May did not go as I expected. I expected that I would end the month, perhaps without getting this "Month in Review" post finished in time, because I'd be traveling, enjoying myself, celebrating a friend's birthday.
Instead, I didn't get the post finished or published because I was lying in bed feeling like shit. As my mother says, when I get sick, I get really sick. (Apparently.)
But hey, I did get to do some things before I got really sick. I watched Eurovision, visited Bellingham and Camano Island, went on my first scramble, and finished a book. And, then everything stopped.
This post is a look back at that time.
What I'd Been Up To
At the beginning of May, I really got sucked into work a lot more work. Basically, I was doing my normal job (but with a bit more stress and pressure thanks to some new responsibilities following reorganization), and at the same time, I volunteered for some extra work on the side.
I really wish that I could share more of my work publicly, or participate in more research projects. One of the ideas that had been floated was a shared task at a conference, which functions as a sort of friendly competition.
Participants work with the same data, and are evaluated the same way. They try to do the best they can on a given task, and write a paper describing their approach. Since everyone used the same data and was evaluated the same way, it's a level playing field for experimentation, where people can get a clear idea of what worked.
It was a lot of fun to collaborate with colleagues, and people from across other organizations. Unfortunately, though, for contrived reasons, I was the only person who could both do the data processing and release it. And because I was only going to use publicly available tools and methods closely adhering to prior work for datasets and baselines, I spent a lot of quality time futzing with unfamiliar tools.
I learned a lot from the experience, but I also ended up working a lot on this at weird hours. Truth be told, that probably wasn't so great for my health.
But don't worry!
I did have a couple weekends away from work...
Bellingham is the 12th most populated city in Washington. It's a college town, home to Western Washington University. It's also the terminal for Alaska Marine Highway System ferries to Alaska. It also recently became the home of Chelsea's high school friend Steve (re: not me,) who we decided to visit.
We left Seattle late-ish on a Friday to avoid rush hour traffic. By the time we reached Bellingham, we were hankering for food. I was immediately excited when Schmoogle Maps told me that there was a pelmeni joint in town, and I hoped for something (perhaps) a touch more authentic than Pel'meni Dumpling Tzar in Seattle.
Bellingham's Pel'meni Restaurant was largely similar to the one in Seattle, boasting hot sauce and cilantro. But, still tasty. It was a popular late night spot for the local college crowd and we were happy to find a table.
Walking back to the car, we were surprised to see a nearby Peruvian deli open and went inside, thinking they might have some nice drinks. Instead, there was loud house music and a small group of youngsters with glowsticks dancing in the middle of the floor. And mind you, the surrounds were a sandwich shop. I assume mood altering chemicals would be necessary to make this seem appealing. I saw a sign indicating a small cover charge, and we left.
We found ourselves wondering:
Is Bellingham a town so small that they don't have a dance club, and the college kids are forced to rave at the Peruvian deli?
The following day, we met up with Steve at the Bellingham farmers market, where we found some delicious Skyrr and scones and so forth.
It happened to also be "free comic day", and it was fun to hit up a local comic shop (and get free coffee.)
The nearby reused church cum karate academy was home to some cool local artists' work. Alas, all the button downs with mushrooms on them were too small for me.
A bigger highlight was a trail we walked around the outskirts of town, which took us near some wild old train tracks, and close to plenty of starfish. There was a deer, killed on the tracks, and plenty of crows picking at the remains. And thus, a lot of avian life including some bald eagles.
After the trail, some crusin' along the scenic Chuckanut Drive, and a stop by Larabee State Park, we grabbed a late lunch together at the Peruvian Deli, Cafe Rumba and it has my wholehearted endorsement as a good eat. Everything was insanely delicious.
(And, it turns out they only do dance parties on a rare basis. There are actual clubs in Bellingham.)
Before we parted ways from Bellingham the following day, we stopped by some antique shops, and I grabbed a jazz record.
The Mindport Exhibits were an unexpected highlight. They were hands on museum activities that included things like experimental musical instruments, machines that held ping pong balls in the air with pneumonic tubes, and heck, an autoharp that I could screw around with. Interaction was encouraged and admission was by donation. I would highly recommend this to anyone visiting.
On the way back from Bellingham, we stopped by Camano Island. Basically, it was a spot on the map that I hadn't been to yet, but wanted to visit.
Well, it's scenic, but not the most spectacular. The island is fairly close to the mainland on one side, and is close enough to Whidbey Island and the Hood Canal on the other side, so the views aren't super expansive.
Cama Beach Historical State Park preserves 1930s style beach cabins, and it would be an excellent place to stay for a beach getaway... if you reserved the thing far enough in advance.
Camano Island State Park also has some nice beaches.
A Car Accident (Not Mine)
Coming back from Camano Island, we passed an overturned jeep.
At first I thought it was a four-wheeler or something. The roof was completely torn off, and the thing was busted in the ditch.
We were waved down by a ten year old boy, who seemed disoriented, bleeding from cuts and scrapes all over his head. Chelsea called 9-11. I dug out my first aid kit.
Even though I had just taken a wilderness first aid course literally the previous weekend, I felt panicky indecision.
Stop bleeding, wash out wounds with sterilized water. Well, I had some bandaids, and only water bottles I had drunk out of. There were plenty of cuts, but the bleeding was not uncontrollably rapid. So, I just did my best to slap some band-aids on. Except, they don't affix too well when the cuts are in the middle of hair.
The child asked his father, the driver of the car, who seemed relatively unconcerned, what had happened. Something about avoiding a deer. A man on a motorbike pulled up and repeatedly asked if we wanted an "aid car," a term which locally refers to a non-private ambulance. The dad said no.
It did not take too long for the ambulance, the fire department, and the police to show up, take the kid away, and close the road. Chelsea and I gave our statements. "We did not witness anything, we were flagged down by this kid while driving."
And, then we were on our merry way. Plus a detour because the road ahead of us was now barricaded.
That put a damper on things, but I'm glad the outcome wasn't more severe.
For the scrambling class, we were required to complete a scramble near Snoqualmie with a few instructors on a given day. After that, the remaining course requirements were three scrambles of our choosing with the club (at least one on snow), and a day of volunteering. I was assigned Guye Peak with a lovely group. The day was May 13th, and the route was still quite snow-covered, though the weather would be warm and quite sunny.
|Type||Scramble, Out & Back|
|Location||Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest|
|Check out the trails index for information on more trails!|
I felt a bit under the weather the morning of the scramble, but I took my temperature and wasn't running a fever, so I headed out regardless. We met at a parking lot around 7AM, and promptly got underway, with the students taking turns leading the group. There is a somewhat established trail going most of the way, and we (or at least I) found it easiest to follow this path for as long as possible. Past that, route finding got a little more difficult, as we needed to choose the safest route up a mountain and avoid things like unexpected overhangs.
Conditions were non-ideal due to the particular type of snow, and the amount of melting that had occurred, but I was eager to use my ice axe, and happily felt (mostly) anchored in snow and ice on the ascent.
I enjoyed leading the group up one particularly steep approach on the way up, after which, I needed to immediately pop some ibuprofen for the splitting headache I had.
Eventually we made it to the summit. At which point, my classmate Jessica took some excellent photos of me.
The views were phenomenal.
From there we descended, stopping for lunch lower on the peak, and taking a break to practice ice axe self-arrest.
Though the scramble was probably the easiest I could have been assigned to, I was pretty wiped by the end of the day. For good reason, it turned out...
The day of my scramble happened to also be the day of Eurovision 2023.
In brief, two entrants wowed me the most with their singing and performances: Marco Mengoni of Italy with "Due Vite" and Mimicat of Portugal with "Ai Coração." Both of them were outstanding, though only Mengoni was recognized for it. Mimicat deserved far, far more points.
Two other entrants made me smile the most. Moldolva's Pasha Parfeni moved with enthusiasm, and had some lovely dancing and staging during "Soarele şi Luna." Croatia's Let 3 were a blast with "Mama ŠČ!"
I should also note that the highly political, anti-Russian war message is pretty damn unmistakable, but ambiguous enough to make it past the selectively enforced no politics rule in Eurovision. (Georgia once had an entry banned because "We Don't Wannaa Put In" was too obvious.) Mother (Russia) loved a moron (Putin.) Read more if you want.
For me, the other standout performances were Finland, Czechia, Spain, and Lithuania. Ultimately, Finland got a ridiculous number of votes from the audience, but an even more ludicrous number of jury votes went to Sweden, which meant that even as the audience chanted for "CHA CHA CHA", Käärijä came in second place, and the winner is a song I like considerably less.
Which is all too standard for Eurovision. I think, in general, the producers really want less interesting stuff to win than I do. Alas.
As previously mentioned, my scramble was Saturday. I felt pretty tired and crappy the morning we were set to leave. But, I wasn't running a fever, and I chalked it up to fatigue from the fact that we were meeting in a parking lot at 7AM. My sweet constitution suffers getting up that early.
I was zonked after the scramble, but things were OK until the following Wednesday evening, when I really felt rather lousy. Thursday morning, I had a meeting for the shared task. I set an alarm, and promptly slept through the meeting. After that, one of my colleagues suggested that I might be sick and actually need to rest. So, I took most of the day off sick. After some napping, I started running a 102F fever without the influence of ibuprofen or its ilk.
I was also incredibly tired. I think I showered every other day or so. I felt like I needed to sit down while toweling off afterwards, because I didn't have the energy to stand anymore. My dirty dishes accumulated in my sink -- I felt like I only had the energy to either shower or handwash them.
I visited an urgent care, where I was basically given a juice box and was told to go home and rest, and then would later receive a bill for a few hundred bucks because that's how it works. (Okay, okay, I was also given a mandatory COVID test.)
As the days wore on, and my fever did not let up, I thought about visiting an actual medical provider. Except, of course, I didn't really feel up for driving to one. I felt really lousy. On Sunday night, while I was still running the fever, Chelsea offered to take me to the emergency room. I wanted to know what was wrong with me, and I wasn't sure when I'd next have a good opportunity to hit a medical provider.
When we got to the ER, I was admitted quickly -- it seemed they were having a slow night up to that point. I got all manner of blood test, IV fluids, body scans, etc. etc.
A few hours later, I had the answer: mononucleosis.
I was discharged, and basically told to keep resting and drinking fluids, same as before. But, I also knew my liver enzymes were weird, and that my spleen was enlarged. Hooray.
In the coming days, my fever got less severe, but I soon switched into a different symptom. I got very strong nausea, and could no longer keep "Vanilla Honey Cheerios" down. I couldn't manage to eat for a solid two days or so. After that, I started sporadically getting weird itchy rashes. Even with less nausea, my appetite was still weak and I lost weight.
At about this point, I moved into Chelsea's spare bedroom such that she could take care of me really easily. This was absolutely a great choice. For starters, she made an absolutely fantastic caretaker. For seconders, she had a dishwasher, and was fully stocked with all the popsicles I could hope for.
My last main symptom was a more typical one: a killer sore throat. The pain started keeping me awake at night. No combination of lozenges and popsicles seemed to help enough. I scheduled a doctor's appointment -- for June 1st, which means that I will artificially stick a cliffhanger in here. (I can't talk about June in my review of May, can I!?)
To be continued...
What I'd Been Enjoying
A Desolation Called Peace
The sequel to A Memory Called Empire is absolutely more of the same, and I devoured it early in the month as a break from work, or as a way to keep my brain occupied when I needed to check on the status of things that would take ten or so minutes to inevitably fail and require manual intervention, and I finished just as I was succumbing to illness. In comparison with A Memory Called Empire, it's more of the same.
Songs of the Month
The collaborative album that I was pumped about by EABS and Jaubi was everything I hoped for.
|1. EABS Meets Jaubi - "Raise Your Hearts, Drop Your Guns" (2023)|
Some time in the month, I discovered the jazz musician Rahsaan Roland Kirk, and I was just blown away. He was a saxophonist and flautist, and he was blind. He waswell-known for playing multiple woodwinds at once. In his work, he's avant-garde and boundary pushing, yet playful. "Serenede to a Cuckoo" is an excellent example.
|2. Roland Kirk - "Serenade to a Cuckoo" (1965)|
The rest of my month's music listening quickly fell into a hole best described as "music to fall asleep to." Owen Pallett, Useless Creatures, that Kate Simko and the London Electronic Orchestra album, Ichiko Aoba, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Nafs at Peace, Maro, Memnun, Jean-Luc Ponty.
Of them, I'll pick Simko's work for my third recommended song of the month. That whole album is catchy and understated. It could be background music, sure, but it's simply nice.
|3. Kate Simko & London Electronic Orchestra - "Waiting Games" (2016)|
|Check out the playlist page for all the songs I've highlighted in one place!|
And somehow, my songs of the month ended up being three instrumentals.
I will go on the record, and fully admit to watching a decent amount of Star Trek. I'm not a fan of binge watching, and I try to avoid television-ing for more than say, two hours at a time. I'll say I watched a few of the original '60s episodes I missed, but I was rather put off by all the sexism and such.
I finished watching season three of Star Trek: Picard, a story arc that took far too long to get to the damn point, and then wrapped things up too hastily. On the whole, I wouldn't really recommend it, though it is fun to watch the TNG cast act their socks off.
What I really enjoyed was watching a bunch more episodes of Star Trek: Voyager, a show I used to catch after school sometimes around 8th grade. It is... quite a mixed bag, with some serious writing deficiencies, and somehow I've gradually re-watched up to the fifth season. (Starting some time in 2020 or 2021.) And even more shockingly, I hit a run of above average episodes, which was really nice.
The actors who played (bad boy) Tom Paris and (eternal ensign) Harry Kim have a podcast where they recap and discuss Voyager episodes. Sometimes I listened to it, when I was trying to sleep. If I got to the end of an episode, it didn't do its job. This isn't to say the podcast is bad. I'm just not a podcast person.
Past Steve didn't write about what June would have in store, but I'm pretty sure I can condense my hopes and dreams into a single word.
This post was part of a series:
Thanks for reading!
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