Wildflowers in the Piedmont

I have such a nice book: A field guide to wildflowers of the Eastern United States by Tom Gold Knight. I think I bought it in the mountains somewhere, at one of the pretty gift stores they have at the national or state park rest stops.

But sadly, even though I’ve been looking hard, I haven’t found a lot of the flowers, even this spring and summer when quarantine gave extra time for just that. There’s so many flowers, and I would like to find them all. I think sometimes I come across a flower that’s in the book, either it’s actually not in the book at all, or I just can’t find it.

So when I actually identify something with surety, it’s exciting:

1. Whorled-leaf coreopsis. This one was very exciting. It’s a very new flower for me.


2. Wild quinine — another new flower, and very exciting. They are all along the roadside since the end of June.


3. A type of daisy called Daisy fleabane. This little patch is now faded (about a month after the picture). This daisy is not the ‘real’ daisy we all know of. This one has feathery, thin petals, but a lot of them.


4. Also, the more regular type of daisy — Oxtail daisy. With the thick, fat petals. It’s nice to know the real name, but of course, every one knows what a daisy is.


5. Spotted knapweed — this was a nice find — on the roadside — it’s like purple fuzz — but I didn’t get a clear picture.

6. Queen Anne’s Lace and Black-eyes Susans — everyone knows these, too. They are all over the banks of one of the roads we drive on.

7. Hop clovers — tiny tiny yellow flowers matted into the grass

8. Canada goldenrod — these have just started blooming now in July. They’re feathery and yellow. Also a new flower for me.

Well, this is not a lot of flowers at all. And I’ve gone tramping in the forest, and looking among thickets and everything. Where am I to find the dozens other flowers in my book?

I’ve found some unknowns:

Like this purple flower. It’s so nice. But since it’s not in my book, does that mean it’s something invasive?


A lot of the unknowns are purple. There’s this star-like flower:


And finally, this flower that looks like a purple Medusa’s head. I found something similar in my book called a Heal-All, but I’m not convinced that’s really it.


I also found this really pretty leaf. I thought it might be ginger. But then I didn’t see any ‘brown jugs’ under the leaf.


So you have an interview with Descartes Labs?

I wrote all the following in fall 2018 (?) right after my final interview. But I couldn’t post any of these job search posts until the sensitivity of the matter had receded somewhat. Descartes Lab is some sort of company that uses GIS and maps to solve problems for other businesses. If I remember correctly.


They are very exclusive. So be on your best behavior when you deal with them.

I sent my resume in and heard back the very next day that they wanted an interview. But they have a four-step interview process.

Step 1

First, they a thirty minute phone interview to their general, first-pass hiring scout, to see if you make the lowest cut. I honestly don’t really see the point, looking back. Pretty much, they were just going back over your resume, which they’ve already seen. Mine didn’t take the full thirty minutes allotted, maybe 23 minutes.

Step 2

If you impress that person enough – and I don’t see how you couldn’t, given they’ve already selected you to speak with based on your resume – you then move on to a full hour phone interview. You’re supposed to hear back within a week if you will proceed. But I didn’t hear back for like two weeks, so then I emailed them. “Oh, we’re a little delayed because we have so many applicants!” I finally heard after one more week.

The second phone interview is with a Descartes employee who is working at a job similar to what you’re interviewing for. I was interviewing to be a satellite data analyst, so that’s what the guy I talked to did all day.

To set up this interview, a whole other “human resources” person starts emailing you, separate from the human resources person who handled your first interview. Is all that personnel really necessary? Seems like overkill.

I thought my hour-long interview went really well. It actually only lasted for 50 minutes or so, and it seemed to go fast. First, we spent about 10 minutes – yet again! – talking about my resume. Okay…

Then, he asked me what they referred to as “high-level reasoning questions and problem solving.” Except they weren’t all that high-level, and as it so happened, the first set of questions were directly related to my Ph.D. research. The second set of questions was directly related to my master’s research. I thought I had it all in the bag.

The Ph.D.-related questions were about satellites and water. The question was: if you’re trying to study lakes and dams in a cloudy area, where the lakes will often be hidden from satellites, what can you do? The answer is: use radar satellites. At first, my brain felt a little stunned at the sheer audacity of being asked a question and having to answer on demand, but then it came to me … after all, my second Ph.D. paper was literally based around those techniques!

There was a follow-up question that revolved around … what if you also have discharge gauges upstream and downstream of the dam, how would you use those? Well, in my Ph.D. work, I also mixed discharge data with data gathered from satellites, so my mind is used to thinking along those lines. I thought I gave a decent answer.

The master’s-related questions had to do with: what if an insurance company asks you to create a map of which properties in a city are most likely to be flooded. And they want you to figure it out based on areas that flooded in the past. Well, it struck me all of a sudden you’d want to use a spatial correlation. Yes, indeed, that was what my master’s work was about. My interviewer, at this point, while I enthusiastically waxed on and on about spatial correlations and autocorrelations and digital elevation maps, went a little silent. Did I say something wrong? I have no idea. All I know is that he had the sound of a bratty frat guy, and my conclusion was that he was miffed that a woman was answering the questions correctly. Like, how dare you? I like that conclusion better than me having said something wrong.

Any case, he got over that tongue-tied stage and ended the interview with a lot of “great, great,” “awesome,” etc etc, and then his final overture was to tell me how at the Santa Fe office, they get free and amazing lunches cooked in the company kitchen every single day! Yes, honey, your tech-bro-ness is showing.

And that was that. Like a week later, I got a super-prissy email from them, and this was the subject line:

“Thanks for your interest in Descartes Labs, Mejs”

That pretty much said it all. First of all, when you’re rejecting me, be kind enough not to appropriate my name into your fake-chummy email subject. Second, they decided to tell me in the email that “we’d like to keep your resume on file as our team continues to grow.” Oh, if I stacked up the number of times they told me they would “keep my resume on file,” the stack would reach the moon. First of all, honey, I only made it to stage 2 of your 4 interview stages. Do you really expect me to believe that you’re going to leave my resume on file or ever consider it again, stacked against all the people who made it to stage 3 and stage 4? No, I don’t believe it!

Which brings me now to …

Step 3

In a hypothetical stage 3, you have to take a test online to show you know the Python programming language really well. Well, at least I don’t have to study up and refresh myself now!

Step 4 –

You’re finally considered illustrious enough to merit an on-site interview. They fly you out to Santa Fe, I suppose, and I daresay you’ll get to try to their “oh my God, it’s so good” tech-bro free lunches while you’re there.

Remove landsat 7 black stripes from QGIS

I figured this out on my own!

This is a manual solution.

So first, you have a raster file as follows: (in my case, I downloaded it from Google Earth Engine).

landsat black stripes
This particular image is from August 26, 2003. Can you guess where?

Those black stripes are from when the satellite that took the picture of this place (Landsat #7) broke. It broke four years after it was launched. Poor thing. And yet it is still up there in the heavens, orbiting Earth, and faithfully taking images of us from above. It’s been over 20 years now!

And you can see that most of the image is okay, just the black stripes are no good. And actually, the further out you get to the edges of the image, even the colored pixels have faulty distortions in them.

Any case, though, I wanna get rid of the black stripes so the image can look a little prettier.

First, click on the Identify tool in the QGIS tool bar (circle 1). Once you’ve clicked on the Identify tool, you can click anywhere on the image, and it will tell you what value the pixel you’re clicking on has. So click on the black stripes (zoom in so you click exactly on the stripe) — this is circle 2 — and then you will see in a left-hand pane what the value is (circle 3). As you can see, for the black stripes, the values are coded as nan. NAN stands for “not a number”, scientists and computer people always use very technical terms, you see.

landsat black stripes 2

Well, since the black stripes are coded as “nan”, we should be able to easily isolate them, and get rid of them! And it was easy, once you find out how, and this is how to do it:

Go to the menu bar >> click the “Raster” pull-down menu >> click “Extraction” >> click “Clipper”.

You’ll get this nice pop-up box. And there’s four easy steps to getting it to do what you want:

landsat black stripes 3

Step 1: use the pull-down arrow to pick the correct raster file with black stripes that you’re trying to fix.

Step 2: When it gets fixed, it’s going to create a whole new file with the corrections. So give a name to this new file.

Step 3: Click the box next to “No data value”. And then I’m not entirely sure what the story of the “0” is next to that — you can choose any number. I left it at 0.

Step 4: Last step, it won’t let you press “ok” unless you first specify what section of the image you want fixed. You can very easily zoom your image behind the pop-up box the way you want it, and then just click and create the reddish box. And that will be the “extent”. The coordinates in the x and y boxes will populate automatically.

Then you press okay!

And, gentle folk, you see the result. The new raster file that’s created will automatically pop up, and look! White stripes instead of black. Except they’re not really white. They’re transparent. Which means you can add another image underneath to fill in, or do whatever you want to soften the look of the stripes.

landsat black stripes 4

Ta-da! The end.



Finding a Syrian-Danish-American online

A long, long time ago — 2012 to be exact! — I read an article in the Huffington Post. It was a somewhat whiny article, I thought, and it was in response to some sort of uproar about Muslims in America happening at the time (though there have been so many uproars, I don’t even remember was the specific trigger was for this one.)

Any case, I thought the article was whiny, and then it also annoyed me on a whole different level. The author was female and Muslim and young, like me, and she claimed in the article that she was an immigrant with roots in Syria and Denmark. I seem to have a special affinity for getting annoyed at any American — especially a Muslim American — especially a female Muslim American — who claims roots of that sort.

So I searched for this girl online, as I’m oh, so good at doing, but unfortunately I didn’t find out a lot about her. Well, there was a lot of information, I suppose, like where she went to college, and something about her dad being really sweet, which I rolled my eyes at … but what I really wanted to know was all her history and all her feelings as related to Denmark. But I didn’t find anything out — I just found a video of her in which she further expounded on her article, in which she was three inches from the camera screen and speaking earnestly, and amongst the gobs of things that she said, she mentioned — rather flippantly, I thought — that her family comes from the Middle East and Europe. Again, I was so, so annoyed. And more annoyed at having no other information to go off of.

And mostly I assumed that her Syrian parents must have immigrated to Denmark; she must have lived in Denmark briefly as a child; and then she moved away to the United States, and she’s never been to Denmark since, and she has no more connection to the country other than some dreamy, begging sort of insistence that she really is Danish, something that she clings to so she can feel superior to all other Muslim Arab immigrants in the US, acting like she has some sort of direct link when probably she doesn’t know any Danish, doesn’t remember anything about Denmark, doesn’t have anything to do with Denmark, and just holds Denmark up as some flashy ornament to decorate herself that she never even had to pay for. Whew!

So I kept on thinking all that about her; every once in a while, I’d search her name and see if I could discover something else, but I never did. Considering that was back in 2012, I of course went through transitions, moves, and living as the years went by, and eventually, I forgot to search for this Muslim American with roots in Syria in Denmark, and at last, I even forgot her name. There came a few times within the last few years when I remembered her and felt curious, but try as I might, I couldn’t find her.

Now, it’s eight years later, and I find myself back to where I started in North Carolina. Maybe it’s been staying home all the time for quarantine, but over these last weeks my curiosity grew over finding this person. Every time I searched for things like Danish Syrian American Muslim writer or Muslim American with Danish and Syrian background, the wrong things were coming up. The only other things I remembered were that I had first encountered her in an article she’d written for the Huffington Post, that she was a fresh college graduate in 2012, or soon-to-be, and that she’d called her dad sweet in the article. Finally, I started searching for things like Syrian-Danish-American female writer Huffington Post. Or for Syrian-Danish-American university student. Still nothing … and I feared that, now that it’s eight years later, this person’s assumed-to-be tenuous links with Denmark must be even more tenuous. Maybe she’s even erased all mention of Denmark from her online presence.

At long last, I went back to the detail about her dad being sweet, and I searched for Huffington Post muslim dads sweet. The third result was a HuffPost article somewhat cheesily titled I am not oppressed. It seemed promising; I clicked; and I found her. There is was. The female Muslim American who writes and has roots in Denmark and Syria.

Now that I knew her name, I could search for her outright. This lady has built her own media company since I last ‘met’ her eight years ago, and has articles about her on CNN and everywhere. She’s on all these 30 under 30 lists. I found her Twitter account, where not only was she followed by people I know (so close!) but in her profile description she has the word immigrant followed by a Danish flag. Ha! I found out her birthdate, the year she was born; and yes, I got confirmation that she had in fact been born in Denmark, back in 1991. I think back to what I was doing in 1991 — not too far from this girl’s very birthdate, in fact, and it makes me a little sad. Oh well. The whims of fate and destiny.

Seeing that Danish flag, of course I was all ready to think: aha! Still at it! Still clinging on to Denmark just because she wants to, like a hollow empty jug she’s lugging around. Well, I kept poking around the Internet, as I do, and eventually, after finding out how many brothers and sisters she had and all about her experiences after September 11, I discovered her mother. Her mother, who is a common housewife, is not so common: she started a whole initiative to help Syria and has a Wikipedia page. Her mother, in fact, has a TED Talk you can watch online (so does the daughter). And on the Wikipedia page, I found out that not only was the girl I’d been searching for all this time born in Denmark, but in fact, so was her mom. Her mom had not in fact immigrated from Syria at all, though I guess her mom’s parents did. The mom not only was born in Denmark, but grew up there, went to school there, I guess got married there, lived the first years of domestic bliss there, and gave birth to her oldest daughter there, before moving away. See, I had made some problematic assumptions of my own: it had never occurred to me that all this might be the case. I’m so used to thinking that Arab or Muslim parents in Europe or the US must be immigrants, what else could they be? So now I can see what she meant by always saying she was an immigrant to the US with roots in Syria and Denmark.

How I got two science communication jobs

I have seen on Twitter the heart-ache for people in science communication who can’t find full-time jobs with benefits.

Well, I found two of them. So let me tell you how I did that.

First, how did I search for job openings? I’m not very good at that, but one thing I did was to keep on searching “scicomm jobs” and variants thereof on Twitter. Apparently, not a lot of people do that. In fact, the first scicomm job that I got seemed to have advertised almost exclusively on Twitter, and from what I could tell, a total of three people applied. Once I had the job, I was given control of the gmail account for it, and I could see the great rush of applications sent in for the job (not). Kind of made me feel like a loser, like, wow, I was more qualified than two others. Great.

Well, this job turned out to be not so great. I complained to all my friends about it, and one of them sent me a job posting she’d seen out of the blue. I applied for that on a whim, mostly because my friend had been nice enough to think of me and send it to me. And then I got that job, too.

So why do I think I got these jobs? From what I can tell, the employers liked the fact that I had a PhD; and they also liked the fact that I can make animations.

The PhD is apparently a big boost when applying to scicomm jobs, from my experience. My first employer did not say this straight out, but I got the impression that is was sort of an elitist issue for him, like, he doesn’t like to deal with people who don’t have PhDs.

The second employer straight out told me that me having a PhD was a big advantage to my application. They wanted someone who had a strong background in earth science, because they want a communicator who knows the science about as well as the scientists.

So the PhD has been a boost, but so has making animations. I think this is a somewhat unique skill among earth scientists, or scientists in general. I make 3D animations in a free and open-source program called Blender. I’ve been using Blender now for years and years. In the interview with the first scicomm job that I got, the animations were something that my soon-to-be boss asked about and seemed interested in. It was probably something that stood out from the grand total of two other applications.

And with the second job, the animation skill was even more important. The job was advertised as earth science visual storyteller. I might have been the only person who applied who both had an earth science PhD and extensive visualization experience.

Because I had been making animations for so long, and making them about my science research and as part of outreach programs, I had many years’ worth of samples that I could show during the application period and interviews for the second job.

When I first started making science animations, by the way, it was during my PhD, and my first advisor, who was a total disaster, was very haughty about the whole thing, and seemed to think it was a big waste of time, and something that perhaps demeaned the field of science. But I loved doing it, so I kept on. I’ve never been officially trained in animation, and I get feedback often that I’m not doing things quite right; but it would appear that despite all that I still need to learn, science + animations skills are a unique and rare combination. And that seems to be how I got these jobs.

So I guess my advice boils down to a very unsatisfactory, very humdrum: “follow your dreams and pursue your passions” and something will work out. Haha, so boring. It’s not true, anyways — it won’t always work out.

But I can’t come up with anything else, except …

For those who are both getting their PhDs and interested in scicomm:

Ignore the people who say that a PhD has to consume your life. No. Absolutely not, not least because of the big chance you’re going to crash and burn out of your PhD. You want to have other things going on for you. Don’t give up everything else that you love.

Oh, and I can think of one more piece of advice for everyone: when I was done with undergrad and had a 9-5 job, that was when I taught myself how to animate. I wasn’t in school anymore, but I still wanted to learn this new skill. I spent a few hours after work several times a week on it, and then usually a full day on the weekends. I didn’t have to force myself to do it, it was so enjoyable. My point is, keep on developing interests and skills even when you’re out of school — it will pay off so much later if you can spend at least some of your after-work hours doing that. Even if you don’t get a job from it, it will pay off — learning to animate was fulfilling and wonderful way before I got any money or reward from it.


How to break internet addiction

I have had a revelation. I have for several years believed it impossible to live in a home without Internet. However, I have to admit that my main reason for believing this is a little self-defeating. It wasn’t so much that my work depended on it, or the need for looking up directions or finding out when a store closes or searching for a phone number.

My main reason for believing that Internet at home was indispensable is because, when I have Internet, I find it very hard, if not impossible, not to lie in bed, phone in hand, reading the news or anything to occupy my mind for hours and hours.  Some would call life like that impossible, yet the reverse [no internet at all] is equally impossible. Like, my mind can’t possibly function otherwise. It has to have that outlet.

Last year, for the first time ever, I moved into an apartment that had no internet automatically installed. I had to sign up for a service myself. And I was going to do so, no questions asked, so as to avoid what I expected to be a premature death.

But I still had to survive the first day with no Internet. And do you know what happened? I didn’t die! I kind of couldn’t believe it. The revelation was so amazing, that I tried it out for a day or two longer, and I still didn’t die. And you know what else happened? There was no longer any point in reaching for my phone as soon as I woke up, nor to lie awake in bed at night, doing the same. I could no longer collapse when I came home from work and seek solace in mindless checking of the news or blogs. When I needed to go to the grocery store, or go to the bathroom, or go pray, I could no longer run to the Internet as some sort of anti-anxiety salve before doing so. And if I was reading a book, or writing something, I couldn’t reward myself for having read a few pages by grabbing my phone and closely inspecting the latest updates to see if there was some world-altering piece of news to come to terms with.

As you can see, I had Internet addiction. I had tried many apps for my phone and laptop that are supposed to limit how much time I waste on them, but either the apps didn’t work, or I’d disable them myself, or I would spend more time trying to find loopholes around the app than I otherwise might have spent on the internet without the app in the first place. It was not until I simply had no Internet at home at all that I found a winning solution.

Now, the only reason this scheme worked, of course, is because I had Internet at work. So I was able to check the news, and my email, and everything else, there. I could listen to any new music that had come out, and I did all my searches to find directions or phone numbers. Or book travel plans, etc. At work, I had nice, safe, secure Internet access, so that was really the only reason all this worked.

[Side note: even if you have kids or live with people who must or insist on having Internet, you can still do this: just don’t enter the Internet password on any of your own personal devices, ever.]

I have to confess, I didn’t become super productive due to the lack of Internet. I think that instead of spending hours in mindless scrolling, I just spent hours lying on the bed in daydreams. But that’s okay! Daydreams are lovely! They don’t stress you out, and they don’t strain your eyes, and you know, daydreams are your own mind and your own creation. It’s not blind, unhealthy, gluttonous consumption of other people.

Plus, I felt sooooo good. After just a week of no Internet at home, my mood and spirits seemed so buoyant. Of course it was because I wasn’t getting lost in the whirlpool of anxiety-inducing Twitter posts and news updates all day long — no, as soon as I left work, all that was over for the day, and it couldn’t start up again until I returned to work the next day. So the first thing I did in the mornings was just to think, or maybe to read, or write something. And I got dressed and had breakfast and took my combined walk + trolley ride to work before I got online. I would catch myself over and over again, surprise at how light and relaxed and happy I felt. I could not believe it.

And the other really wonderful thing that happened was: I started sleeping through the night. I don’t remember any more how long it had been that I’d been waking up every night around 2 am or 3 am. And try as I might, I couldn’t go back to sleep. Eventually, I’d reach for my phone, and stay on it and stay on it, hours and hours, until I was finally numbed back to a state of unconsciousness. And then wake up late and feel groggy and unrested.

As soon as I had no Internet at home, there was no longer any reason to reach for my phone at 2 am when I woke up. At first, I still stayed awake, staring into space, until sleep claimed me hours later.

But that was just the first few days! Soon, the amount of time I stayed awake started diminishing. I think it took about three weeks, but eventually, I’d just wake up for about five minutes, and then fall directly back asleep. And not longer after that, I stopped waking up entirely.

All this time, I was doing a research project left-over from my PhD. My original plan was to work on it at home after work, but this research requires constant use of Internet. Thus, I had to switch tacks and do the research after-hours at my work desk. This ended up being just perfect, though. At my work desk, I have to remain seated. This in itself is a big inducement to stay focused and get things done. If I had, as originally intended, done the research at home, I would most likely have lain in bed and fallen asleep, and there’s no way I could have summoned as much concentration. See, in my initial assessment, completing this research project served as a *valid* reason for why I absolutely had to have Internet at home. Like, there was no way I’d want to stay extra hours at work to get it done. But I ended up being forced to do just that, and that was the better choice all along.

So I had this whole nice system all worked out, and it was so great. Then coronavirus hit, and there I was, working from home and my fail-proof scheme failed me: I had to have Internet at home to do work. As a result, alas, I have slipped back into some bad habits of slurping greedily at Internet when I’m cranky, worried, distracted, etc.

But I have learned some lessons from my Internet break that are still standing me in good stead. First, I disconnected my phone from the Internet. See, it is so much more comfortable to cuddle with your phone in bed and scroll the Internet, than to do so with a bulky laptop. This reduces the amount of mindless scrolling quite a bit (at least, it did for the first few weeks, until I got comfortable with my laptop on my rib-cage again). But any case, there is no Internet at all on my phone. That means I miss out on some messaging apps, but oh well.

Second, I still sleep through the night. If I ever do wake up at night, I know not to reach for my laptop and start checking things.

Third,as much as possible, I avoid reaching for my laptop and checking the news as soon as I wake up in the morning.

Fourth, I have not been obsessively checking the coronavirus news, which I think must have done wonders for my mood over the last months. Well, fine, if you scroll back just a ways on this blog, you’ll notice that I was somewhat obsessively watching the Swedish coronavirus press conferences for a while — but I never kept a close eye on much of anything else — not how many cases we have, not what the projections are, nothing. I didn’t even get to fall in love with Dr. Fauci was many others seemed to be doing, because I never watched him. When Brexit or the murders of Our Three Winners or Trump happened, I spent days and days in a phone-scrolling fog, until I literally felt waterlogged and drunk from having consumed so much news and opinions, and having had the blinding phone screen so close to my eyes for so long. I didn’t really do that at all with coronavirus, and for that, I am relieved. After all, whether I kept a close eye on the developments or not, I couldn’t have changed anything — things are going to happen like they happen regardless.

[The real break-down came a few weeks after writing this blog post — during the Black Lives Matter protests, and attacks on peaceful protesters, police brutality all over the place, and what seemed to be the impending collapse of democracy. But when democracy is collapsing, you kind of have to pay attention.]



Ordering postage stamps online

Since I hadn’t been in a store of any type for over two months, it had come to this: ordering stamps online.

My stash of stamps had sadly gone very low. It was all down to bad luck. I had been to the post office in order to get stamps on multiple occasions before the quarantine started in deadly earnest — in fact, I went just the very week before. But the post office on the Rice University campus leaves much to be desired. They hardly ever have nice stamps. They had an absolutely trash selection, so I just didn’t buy any. I thought, maybe I can go browse another post office. Before I had the chance, the quarantine struck.

So over the past two months, I have been using the Christmas wreaths stamps to send letters. This is not my style at all. The stamps must be in sync with the season, at least in normal times. But I was driven by desperation.

But finally, even the holiday stamps were running out, so I finally decided to order stamps online. I would have done this much earlier, but you have to create an account on the USPS website in order to order things. I don’t like creating accounts and having my name all over the place. It didn’t end up being that painful, though. You just go to usps.com and it doesn’t take long.

I placed the order on May 13. I got two books of stamps — one with the orchids, one with ‘Eid Mubarak’. Well, Eid has come and gone (May 24-25), and I still don’t have the stamps. I thought they’d just send them, nice and simple, from the local post office. But no! They sent them all the way from the Kansas City distribution center. I don’t know how necessary that was.


I know everything is delayed right now, but just for your reference, the order wasn’t even processed until six days after I placed it, on May 19. Ever since May 22, the tracking status has said that the estimated time of delivery is the next day. But in reality, the shipment only arrived at my local USPS facility on May 23. It arrived in my town on May 25 (today). I guess I will get it tomorrow, but I won’t be surprised if not.

It cost $1.20 extra for the shipping. It was a $1.20 for shipping whether I ordered one booklet or two.

Update: the stamps did arrive on May 26, and they come very unnecessarily wrapped in both plastic protection and a cardstock support. It’s an awful lot of environmentally-wasteful packaging (not to mention the large envelop and the shipping emissions) for two thin books of stamps.

Swedish words learned from Harry Potter

I read the first Harry Potter book in Swedish. Here’s all the words I was able to learn, either by context clues, or by remembering what the exact phrase in the original book was (so cool when that happened). Maybe you will recognize the scenes and the reason for these words, too:

bläck — ink

mantel — robe

jättelik — giantlike

pergamentpapper — parchment paper

strimming — striped

besynnerligt — weird

kittel — cauldron

begåvad — talented

stöna — groan

klandra — blame

spetsen — point

tenn — tin

stjärnkikare — telescope

trollstav — wand — except there’s two words. Trollstav if it’s a wand for a boy, and trollspö if it’s a wand for a girl. I think.

enhörning — unicorn

disken — the counter

granska — inspect

fräste — snapped

handled — wrist

hök — hawk

svimma — faint

kvastkäpp — broomstick

stolpar — posts (like poles, not like blog posts)

gristryne — pigsnout

kalkon — turkey

flämta — gasp

stamning — stammer

genväg — short-cut

svartalfar — goblins

fläddermus — bat

bägare — goblet

kravla — crawl


The quarantine at Alexander Abraham’s

I was reading the Chronicles of Avonlea. It’s a collection of short stories by Lucy Maud Montgomery (she who wrote Anne of Green Gables). The stories are so good!

One of them was about a quarantine at Alexander Abraham’s. I hadn’t paid attention to the title, but then, boom, halfway through, there it was … a smallpox epidemic (this story was published in 1912), and the Board of Health was involved, and police were guarding the houses of people under quarantine to make sure they didn’t stir out. And here I was, also in quarantine unexpectedly over 100 years later. It was quite a surprise to see our current situation reflected in the story. If I’d read this at any other time, I would have thought: oh, how quaint, they had disease outbreaks back then and had to quarantine, such a bygone era!

Contact tracing, quarantines — it was all in there. Except they (in the book from 1912) were actually taking it seriously, and had a whole protocol in place, from the Board of Health to the doctor to the police. Not the happy-go-lucky as-God-wills-it approach we seem to have taken. Here’s the main bit, and you can read the full two pages below that:

IMG_20200525_170746 excerpt quarantine