violet, and saffron.

There weren’t as many flowers, of course. I found some kind of yellow asteraceae, and these very pretty silver cock’s combs, but that was about it. I did also spot some aggressively purple berries on (what I think is) a viburnum, though. Judging by the number of bare twigs, the birds have been hitting them up for snacks pretty hardcore. I know cardinals will happily eat them — I used to have a bright red buddy who hung out outside of the window of my old apartment.

My partner and I sat on a bench for a bit, enjoying the sound of the insects chirping, birds warbling, and wind soughing through the trees.

“What… What are you doing?” He asked.

“Taking off my shoes,” I replied.

“Why?”

I shrugged. “Something about ions. Mostly because it feels good. Dirt. Moss. You know.”

“Fair enough.”

(He eventually followed suit and realized I was right — the cool ground felt wonderful, and the moss was very soft.)

As I write this, it’s Saturday night, I’m snuggled up and waiting to watch a livestream by Gareth Reynolds. I’ve got my partner, my cats, and a fantastic slice of pie. All told, not a bad end to the day!