This week’s mask acquisition (from local artist Horitomo at Monmon Cats):
The last two months have not improved the bubble status, on the contrary. As before, the position of the bubble shows how high the incidence rate is, and the diameter of the bubble shows you how deadly it has been, and I highlighted China and Canada for reference.
Again, the United States’ bubble is far higher up (i.e., more cases proportionally to its population than any other reported country) and far larger than any other country (i.e., more deaths). In laymen’s terms, American exceptionalism at its most conspicuous: the richest and largest under-developed country. We are so screwed.
Going out for groceries.
So far, 2020 has been scary and draining. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, we have been under a shelter-in-place order for eight weeks, and I miss seeing my friends.
On the other hand, like most people I’ve been trying to reach out to distant friends through calls and, in our case, online games.
I just had my daily tour of COVID-19 data visualizations. Playing with the WHO data explorer shows what a dire lack of preparation the US demonstrated. In this screen cap, the x-axis is the population, the y-axis is the cumulative number of cases and the size of the bubble indicate the number of cumulative deaths for all reporting countries.
So the position of the bubble shows how high the incidence rate is, with the US floating waaaayyyy above everyone else and the diameter of the bubble shows you how deadly it has been , with the US waaaayyyy larger than even the big bubbles for Italy, Spain, France, Iran, or the UK. And I highlighted China and Canada for reference.
For added horror, clicking the “Play” button on the WHO site lets you visualize this over time, where you can see the US balloon inflating and rising.
I blame the cats for everything this week. First I screwed up my back on Sunday night when I was cleaning their litter boxes; then on Wednesday Ubaid woke me up by jumping on me and sent specks of litter in my right eye. I repeatedly tried flushing it with water but ended up having to go to an ophthalmologist to get it cleaned, the afternoon before a holiday.
The eye is improving but when I got up—or tried to—on Thursday, my back and sciatic nerve were aching too much to face an hour in the car each way to go to the Thanksgiving potluck dinner our friends Steve and Maureen were hosting. Edmund has been unable to sleep until dawn lately so he spent the day snoring.
By eight in the evening, I suddenly realized that since I was unable to move around enough to make dinner and it was getting late, I had better order soon if I wanted some kind of holiday dinner, so I got a couple of samosas (coupon!), tandoori chicken, navratan korma, the house lamb curry, aloo and garlic naan, and of course rice, from a Northern Indian restaurant nearby. Edmund woke up for food and we watched episodes of “Call the Midwife.”
Despite the hiccups, I still have a lot of thanks to give:
Thank you first to my husband Edmund, who has had a rough year, for holding on through the dark days. I know how hard it is and I’m so grateful that you marched on.
Thank you to my family for having given me the kind of love and care that seems practically like a fairy tale. Everything good in me comes from them, and everything dumb or selfish I do is mine alone.
Thank you to all my friends, too numerous to name and sometimes anonymous, who have been steadfast in helping us with their hearts, their time, their expertise, and their resources, despite other and better claims for their kindness. I don’t always show the appreciation I should when I feel I have not lived up to your kindness; when I am ashamed, I hide. I’m afraid of naming names because that automatically means missing some, but I love you all.
Thank you to the good people at Evil Hat Publishing, Vigilance Press, and Generic Games who have trusted me to work on their awesome games this year. It has been a pleasure and an honour working with all of you.
Thank you to Sean Nittner and the Big Bad Con team for not only making the convention a remarkable event but for making me think year-round about how to make things better and easier for other people, especially the marginalized voices.
Thank you to my online communities, where I have found so many lovely people that have made my life richer. I’m sorry that many of those have to migrate from Google+ and I hope we stay in touch in other virtual venues.
Thank you to the Resistance in all its forms. We have made a difference this year, and that should give us strength for the work still ahead.
Thank you to the medical professionals and support staff of Kaiser Permanente South San Francisco for keeping me alive and kicking, for being unfailingly kind, helpful, dependable.
Thank you to my feline deities, Valentine and Ubaid as well as my sweet Phantom who is gone but not forgotten. I live to serve you. 😉
Thank you to Copper Chimney for being open on Thanksgiving and delivering delicious food despite the pouring rain!
We had many annoying setbacks but we’re almost finished settling in the new lair. Our debts are 90% paid off, we just have a little bit more to catch up with. The house is not rented yet but we moved into the little apartment that served as our gaming den. I’ll post photos when we’re completely unpacked down here, but it’s going well. We were only able to do it because we have wonderful, generous, clever friends.
We’re trying to make it as cosy as possible so that it will be pleasant despite the cramped quarters; we’re thinking of it as camping in the game room. We’re using organizers to maximize use of space, and the one thing we do have plenty of is shelf space for games, miniatures, and books. I even installed a wifi doorbell. As of today, we’ve officially moved in—including the cats!—even though there are still books and clothes to put away.
We would not have moved down here if we weren’t forced to by our finances, but there are things I can appreciate. Continue reading “The New Lair”
This is another personal update post. I have not had much of a chance to keep up with social media and blogging, except in the most superficial way. Messages of support from caring friends have languished unanswered, to my shame.
We’ve been packing boxes, moving furniture, etc. Both Edmund and I are feeling our age, sigh. The cats are nervous, they hate change… I also work on keeping up with my game writing and publishing assignments since they’re my sole source of income. This Sunday, however, I gave myself permission to spend my writing time catching up with non-urgent matters.
Many kind friends have given us their precious free time to help with these chores. Some have provided their financial knowledge to help us straighten up our situation. Sean Nittner also set up a GoFundMe page—and people were wildly, extravagantly generous. So many people donated! I had no idea that so many people cared. This has been a life-saver.
Last weekend was a very busy one; we rented a truck and friends came over to help us move about 90% of the items going to storage, particularly the furniture: antiques from Edmund’s grandmother. What remains to move are boxes, which we take a few at a time.
The truck rental was a story in itself. I had reserved a truck from Budget Truck Rental in South San Francisco, the smallest they had that would have a ramp or lift; this turned out to be a 16-ft (4.9m) truck with a ramp. Instead of charging me, as advertised on their website, $29.99 a day plus $0.99 per mile, they charged me about two-thirds more: $49.99 a day plus $1.49 per mile, and gave me as a reason that this way, I was guaranteed a truck rather than taking a chance that it would not be available. Whatever that means.
I showed up right on time on Saturday morning—and sure enough, my truck was not there. Whoever had rented it before me had not returned it. There was another truck, a 26-ft (7.9m) with a lift gate but they wanted to charge me more money for it. I was very displeased but I remained polite, if a bit brisk. I got on the phone and called competitor Penske Truck Rentals, a couple of blocks away, where the helpful personnel immediately found me a 16-ft truck with a lift gate AND quoted me a price that was lower than Budget’s, AND then gave me another 10% discount because the cabin had not been cleaned yet and was a little grungy.
As an epilogue, Budget had the gall to run a $50 cancellation charge on my card so I had to spen half an hour on the phone later in the week to get that reversed. It’s what we’d call, back home, “Sévices à la clientèle.” So F U, Budget, I’m never darkening your door again.
We’re not finished moving into the small apartment, formerly known as the gaming lair, because there’s a sequence that goes: clear space downstairs – take items removed to storage/sale/donation – move object from upstairs into new space downstairs – clean upstairs. Right now we need to clear more space in the apartment and the garage so we can finish setting up our living quarters.
We also still have a bed and dresser to bring downstairs once space is available, and a replacement fridge to move from the garage into the apartment. Good times.
This week the priorities are: schedule visits from a plumber and from a debris removal service; take boxes to storage; buy more boxes and fill them with the remaining items going to storage.
When I diagnosed with breast cancer just over two years ago, I lost the energy and time to work. For months before I was diagnosed, my employer had unexpectedly dropped me (and hundreds of other employees) from full-time salaried to part-time as-needed, cutting all benefits including health insurance. When I contacted them to see if they offered any kind of emergency assistance, they said no.
For a while I received income from the state disability insurance and that kept us afloat, but after a year it ended—just as I was recovering from pulmonary embolisms linked to one of my treatment medications. But soon I began feeling better and started writing again, and managing projects for Evil Hat Productions again. I contacted my day-time employer to let them know I was available for work again. They told me they were terminating me instead.
I was getting good feedback and writing contracts from game publishers but that’s a side income, not enough to pay rent in the San Francisco Bay area—unless I was able to produce an additional 70,000 words a month. Instead of reaching this fantastic level of productivity, I started getting other physical and mental health problems and so did my husband.
Despite the incredibly generous help of friends and the wonderful publishers I work with (Evil Hat and Vigilance Press in particular!), we kept losing ground: maxed out credit card, checking accounts frequently overdraft, utilities cut on a rotating basis of “who can we afford to pay right now”, and falling behind on the rent—putting the landlord, one of our oldest friends, in financial danger himself.
We reached the bottom recently, facing homelessness even as I was being checked for suspected heart and lung disease. To be honest, for a few days the only thing that kept me from doing something stupid was remembering how much love and effort my family, friends, and the medical staff had put in keeping me alive and well these past two years. I had no idea what to do, and I know my husband Edmund was equally floored.
Then some of our friends helped us again find money we didn’t know we could access (small retirement funds we can cash), and to make a plan to purge our possessions, shrink our footprint, and balance the future budget. The house we’re renting has a mother-in-law apartment downstairs behind the garage, so we’ll move there and rent the main floor, a nice 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms house. We’ll pass the rent revenue to our friend the owner, who agreed to the plan, and thanks to more work and pay I was just offered by Evil Hat we should be able to catch up a bit at a time.
So for the next few weeks we’re selling, storing, giving away, or disposing of anything we can’t keep with us; trying to organize the apartment to be livable for two adults and three cats; clearing and cleaning the house; and dealing with various financial institutions. At least we can move a little bit at a time rather than having to do it all in one day, and we won’t have to change our address. I still need to find a day job, but at least I won’t be so desperate.
And I got a bit of good news last night: my heart and lungs are fine, I’m simply “de-conditioned” from months of health setbacks.
In all this, our many friends have been so very wonderful. If it wasn’t for them, we would not have been able to face this, to break it down into manageable tasks, or to find the necessary information and resources. We are so very grateful.
So yeah, November could have gone better on a personal level, but it could also have gone worse. Late in the evening of October 31, I started feeling bloated, burping but without passing gas. I started headed for bed but sudden pain made me throw up. I took some acetaminophen and simethicone (anti gas medicine) and finally went to bed, but did not sleep well; I had pain on the right side of the abdomen. The next day, I would have liked to see my doctor but Edmund got sick too and I didn’t feel I could drive.
On Thursday December 2, I got on Kaiser Permanente’s online system and requested a phone consultation with my general practitioner, as I was worried about the possibility of diverticulitis. She’s super nice and called me back immediately instead of waiting for the appointment time. She listened to my tale and sent me to get a CT scan right away saying this sounded like classic symptoms of appendicitis. This revealed a prodigious stupidity on my part: I said, “Isn’t the appendix on the left?” Because, you see, ever since college biology classes I know exactly where various organs are and can point to them on a chart… which is facing me. Yup, the chart’s left is my right, yup, I knew that…
So we went to the hospital and the CT scan confirmed an inflamed and swollen appendix but revealed no abscesses, which was a good thing. I was sent to the emergency room and eventually admitted for a hospital stay. I was relieved to see that the surgeon who would be taking care of my case was Dr. Rhona Chen, who had performed my lumpectomy a year ago. She is great and everyone on the staff keeps saying she’s the one they request for themselves and their family. She is the very archetype of the surgeon, very smart, no-nonsense, fact-driven, stern, thorough. Dr. Chen diagnosed this as a ruptured appendix, but possibly a small rupture that had not cause fecal fluids to escape. the
Because I had been on coumadin (a blood thinner) since my pulmonary embolisms in February, and because the scan revealed neither abscess nor pooling fluids and therefore it was not a peritonitis case, the surgeon had me put on a heparin intravenous drip (an anticoagulant that is used for surgery, allowing higher blood thickness and thus reducing the risk of hemorrhage.) I also received high-grade IV antibiotics, and fluids because I was dehydrated and could not not be allowed to eat or drink in case I had to be rushed to surgery.
So yeah, the first few days were spent under close observation with three IV drips going at all times, waiting for my blood to get in the right anticoagulant and viscosity ranges. During that time, the antibiotics brought the inflammation down, the pain subsided, and after five days I received a new CT scan. This, and my blood test results, showed that indeed the inflammation was decreased. So Dr. Chen kept me under observation for a bit more but allowed me to have solid food, and changed my heavy-duty antibiotics to milder ones that could be administered only periodically, about 20 minutes of IV every six hours instead of nearly constantly.
Although I still had to have all my intravenous catheters in place, I now had only one drip on for much of the time, so that was an improvement. And let me tell you, between constantly getting blood samples taken, and having to rotate the catheter locations due to bruising and vein collapse, I was a mess. My veins are small and crooked and “roll” easily, so it’s always hard to find a good spot. By the end of my stay at the hospital, both my arms were covered with bruises but at least the nurses did not have to start looking in other spots.
I was kept on heparin during the transition back to Coumadin because the other transition medication that is normally used, Lovenox, requires abdominal injections that get pretty sore, and could have masked abdominal pain from the appendix. Since the latter would have been a sign that surgery was needed after all, the hospital pharmacist did not authorize Lovenox and so I had to stay at the hospital until my blood was thin enough to prevent pulmonary embolisms.
During my stay, Edmund visited me several hours each day and drummed up visitors and calls for me. We played board games, at first on my little table in the hospital room and later, when I was able to walk further (with my IV drips!) and needed less supervision, in the vending machine room where there are a few tables. Thank you to all my friends who checked on me!
At last I got out, in time so I could attend the monthly meeting of the Planning Commission (I’m a commissioner) and our friends’ annual Thanksgiving potluck. Still, the rest of November was a shambles and I’m barely beginning to catch up.