Monthly Archives: August 2020

experimenting with hair color

I had my hair highlighted for the first time shortly before becoming pregnant with S.  I wasn’t quite ready to dye all of it, and I hoped highlighting might help with the gray.  It really didn’t.

Then, at about 7 months pregnant, I had my hair colored.  The stylist, who I really liked, recommended that I use a sem-permanent dye so as to avoid potential harm to the baby.  (In theory, the risk is nearly nil regardless, but I liked the idea of semipermanent dye in general.)  I was extremely pleased with the result and happy to have the grays hidden.



After S was born, there was just no possible way I could get my hair done again.  Then Covid hit, and getting my hair done was out for a while more.  This led me to thinking about doing it myself.  At this point, I think getting it done professionally in Newcastle would be very low risk, given that we haven’t had a single Covid case here in nearly a month, but the idea of saving money also appeals to me.  I think I spent about $130 on having my hair done last time.

So, here I was before my attempt at coloring my own hair: 

And after:

It’s definitely not perfect.  While it looks very natural, to the point that I can’t tell it’s not my natural hair color, I didn’t get all the grays.  I think I would choose a darker shade next time.  It was quite difficult, actually to assess the right shade to get.

I used this hair color, in Chestnut.  I chose it because it’s the same stuff my salon used, though I’m not sure about the shade.  The hair color must be mixed with processing solution, which I bought off Amazon, but isn’t currently available.  Then, I simply used a brush to apply the dye.  It wasn’t too messy or difficult and took about 90 minutes end to end.  I think I will be able to do it in an hour next time.  All in all, I’m satisfied and will try it again in a few months.


I spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about my kids’ activities, and Covid is not helping.  Last year, L took ballet one day a week and jazz dance one day a week.  Then, during the summer she did swim team, after a Covid delay.  I also have been teaching her piano since school got cut.  So, in summary, during the school year, she did dance two days a week plus piano.  In the summer, she did swimming four days a week plus piano.

L’s ballet school promoted her from pre-ballet to Level 1.  (I’m sure this is standard unless the child is really struggling for some reason.)  Level 1 ballet meets twice a week for an hour each time.  They are doing virtual classes this year, but it’s still a really big commitment.  L used to want to be a ballet dance but has been rather lukewarm on it lately.  I’m not a huge ballet fan myself, but I don’t want to influence her interests and choices.  I initially thought she should stick with ballet this year since twice a week isn’t too much time and the online aspect makes it much cheaper (cost cut by more than 50%) and saves us a lot of driving.  But L said she doesn’t want to do it.  I am 100% sure I could convince her to do it  – not make her, but make her want to do it, but I haven’t done so.  I feel like if she tried it one more year, she’d start learning more advanced skills and maybe like it more.   L has been more enthused about swimming lately, which I think has a lot to do with the fact that swimming is in-person.  We had been talking about having her do swim team for a couple months in the fall, but they meet five days a week, so I think it is really not feasible in combination with ballet.  But what do I know?  And she could go to swim three days a week or something.  (There are no meets, so I don’t think it’s a big deal to not attend all the practices.)  However, because of Covid, swim lots are very limited, so it’s harder to be casual about it – planning and financial commitment is called for.  L is already signed up for contemporary dance at another dance school where she originally studied ballet, but that class is on hold indefinitely, until the governor moves the county to Phase 3.  My assessment is that this will not happen before the new year.  But again, what do I know?

I have all these conflicting desires for my kids.

  • I don’t want them to be overscheduled
  • I want them to participate in the arts – dance or music being the most obvious choice
  • I figure if you’re going to do something, you might as well do it well, which means time commitment
  • I am turned off by ballet, the obsession with thinness, what it does to women’s feet, and generally I find the traditional ballets uninspiring
  • I feel like ballet is a really good basis for doing other types of dance
  • I don’t know enough about dance to provide any kind of support at home, like I can with piano, soccer, swim, etc.
  • Team dance (the alternative to ballet) requires a five hour a week time commitment.  I think that’s too much at age 8/9
  • I want L to experience team sports, but she’s really turned off by any sport in which she might get hurt, like soccer or basketball
  • I think it’s really important for the girls to be involved in athletic / fitness activities.  My kids, especially L, would much rather read or sew than move their bodies.  L takes so naturally to things like piano, sewing, reading, origami – things that involve focus and sitting still.  She doesn’t seem to have as much natural aptitude for soccer, dance, etc.
  • I think you can become very good at anything, including things for which you have no natural aptitude, with consistent practice over a period of years
  • But it’s nice to do things at which you naturally excel and enjoy

Bri did soccer once a week for a few weeks last fall.  I was hoping she’d be able to do junior swim team this summer, but between the baby and Covid, I just wasn’t able to get her into lessons to make that final leap in skill level.  She took swim lessons twice a week this summer, and she appears to be ready for junior swim team.  (She can swim a length of the pool freestyle fairly comfortably.)

Right now, I’m leaning towards signing up L and B for swim for September.  That would be 3:30 to 4:30 for L, five days a week, but I figure we’ll give her at least one day off.  I’ll continue to teach her piano, and we’ll hold off on dance (unless the dance class she’s signed up for starts) until October or November, at which point we’ll sign her up for some kind of virtual dance class.  L will do swim twice a week from 5:30 to 6 through September.  I worked very hard with Bri, in addition to her lessons, this summer, and doing at least a month of junior swim team should solidify the skills she learned.  The swim place is ten minutes from my house.  It’s an outdoor, heated pool.

I’m just tempted to put L in ballet.  It IS remote, and with no school, I do think she has time.  Such a hard call!  The tough part about ballet is that you’re committing for the whole year.  In a couple years, I’m sure L will make up her own mind about what she wants to do, and I won’t have enough influence.  But for now, I feel a lot of responsibility because she still listens to me.

I’m sure this is more detail than any of you cared to read, but I’m curious if anyone else is struggling with these types of decisions for their kids, and what you’re doing.

covid deaths and New York

I feel like not enough time has been spent asking, “What the hell happened in NY?”  Lately, there has been a lot of attention focused on high case counts in CA, TX and other states, but I feel like this is a bit of a red herring.  The deaths per capita in these states continue to be low or in family with Western Europe, Canada, etc.  Also, while case counts can give you a feel for what’s happening in a specific area, what really counts are deaths.  Deaths-wise, the US is in family with the harder hit countries in Western Europe, but the US is so large, it’s not really fair to compare it to an individual country in Europe.  Comparing it to Europe as a whole is also problematic because I don’t trust the numbers coming out of many Eastern European countries, including Russia.  So I think there’s value in looking at individual states.  So, let’s do that.  Here’s a ranked list of some states and countries in terms of deaths per capita.  I think it reveals that New York and New Jersey may have been the hardest hit places on the entire planet.  To which I ask again, why?

Consider the following table.  The only place that remotely matches the devastation of New York State is Lombardy, Italy.

Location Deaths Per 1M People
New York City 2813
Essex Co (Newark) 2640
New Jersey 1801
New York State 1692
Lombardy, Italy 1673
Massachusetts 1283
Connecticut 1249
Belgium 857
London 766
Spain 612
UK 609
Italy 586
Sweden 573
USA 524
France 466
Harris Co (Houston) 388
Texas 345
King Co (Seattle) 316
California 285
Canada 239
Washington 234
Australia 16
S. Korea 6
New Zealand 4

Seriously, what the hell happened in NY?  And how can we stop that from happening anywhere else?

As a side note, I find it incredibly ironic when Cuomo or De Blasio offer advice to any other state or city.  Those two presided over an incredible loss of life, and they should probably be doing a post mortem and asking themselves the same question as I am – what the hell went wrong?  They should probably, honestly, given how poorly things went, be considering submitting their resignations at the very least.

Covid vs car accidents

I was curious how Covid compares to car accidents in terms of impact.  I think car accidents are an interesting comparison because, like Covid, you can prevent accidents by staying home.

On the surface, it seems like Covid has been way worse.  After all, we have had 169,275 Covid deaths but “only” 36,120 people died in car accidents last year.  Seemingly, Covid is 4.7 times worse . . . and counting.

However, I don’t think this captures the true story – years of life lost.  Median age of death due to Covid is 78.  Life expectancy at 78 is 10 years, so we have lost 1.69 million years of life due to Covid.  This is obviously a broad estimate.  It neglects the fact that the spread in age under 78 is likely larger, thus leading to more years of life lost.  However, it also neglects the fact that people dying of Covid are less healthy than the general population, therefore leading to fewer years of life lost.  I think it’s a fair estimate for this comparison.

I couldn’t find a median age of death for car accidents, so a little more math is required.  Data is from 2018.

  • 0-4: 443 deaths, 77 years lost = 34,111
  • 5-14: 765 deaths, 69 years lost = 52,785
  • 15-24: 6434, 59 years lost = 379,606
  • 25-44: 12281, 45 years lost = 552,645
  • 45-64: 11368, 27 years lost = 306,936
  • 65-74: 3996, 15 years lost = 59,940
  • 75+: 4117, 9 years life lost = 37,053

Total years life lost: 1.4 million

So, in summary;
1.) Years of life lost to Covid so far: 1.7 million

2.) Years of life lost to car accidents in 2018: 1.4 million

My guess is that by the time this is over, Covid will claim around twice as many years of life in its worst year (2020) as compared to car accidents.  It is worth noting that car accident death rates in the 1970s were about twice what they are now (per capita).   Should people refuse to work at the office / classroom because driving there is too hazardous?

Seattle policing

Seattle’s police chief, Carmen Best, just resigned.   I personally think she’s done an incredible job under very difficult circumstances.  Please note that Best, an African-American woman, has been working to diversity the SPD and meet Justice Department guidelines to reduce unnecessary force.  Here’s what I see that happened:

1.) A black man is murdered in the midwest

2.) A whole bunch of white people start rioting nightly in Seattle.  In the extreme case, they forced the police to abandon one of their stations, creating an autonomous zone, and directly resulted in the deaths of multiple black minors.

3.) White “protesters” continue to riot nightly, demanding 50% cut to police funding.  Note that the aforementioned diversification of the force and compliance with justice department directives had increased the budget.   Surely that’s not surprising.  Among other things, protesters show up at Best’s house.

4.) Seattle city council starts cutting the police budget, punitively cuts Best’s salary, and don’t consult Best.

5.) Best resigns.

Fabulous.  From the Seattle Times editorial:

Best declined to use the word “racist,” when pressed by a reporter to characterize the council’s actions.

Others may not be so kind. They will see that politicians in power caved to a vociferous mob, and advanced their positions, by bullying and forcing out a Black woman in a position of authority who has been a role model to many others.

“I call it anti-Blackness,” said Rev. Harriett Walden, a longtime advocate for police reform and co-chair of the city’s Community Police Commission.

Piano lesson notes

One of the things I’ve been able to do since school was canceled is spend time teaching the girls piano.  I’ve made attempts before, but I never followed through.  This time, L is old enough to be enthusiastic and self-directed, and B conveniently wants to be like her older sister.

I taught myself piano as a child using the John W Schaum method.  I believe it was quite popular in the 80s.  In hindsight, it was a poor choice for self-teaching, and this time around, thanks to the internet, I was able to do some research on what the options were.  I start both girls out on the John Thompson Easiest Piano Course.  It’s been a while, but I think I chose it because I mistakenly believed it was the “easiest” option out there.  It worked really well for L at age 8, but it was just too hard for B, given that she cannot yet read.  L progressed through and finished the book, and it’s not a bad approach by any means.  However, I decided to transition both girls to the Alfred series.  Among other reasons, the Thompson books felt a bit dated, and despite a publication date on Amazon of 2005, the books were clearly written far before that and included at least one illustration that felt racist to me.  Alfred books also have more support for music theory and just generally more resources available.

I moved L over to Alfred’s Basic Piano Course Book 1A.  She comfortably transitioned into the second half of this book and finished it.  We are currently working on book 1B.  I then discovered that Alfred has another series targeted at the “earliest beginner,” and moved B into Alfred’s Prep Course Level A.  I’ve looked at a fair few piano methods at this point, and Alfred’s Prep Course, which runs Levels A through E, is by far the best one for a child aged 5 or 6, maybe even age 4.  I did do a preschool piano course with L a few years back, the first two Wunderkeys books.  Those books are probably appropriate for 3 and 4 year olds, but I honestly think you might just as well wait until a child is old enough to begin the Alfred Prep course.   While we had some fun doing Wunderkeys, I don’t think it really helped L all that much with her later piano progress.  For ages 7 or 8, a child with interest and aptitude is probably best suited for the Basic Piano Course 1A linked above, but the Prep course I think is also  a great option if you want to take it a little slower.

Alfred’s piano course includes a number of books, obviously in part for moneymaking reasons.  Honestly, the only one you *really* need is the lesson book.  I learned piano with little or no theory, and I derived great enjoyment from playing despite doing things “wrong.”  Nevertheless, we initially bought the lesson and theory book.  L doesn’t love doing the theory, but I think it is very useful specifically at this level for learning note names, rather than simply associating a written note with an unnamed piano key.  I’ve also decided to purchase the recital book going forward, as learning more songs enables us to slow the pace a little.  With regular practice, you can progress through the lesson book quite rapidly, which can start making it increasingly difficult, which can be frustrating for an 8-year-old.

I have been surprised that Bri, at 5, is capable of productive practice on her own.  We are skipping theory with her so far, and in addition to the lesson book, I bought a Christmas song book (since at her age, Christmas is the best thing ever), and the two books have proved a good combination.  She’s progressing slowly but enjoying herself.  I hope we can keep it up once school starts.

Well, I guess it could be worse

We could be Bolivia:

With no end in sight to the coronavirus pandemic, school districts from Europe to New Jersey have been teaching virtually, the idea being that educating children must not stop, no matter how imperfect the instruction.

Then there is remote and largely rural Bolivia.

There the government has just announced a far more extreme approach. It flat out canceled the school year, which comes to a close at the end of November, saying the internet connections just weren’t good enough for virtual classrooms. If parents are worried that their children will be held back, Interim President Jeanine Áñez says not to worry because the government plans to pass everyone to the next grade level anyway.

“There’s no other option than to close the school year,” said Yerko Núñez, a government minister. “The fiber optics, unfortunately, only reach the cities.”

I honestly just don’t get the attitude (prevalent in Seattle) that if you can’t teach everyone, you teach no one.  Wouldn’t the best choice for Bolivia be to teach children in cities?  Furthermore, the median age in Bolivia is only 25, and I bet it’s lower in rural areas.   (Our median age is 38.)  I bet the death rate in Bolivia would be quite low from Coronavirus even if medical care there is inferior to what it is in wealthier countries.

(In case you’re wondering why, for example, there hasn’t been an explosion of cases in places like India, I’m guessing asymptomatic and mild cases in an overwhelmingly young population is a huge driver.)

From the article:

Ms. Áñez, also a presidential candidate, acknowledged the problems the decision creates for parents. “It is very difficult, but we’re doing this to ensure the health of Bolivians, especially our children,” she said in a video posted on her Twitter account.

Sound familiar?  I find it very difficult to believe that Covid poses and greater threat to the children of Bolivia than it does the children of America, who are having virtual instruction to preserve their health.  How heartwarming that everyone is so concerned about the children.