Monthly Archives: June 2021


We said goodbye to Penske a couple weeks ago.  It’s still hard to believe he’s gone.  He was with us for 16 of his 17 years.  I remember when he was a puppy – or puppy-like anyway – with so much energy.  If you didn’t take him to the dog park literally every day, he’d be crazy and annoying.  He absolutely loved playing with other dogs.  We’d go to the dog park and he’d wrestle happily with a likeminded dog for an hour sometimes.  It’s funny that I didn’t realize how transient that stage is at the time – like a toddler’s antics.  In later years, he got into fetch, and he always loved hiking and running with us.  He ran many a mile with Jonathan and I in his early and middle age.  Eventually, he couldn’t even keep up with Jonathan’s slowed running pace of 10 or 11 minutes per mile, and his exercise was downgraded to walking.  Even then, as a senior citizen he had lots of good years hanging out in the yard, going for walks with us, wolfing down his kibbles and treats and chewing his bones at night.

He had some rough spots – a cancer surgery and multiple dental surgeries caused by issues that had arisen before we got him.  When Jonathan first took him to the vet, the vet told us his jaw had been broken, and he’s lost several teeth, which caused problems down the road.  Other than that, though, he was mostly healthy throughout his life.

Eventually, we had to stop taking him on our family trips because he started getting sick and unhappy in the car.  The geographical area in which he lived just got smaller and smaller.  At the end, we wouldn’t even take him on short trips in the car, unless it was essential (think vet).  The distance he could walk from our house decreased, until I had to carry him home on our last walk.  I still regret that.  I think I pushed him too hard on that hot evening, and I wish I hadn’t.  I was kind of obsessed with keeping him mobile, as I figured loss of mobility would mean the end.

We always said jokingly, though it wasn’t funny at all when it finally happened, that we’d know he wasn’t well if he ever turned his nose up at his food.  And eventually he did reject his kibbles.  We tried wet dog food, which worked briefly, then human food, and eventually I would sit next to him on the floor and hand feed him so he wouldn’t have to get up.  He couldn’t drink, though, without standing and bending over.  For a while, we could help him to his feet, and he’d be ok, but then he got to the point where he’d stagger and be unable to walk in a straight line even after we helped him to his feet.  It was so sad to see.  Aging and nature are just absolutely brutal.

Jonathan really didn’t want him to die after an emergency trip to the vet, potentially in pain.  He’d always hated the vet.  We found a service that would come to our house, and I remember him lying there and having my hand on his furry flank while he breathed in and out.  The person injected him, first with something that made him sleep, and then a second injection that stopped his heart.  I just wanted to say, “Wait!  Stop!  Do we have to do this now?  Can’t we wait just a little longer?”  Watching the light go out in his eyes is one of the worst things I’ve ever seen.  The picture is of me sitting with him a couple days before he died.

Honestly, I didn’t know it would be this hard.  Penske was like my first child, honestly.  Caring for him in the last months was so hard because of his incontinence (and inability to stand on any easily cleanable smooth surface, like a tarp or hard wood floors).  But now that the immediate stress is gone, I just miss the younger, healthier Penske that was such a companion to Jonathan and I for so many year.

life in the time of Covid

88% of people in my health district (a subset of the county) ages 12 and up have gotten at least one vaccine shot.  More than 80% have completed the series.  (Those who have only one shot are disproportionately young.  More than 95% of the 80+ contingent, for example, are fully vaccinated.)    In my city, we are averaging 1.4 positives a day.  There have been no deaths since September 2020, and there have been two total days of hospitalizations for residents of my city since January (one person for one day in March, one person for one day in April.)

The Pfizer vaccine is highly effective.  I am well past my second dose.  Even against the “delta” (Indian) variant which is purportedly more contagious than the UK variant which is currently dominant in the US (and has been since Dec / Jan), it is ~90% effective after two shots.

And yet . . .

  • My county still has a mask mandate.  I ignore it unless the vendor has a sign up, but King County residents are required to wear masks indoors AND outdoors at all times, vaccinated or not.
  • My grocery store, in defiance of the mandate, has a sign saying masks aren’t required if you’re vaccinated.  I started going in without a mask the last couple days, and I feel like I’m not wearing a shirt.
  • There are still 50% capacity restrictions everywhere.  This means, for example, that if you want to go “out” to eat (we haven’t eaten indoors since Feb 2020), you need to show up by 5 sharp in most places.  It means that I get a daily e-mail from the pool saying they’re at capacity and not to come in without calling first.  (We are having a heat wave.)
  • There is still all manner of silliness.  For example, my daughter is at art camp this week.  I must fill out an affirmation within TWO hours of the start time of her camp every day stating that our family is in optimal health.  She (of course!) must wear a mask every day.  If she wants to have a snack or a drink, an instructor will take her to a special “isolation” area where she can safely take off her mask to eat or drink.  At pickup, I must fill out a form saying I’ve arrived so she can be escorted out to avoid any crowding at the pickup area.

Washington state is supposed to reopen at the end of the month.  And yet, Seattle will be having a “virtual” fireworks show for the second year in a row.  Other cities, like Newcastle (where I live) and Kirkland have canceled their events.  Bellevue will be having live fireworks, but to discourage attendance, they will not have music or entertainment or any other activities.

You might think, oh I’ll just spend the day at the park, but the nefarious county officials do things like lock park gates and close parking lots to discourage people from leaving their homes, and naturally, encourage house parties, which are so much safer!  (At least from litigation.)

Wouldn’t want anyone congregating at an outdoor picnic shelter!

Make sure you wear a mask if you go into the individual cubicles to use the bathroom!  Most parks in Seattle have actually closed their brick and mortar bathrooms and replaced them with porta potties because of Covid danger.

Pick up dog poop to save us all from Covid!

Be sure to wear a mask, even if you’re cycling or running alone!  And come prepared with hand sanitizer.  (No, I am not going to carry hand sanitizer when I go for a run.)

Wear a bandana!  Or a niqab!  But not a triple layer surgical mask well fitted around the nose – you know the type of mask actually shown to be effective.

The library has purchased chairs to replace the couches they used to have, lest two strangers dare to sit next to each other!  The chairs are carefully placed AT LEAST six feet apart.  Don’t move them!

Libraries are VERY dangerous places.

More bathroom instructions.  Using the bathroom is extremely dangerous in the time of Covid.

All these photos were taken in the last few days.

“Shark showdown” time trial

The girls had their first “swim meet” yesterday.  It was really a time trial, but they typically run a pre-season time trial like a real meet to let the organizers practice everything.  They actually let parents enter briefly while their kids swam, which sounds like it would be a disaster, but worked fine.  Masks all, despite being outdoors and fully vaxxed, but I will not complain further.  Having just had gum surgery the day before, I missed most of it, but Jonathan took some videos.

Below, you can watch Isla win her heat in to the 50 yard backstroke in 52 seconds.  (She finished midpack overall.)  I love watching her swim!  I always sort of flailed around in the water (still do, really).  She is just so elegant.

Bri is in the far lane and was the slowest of the 8 and under swimmers, but I’m still so proud of her.  What a great 25 back for her!

The girls did all four strokes in their meet, as is customary out here.  Bri’s butterfly frankly was not even distantly recognizable as butterfly, but other than that, it went great.  (I told Bri my only goal for her in butterfly was that she not drown.  Mission accomplished!)

thoughts on weight and elite running

I read today about yet another professional female runner diagnosed with an eating disorder.  She stated on her Insta that she’s entered treatment and is hospitalized.

Which sucks.

There’s a popular hastag on Instagram, #strongnotskinny.  The biggest proponent is probably Allie Kieffer, and female 10K / marathon runner whose best result was 4th place in the New York Marathon.  Allie Kieffer’s theory is that she was injured due to being too thin.  And that may be true.

The problem is that when you look at the best 10K runners and marathoners, they are very thin.  They are, in fact, emaciated.

First of all, most women – like not almost all – cannot maintain that weight healthily.  Most women will experience amenorrhea, which results in bone density loss and all kinds of other problems.   My theory is that everyone has a healthy minimum weight, and for most women, that healthy minimum weight will disqualify them from being an elite runner as much as an average VO2max.

Even for women who are in the minority that can maintain a weight like that and be healthy – and such women do exist; they are the ones who win – the mental part is huge, particularly for people living in the United States.  It is really hard to maintain the level of emaciation necessary for elite long distance running success while living in the US, especially for women, without developing mental issues.

And so a HUGE percentage of elite women runners develop eating disorders.  It’s hard to know how many, but some suggest that it’s on the order of 50%.

I don’t know what the solution is.  But there are a few obvious things.  For a start, weight should never, ever be mentioned to high school athletes, male or female.  With rare exceptions (like, perhaps, wrestling), female college athletes should not be talking about weight either.  Pretty much, no woman under 21 should be thinking about her weight.

After 21, there may be occasions on which it’s appropriate for female athletes to lose weight.  (It’s notable that one of the athletes pictured above elevated her running to the next level after getting a breast reduction.)  But the benefits of the weight loss obviously have to be weighed against the risk of developing mental issues or eating disorders.

Then, today I was watching a documentary on Dara Torres.  In case you have forgotten, she is a SWIMMER.  Her college coach badgered her to lose weight.  Honestly, it just makes me sick hearing about it.  Weight isn’t even particularly important in swimming.  Look at the best swimmers – they aren’t skinny!  They are large and muscular and have fat on their bodies, too.

this summer

I took the leap and signed up for Biology 1A at Berk.eley this summer.  Eek.  The last time I took a class was back in the 2008 timeframe, give or take a couple years, when I took a Stanford GPS class.  It was actually a great class . . . and I got an A+.  (Thank you, grade inflation.)  However, it was a project-based and homework-based class – no quizzes or exams.  I didn’t have to memorize anything.  In fact, I can’t remember the last time I took a class that involved memorization.  I suppose something I took at Stanford probably involved a little memorization here or there.  I honestly don’t recall, but most of my graduate classes had open book exams, and the real work was the homeworks.  if you did all the homeworks, you were probably in decent shape.  And doing well on the tests was about understanding how to solve problems.

First of all, I’ve never taken biology before – not even in high school.  Even if this turns out to be a complete boondoggle, I’m excited to finally take this class.  Second, biology is closely linked to chemistry, and if you know me well, you know chemistry has never been my thing.  And, I’m more than a little bit rusty.  Third, I’ve never been much good at memorization.  So, I’m shaking in my boots.  But I think a good dose of humility is generally the right way to approach a class.  The few times I’ve gone into a class thinking it’ll be easy or that I already know it, it’s turned out to be a battle because I didn’t devote the time to it.  (As I type this, I realize the exception to that was always math classes.  I always felt confident going into those, but I always did well anyway, because I’m good at math, and also because I actually enjoyed doing all the problems.)

Being a summer class, I’m looking at the equivalent of Freshman chem at GT compressed by half – so instead of five hours of lecture and three hours of lab, I’m looking at 11 hours of lecture / recitation and six hours of lab.

What a boondoggle.  But maybe this will get the wanderlust out of my system and I’ll be more ready to go back to controls.  I was just reviewing middle and high school tuition numbers with Jonathan, and I’ll tell you, that certainly motivated me to think about going back to work.

Basically, I’ve become increasingly intrigued by the intersection of biology and math.  I feel like I don’t understand biology well enough to even understand the avenues one could pursue in that area.  Hence, the summer class.  I could potentially take a few classes and look for opportunities less divergent to what I’d already been doing, or even apply for graduate programs in the fall.

My practical side thinks this is all ridiculous.  The common sense option would be to start doing contract work with Blue and others in the Fall, thus keeping my skills and contacts current.  Then, when S is a little older, I could go back to work full or part time (like 30 hours / week).  This would be the fiscally prudent path.  Heck, probably the prudent path full stop.

But for now, I’m going to take the darn class.

Melbourne madness

The lack of media coverage of the Covid outbreak in Australia is . . . funny.  I mean, back when Trump was in charge, all we heard was how great New Zealand was handling things, and if only Trump was more competent, we, too, could be like New Zealand.  NZ being an ISLAND nation with a population of 4 million and, literally, more sheep than people.

Australia has far more favorable conditions than the US, being a remote island with 1/10th the population density of the US, but it’s still a better comparison than NZ, since it has 25 million people.  (It turns out contagious diseases like larger populations.  In fact, there is a minimum population below which a virus cannot survive, based on its infectiousness and severity.)  In any case, Melbourne is back in Lockdown.  This is, for those who are counting, the FOURTH lockdown.

Now, here in the US, the term lockdown is bandied about, but what it has really meant, even in conservative states like Washington, is restaurant closures and capacity limitations across the board, as well as limitations on gatherings.  Many states explicitly allow demonstrations, a la the George Floyd demonstrations, but also anti-lockdown demonstrations.

In Australia, and in Melbourne in particular (and to a lesser extent in Europe), in means something very different.  People are literally locked down, and not allowed to leave their homes without permission.  Even when one has secured a permit to, say, go to the grocery store, that store must be within 5 KM of your house, if such a store exists.

The current lockdown is not this severe, but it’s still pretty bad.  Last week, people were restricted to staying within 5 KM of their house.  This has been increased to 10 KM this week.  But they are enforcing it.

  • In Melbourne, the five reasons to leave home will remain the same — shopping for food and essential supplies, authorised work or study, care and care-giving, exercise and getting vaccinated.
  • The list of authorised workplaces will also expand to include outdoor jobs like landscaping and painting.
  • After months of concern about QR code compliance, the Service Victoria QR code check-ins will now be mandatory across the whole state for places like supermarkets and shops.
    • I believe this is to verify people are staying within their 10 KM or not exceeding their allowable shopping trips – not sure which but standby for when I have time to Google it.
  • Food and hospitality venues will be open for “seated service only” with the density rule of one person per four square metres.
  • Regional Victorians can only travel to Melbourne for a permitted reason and the Melbourne restrictions apply once they are there.

  • Regional businesses will be compelled to check the IDs of everyone they serve to ensure they are not from Melbourne.
    • In other words – people who live in Melbourne are not allowed to leave, and they are checking IDs to ensure this is enforced.

To put this in perspective, the population of Victoria is 6.7 million.  Yesterday, there were SIX cases detected.  But, because they have put all their marbles in the no Covid ever basket, this is basically catastrophic.

If I lived in Melbourne, I would be in a cold fury over how the virus got in in the first place.  With so much at stake, how could it be allowed to happen?

But lately, I’ve been wondering what Australia’s end game is.  How do they open up?  They would need to have a very high percentage of the population vaccinated to even allow vaccinated individuals in, given that even Pfizer and Moderna are only 90% effective.  And J&J doesn’t necessarily prevent people from transmitting the disease, though it reduces the severity.  So someone with a J&J vaccine isn’t a safe entrant by any stretch.  Once they whole population is vaccinated, do they just let Covid in and let it spread?  God forbid a variant emerges against which the vaccine isn’t effective.  Things have not been looking great in the UK lately, if you’ve been watching the numbers.

virtual Pride

In other parts of the country, there has been a debate about whether police officers should be allowed to participate in the Pride parade.  (I don’t see why not.  I would think it’s probably challenging being a gay police officer.)

It was two weeks before the start of Pride month, and the organization that runs New York’s Pride march was fighting about cops. The leadership had just announced that officers could no longer take part in the march, including a contingent of L.G.B.T.Q. officers that has marched in uniform since 1996.

The officers were angry. The mayor called it a mistake.

At a tense Zoom meeting on May 20, members of the organization, Heritage of Pride, tore into their leadership, moving to overturn the ban and unseat the executive board. Some called the ban no different from the discrimination they all faced.

Passions flared on both sides of the issue, often dividing along racial or class lines. After two hours of debate, members voted to overrule their own board, allowing cops to march.

If only Seattle were having such arguments.  But, no.  Instead, we have this:

For many, the celebration commemorating the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion marks summer in Seattle, and after it went virtual last year due to the pandemic, the community was looking forward to an epic, in-person celebration this year.

However, Pride will be held online again this summer.

Marx described the virtual experience as “a sort of ‘choose your own adventure.’”

From a central virtual lobby, through the online events platform Hopin, attendees can choose to go to different virtual stages to experience speakers, musicians or group activities, like “Bedroom Bing” with local drag personality Cookie Couture or styling tips for newbie drag artists from local drag artist Aleksa Manila.

Political representatives, sponsors and reps from different organizations will be available in video chatrooms like virtual “booths.” There will also be networking opportunities where an attendee can choose to be randomly matched with someone else for a video chat (a digital security team will be on hand to prevent or address any virtual attacks).

Sounds like a blast!  Not.

There are some things that can reasonably be done virtually.  I can see, for example, how a quilt festival done virtually might not be the same as if it were held live, but still hold a lot of value.  However, there are a lot of things which should just be canceled.  Parades of any variety certainly spring to mind as one of those things.  Road races are another.  (I just love going to the site of a road race and seeing, “This year, we’re going virtual!” as if it’s something to be excited about.)  I haven’t given my money to any virtual events as a matter of principle.