Wednesday, April 01, 2020

corona time - things i love about working from home

this coronavirus and all of the attendant orders to stay at home and socially distance can wear a bit thin. i'll admit my ability to cope with the anxiety it causes very much goes up and down. just when i think i have it under control and am on an even keel, then a headline or a podcast or a conversation with my sister catches me off guard and the rollercoaster goes rushing down. dang, that was a lot of mixed metaphors. i'm finding that the very best thing for it is getting my sleep. in order to do that, i have to not read the entirety of the nytimes and wapoon my phone before i go to sleep. and today, i've been trying to think about the things i love about working from home.


  1. not having to decide what to wear in the morning - i can stay in comfy pajamas, throw on a sweater and scarf, maybe brush my hair and i'm good to go.

  2. the companionship of the cats. they come around for a treat or a little snuggle and a few minutes of purring and we all feel better.
  3. not having to put on makeup. just a little moisturizer is all i need.


  4. playing doorwoman to the cats. bob goes out in the morning, and wants in for his midday nap around 10-10:30, then out again around 4.


  5. stopping to make myself a latte. i heat milk in a pan and make two shots of espresso in my little top moka espresso maker. i froth the milk with a little wand from ikea until it's super frothy and lovely. while i'm standing there, hearing the steamy sounds of the coffee expelling into the cups and smelling the rich smell, i think about the little coffee roaster in trieste where i get my coffee. they send it to me now, but i think of being in their shop. and i think about sabin and how the espresso shouldn't sit for longer than ten seconds or it will go bitter, so i always have the frothed milk ready to pour it right in. i love the ritual of it. i love taking the small break it means to make it and i love thinking fondly of travels and my child while i do it.

  6. when i need a breath of fresh air, i just go out the back door, take a little walk around, talk to the outdoor kitties, maybe have a quick conversation with the hens (or chase them out of the back terrace, where the little weirdos love to come in and eat some cat food), and then go back to work.

  7. taking a little break for lunch - sitting down out in the new kitchen with a sandwich or some leftovers and a glass of cold milk and having a little break away from the computer (i'm not really good enough at this one).
i do find that i tend to skip breaks and sit hunched over my computer for far too long, but i'm trying, in making this list, to remind myself that it's ok to enjoy those small breaks during the day. and my work will be the better for it. 

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this story of a bible that supposedly oozed oil in a small georgia town says so much about today. and i fear none of it is good.

Monday, March 16, 2020

comfort baking and other effects of the coronavirus


these are very strange times. companies asking everyone to work at home, restaurants and bars closed, public gatherings limited, libraries and other "non-essential" public services closed as well, at least here in denmark. i laughed when i first heard the term "social distancing" last week, thinking that the danes had perfected that long ago, so it would be nothing new around here. but it's not really the time for ironic laughter. the fact is, we owe it to those in our society who are immune compromised or in a high risk category in relation to the virus because of their age, to stay home and not risk exposing them the virus, should we be walking around with it, not knowing we even have it because we are asymptomatic.

just a few weeks ago, i was thinking that life had to go on more or less normally because living in fear is no way to live. so we went to barcelona as planned months ago, to meet up with the child and have a holiday together. i think if we'd known then what we know now, we would have canceled the trip. that said, i'm very glad to have had the time together. i'm glad to have seen the salvador dali museum in figueres, la sagrada familia, park güell and other gaudi buildings around barcelona, the maritime museum and the picasso museum. i'm glad to have found a super cute local bar, cuba de janiero,  that became our nightly hangout. i'm glad we ate ramen twice and tried the patatas bravas in every tapas place we went to and discovered the coolest healthy breakfast place and explored all those thrift shops. i guess if i had it to do over again, i'd still go. i wouldn't trade that time with husband and sabin for anything. it fits my lifelong ethos of "what are you gonna remember?"

none of us seems to be getting sick, so perhaps we were even lucky (knock on wood). spain too is on lockdown now, with curfews and closed restaurants and bars. i don't think barcelona is hit that hard as of yet, it's madrid and the canary islands that are fighting the battle, so perhaps we just chose the right destination. but denmark's borders are more or less closed now too, so we are lucky we got home as well.

and in the middle of all of this, i started a new job. late last week, when i started, there were no restrictions and social distancing had just been coined as a phrase, so i went to the office as planned. we had a team breakfast so i could meet everyone and i got a bouquet of flowers, which is always the tradition in denmark. and then, on friday, the word came down that we should work at home from monday and for the foreseeable future. that was a little bit weird, to have been in the company for two days and not even have everyone's names straight and have to be on my own at home.

so, i began this post this morning, before my working-at-home day started, and now, i'm writing at the end of it. it absolutely flew by, filled with countless online meetings via skype and teams. i definitely did not have to worry that i wouldn't be included or have anything to do. i have been cast into the middle of a very exciting, business-critical project that's been put in motion due to the effect the coronavirus is having on trade. what a great way to jump into things with both feet and and not waste any time. i'm finding it very energizing and it's very encouraging to see how very skilled my new colleagues are at their jobs. i'm impressed and feel very much that i have landed in the right place, even though i'm not actually able to go there right now.

i've read that the coronavirus is having a big affect on CO2 levels and pollution in china and in italy, where things have been brought to a standstill. and i can see firsthand the affect its having on ways of doing business. i wonder if it's going to make us rethink the way we do all kinds of things? and i wonder if those new habits will stay with us - will we travel less? will we cook more at home? will we keep stockpiling toilet paper? will the danes continue to hoard yeast? will we continue to engage in comfort baking? so many questions. not the least of which is, how long is this going to go on?

* * *

tough times call for historical fiction, like daniel kehlmann's tyll

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

history is a matter of perspective


the angle taken by a museum is very often through the lens of where it's located. we went to the maritime museum in barcelona yesterday. since i'm currently writing about the long voyage from amsterdam to the cape in 1723, i'm very keen on learning i can about what ships and life on ships were like back then. i didn't exactly learn that at the maritime museum in barcelona.


it was a beautiful building, almost danish in its skillful combination of old and new architecture. the main feature was a 60-meter long replica of a galley, an oared warship, made to fight the ottomans in the mediterannean in the 1500s. those oarsmen were slaves and did not have a good life. the captain, however, did, with fine inlaid wood floors and art up in the quarters on the stern, from which he dictated the battle. it was elaborately decorated with both painting and carved reliefs. there was a medusa's head on the back, to strike terror in all who approached from the back. the figurehead was a beautiful carved neptune, riding a fish and covered in gold leaf, showing undoubted dominion over the sea.

it was a confusing exhibition, and hard to find the way through to see all of the exhibits. we finally did, but not in the right order of things and it did get a bit hazy as they leaped from those mediterranean incursions to trade with the americas. because they were focused on ships built in barcelona and the catalonian sailor in general, they skimmed over that whole thing with the spaniard columbus and his role in accidentally discovering the new world when he tried to find a new passage to india, undoubtedly because the spaniards couldn't keep up with the portugese and dutch on their well-established routes around the cape to the far east. (phew, that was a long sentence.)

there were displays about the trade with the new world and the goods that went back and forth - sugar, cotton, tobacco and yes, they even mentioned the slave trade. i think they handled it well. you stepped into a little room, where the walls were covered with official documents regarding the slave trade, and a whispered voice said that it was an ugly bit of history that no one really wished to talk about, but it needed to be done, and it was a dark time for humanity. those plantations in the american south could do with a bit of inspiration there.

and it all had me thinking, once again, about how history and how the story is told, is a matter of who is telling the story. maybe i need to head to amsterdam to hear their perspective, they must have a maritime museum there.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

flea market finds


i was thinking about how dependent on the location the items in a second hand store are. this bowl, which i saw at one of those flea market places, where individuals rent a shelf and put whatever they want there. it was in herning, which is arguably the middle of denmark. the tag on the bowl claimed it was french and it's true that it didn't look danish. if it hadn't had a big crack in it (not visible in this photo), i would have bought it, as i definitely felt it sparked joy.


i spotted this clarinet in the wonderful antique trove in scottsdale, az. i feel like i see a lot more instruments at antique places in the us. other than old pianos and organs, i just don't see that many musical instruments in the shops in denmark. i don't know if this is because less people play an instrument or because they keep them.


this red tray could easily have been denmark, but it was actually also at the antique trove in scottsdale. i'm kicking myself for not having bought it. it would have been awesome in my red kitchen.


this was definitely in the us. not that people didn't quilt in denmark, but patchwork quilts are also quite rare at the antique places here. you often see knitted and crocheted afghans, but very seldom do you run across any patchwork quilts. and especially not a yoyo quilt like this. that seems like it was very much an american style. i didn't buy this one, but i have one very similar that my great grandmother made. i hope it stays in the family and never finds its way into an antique place.


obviously, that lunchbox was spotted in the us. i ended up taking that tin toy bug home with me, so someday someone will probably find it in an antique place here in denmark and wonder how the heck that happened.


that yellow bowl is at an antique place in my hometown in south dakota. i love it so much, i've actually photographed it a couple of times. but it's $49, which isn't really so bad, but i always think it will take up too much space in my luggage or get broken along the journey, so i leave it behind, even if it definitely sparks joy in me.


this one is obviously very mid-mod danish. it was in the flea market in kolding. i am drawn to these designs, but i didn't buy this one. but it got me thinking about the whole question of the selection of goods available in a particular location. i'm definitely going to see what's in the second hand and antique shops of barcelona next week. i'll bet it's something completely different!

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

i have the discipline to write 750 words a day


for 37 days in a row, i have written a minimum of 750 words on 750words.com. i do usually more or less stop when i hit 750, but it's not always exact, i tend to finish my thought. and that means that as of today, i've written 30,729 words, 19,582 of them have been in february. i began mid-january. it's been very good, re-establishing a daily writing habit. i'm not sure how it slipped away from me the way it did and i'm grateful to have it back. i am very motivated by the badges you can achieve on the site. these are the ones i've gotten so far. in a few more days, i'll have the turquoise horse as well, for finishing the monthly challenge. maybe it's easier to complete when that month is the shortest one, but i've signed up for march as well, so i intend to continue.


and speaking of march, instead of my usual stream-of-consciousness, in march i'm going to write 750 words a day on our novel. whether i write a snippet of the story, or a character sketch or just a description of a location or try to capture a feeling, it will move us closer to shaping our story. it's time to get all those ideas that have been swirling in my head, fed by various readings, observations, discussions and research onto the page. this story isn't going to write itself and now i've proven that i can write at least 750 words per day. that adds up. i will have at least 23,250 at the end of march and that is definitely something.

Monday, February 24, 2020

ghost ship

photo from the Irish Times article
i'm a bit obsessed with the story of the M/V Alta, a ghost ship that washed up on a remote shore in ireland after last weekend's storm dennis. it was unmanned and had been abandoned and floating derelict in the atlantic for 17 months. it's 77 meters long, built in 1976 and last registered to an unknown company under tanzanian flag. its last voyage was said to be from greece to haiti, which seems a strange route. it had some kind of irreparable engine failure somewhere off bermuda and the 10-person crew (i cannot find any info about the nationality of said crew) first had supplies air-lifted to them and then was rescued by the US coast guard ahead of an oncoming hurricane in september 2018. the owner was supposed to tow the ship somewhere for repairs, but it seems that never happened. there are rumors that it was being towed to guyana when it was hijacked and then left to drift again. none of the reports mention what cargo was onboard at its abandonment, nor have i been able to learn the nationalities of the crew. it's all very mysterious. the last sighting of the ship was by a british navy vessel at some undisclosed location last august-september (they're very cagey about precisely when and where). in a couple of the articles, it was mentioned that it was sighted off africa and spain (possibly out near the azores or canaries?) in recent months. it must have been caught in the gulf stream and carried north. another article i read suggested it went north along the US coast and then crossed the Atlantic from higher up.

the other night at the bar, an old maersk captain came in and i asked him what he thought about it. he immediately grinned and said, "it's the flying dutchman!" - the legendary ghost ship! he also said that such vessels are not at all unusual. some nefarious character picks up a ship for cheap, hauls one illicit cargo - drugs, weapons, supplies that are under embargo, etc. - and then abandons the ship. it would stand to reason that sailing between greece and haiti, it could have had some unusual cargo on board, as that doesn't seem like a normal trade route. but, i wonder what happened to that cargo? perhaps the reports of the ship being towed to guyana are actually a rendezvous with another ship that offloaded the cargo and sailed off with it, leaving the ship.

it seems strange that the owner is so hard to trace and strangely enough, an owner seems to have presented themselves to the irish authorities and was awaiting verification. that could be anyone, wanting a ship - that was my brother-in-law's first idea, that we should claim it and then we'd have a ship - a 44-year-old ship that had been abandoned and drifting for a year and a half. when i showed the maersk captain the picture, he said, it was a "russer" - at least built in russia, just by looking at it. i haven't read that, but it could be. none of the articles have talked about earlier names or owners through the years, but there must have been many. i just can't stop thinking about it. there must be more to the story. so many unanswered questions.

if it was a nefarious owner, wanting to use it for one illicit cargo, i imagine the crew was filipino and i wonder what their fate was - how did they get back home if the owner had abandoned them and the ship? and what about the cargo? they hadn't yet reached their destination when they broke down, so there had to be a cargo on board. i'm imagining all kinds of stories for this! maybe i need to work in such a storyline to our story. we have lumke's voyage in 1723 and a contemporary voyage - hmmm, how to connect them? or is this a whole new story? i was always fascinated by the kursk sinking as well and voraciously read everything about that back when it happened. if you told that story, you'd want them to be rescued though, as the ending there wasn't a good one for everyone on board. that was in putin's early days and he didn't handle that very well - he handled it like a KGB agent, not a leader.

but, back to the alta. what was it that broke down and couldn't be fixed? were there no spares on board, so the crew couldn't get it running again, or was it a cheap, third-rate crew that didn't have the know-how? the owner, wanting it for just the one voyage, didn't plan on needing to repair it. anyway, it's all very interesting and would be a story worth telling - even if i have to make up most of the details.

----

new information from marine traffic - it was panama flag, not tanzania. and there is a list of the names the ship has had...


very weird with a norwegian flag and name after the alta name...this story is so very curious.

wait! more from marine traffic: "She was also in the news in 1983 when she sank off Norway. Raised and repaired she continued trading." this story gets better and better!

Friday, February 21, 2020

another attempt at life drawing








these are from my second attempt at life drawing. as you can see, we had a female model the second time around. i found it harder than the first time. i had a lot more trouble letting go and freeing up my hand for the lines. kind of disconcerting that the best ones were the ones i did blind (not looking down at the paper) or mostly blind. that was the closest i came to letting go. i'm going to a yoga thing on sunday, so i'll miss this weekend's sunday morning life drawing session. looking at these results, maybe that's for the best.