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First snow

Black and white illustration of people dancing

Last Friday, it snowed properly for the first time. At least the first time this year, the first time since we moved to Brooklyn, and the first time ever for B. He’s still too little to make much of it, but it was fun taking him in to Prospect Park to stomp around a little, and to see the sledding and cross country skiers.

By the next day, the snow piled up on our neighbor’s wooden arbor had melted in to these swirling shapes, it looked like people dancing.

The snow’s gone for the most part, now it’s just frozen mud and slush puddles.

The holidays were more lonely than we had planned, but we got to have Christmas dinner with a new neighbor/friend. That was unexpected, and special, especially considering the circumstances.

B’s still out of daycare because of Omicron. It’s wonderful to spend all this time with him, but in terms of the personal and work plans I had for 2022, it’s pretty stressful.

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More plans cancelled

We were supposed to go to the UK for Christmas so that B could meet his Nana and Grandad, his Great-grandma, his auntie and uncle and cousins. So that he could meet Billy and Rae, and our friends. So that we could go for walks on the moor and sit by the fire and visit the Stanza Stones and cook with family.

We’ve had to cancel it, with the new variant.

When will this end? I’m so tired.

At least B has no idea what’s going on.

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TIL about the U.S.’s 22-year HIV travel ban

TIL that the U.S. had a 22-year travel ban preventing HIV-positive immigrants, residency/work permit applicants, and visitors from entering the country.

I’m incredibly embarrassed that I didn’t know about this before. The travel ban was enacted in 1987. President George W. Bush started the repeal process in 2008, and President Obama finalized the end of the ban in 2010. It is WILD that it took so long for it to be repealed.

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“we will be making marmalade”

Read Letting go: my battle to help my parents die a good death by Kate Clanchy in The Guardian, published 6 April.

They don’t know if she will ever come off [the ventilator], but if she does, they say, she will live a very limited life in a nursing home. “We must hope she dies,” says my dad when I put down the phone. My parents are devout atheists: they believe there is no God and therefore we must live well. So do I. We pray.

This is probably one of the more moving things I’ve read in the past year. I came across it via Kate’s Twitter profile where she often shares poetry by her students.

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Identity wrangling

A hand cupping some water from a stream

Cupping the water in Spicey Gill coming down from Ilkley Moor. Photo taken a year ago today.

“You are not your emotions.” Well you are, but you are not only your emotions. And you can choose not to be controlled by your emotions.

Life is made up of micro and macro decisions, and their consequences.

I chose to move back to the US, and now I am grappling with the reality of that decision, amongst other things. It has made life easier in some respects, and harder in others. Do I regret it? No. Will we be here forever? Magic eight ball says 🎱 “Concentrate and ask again”.

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Encounter with vaccine hesitancy

Had my first IRL encounter with vaccine hesitancy in SF yesterday.

I was grabbing an Uber back from a blood test and got chatting with the driver about all sorts of stuff. He was a perfectly lovely guy, probably around the same age as me. He asked if I’d had the vaccine and I said yes, that I’d had the second about two weeks ago. I asked if he had had it, thinking that maybe he asked me because he’d just had his. He said he wasn’t planning to get it, alluded to being skeptical about what was in them and whether they were safe.

He said something like 40% of the US military wasn’t getting the vaccine. I didn’t really really know what to say to that. I knew it wasn’t quite right, but was too tired to question it.

(Back in February it was reported that about one-third of military personnel supposedly were planning not to get the vaccine, but that was based on an extrapolation from survey data from the rest of the US population at the time, not on any major survey of the military itself [more on this]. We don’t actually know how many members of the military are getting the vaccine since it isn’t being tracked, it could be way higher or way lower. And the broader numbers across the US have changed since then, though there is still a good chunk of the population that is hesitant.)

Anyways, the conversation moved on. We got talking about how dire it was early on in San Francisco, tough for him to drive then. About how nice it is to see things gradually opening up, how it was nice to be seeing so many more people out and about even though it meant bad traffic, about how it will be great when we can stop wearing masks outside at least. He mentioned that he was planning to keep wearing his mask inside and while driving for a long, long time. So he was vaccine hesitant, but in no way an anti-masker or anything.

I mentioned how impressed I was by the vaccine efforts going on at the Moscone Center, about how I’d never seen anything like it, so many kind and qualified people coming together to help so many hundreds of other people every day. Figured it was the best I could do short of actively trying to convince him to get the vaccine itself.

When we parted ways, he said he was feeling positive about the whole situation, with so many people getting vaccinated. Said to stay safe, then I was out the door.

I need to figure out how to respond more proactively in that sort of situation. I think that his rational was probably “there are plenty of other people getting it, so I should be safe without it”. But we can’t realistically get high enough immunity within the population that way, and it isn’t a very community-minded approach. How do you get that across without being accusatory or making someone defensive?

I’m glad he’s feeling positive, but unfortunately I left the car feeling a bit lower than when I’d gotten in. We have such a massive mountain to climb in terms of the quality, efficacy, and breadth of our public health communication.

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First day of the rest of my life

Just got my first vaccine dose yesterday, my appointment was at the Moscone Center. Good lord, they’re running a slick operation over there. The staff are clearly working very hard to keep things smooth and quick. And the unrelenting torrent of small talk they have to put up with! They are saints.

I’m happy to have had mountains of very clear (but un-pushy) reference material and guidance from my OB/GYN practice about whether or not to get the vaccine when expecting. The endorsement by the OB/GYN community in the US is very different to the approach in the UK though, which has made some conversations with UK-based friends and family interesting! None of them have said I shouldn’t get it, but some have expressed a bit of trepidation, which is fair enough. There are a lot of factors making up this sort of public health guidance, and there’s still a lot we don’t know. We’re all making do as best we can.

All things going to plan, I should be fully vaccinated by 21 April. 🤞 I know this is terribly hyperbolic, but it sort of feels like the first day of the rest of my life.

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First Christmas at home

Dried orange ornaments on a Christmas tree

This is the first Christmas we’ve ever spent at home, not at Sam’s parents’ or mine. Both are just too far away, it wasn’t right to travel and the stress would have been unreal.

Because of that, this is the first time we’ve had a tree. We’ve accumulated ornaments over the years but they’re all packed away, so we decorated with an origami star, popcorn garland, red ribbon, and dried orange slices. Cadbury chocolate ornaments were an added bonus when a box arrived from Sam’s folks. We missed family and friends, NYE could not have been more different from last year, but it was a lovely quiet time.

We did a pretty traditional British Christmas dinner with turkey, gravy, roasted potatoes, glazed carrots, roasted sprouts, bread sauce, Yorkshire pud, and Sam’s mom’s sticky toffee pudding.

Also made a big batch of Cumberland sausage meat for pigs in blankets and then sausage rolls in the new year. We used this recipe for the sausage meat, but just used 20% fat minced pork instead of mincing our own. If I do it again, I’ll just buy dry toasted breadcrumbs instead of making our own. It was crazy simple though since we weren’t planning on stuffing sausage skins or anything. Would definitely make it again, though we’re trying to reduce the amount of meat we’re eating in the new year.


One big Yorkshire pudding

These are guidelines to make one big Yorkshire pudding in a round cake tin. You can use cast iron, or lots of individual tins (could probably use a muffin tin…), but a round cake tin was all I had a the time. For more guidance, I think that this Serious Eats article is pretty strong.

If you can, make your batter the night before and let it rest in the fridge. If you can’t, just make sure you let it rest for at least 30 minutes before you plan to stick it in the oven.

To make the batter, whisk together 2 c (250 g) all purpose flour, 150mL milk*, 4 eggs, and a good pinch of salt in a big bowl. Don’t over-whisk it, you want to treat it like you would a pancake batter.

When you’re ready to bake it, preheat the oven to 4450 / 230C. Pour a good amount of veg oil or goose fat in to a circular cake pan, then heat the pan and fat in the oven until it’s super hot. When everything’s preheated, open the oven door and quickly pour in your batter. It should sizzle and start to puff immediately. Close the door and DO NOT OPEN IT until the Yorkshire pudding is done, around 15–20 minutes.

* You can use milk substitute for this, I use oat milk and it works great. Just don’t use a substitute that is sweetened or flavored.

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What it was like being a poll worker

Circular enamel pin for the November 3, 2020 General Election in San Francisco

Being a poll worker was great. I think a lot of that had to do with the people I was working with all day (very nice), the precinct I was in (comfortable), and how busy it was (super quiet). It was a good way to be introduced to it, all in all. And I got a shiny new pin. 🙂

We really didn’t have that many people come in to vote, likely due to the big push for Vote By Mail. The vast majority of people were coming by to drop off their ballot. The longest the line ever got was about 5 people deep in the morning, then by about 11am or so there was almost no line at all. It was pretty chilly, unusually windy out and we had to have the windows and doors open all day for ventilation, but that wasn’t too bad.

There were only two frustrating points.

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