Sunday, September 12, 2021

The Money Laundering Edition

I haven’t been writing much because, well, who’s going to play the Freecell? Right?
  How do you get all of the cards in the proper piles if you’re writing?

That’s one thing I've done:  won a fuck-ton of free cell games.  That’s what I have to show for the pandemic so far.  All of the time spent home alone for the past year and a half when I could have been creating, or cleaning, or Making Good Use of My Time, I don’t.  I stare at the abyss, which is very close, and play another round of Freecell.

But I’d like to write more, I really would.  


Yesterday, I went on a walk with a dear friend and all of our dogs. The dogs ran off to find the river, duh.  But access to the river in that location was a steep unstable sandy slope, and we know about steep slopes.  It’s easy to go down, hard to get back, exactly like the abyss, which is why we try to keep a safe distance.  

We could hear the dogs splashing and playing, and then the two younger spry dogs scampered back to us but my beautiful middle-aged girl with arthritis was stuck, and I had to go down the slope and push her a little bit by the haunches, and pull her a bit by the scruff of the neck. 

 Luckily, someone who had come before me had driven a long piece of rebar into the bank and tied a rope to it, so it wasn't that thing of oh, now two people (well, one person and one dog who thinks she's a person) are stuck down there.  Whomever installed the rebar is Making Good Use of Their Time, that’s for sure.  And it made me think like there should be more metaphorical and figurative rebar stakes attached to ropes surrounding the abysses of all types so you can explore a little bit without getting stuck.  We really don’t want to be pushed back up by the haunches.  

The second interesting thing that happened on our walk is that we came upon a woman walking alone, taking photographs of the beautiful day, and we started chatting.  She had some interesting new information, like, did we know that the pupil of a goats eye is rectangular? (No! Didn't know that.).  And we wandered from there to viviparous snakes and so on, which was quite pleasant and interesting, and made me think I could ask some of my questions.  

I have the same questions all of the time, and mostly I can’t even remember the questions, but here they are.  Things I should understand but don’t.  
  1. Heat pumps.  Really?  You attach a box-shaped thing to your house and suddenly, without pipes or ducts, your house is heated and cooled and your bills go down and you save the planet.  Does that even make sense?  I might be a heat-pump denier.  And no one really understands them.  Ask anyone.
  2. Mining for bitcoin.  I’ve had brief moments of clarity where I get it, why and how vast networks of computers are mining for block chains, which are just series of numbers (why don't they call them that?) that translate into wealth.  If you think about this for very long, it just seems ridiculous.  I may also be a bitcoin denier.
  3. Money laundering.  I understand the concept: someone has illegally obtained money, and they need to bring it into the normal banking system without drawing attention.  But I get fuzzy on the details of how it works and when I really try to act it out with my fisher price toys and a tiny suitcase full of fake cash, I am unable to do so.  

Anyway, back to our walk.  Here was this woman who seemed to know a lot of stuff about snakes and goats, so I asked if it was appropriate to ask my questions.  The two people I was with both looked at me like I was a little bit off, but I’m used to that and forged ahead.

“Do either of you know how money laundering works?”

And, like a tiny miracle, the woman who knew about goat’s eyes and live snake birth was prepared for my question as if she had been standing there with a little power point in her pocket, ready to explain money laundering to random passersby.  “Yes.  It takes three steps.  First, you actually put the money in the wash so it looks a little older.  Then, put it into a business…. (this is the part where I always get confused because really, how do you get the money back?  

Here’s how it goes when I act it out:  The little fisher price guy with blue overalls, the one doing the crimes, has a miniature satchel full of drug money.  We’ll call that the suitcase money.  (By the way, feel free to act this out at home.  There’s no shame in that.). He buys a restaurant with regular money because he can’t use the suitcase money.  His main problem in life, besides that there are a bunch of shady people trying to kill him, is that spending the suitcase money could land him in jail.   But now he can spend suitcase money on the restaurant.  So, if you’re playing along at home, take your blue overalls guy and have him hand a few thousand dollars from the satchel to the guy wearing the chef’s hat.  Chef hat guy will redesign the menu and boss the people in the kitchen around.  Now, overalls guy is out the regular money that he bought the restaurant with, plus the suitcase money he gave to chef’s hat guy.  

But overalls guy can write in his tiny little ledger that he spent a few thousand dollars in business expenses, so that money is now legit in the system.  I guess that's good?  But he doesn't have the money anymore.  He does have some business expenses so his taxes are reduced, but jeez, that seems like a complicated way.  He has laundered a tiny fraction of the money in the suitcase, but he also owns a needy restaurant full of people who are sending their chicken back because it’s too cooked or too raw, or they didn’t know there would be a sprig of parsley near it, or they thought the salad would come first, and the dishwasher called in sick, and the servers don't want to tip the bartender, and the chef is wearing sandals so you got written up by
the Health Department, and so on. This is where I start thinking it would be easier to just do the regular job that the overalls guy is supposed to do.  

Anyway, everyone had to leave just as she was starting to explain the confusing part about money laundering, so I still don't really know how it works, but I will count this encounter as a minor miracle.

Monday, August 16, 2021



It’s been bleak lately.  Covid deaths are up +1,357% in King County over the past 2 weeks.  Pointless deaths.  It’s been smoky and sweltering and boring and maddening a little scary to think that this is pretty much how the future will be.  Masks and diseases and wildfires and heat waves and pollution keeping us inside and selfish people not rowing along with the rest of us.  Rowing backwards.  But we do what we do, we carry on, but with high irritability.  

Last week, I thought I’d go to Costco, which has morphed, surprisingly, from a dreaded giant warehouse where I’d get lost and spend too much money, to a fun outing.  This switch happened early in the pandemic when we weren’t supposed to go anywhere.  Of course, we could still shop for food.  Costco was like a free pass to get out of the house.  Anyway, during this miserable week where it’s been too hot to keep the windows closed and too smokey to open them, I remembered about Costco.  Air conditioning! Food!  Diversion!  So I went and it was disappointingly annoying, probably due to my own high irritability but quite possibly due to all the obstructionists who spread themselves out in the aisles, talking to one another and blocking traffic and generally being oblivious.  Families, large extended families forming blockades in each aisle.  But then I noticed that on the far side of the store they were offering samples again! A sign of better days! The olden days, when you could walk through a store and snack on things you didn’t really want but they were FREE!  So I decided that yes, I’d take off my mask when I got there and have a little snack.  This carried me through the whole miserable part with the aisle-blockers and the Search for Washcloths and so on.  Eventually, I would get a little treat.  Ok, I finally get there and guess what they were handing out?  The nice lady in the hair net had little portion cups full of mayonnaise.  Not even a cracker with them.  Straight up mayo.  We made all of this effort to live through the pandemic only to get a dollop of room temperature mayo?  Is this my best life, I wondered?  

So I tried to remember the things that always interest me even when I’m feeling lazy, sweltering in place alone with the windows closed and a panting dog.  Twins separated at birth, Jimmy Hoffa (does it seem like it’s been a while since someone’s NJ backyard was excavated to look for a body?) and, my all time fave, D.B. Cooper.  

Here’s my recommendation, people:  DB Cooper! There are thousands of people who are truly obsessed, and spend so much time thinking about it, sharing theories and new information.  They know stuff.  Like, one thing they know is that in the 1970’s, the door on a boeing airplane wouldn’t open if the plane was pressurized.  Or maybe depressurized.  I don’t recall.  And they know what diatoms would normally colonize a pile of money near the Columbia River, and what shape their imprint on the bills would be, and how to find the list of serial numbers of the bills that DB was given, and so much more.   This sweet obsessive curiosity that harkens back to a better time, a time when conspiracy theorists were eccentric and harmless, and worried about aliens and sought out bigfoot.  They didn’t try to mess with elections or the health of their communities.  Anyway, my recommendation is DB Cooper. 

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Horoscopes: The Dan'l Broom Edition

Aries (3/21 - 4/19)
: Well, Aries, it's been a while.  Remember that time I said I was going to write a blog post every day and I did it for one day in a row?  Do you get to call it "in a row" when it happens once?  Why of course you do!  All rules are off now.  It's all the wild wild west, wear your white shoes any old time, drink gin for breakfast from the bathtub.  That's how it's going now.  Enjoy.

Taurus (4/20 – 5/20):  I keep wondering why I don't have more time.  Right?  We're mostly staying at home, and everyone stopped commuting and forgot both how and why to talk to random people.  And the world is opening up a little bit, like a ferris wheel that's slowing creaking along, loading one car at a time before getting up to full speed.  I say that like I know the first thing about ferris wheels, which I don't, because I've never been on one due to, well, fear.  I know some ferris wheel history, though.  Chicago. HH Holmes.  Anyway, two reasons why I don't have more time: 1) The Warden, which is what I call the dog who bosses me around all day.  She says when we get up (early), and when we go walking (a lot), and when we eat (whenever she thinks of it.). 2) Sleeping.  I go to bed so early that I sleep for a while and wake up  and it's still daylight which is super confusing (am I a man dreaming I am a butterfly who took a nap? Or a woman who ran out of steam on the day too early, while it was still in full swing?). Taurus, use your time better than I do.  

Gemini (5/21 - 6/21):  Will Matt Gaetz ever go to jail?  The particular brand of man who believes women and (eww) children were put on the planet for his pleasure, blocks minimum wage, thinks people in economic hardship should pull themselves up by their bootstrap (or possibly the g-string) and just work harder, is so maddening.  We need a sign that justice will be back soon, Gemini.  Oh, and happy birthday!! Enjoy your time here on this planet as if you were living your very best life.  

Cancer (6/22 – 7/21):  I've spent a while today researching how to dust, of all things. Dusting seems pointless, like sweeping the beach. You move it around a little bit and it comes right back. But my house is starting to look a bit like Miss Havisham lives here, so I thought I'd see if there's a cure. Cancer, it turns out that are a lot of people worried about dust! They test methods and supplies and blog about it, and compare prices of dusting options. I read a post by a woman who compared the cost of various products -- there are disposable rags on a stick that you buy that move the dust. Anyway, you probably knew that, Cancer, but here's something that shocked me: she based her calculations on dusting once a week! I've lived here for 30 years and I think I've dusted twice -- it just didn't take. Cancer, don't worry about the dust. It's one more thing that The Oppressors have come up with to make women feel bad about themselves. (I haven't yet found a man blogging about the dust situation, but correct me if I'm wrong on this.) Dust, hair, belly fat, wrinkles. They're part of our best life. Do you wonder why your rising sign is so different from your sun sign? Yeah, I don't know anything about that. These are fake horoscopes. I just know dust.

Leo (7/23 – 8/22)
:  After reading up on dusting, I went to a few stores and they didn't have what I sought.
(Because now Miss Havisham emerges from the spider webs as some kind of dusting expert.  I've done the research, as the anti-vax folks say, when what they mean is they saw a video posted by someone who has been on the couch wearing flame-retardant pj's for a year.) What I really want is a little outfit for my broom, something that the broom (whom I call Dan'l as in Daniel Broom) could slip on once a decade and dance around on the ceiling.  After that frivolity, Dan'l would take off the skirt and go back to being a staid little broom again.  But R. told me it would be worrisome if I, the woman who doesn't dust, started sewing clothes for Dan'l.  (I didn't tell R. that the broom has a name for obvious reasons.). Leo, what's the point of all this dusting talk?  I'm not sure.  But if you see me under the bridge selling handmade pants for brooms, you know what to do.

Virgo (8/23 – 9/22): Does clicking the box that says, "I'm not a robot" actually prove it?  I'm not a robotics expert but does it seem strange that we can send robots to Mars to take photos but we can't teach them to click the little box?  It may be that robots are programmed to tell the truth.  Their trainer is all, "CLICK THE BOX ALREADY!" And the robot is hovering, paw near the box, but pulls back.  "I cannot tell a lie.  I am a robot."  Virgo, I don't think you can tell a lie either, which is such a good thing.  May we all be so full of justice.

Libra (9/23 – 10/22): 
Well, it's almost time for the post-pandemic retrospective, to see what we did.  Here's what I did:  walked my dog a million times, cooked a bunch for myself (until the point when I devolved into making one kind of food for both the dog and I).  Oh, you want the recipe?  Throw ground turkey, rice, and any vegetables you can find into a pot with water.  Boil for a while.  Dish out the contents into two bowls, one for you, one for the dog.  Eat with a spoon while she eats with her face.  One vat will last a week at the pace of two meals a day for both of you.  For fancy, form into a patty and fry it up in a pan.  

Scorpio (10/23 – 11/21):
Also, during the pandemic, I started answering my telephone and even initiating phone calls.  And I wept most days, sometimes because I miss my sisters, sometimes because I think about the people who died horrible gasping deaths alone in a hospital, sometimes because I realize I may outlive some of my loved ones, and sometimes because I'm just tired of it all.  Tired of eating the dog food and cooking and walking the dog and all the things.  And sometimes because I'm thinking about the mothers I know who have lost children in the past few years, and it's unbearable to consider.  And sometimes because I'm worried about the lack of news literacy in this country, where people can be so mislead by people who are, well, trying to be misleading.  Scorpio, even when Venus is in Mercury and the moon is in the dusty house, keep being straight-forward.  

Sagittarius (11/22 – 12/21): Also, I tried to develop one new habit.  I tried to learn not to be a sponge-leaver.  I was going to emerge from the pandemic as someone who always wrings out the sponge and puts it on the edge of the sink.  Just like dusting, it didn't take.  I was also going to do the Swedish Death Cleaning but got kind of hung up on some technicalities.  Is it the thought that counts, Sag?  Let's hope so.  Keep thinking good thoughts, this week and all the weeks.

Capricorn (12/22 - 1/19): There doesn’t seem to be a way to break through the wall of misinformation.  You might say something to an anti-vaxxer like, “Have you noticed that the number of cases, and more importantly, the death rate, has been falling dramatically since people started getting vaccinated?”  And you get back, “well, the death rate wasn’t even accurate to begin with, that was just the liberal media calling everyone dead who was actually fine, and meanwhile the dead people were votoing. ”  Or something equally deranged, and you can see that there’s not a worthwhile discussion ahead.  

Aquarius (1/20-2/18): 
 Here's an idea, Aquarius:  Each time an anti-vaxxer mentions doing anything, say, “Uh, have you done the research?”  Like, oh, you're driving across a bridge?  You're buying food from a store? You're flying on an airplane?  Etc.  Would that be a way to gently point out that we are all on this planet together, each of us with something special to contribute, and we need to trust one another in order to make it all work, and we need to be trustworthy and there's no possible way to do all of the research, and it's a pretty huge slap in the face to the actual experts.  Just as you wouldn't barge into the cockpit and start telling the pilot what to do because you saw a video, you probably want to treat the doctors who will someday be fighting for you life, with a little more respect.  Be an ambassador!  Treat each of the humans as if you were going to need their kidney one day.  Set it up so that they'll be delighted to give it.  

Pisces (2/19 – 3/20)
Here in Duvall the anti-vaxxers carry signs that say, "Our children are not ferrets." Which seems like an easy thing to agree with, because I don't know anyone who's children are ferrets.  Maybe we need more protests like that, to establish common ground.  "Pie is delicious!"  or "Nap when you're tired!"  Stuff like that.  Unless of course, Pisces, your children are ferrets....

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

March 10

There are two events that I order my week around: Wednesday is garbage day, and on Friday, at 5:00, I have a Manhattan with two cherries and quietly toast the passing of another week alone with my dog. All the other days are the same. I got super excited today because I could just tell that it was one of the special days. And just now, at 4:30, I realized that it's only garbage day.

But guess what?  Crocuses!  I have am growing the world's tiniest crocus flower; it is so magical that I've been watching to see if a miniature person might be nearby, because I think it is possible that a leak into an alternate miniature universe in the middle of the earth is right here in my garden. 

Monday, March 8, 2021

March 8

 Ok, here's the whining:

It bugs me when you finally do one thing from your list, an extra thing that's not the cooking or the dishes or the laundry or the bill paying or the actual job that keeps us in kibbles and high-speed internet.  Maybe, for example, you order wetland boots from the internet, for example, and that seems reasonable because you're a wetland biologist and have been wearing leaky boots for a year, boots that you've repaired a few times but they keep leaking, probably because of the bunion.  And yes, we do call the bunion Paul. Paul is hard on the boots.  

Anyway, you order the boots and they're the exact same brand and size, but they arrive and they're tiny.  And Paul looks at them and laughs, HAR HAR HAR no way are we going to fit into that boot. 

So the chore that you checked off now becomes three more chores:  figure out how to return, return, verify that they got there and the charge was reversed, order again.  And it's like that all over the place.  You sweep and then drop crumbs.  You call to cancel the land line and it takes an hour on hold and then they won't let you cancel.  And on and on until the days, the long rainy days are filled up with this stuff.  And that's why we wear leaky boots and pay $90 a month for a land line so that the spam calls can interrupt my naps.

And here's the good thing.

Spring is coming.  Indian plum is flowering down in the valley; not up here yet but soon.  Crocuses are popping up.  I know, spring, such a cliched thing.  But truly.  It is a pretty good thing, when the earth spins and tilts and things get a little bit warmer and little bit flowery and full of babies.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

March 7

 Ok, I'm going to try to write about one thing each day.  Maybe it will be a good thing, that's the plan.  But maybe it will be whiny and irritable because that's often the truth.

I haven't been writing because the days have a flat sameness.  I used to enjoy writing about the quirky people in the world, people who's lives might cross mine briefly, and something about it would make me laugh or think or learn something new, but a few things are different.  One is, I used to sort of think I was sort of funny on occasion, and I thought that because people would laugh.  Without people, it's a little hard to tell.  I made this video a month ago and I movied it to a few friends (movie is a verb now, that happened in 2020), and they thought it was funny and I was kind of surprised.  Funny?  Is that still a thing?  The dog never laughs.  I say something that might be a little funny and I look to my dog for confirmation, and she always says, "Look, can't you see that I'm resting on the couch?  If it's not about going for a walk or eating, I'm not particularly interested." 

It seems that for the past few years, there's been a dark cloud of doom around here, where people I love lose their favorite things.  They lose their children and their spouses and their health and their beloved pets.  Even the pets.  It's how the world goes, and especially with pets, we usually outlive them, especially if we have fish or gerbils.  I guess if we want our pets to outlive us we should go for the tortoise.

Anyway.  I'm going to try to write every day (please don't hold me to that.  I'm very sketchy and unreliable.)  And include at least one positive thing.

1.  What is the deal with "cancel culture"?  I've been trying to understand what it is and I think it's this:  if someone behaves like a racist asshole, people don't want to hang out with them.  And if the racist asshole wasn't a friend, but is a corporation, people are like, hey, I think I'll spend my money elsewhere, and not give it to the racist asshole.  Do I have that right?  Why does that even have a name? Isn't it just how things work?

2.  And for the positive thing, moss.  Because it's beautiful, and it's everywhere, and it was the first plant.  It takes more carbon out of the air than all the trees, and most especially I love the way it grows on big-leaf maple trees in the winter.

Monday, November 9, 2020

We can forgive, but I'm not about to forget.


We are hearing calls to forgive and move on together as a nation.  Most of us would like nothing better than to have a united, functional nation that can address difficult, complex problems the way adults do: by studying and discussing and relying on experts, and trying our best, and correcting course as new information arrives.  

I’m going to work on forgiving trump voters for the harm they’ve caused to the nation and the world, but I’m not going to forget.  I’m not going to forget that weeks after a tape was released showing trump boasting about grabbing women by the genitals, you voted for him.  You stood by him when he separated children from their parents and put them in cages.  You stood by him when he mocked a reporter for a disability.  You stood by him when he called soldiers who gave their lives for this country, “losers”, and asked what’s in it for them.  You stood by him when he mocked people for wearing masks. You participated in spreading false information. participated in the falsehood that the Coronavirus isn’t a deadly disease.  

You stood by him when he lied, over and over.  You were silent or complicit when his administration shoehorned a supreme court justice in, while voting was already underway, though you agreed with Mitch McConnell that it wasn’t appropriate to even consider allowing Obama to fill a vacancy on supreme court 18 months before an election.  You cheered when he called the racists in Charlottesville “good people”.  You shared lies, claiming that our sacred election process is a fraud. You stood by when he had mass, mask-less rallies in defiance of medical experts and local officials who work hard to save lives.  You made immigrants, people of color, and many others feel unsafe by endorsing or staying silent in the face of hateful rhetoric.  You lauded Trump, a man who paid hush money to porn stars so they would be silent about his use of prostitutes while his wife was pregnant, as a family man.


Meanwhile, you attacked us as “liberal snowflakes” on social media, and answered our legitimate questions about these and the myriad of other fraudulent and disgusting behaviors with red herrings, like Hillary’s e-mails or Hunter Biden or cries of, “but socialism!” and any number of accusations.  You were not kind to us.  

It seems that your biggest fear is that Biden will raise taxes. As if adjusting the way revenue that the country runs on, by increasing the share paid by the wealthiest among us, is a bad thing.  

You forsook the traditional news sources and decided to believe unbelievable things, like there’s a cabal of Satanist pedophiles trying to take down trump.  Think about it.  Are vast conspiracies, where lots of people secretly coordinate secretly, realistic?  Have you ever tried to have a surprise party?


I will work hard to forgive you, because we all deserve second and third and even 500th chances, but you have lost my respect.  Maybe you can earn it back, we’ll see.  You’ll have to put in effort though.  We’ve all done things that we regret, because we acted carelessly, or ignorantly.  We learn and we grow.  But the mark of decency is to own it, apologize, and explain what happened.  We all want to know: why did you endorse the cruel acts?

I believe we can move on together as a nation, because that’s what grownups do.  We understand that we’re all living on this tiny planet together, and we can politely stare at the ceiling or chat about the weather.  Beyond that, I will bring soup if I hear you’re sick.  If your children are suffering, I will do what I can.  I will try to be decent; I will try to model decency.  But I cannot unsee what I’ve seen.  

The Money Laundering Edition

I haven’t been writing much because, well, who’s going to play the Freecell? Right?   How do you get all of the cards in the proper piles if...