Just say yes

•October 17, 2021 • 25 Comments

The frustration of the moment

•October 5, 2021 • 10 Comments

Then there’s the US tax system, which functions as a tax haven all by itself. This report came out about our U.S. senator’s state income taxes in the last week. (And keep in mind that afaik Wisconsin state income taxes are still a deduction on the federal income tax form.)

Annabel Capper in Bedlam’s Persuasion

•October 5, 2021 • Leave a Comment

The reviews of the play have been mixed (at best). But Annabel Capper got a very positive mention in this NYT review.

Garden thoughts

•October 3, 2021 • 30 Comments

In response to the most recent “mach was.”

Recently we (I) moved from 4.25 acres of wooded yard to a small suburban house. From this:


At the old house, we had this elm tree, which I helped plant when I was little.


to this:


This is about a ten year old (I think) elm that was put in by the Town, now the Village. It’s the only tree on my entire lot.


I feel horrible about it, but more about the trees that are now gone (everything on the old lot was removed) than the trees that are not here, if that makes any sense. In the last five years I worried a lot about those trees and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t relieved by the alleviation of the burden. At the same time, I did love living in in the middle of a wood, and I miss it a lot, especially the feeling of privacy!


The entry to the old house as taken from the road, about a year ago. It’s all been taken out. I haven’t driven past.


I didn’t really garden much at that house. Things my mother planted just sort of grew. This was particularly true with the asparagus and the rhubarb, which were the only things in the garden after she died and dad gave up the pumpkins.


Garden shed at the house, June 2020. We called it the “roadkill shed” because it was exclusively built from things dad picked up off the road. Not sure where he found the solar panels.


I tried to maintain them as I like to eat both of those things, but about a year after the stroke, well into vascular dementia, dad mowed off the remaining rhubarb and asparagus.


One rhubarb plant came back up! (June, 2020). My brother transplanted it back to the farm (to meet its cousins for the first time).


At the new house, I’ve only got the one tree. We also have a lot of these in the decorative borders around the house, which similarly points to the last few owners being severely uninterested in gardening.


This is a hosta. It demands nothing from the gardener except a cut-down right before the hard freeze. However, it also gives nothing to the environment.


I still am not entirely sure I am staying here, but if I do, these will have to either come out or be supplemented by an early pollinator of some kind. Honestly, I think suburban lawns are ugly. I am not allowed to plant this lawn in “noxious weeds,” but I’d really like to put in all native species. This would anger the neighbors and probably drag my property value down, though.

In the interest of peace after my visual transgression, I did make a gesture in the direction of conformity:


This is a multi-color mum.


But I’m not sure she doesn’t owe me, because meanwhile, I’m dealing with an overflow from the neighbor’s yard.


The boxelder bug, Boisea trivittata.


Yup, she’s got a boxelder tree, and the south-facing facade of the house is swarming in the these pests. They’re not dangerous or bothersome other than that they stink if you step on them. Supposedly they go away as soon as the weather changes.

So all the windows and entries on the south and west sides of the house are baited with diatomaceous earth and sprayed with pyrethine, in hopes of keeping them out of the house.


Interestingly, the German word for this stuff is “die Kieselgur.”


And, of course, the Village’s big gardening activity is well under way, and everywhere I drive, this is the vehicle I am following. It’s been reasonably dry, so hopefully the crops will come out of the fields without a lot of problem.

How quickly we forget the Cold War

•September 27, 2021 • 11 Comments

This makes my head ache. I’m not sure this can be described as a good night for the SPD, nor am I thrilled about any government that would include the SED-successor party(ies).

But I’m sure my headache is nothing compared to those of my German friends.

There she is

•September 27, 2021 • 2 Comments

Annabel Capper (rear of photo) in the Off-Broadway production of Persuasion opening tomorrow. More photos are here.

Open question: The struggle over doing it yourself

•September 24, 2021 • 10 Comments

[I use “learned incapacity” in this post to mean: a declining capacity to do a task over time, based on the fact that someone else does it. There appears to be a lot of social science jargon adjacent to this term, but I am not referencing any of it.]

About a month ago, Dad’s decline crossed the tentative line I had drawn in my mind about when I would have to stop taking care of him myself. I had drawn this particular line not because I thought I was incapable of giving that kind of care, but because he was simply unwilling to accept it. In the days after the stroke, when I had had to give it, it distressed him so much and later made him concretely, physically hostile. According to reports from the assisted living, he is both distressed and hostile: but I am not the target any more. This development should rationally put an end to the qualms I have felt since April about whether the move to assisted living was absolutely necessary or if I couldn’t have figured out a way, somehow, to facilitate keeping him out of a facility. That doesn’t mean that they are gone from my mind, but I have grown to feel like guilt about what I am not doing is mostly about me, not about him, as with minor exceptions he gets much better care there, not least because they all love him. I’m not exaggerating. He’s tremendously popular.

A friend of mine who’s never met him said to me recently that he is just an unconscious fighter, and I find that assessment correct. It’s true that the almost-three years of intensified watching over him were marked by constant arguments about what he could and could not do and also that this conflict was part of what made caregiving so exhausting. The exhaustion came not just from trying to get dad to stay within certain boundaries, but additionally from explaining to outsiders why I still “let” him do so much. Often the answer was that I’d calculated how much argument I had the energy for in any given week. I am not naturally pugnacious, but as I’ve mentioned before, my father knows where all my buttons are, and it is a fact that thirty-five years of ACOA adult life have made me much more aware of and willing to defend my own boundaries. Had I had a different adulthood, had I never forgotten how to prioritize him first, I might have had an easier time acquiescing to dad’s demands.

An anecdote from the annals of caregiving stupidity: We went nine rounds over control of his pillbox (I thought I had written about this before, but if so, I can’t find it now.) The short version is that the doctor was frustrated that he was unable to take his meds accurately according to plan, and dad was angry at me when I tried to supervise it. In the end I had to take over the task completely to make sure it got done correctly, deciding in favor of the doctor’s priorities over dad’s, but victory was ultimately pyrrhic. Dad developed a learned incapacity to take his own pills, even temporarily. So when I wanted to leave for London, I needed to find someone who could give the meds, and that turned into a huge hassle as well, one of the two largest obstacles to my own freedom in that situation. And, of course, we now pay the full price for med administration in assisted living as opposed to the option where he takes care of that himself. (It doubles the price of the pills, but the money isn’t the issue so much for us — although I have heard horror stories about this problem — as is the larger question of the value of “doing it for yourself.”)

On the other hand, there are things that he never struggled for, learned incapacities of his that he colluded in. The biggest example of this was his inability to cook / nourish himself, which contributed to his decline after mom’s death. They were actually proud of this and joked about it: “your father would eat water soup, but I’d have to warm it up for him.” He built a few of these into my own persona (machine repair and operation are high on the list) and the struggle against them has been hard. But it’s kind of stupid: I operate all kinds of kitchen machinery, and I have driven a car since I was sixteen, so why wouldn’t I be able to operate lawn machinery? The answer is that all these lines were enforced in service of my parents’ ideas about gender roles and class attitudes and what they thought well-raised daughters of the middle class in the US should and shouldn’t do. Well, in the end, I figured out the zero-turn mower and this summer I got a battery operated string trimmer. But it will never come easily.

On the other hand, how much does learned incapacity even matter?

The latest thing is that dad doesn’t feel much like walking anymore, since the second heart attack. After the first one he did cardiac rehab and kept walking, but since his enrollment in hospice, he’s no longer all that interested, and essentially, he can’t walk anymore, beyond a few steps. Ultimately it’s going to create an accessibility problem, because if he fell while he was at home with me, I can’t dead-lift 125 lbs by myself, and the house is not really set up to accommodate a wheelchair. And my car is small, so carrying one around with me would also be a challenge. He will be able to continue going to breakfast, but in eight weeks or so, the outside entries and walkways will start to be slippery. So on top of the problem I referred to in the first paragraph, it will be practically extremely difficult for him to leave assisted living at all.

Ultimately I am feeling like there’s been a diffuse tension in the last three years — the warning from therapists that “if he doesn’t relearn how to do it, he never will” — the list of areas in which dad wanted to assert control or refused to surrender it vs those which he didn’t care that much about — and the question of areas in which a health care professional wanted control asserted (either by me or someone else) in order to make life safer or easier. It’s such a weird balance beam to have to stand on.

Surely not

•September 24, 2021 • 5 Comments

Mike Bartlett (Love, Love, Love) will have a revival of his 2009 play. This is the ad as I saw it in my gmail:



Like who’s not gonna click on that?

Also on the theme of collateral attractions, Taran Egerton stars.

That looks like a soutane

•September 24, 2021 • 11 Comments

Oooh. Roman-style cassock? I wouldn’t mind seeing him in the cape, either.Although I guess Father Quart wears a suit.

Sorry, Mr Armitage, but I am looking forward to this

•September 22, 2021 • 7 Comments

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