Living with Corona

I date my life under pandemic as beginning on March 13 which is the last time I skated. It has been over seven weeks and I can not say the end is in sight. Time seems to simultaneously being going very slowly and very quickly. There are some days when the montonoy is overwhelming.

I have been trying to get outside every day except of course when it is raining which has happened a lot this spring. I am also trying to do two to three days of strength training every week. Although it has been lovely to see spring unfolding with the beautiful pale yellow and greens of the season, I would like to find different places to walk which is not that easy.

Like many other people, we are cooking more  since we eat at home every day.  Sunday night I made swedish meatball with mashed potatoes and roasted fiddlehead ferns. I used considerably more butter than I usually do. It was a throwback to a time when I was less weight and health conscious. It tasted very good.

We try to have regular zoom “meetings’ with our family.  If I had gone these seven weeks without seeing the faces of my children that would have been very hard and caused me to have greater anxiety.

I realize that I am very privileged because I have a home to live in  and money to spend while  in quarantine. My heart goes out to people who do not have those resources during this difficult time.

I hope everyone stays safe and well.

 

 

My Overdue Quarterly Review

The quarter, if you are counting, ended on March 31 which means I should have posted this review around that date. I had other, more meaningful, at the time, things to write about. Today feels like the right moment for some reflection.

I have been regularly posting.  I have been trying to write a draft of my post on Monday and then revise and publish it on Wednesday. A month ago I wrote the blog on Monday and  I must have inadvertently published it. I didn’t’ realize I had done that so I did my regular social media  notices on Wednesday. It appears my readers look for those notices because 42 people read the blog on Wednesday  but only 14 read it on Monday, the day I actually published it. It appears I have around thirty regular readers which is great. Thank you.

Tweeting has been fine.  As of Monday, I have 3,907. This year I have tweeted 161 times or  about 40 a month. I think I can keep up that pace for the rest of the year. I have 136 followers. My top tweet, in the last 28 days, was a picture of my husband and I out for a walk. I used the hashtag #COVID19 so that means that it  showed up in a lot of peoples feed.

As i mentioned last week, I finally finished the chapter I had been working on for a very long time.  I have been more productive because I am trying to schedule writing, or at least working in some way on the book every day for two hours. In the next three months, I plan to finish the 6th chapter and begin work on the 7th. I’ll let you know how that turns out.

 

Constance Green

Last week I finished the chapter of my book about faculty wives that I have been working on for over a year. The chapter, “Aristocracy” is about the gendered and hierarchical nature of academia. I wound up using one family, the Angells, as the framework for the chapter. One woman, Constance Green became the focus. Constance McLaughlin Green was an urban and technology historian who, in 1963, won a Pulitzer Prize for her book on Washington, D.C. She died in 1975.

On Dec. 5, 1975, I was living in my parent’s apartment following my college graduation. My boyfriend who I had lived with my senior year was now in England on a scholarship. A scholarship I had helped him get while not applying for anything myself.

I was depressed and in pain from sciatica that had developed after I got out of the backseat of a two-door car. As I read the New York Times that day, I came across Constance Green’s obituary. “That’s it”, I thought. “I’ll go to graduate school and be like her.” She had gotten her Ph.D. from Yale; a school I wanted to go to because I loved the architecture.

Forty-five years later I have written a mini biography of Constance Green. The more I found out about her, the more her life story resonated with me. Of course, I have not; and will never win a Pulitzer Prize. I am the descendant of immigrants not college presidents. What strikes a chord with me is her determination to pursue scholarship and writing history.

Stuck in Holyoke, she was determined to go to graduate school. Harvard’s dismissal of her as a woman with children who belonged at home did not deter her. Although I did not have children when I got my Ph.D. I was pregnant with my first child when I defended my thesis.

A few years earlier, I applied for a job at Wesleyan. The man interviewing me asked if I was planning on having any distractions. This was code for asking if I was pregnant. I doubt if a man would ever receive a question about possible parenthood. As for Western Massachusetts, as a native New Yorker who had never lived anywhere else, the first year I lived in Northampton I constantly felt that I was living deep into the country, far away from civilization.

Constance Green did not receive her PhD until she was forty and had three children at home. She never held a traditional full-time academic position. She had a prestigious career because she persisted in pursuing something that mattered deeply to her.

When I decided to switch careers, I did not know how or if I would keep doing historical scholarship. I had 2 small children. It turned out that, like Constance, I had to persist. The first year I worked as a nurse, I spent a week’s vacation going to Amherst College to research The Ladies of Amherst. Twenty-one years after I defended my dissertation, I published Brewing Battles.

Both Constance Green and I came from generations that feminism impacted but neither of us were able to fully realize the benefits. My book is bringing back into history woman like us.

 

 

 

 

The Mysteries of Udolpho

I run a Jane Austen book club for the Jones Library. Despite the library being closing, I will be hosting, via Zoom, a meeting of the club tomorrow. This is the second year of the club. I have structured it so the first meeting of the year we read a Jane Austen book. Then, for the rest of the year, we read books related to the Austen work.

This year, we read Northanger Abbey. On Thursday we will be discussing The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe. Scholars consider Udolpho to be the first Gothic novel. Austen satirized it in Northanger Abbey. Udolpho is a very long book; almost 700 pages.  The gothic or “frightening part” is the middle third. It was slow reading up until that point and then the pace picked up.

During her stay at the Udolpho castle, Emily, the heroine suffered mightily. Many eerie and unexplained things happened. The author also builds suspense because you do not know if there will be a reunion of Emily and her love, Valancourt. After Emily leaves the castle, the pace of the book slows down again.

In the end, there is a rationale explanation for everything that occurred. Emily is a sensible, intelligent young woman. Throughout the book she only rarely succumbs to belief in the supernatural. In this way, she and Catherine Moorland, Austen’s heroine, are similar.  Catherine, partly because she is reading The Mysteries of Udolpho throughout Northanger Abbey, initially believes horrid things have happened in the castle she is visiting. In the end of her book, sense prevails as well.

I had mixed feelings about The Mysteries of Udolpho. There were parts I enjoyed and parts I disliked. The book, while it might have been new in 1794, feels dated in a way Northanger Abbey doesn’t.

Marie Kondo Revisited

A few years ago, I read  the Marie Kondo book and posted a review of it. At that time, I was not that impressed and had no plans to use the method in my home. This year, however, there were some areas of my house that really needing organizing so I gave Marie another look.

So far I have fixed up my sweaters that I have in an armoire.  I used the Kondo method for folding, but that actually works best in drawers where you will just have a single layer of clothes. I have more then one layer of sweaters and the space is much higher than a drawer. I had to pile sweaters on top of each other. When I finished it looked good, but the pyramid started to fall apart as soon as I took one sweater out. It isn’t perfect but it is better than how it was before I started.

Her folding and stacking method worked much better in my sock, bra, and underwear drawers. They have all stayed very neat and I love to look at them.  I also cleaned out my closet. I didn’t really use her “does this item bring me joy” shtick. I mostly kept or threw things out based on whether they ft or not. Some of clothing I got rid of I really loved. For sorting the closet I used the What Not to Wear mantra that you have to dress the body you have now. The closet also looks really nice and it is much easier to get my clothes out.

My new conclusion about Marie Kondo’s method for organizing is that it  works better for some things than for others. In my recent cleaning phase, I probably used the spirit of her approach more than hewing strictly to her rules.

I started  re-organizing before COVID-19, but, since I have been homebound, I have also worked on my linen closet and the junk drawer. What organizing projects have you done since the epidemic started? I hope every is safe and healthy.

The Liquor Industry and COVID-19

At the beginning of the year, thing were looking pretty good for all segments of the brewing industry. Local and state municipalities see craft beer as an important economic driver, That’s why a tax cut was part of Trump’s disastrous tax bill and why this year the industry got an one year extension for that tax reduction. Then COVID-19 happened.

Most states have closed bars and prevented restaurants from providing in house service. They are allowed to provide grab and go service. How has this affected brewers and distillers?

Here is a roundup of articles about how the liquor industry is faring during the pandemic. Like everything else in our society, regulations surrounding certain practices are being  loosened or abandoned. When this is over, many thing will be different.

Deschutes Brewery has laid off  over 300 workers and is not presently offering any to-go services.

The governor of Rhode Island  issued an executive order  that allows limited sale of beer and wine when people are getting takeout from restaurants.

Last Saturday, some Milwaukee brewers had a pop-up  brewery drive-through in a parking lot.

Before the virus, only  twelve states allowed  delivery of all  kinds of liquor while thirty-one states allowed  delivery of beer and wine. This article is arguing for a permanent change in these regulations.

Reminiscent of Prohibition, distilleries are producing hand sanitizer. The relief bill passed last week allows distilleries to do this without having to pay the excise tax.

I hope everyone is safe and stays well.

Not Skating

Originally, for today,  I planned to write a post about the upcoming (March 29) skating show that I was going to be in. I was supposed to be part of a group number with other adult skaters. The theme for the show was Disney and our number was Chim  Chim Cheree. It is from Mary Poppins and is the  chimney sweeps song. We were going to have brooms and do a pinwheel as part of our number.

Of course, the show is postponed as is everything else. I have no idea when skating will resume and I really miss it. Skating also represents a big chunk of exercise that I do every week. My substitute for the three hours of skating and the half hour off ice training I usually do in a week has been walking for an hour four times a week. At least that is what I did last week and it is my plan for this week.

Usually I also take a sixty minute Tai Chi class at the Holyoke Senior Center. The four hours of walking is also making up for that lost time. I am also doing 2 days of thirty minute strength training. Hopefully all of this exercise will help keep my spirits up.

On Monday Governor Baker closed all non-essential businesses in Massachusetts and the Department of Public Health issued a “stay-at-home” advisory. Both are in effect until April 7. I assume that means skating is closed until at least then.

I am going to try to continue posting.  I am not sure if I should write  about non-COVID-19 topics or focus on the issues that social distancing raises.  Maybe I can do both since the virus is affecting the liquor industry as well as every other business. Let me know what you think. I hope everyone stays safe and well.

Social Drinking

Can you be a social drinker? I recently read an article in The New York Times that would suggest the answer was no. The article itself was interesting and the comments were even more interesting. The vociferousness of the comments that defended drinking indicates that drinking in America has been normalized. The recent Atlantic article that asked why there is no anti-alcohol movement explored some of the reasons for that normalization. When I was at my writing retreat this fall, one of the other attendees was a woman who has recently stopped drinking and has a blog about it.

Prior to Prohibition, the temperance movement saw drinking as being both a moral and societal issue. They sought a civil response to the problems of drinking. Although prohibitionists counseled individuals to have the moral and individual strength to stop drinking, the movement sought to remove drinking from society through political and legislative means.

Since Prohibition, the liquor industry has been very successful in framing drinking and the serious issues it can cause as an individual disease. There have been some moments where the public health analysis of alcohol and the society-wide problems it causes, have been in ascendance. Both the movement to decrease drunk driving and the 1991 tax increase on alcohol had public health components.

Today the liquor industry is completely in control and health information detailing problems with liquor go nowhere. On television you see public service announcements on tobacco and vaping. There are none about drinking.

Here is a picture of a cirrhotic liver as one example of the damage excessive drinking can do to your body and health.

Cirrohotic Liver

Inequality

I am back from a vacation. We spent four nights in Miami Beach and four nights in Mexico City. One of the nights we were in Miami Beach was my birthday; to celebrate we had dinner at The Bazaar, a Jose Andres restaurant.

Andres is a well known chef who has had legal issues with Donald Trump. He has also done a lot of humanitarian work  for Puerto Rico and other places following hurricanes and natural disasters.  The Bazaar is at the other end of the economic spectrum from hurricane ravaged Puerto Rico. Many  of the restaurants in Miami Beach are in hotels; The Bazaar is in the SLS hotel.

There was a strict dress code; my husband had to return to our hotel to change from his sandals to closed toed shoes. I did the same for good measure. The server, Louis,  was nice but very obsequious. He kept calling me Miss Amy. The food, served tapas style was excellent but very expensive. The whole meal, including drinks and dessert, cost $220 . A single piece of caviar, which we didn’t have, was $85. A shot of Tito’s vodka was $19. At a package store, you can buy a 750 ml bottle of Tito’s for the same price.

There is a dichotomy between Andres’ charitable works and the prices at some of his restaurants. I really don’t know why a meal should cost several hundred dollars. My personal preference is for less expensive food in a more relaxed atmosphere. While in  Miami Beach we ate at another restaurant, Orange Blossom. The food tasted great and was half the price of The Bazaar. The place hada cozy yet romantic ambiance.

Here are some pictures from our trip:

Teotihuacan Pyramid

View from the 18th floor of our hotel

My whole family at my niece’s wedding

 

Mexican Beer

The next two weeks I will be on vacation. Part of the time I will be in Mexico City. In honor of my trip here is a post about Mexican beer. I will resume regular posting on March 11.

Before 1910 most beer in Mexico was brewed by small brewers. In the 1890s big modern breweries developed and by 1899 five firms controlled sixty three percent of the market. By 1910 the major brewers distributed nationally. The companies were vertically integrated, holding monopolies in everything from bottles to the railroads.

Corona Extra is the sixth largest beer brand in America and the top import. Constellation Brands owns Corona and Modelo. Modelo is the seventh largest beer brand. An industry analysis of Constellation  stated “Constellation’s story includes … a powerful demographic tailwind. Its core consumer base skews towards Hispanics, a sizable demographic whose primacy will only increase over the coming years. We find it fairly intuitive that Hispanics place a premium on Mexican beer, as it speaks in part to a shared culture and heritage, and in our view, these dynamics are at the heart of Constellation’s superb operating profile…”  There are some stereotypical assumptions in this analysis. For the full analysis, click here.

In 2010 Heineken bought the Mexican brewer Femsa; its brands are Dos Equis and Tecate. The company had a 43 percent share of the Mexican beer market. Dos Equis is twentieth. A german brewer in Vera Cruz created it in the nineteenth century. Tecate is 29th; Since  2013 it has had a 35 percent decrease in shipments. For the  full list of the top 31 brands, go here.

Mexico has a small craft brewing segment. These brewers produce ale; the majority of Mexicans drink lager. Most Mexican craft beer is exported since there is not really a market for it within Mexico. Mexico is third in global exports of beer, most of which goes to Canada and the United States.