Wednesday, September 30, 2020


Today I had an "easiest" twofer of activities. I did a market research survey that took 10 minutes from the time I entered the office until I picked up my check (for $45) on the way out. The survey just involved smelling malodorous cat litter and rating how it smelled.

When the company representative called last week to see if I would be interested in participating, she went into great detail about the preventative measures they would be taking. In addition to the usual masks and social distancing, all participants would have their temperature checked and wear rubber gloves in the study room, and the company would thoroughly clean the room after each group. On Monday I received an email that reiterated all the measures, and a form to virtually sign that I agreed with everything.

Today I entered the office, had my temperature taken, then had a seat until two other people arrived. As a group we each picked up a pair of gloves as we walked down the hall into a large room that had a high top bar table placed along three of the walls. Each table held a laptop computer and two white plastic jars with number stickers. The fourth wall had a large mirror (which I assumed was two way) and a table with more jars.

An associate directed each person to a table and told us we would find all of the directions on the computer screen. He said that the project should only take a couple of minutes, then he stepped out into the hall. Following the directions I opened the first jar. It had a layer of litter with a filled gauze pouch on top. I gave it a good whiff, rated the smell on 10-point scale, then repeated the process with the second jar. Neither of them had an offensive odor. As a matter of fact, they smelled vaguely of citrus. 

The other two participants must have finished as quickly as I did, because the associate came back in and directed us to follow the arrows to the pay station. As I walked down the hall I saw other rooms set up in the same way and assumed that was a way to accommodate more participants. At the pay station I gave my name and collected my check, then walked out of the back door of the office. When I reached the lobby door there was already another group of people going in.

Five years ago today: Ah-Choo!

Monday, September 28, 2020

What's Your Birthday Word?

The Oxford English Dictionary has a fun website called What is your birthday word? Its purpose statement says:

"Which word entered the English language the year you were born? Use our birthday word generator and find out which word shares your birthday."

When you enter the year in the box and click the Go button tiles pop up on the screen, spin around, and arrange themselves into a word. Mine was Beezer, which means "excellent, great; of the very highest quality". 

I ran the rest of the family's birth dates through the form and found out their words were Disco, Moonwalk, Avatar, and Emoticon.

Five years ago today: Time To Take It Easy

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Cyber Convention

Today I had a most interesting experience, when Hubby Tony and I attended a virtual convention. 

The convention was for an organization we both belong to. At the beginning of the year the organization started planning for a traditional in-person convention. Then in March everything changed. At first there was talk of cancelling the whole thing, but eventually the committee decided to reformulate things and hold it via Zoom. I registered a couple of months ago. In addition to the general registration, there was an opportunity to sign up for the small group meetings which were scheduled throughout the day. 

This morning Tony and I set up our laptops back to back on the dining room table. We quickly figured out that when we both had our computer microphones turned on we got horrible feedback, so Tony turned off his audio and we both listened to mine. Tony and I took turns moving our computers to the back office for the small meetings.

The convention started right on time. After the opening comments, the day was divided into six large group speaker presentations, five small group meetings, and breaks for lunch and dinner. When each speaker finished, the group was magically divided and sent into their breakout rooms for individual discussion. 

This was, by far, the largest video meeting I've ever attended. The attendance ebbed and flowed throughout the day, but at the highest there were a couple of hundred people in the large meetings, and 40 to 50 in the small ones. Most people logged in using video so I could see them and their name, but there were several blank screens with phone numbers, indicating that people had phoned in.

As in all of the Zoom meetings I've attended, the host asked us to mute ourselves when we weren't speaking. It was a good thing I did, because Jackson the cat made a couple of passes through the room, meowing to let us know he was there. At the end of each speaker, instead of giving them a round of applause, everyone unmuted themselves and there was a cacophony of 'thank yous'.

I had a great time, but the only downside of the virtual convention was that there was a whole lot of sitting around, with no opportunity to move from room to room or stand up to chat with other people. After the last speaker had finished, there was a short survey, then the coordinator offered some closing remarks, and thanked us for coming.

Five years ago today: Snag A Suture

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Counting Everyone, No Matter Where They Live

The Census is coming to a close, but before it does there is one last portion, Service-Based Enumeration (SBE) to be completed. The operation counts people who don't have conventional housing, including those who visit soup kitchens and are experiencing homelessness. Last night I was one of the lead Enumerators on the Targeted Non-Sheltered Outdoor Locations (TNSOL) operation, an overnight procedure that counts people who are living outside on that given night. 

It has been quite some time since I've done anything this unique, and I was really looking forward to it. There were meetings on Monday and Tuesday which laid out the details. Each of the areas to be enumerated were chosen based on knowledge of their use by homeless people. Tuesday afternoon I drove around to the locations our team would be assigned to with my co-leader, who had already done some reconnaissance in the area.

Yesterday morning, between a flurry of incoming texts from the woman over the whole operation (and responses to her group texts) the pings on my phone were almost nonstop. By mid-afternoon things had died down, and I settled in to take a nap. When the alarm went off I threw dinner together, then packed a bag with snacks, water, and a large thermal cup of coffee. After dinner I changed into old clothes and tennis shoes. The last thing I did was take off my wedding ring and leave it on the bathroom sink.

I arrived at the gathering place on a parking lot by the Census office right on time. The evening started with a pep talk and a reminder of the safety guidelines, then everyone got a safety vest with reflective accents and a flashlight. We broke off into pre-assigned groups, and after one last opportunity to use the bathrooms got an address to put into our phone map app and left for the first location. It would have been fun to carpool and get to know my fellow crew members, but for COVID reasons we were encouraged to drive in our own car.  There were approximately 50 people working the operation, so it made for a large line of vehicles all going to the same place.

The first two locations (the areas around a downtown highway overpass, and an area that was bought out as part of an airport expansion years ago) were large, and every group participated in the enumeration. After those were done we broke off into smaller groups. Our crew's next meeting place was a gas station just over the Missouri River, where there were some police officers waiting to escort us to the locations. We walked single file on a barely-visible path through tall weeds to the first location in a park. On the way back we used a paved trail, and checked a highway underpass before returning back to the staring point. 

Our next stops were back in St. Louis County. There were three locations in the downtown area of an inner-ring suburb, and two at strip malls a couple of miles away.  After we finished all of our assigned locations some of our team chose to join another team who was working in the mid-town area. We canvassed a small portion of a park looking for people spending the night outside, then drove back downtown and did the same at two additional locations.

At each of the stops our group stayed together.  Each person carried a clip board and pen to fill out forms for any people that we found. If a person was willing to answer the Census questions the enumerator would write their answers. Otherwise we would just do a population count, reporting them as "Person 1", "Person 2", making no assumptions beyond that.  As it got later in the evening everyone was sleeping, and we counted each covered 'lump' as a person.

As we finished each of the locations a courier picked up the paperwork and take it back to the office. We had one official break, but I also found myself munching on something from my bag of snacks each time I was driving to a new location. Every couple of hours we were fortunate to be in a place that had a gas station with a bathroom.

The enumeration at the last location finished up about 4:45 in the morning. It was still dark when I pulled into the garage. I could see a lamp on in our bedroom, and Hubby Tony was already up and getting his day started when I walked in. It took me less than five minutes to say 'hello' and 'good night', brush my teeth, and fall into the bed he had left unmade.

Five years ago today: Purse Fix

Monday, September 21, 2020

A Day Of Adventure

For the past few months Hubby Tony has been working up to a HUGE (in importance and time) work video conference that started this morning. Because he didn't want to have any internet issues, he needed to wire in directly to the wi-fi, which required him to set up in the living room. I knew the conference would be discussing sensitive information, so I volunteered to leave the house for the duration of his event. 

Over the weekend I started figuring out what I was going during my day to myself. I ended up scheduling some work in a part of town I never get to. When Tony mentioned the cat was getting low on food Google informed me that there was a branch of the pet food store right around the corner from where I would be. When I asked it about thrift stores in the area it gave me information for three that were within a couple of miles of each other. 

After completing my needs and want-tos I wasn't sure how the day would flow, so before I left I put my bike on the carrier and tossed my helmet in the back seat. I was ready for anything!

Before I could start on my day of adventure, though, I had to participate in a Census conference call. That had the potential of running over into Tony's conference start time, so I left the house early and participated in a nearby parking lot. After the call I drove to my first stop, then had a great lunch. Halfway through my lunch I received a call from my Census supervisor, and asked if I could call her back. Ten minutes later my call went to her voice mail, and I had moved on to the next errand when she tried again.

I parked the car and answered. Supervisor asked if I was interested in leading up part of the operation that's taking place later this week, and if so could I meet her downtown in a couple of hours to discuss the details. I was and could. All of a sudden my day took an unanticipated turn. I found a coffee shop with wifi to complete my work paperwork, drove home to take the bike off the car, and carried my 'stuff' up to the condo door. I left a text for Tony to please bring it in the next time he got a break.

The drive downtown took 20 minutes, and parking was easy to find. I knew I was in the right place when I saw someone carrying a Census bag. The meeting ended up being the supervisor, three other people, and me.  She laid out the project (which sounds intimidating but exciting). At the end she scheduled another meeting for tomorrow at the same place. So just like that my day of adventure turned into days

Five years ago today: Peanutize Me

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Tracking Down Trolls

A friend recently pointed out the website Spot the Troll, developed by The Clemson University Media Forensics Hub. The front page of the site says:

"The quiz where YOU examine images of real social media content and decide whether it's from a legitimate account or an internet troll."

I like to think I'm good at sniffing out untruth, so I decided to take the quiz. There were eight profiles. Each had a selection of posts from one social media account (Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.). Some of the profiles were real, and some were not. After I clicked the box to saying if I thought it was authentic or fake the test gave the answer and gave information about why. 

It turns out I was not good at distinguishing the real from the fake accounts, and I really appreciated the explanations that told me what to look for. When I was done I went back through the quiz to look for the signs of a fraudulent account. This time they were easy to see.

I hope I can remember to keep a critical eye out when I see things posted on social media. I'd hate to think that someone can fool me easily.

Five years ago today: Off Key Symphony

Thursday, September 17, 2020

The Basking King

I don't want to say it too loud, but I think that Summer may finally be gone. It's finally cool enough that we can open up the windows and enjoy fresh air and the sounds of nature.

I'm not the only one who's enjoying it. When I walked into the bedroom today I saw that Jackson the cat had realized that open windows means open blinds means a big patch of sun to nap in.

Based on past experience I know that that patch of sun will be long moved on by the time Jackson wakes up. That doesn't seem to bother him at all

Five years ago today: Mesothelioma Awareness Day

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Crisper Componant

I'm not sure how old our refrigerator is (it came with the condo), but shortly after we moved in I figured out one of its vegetable drawers was cracked at the top which made it fall off the slide rail. I super glued the crack closed, which solved the problem until Saturday. After lunch I opened the drawer, heard a 'clunk', and discovered that the drawer had completely broken at the crack line.  

I searched for a new drawer on Amazon, but was reluctant to order something without knowing I had the exact right thing. Besides, I've been trying to patronize local places, so I expanded my search to Google, and found an appliance parts store that sounded like it might have what I needed. That store was closed, but I called first thing yesterday morning.

The man who answered the phone had a gruff voice, but he really knew his stuff. He asked me the model number of the refrigerator, and after pulling up the information, exactly which drawer needed to be replaced. (Each of the three are slightly different.) He told me he could order it and it would arrive this morning. 

Sure enough, this morning I received a call telling me the part was in. The store was halfway across town but I happened to be going in that direction for something else. I just allowed an extra fifteen minutes for my extra errand. 

The part store was located in the middle a nondescript strip mall, right next to a payday loan place. When I walked in I was transported back in time. The small place was small and full of character. It had a linoleum-covered floor with heavy wear marks on the traffic routes. Fifties-style vintage metal stools were placed in front of the counter. Hooks held different shapes of oven heating elements, and boxes on the shelves held water filters, drain hoses, and appliance cords.

The man I had talked to on the phone was behind the register. I gave him my name and he walked over to the side of the counter and picked up a large box. He apologized for it being opened, but said he wanted to make sure they had sent the correct item. I paid for the part, and the man printed out my receipt on his dot matrix printer.

Five years ago today: You Know You're Drinking Too Much Coffee When . . .

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Cookies And Conversation

Last weekend DIL Ie sent out a group text to the family that said she was sending a snack box to each of our houses, and suggested we have a party via video chat. Several days after the original text we received an Amazon package. Inside there were seven small boxes. Can you tell what they were?

 Does this view help?

 It was a selection of Korean Oreo products! Five of the boxes contained cookies (traditional flavor, red velvet, and strawberry) and Thins (tiramisu and vanilla mousse). The two others were Wafer Sticks (chocolate and white chocolate).

I put the box on the corner of the dining room buffet. Each time I saw it I looked forward to this afternoon, which is when we had decided to Zoom. At the appointed mid-afternoon time we received the meeting ID. While we were logging in, Son Donald arrived on his way home from work. (He's not much of a sweets guy, so we had arranged to share with Hubby Tony and me.)

Even though we text and chat with each other on a regular basis it was good to have everyone's faces in one place. I was able to see all four of the grandchildren in action, each on their family screens. The cookies were opened and I tried one out of each box. All were good. Over the course of the two hour conversation I went back for seconds on most of them. 

All of a sudden, between the sugar from all the cookies and the two cups of coffee I drank with them I started feeling not so good. I excused myself to the kitchen to whip up a quick dinner of savory oatmeal with spinach. About that time everyone decided they needed to move on with their days so we all said our goodbyes until the next time we could all be together.

Five years ago today: Very Verbose

Friday, September 11, 2020

The Unknown SMSer

When I started working for the Census Bureau in late June they gave me an official phone. I wonder who had the number before me, because ever since I brought the phone home I've gotten several junk calls per week. If I answer in a professional manner ("20202 Census. This is Kathy [Last Name]") most of the time the person doesn't say anything and after a couple of seconds hangs up.

In addition to the hang ups, there's also been automated calls offering a way to reduce my credit card debt or consolidate my student loans. For a couple of weeks someone would call and leave a voice mail about increasing my Google PageRank. One day I answered and said the number had been recycled and they stopped calling. 

 Now when the phone rings I look at the number, and if it's not one I recognize I just hit the mute button and deal with it later.

For the past two weeks I've been in between Census assignments, so the only noises the phone makes are for spam. The other day when I heard the sound telling me a text had come in it took me a minute to figure out where the sound was coming from. I opened up the app, and then had this lovely text conversation with a stranger:

 Five years ago today: Heat Begone!

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Late Summer Ramblings

Labor Day has come and gone. Even though there's a couple of weeks until the official start of autumn, today I found myself getting rid of the old season and preparing for the new one
  • This morning I took the clothes out of the closet that screamed summer--the strappiest of the tank tops, the white cotton pants and skirt, and the white sandals. Their time is over until nine months from now.
  • After lunch I took a walk,which in mid-July heat and humidity would have been impossible. Now, the angle of the sun is lower and the rays didn't feel as strong. The late summer weedy plants were in bloom, the foxtail tops were bushy, and the bush honeysuckle berries were ripe. The first of the acorns had fallen off the trees and crunched underfoot as I walked.
  • In the gardens the black-eyed Susans stood tall. I saw a patch of goldenrod and a couple of tall sunflowers. A large Russian sage plant's flowers sprawled over the sidewalk. The cicadas were buzzing in the background. A woolly bear caterpillar meandered across the sidewalk. A Monarch butterfly flitted by
  • It's almost too dark to navigate in the bedroom when my alarm goes off in the morning, and dark enough to close the blinds by 7:30 in the evening. When Hubby Tony and I eat dinner we have to turn on the dining room light because there's not enough natural light to eat by.
  • A sandwich board at the local Starbucks advertised pumpkin spice lattes, cold brew, and sweets. I will not be indulging.
Five years ago today: Cast A Cat

Monday, September 7, 2020

Pushing The Pedals

Last weekend Hubby Tony and I used our new bike rack to get across town for a nice ride. This weekend we packed our lunches, filled our water bottles, and did it again (twice)


On Saturday we started at Tower Grove Park. a 20 minute drive to the southeast of us. When we pulled into the park there was a lot of traffic for a Farmer's Market. I parked far enough away that the congestion was gone, and we got the bikes off the rack and headed south. Our destination was the St. Louis Hills neighborhood, an area with tidy houses, lots of mature trees, and large parks. Tony had mapped out a route ahead of time, relying on a city map of bikeable streets. However, we found out that one of those streets catered more to cars than bikes; trying to cycle in that part was pretty intimidating. However, we finally made it. We rode around the neighborhood, stopped for a snack, then hit the road again.

Next, Tony's route took us to a greenway that ran east. We made a couple more turns, and when I saw the windmill vanes of the Bevo Mill restaurant I knew we were coming up on the "Little Bosnia" neighborhood. (Fun fact. Did you know that the St. Louis metropolitan area has the largest Bosnian American population and largest Bosnian population outside of Europe?)

I started dreaming about Bosnian food, but our route took us off the main drag and the road we rode on didn't have any restaurants. I decided it would be worth it to make a trip back there soon.

We meandered our way back to Tower Grove Park, where we ate our lunch at the Chinese Pavilion, one of the park's 32 pavilions (most dating from the Victorian era). After lunch we rode through the park and back to the car, ending our adventure for the day.

Back at the condo, we decided to leave the bikes on the car in case another ride was in our future.


Yesterday was filled with activities, but this morning when we rolled out of bed we decided to take advantage of the Labor Day holiday by going out on two wheels again. Today our destination was the Monarch Levee Trail in Chesterfield, which wraps around the commercial area of the city (including the world's longest strip mall) and protects it from the Missouri River.

 The first part of the trail paralleled the Interstate, but after about seven miles it turned, went under the highway, and came out on the other side. The second half was more scenic, with farmland on one side and greenery on the other.

We passed a small fenced in graveyard, which I learned was the Bayer-Kroenung Cemetery, moved to that location after a massive flood in 1993.

Find A
At the far end of the trail we stopped and ate a snack, used the port-a-potty, and headed back. When we got to the highway, instead of turning to take the route under the road we followed the trail onto a dedicated pedestrian path on the highway bridge over the Missouri River and into St. Charles County. That trail connected with the Katy Trail, which goes three quarters of the way across the state. We were both getting tired, so we doubled back over the highway and to our car.

Back home, this time we took the bikes off the car and put them away in the storage area. I enjoyed both rides, but I'm ready to take a break from cycling for a little bit.

Five years ago today: Repairing And Healing

Saturday, September 5, 2020

A Small Sign Of Normalcy

When the Catholic churches in my area opened back up in late May, one of the many things missing at the two parishes I attend regularly were the missals in the pews. Both churches offer paperback missals that contain the order of the Mass, Sunday readings for each week, music, and the daily Mass readings in outline form.

Even though I pay attention while the readings are proclaimed (the first two by the lector, and the Gospel by the deacon or priest) I absorb more by reading something than by listening. I understand that the books were removed because they were possible germ transmitters, but it was very annoying to not be able to reach over and grab one from the back of the pew and follow along.

Last week when Hubby Tony and I walked into the church narthex there were large yellow trash cans placed next to the central table that contained the removed missals. A woman standing there mentioned that we could choose one to use, take home with us, and bring back each time we came. Some of the books had covers that were pretty beaten up, but I found one that wasn't too bad and claimed it for us. On the way into the sanctuary I stopped and squirted out a large pump of hand sanitizer to ward off any possible germs that the book had picked up.  On the way out after Mass was over I squirted out another large pump to make sure my hands were germ free.

Back at home Tony brought the missal into the house, where it sat on his bookshelf until last night, where he carried it to the car and then into church. The current research seems to indicate that any germs will only survive on paper and cardboard for 24 hours, so I think we can now use the book without any worries.

Five years ago today: Please Leave It On!

Thursday, September 3, 2020

What Are The Chances?

Ever since we moved at the beginning of the year I've wanted to get a new spread for the master bedroom bed. The duvet cover it's sported for a couple of years was getting shabby looking, and some of the buttonholes that closed it up were ripping.

The easy thing to do would have been to go online and have my purchase delivered. That would be the easy way. However, whenever possible I prefer to shop at thrift stores, which have an ever-changing selection of merchandise where finding something just right is a challenge. Then on top of that this spring stores were closed for almost two months. Even after they opened it took some time for me to decide to go in. Once I dipped in my shopping toe, though, in the rest of my body soon followed. Now if I'm driving by a store, and have time to visit, my car just naturally pulls into the lot.

For weeks there were no queen-sized duvet covers to be had, so I expanded my search to include comforters and bedspreads and still came up with nothing. I continued to search, and one day last week I found this quilt (which looks homemade, but bears a department store tag).

Please excuse the messy room

I liked it, but since Hubby Tony also uses the room it he had to approve it also. Thankfully he did.

The next step was to upgrade the bed skirt that hides all the things I shove under the bed. I wanted something other than white, ideally with split corners to accommodate the vintage bed frame so it doesn't wad up like the current one.

Pretty sloppy looking
The split corner style is difficult to find, so my plan was to find a sheet or some material that was the right color and sew my own. Today I left the house carrying one of the quilt shams with me for color matching. The first store I stopped at had nothing. At the second store, way down at the end of the rack I struck gold. Not just a sheet or material, but an actual queen-sized bed skirt! The color wasn't exactly right-I was looking for khaki, and it was more mossy, but for four dollars I decided to take a chance.

Here's the result
In addition to the color, I discovered there's another issue. Without the quilt overlay the split corners show part of the frame, probably as a result of converting the original double bed into a queen. I might keep my eye out for something even better. Or not.

Five years ago today: Playing The Shopping Game

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Get Out Of The House, Get It Done, Get Home

Yesterday I pulled out my September tickler file to see what would be going on for the next 30 days. Not surprisingly there was much less activity than there would be if life was normal. Since I already knew they were cancelled I moved the sheets that reminded me of recurring volunteer commitments straight to October. (I'm guessing at the end of this month they'll go straight to November's file, but I hope I'm wrong.)

One thing I do have scheduled is an annual physical, along with blood work the doctor asked me to have done ahead of time. The blood work required me to fast. Since that also involves forgoing my morning cup of coffee I don't do it well. In order to minimize the amount of uncaffeinated time, I decided this morning I would get out of the house quickly and get it done.

This morning when the alarm went off I was really tempted to turn it off and go back to sleep. My bedroom window faces to the west. Even at the height of summer the rays didn't come in right away, but for the past few weeks it's pretty gloomy in the room when I get up. This morning the sun was behind the clouds, which made things even darker.

After I rolled out of bed I threw some water on my face, put clothes on, and brushed my teeth. In the kitchen I put my breakfast in a tote bag, filled a to-go cup with coffee, and walked out the door. The doctor had sent the request straight to the hospital's outpatient lab, which meant I didn't have to remember to bring anything but my purse and the all-important mask. Total time from feet hitting the floor to feet walking out the door was 20 minutes. (For comparison, on a normal day it takes somewhere between 90 minutes and two hours to be ready to leave.)

For the first time in months I navigated rush-hour traffic. The hospital is surrounded by multiple medical buildings, each with a lab. Yesterday I researched the hours and realized that each lab had a different start time, ranging from 6 am to 8:30 am. As I drove I mentally calculated the time it would take me to arrive so I knew which one to head for. I had no problem finding a place to park in the parking garage.

This my third visit to the facility this summer, so I knew the drill. The associate at the door screened me and gave me a sticker indicating I was safe to enter. At the lab I had to stand in the hall until someone invited me in, to complete the check-in procedure. When it was finished I was instructed to take a seat in the waiting room. Based on past experience I was ready to wait for a while, but there were only two people ahead of me; I got the blood drawn and was walking out to the parking lot twenty minutes after I entered the building.

I don't know what tasted better, the food I pulled out of the tote bag or the first sip of coffee. Both were gone before I got home.

Five years ago today: No Thank You! I Mean It.