Michaeline: Random Quarantine Thoughts

I just want to get a little writing done. Well, and about a hundred other things. (Image via Wikimedia Commons) Inu no Koku by Utamaro Kitagawa (1753-1806), translated The Hour of a Dog, a print of a traditional Japanese woman writing on a long scroll and talking to a servant or an apprentice behind her. Digitally enhanced from our own original edition.

Brian Eno News Twitter (not the real Brian Eno, apparently) posts a random artistic strategy* nearly every day, and the one I saw today was: Disciplined self-indulgence. Well, I don’t do “disciplined” very well, but when I make an effort, my self-indulgence is off the charts, so here it goes.

So, first: a bit of news. Hokkaido’s state of emergency ran from February 28 until March 19, which means that as of Friday (a public holiday celebrating the equinox), we are free from government requests to stay inside.

 To tell the truth, though, I didn’t feel very much of a difference, because despite my best efforts, I’ve managed to get a sore throat. So, aside from work and a trip to the grocery store to stock up for the three-day weekend, I wasn’t out and about to feel the celebratory mood.

I’d say the crowd at the grocery store was slightly busier than usual, and I saw more party food in the baskets than I’ve seen in the last couple of weeks. Toilet paper is in plentiful supply and variety, but masks and rubbing alcohol are still off the shelves in the stores I visited. I’ve got elderly at home, and I’m no spring chicken myself, so I think I’ll keep up the restricted contact as long as the rubbing alcohol is still flying off the shelves. I’ve got to go into work Monday and Wednesday, and then I can really indulge in a week-long soak in my family’s germ pool.

My mother-in-law is socializing. There was a meeting of the senior citizens club yesterday, and today she went to clean graves with her brother and sister-in-law. I hope she’s OK. But what am I going to do? Ground her?

Second: what would you do with a thousand dollar? (Cue: Barenaked Ladies, “If I Had a Million Dollars.”)


A lot of governments around the world are thinking about directly sending money to citizens and/or residents as part of the relief system. Of course, if you need it, you should use it. That’s what the money is supposed to be there for.

And if you are in a good place, but you have family or friends who are struggling because of the pandemic’s effects, a no-strings gift would be a great gesture.

I’m sitting on a cushion meant for my year of freelance experimentation (which starts April 1), so I feel I’m fine, and my family and my friends are all doing OK, too. It seems like a really good time to donate to those free services that I use all the time. Wikipedia and the Guardian newspaper top my list. I visit their websites almost daily, but I’ve been worried about letting them have my credit card information. It’s a good time to bite the bullet and donate and subscribe. Do any of you have advice for donating without giving the receiver a lot of financial information? Or email? I wish I could just mail them Google Play cards in an unmarked envelope . . . .

Pouring money back into your community is also a good idea. I like the idea of strengthening institutions so that if I’m in a bad place the next time we have an economic crash or other modern plague or pestilence, others will be in a stronger place to help me. Women’s shelters, orphanages, food banks and the public library are four places that immediately spring to mind.

Third: I have to do better at learning to forgive myself. At the beginning of the three weeks, I had big (but vague) plans to Do All The Things. Allie Brosch said a lot of good things in her 2010 post about trying to become responsible.  And at least one line is strangely prescient:

“I prepare for my new life as an adult like some people prepare for the apocalypse.”


Italian pass guaranteeing that the bearer is in good health, and may pass freely. 1713

L0063752 Health pass (fede di sanità)
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images
Wishing you all good health and free passage.
Health pass (fede di sanità) enabling the bearer to pass freely despite there being quarantines and heavy restrictions on travel due to plague
1713 Nos supra provisores, adiuncti, & provisores salutis Venetiarum : gratis : si parte di questa dominante sana (iddio lodato) & libera da ogni sospetto di mal contagioso gl’in frascritti, con robbe, ò con mercantie, ò senza, come qui sotto sarà notato … /
Venice (Republic : To 1797). Magistrato della sanità.
Published: 1713.
Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

That’s me: I always prepare for things like an apocalypse is coming. On February 28, I renewed my vows to get my house clean, commit to a writing schedule, play the ukulele, be a loving mom to my four pets, and make my daughter’s spring break a productive and fun time so she’ll want to come back all the time. Oh, and study up on all the Japanese words and phrases regarding the coronavirus, because I’m sure it’ll come up on the test in the future.

I will say this much: I got a lot of good cooking done, and my daughter helped me clean some of the things. And I blogged! Blogging has to count for something, although I’m not sure what.

Well, that was then. This is now. The first weekend of Not Being in a State of Emergency. AND, Persian New Year, a time of new beginnings. But every time I think of what I’m going to do, it all creeps in again – I plan to Do All The Things, and re-set 20 years of cluttering and bad habits over the course of 10 days.

Stop and reset. Use the Oblique Strategy from Twitter.

Disciplined: Breathe. Choose ONE of the things. The others have waited 20 years, and can wait a few weeks more. Self-indulgence: But it’s OK to play the ukulele when I think about it.

I think the first thing I’m going to do is write out a flexible schedule that I can follow. It’s so easy for the days to blend into each other, so my schedule is going to have to be interactive. On one side of the sheet, I’ll write the planned itinerary. On the other side, I’ll write what actually happened. At the bottom, I’ll leave space for a doodle, and a gratefulness and achievement comment section. And my goal for the first week? Just to track the time. How am I spending it? What is getting done?

Finally, I do want to set one more goal.

(Ugh, can you feel the Do All the Things creep? I sure can. But . . . I really want to do this.)

I finished reading A Journal of the Plague Year, by Daniel Defoe, which seems to be an account of his uncle’s experience during the London Plague of 1664-5. I don’t know how fictionalized it is, but since it’s told in first person, it feels very real.

So many things about our current pandemic fit into the same parameters – how we treat our neighbors, quarantined people who don’t want to be quarantined, stockpiling (and Defoe’s really useful list is flour, supplies for beer-making for “all the casks in the house” IIRC, and a huge wheel of cheese. I’d feel so much safer with a huge wheel of cheese in my house), and the plight of the poor, the caretakers, the people who keep urban society rolling, the medical workers and the government officials. The role of charity is particularly sobering to think about.

I gained so much perspective on our current troubles that I’m looking for another plague book to read. I’ve settled on The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio for this week. I know next to nothing about the book, and I’m not sure how my translation is going to work – I tried looking at Penguin Classics and also stuff from Oxford, but every time I switched to Kindle, I got a different edition and/or translator. I finally went with a Digireads book “Faithfully translated by J.M. Rigg,” so I hope that will do the trick. If it doesn’t, I’ll have to look for a hard copy, I guess. (It’ll take MONTHS for it to arrive, though.)

I have been promised a bit of smut, though, so there’s that to look forward to.

Check in if you please, with your own random thoughts. I hope everyone is safe out there, and that the problems have not shook your foundations too much.

*Oblique strategies are a set of cards created by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt. The set, published in 1975 for creative people, have a general nudge that can be freely interpreted by a blocked creator; some suggest different directions, some, like “disciplined self-indulgence,” create a new frame of reference to set the work in. WIPs are meant to be changed. They are saved somewhere in your computer or your handwriting, right? So it can’t do any harm if you are really blocked, because you still have the original. What I find useful is that the strategies can give you a bizarre sense of permission to push the boundaries. I wrote about them briefly here, with other block-busting tips.

17 thoughts on “Michaeline: Random Quarantine Thoughts

    • Oh, how fun! What a great place to read the book, as well! I might talk about it next week; I hope you’ll join in the discussion — I’d love to hear how reading it in Sicily changed your lens, so to speak, on the story.

    • Haha, Jeanne, that was my thought. I’m scattered about nothing. Lots of opportunity around the house (Clean the patio furniture! Catalog my research books! Get back into baking!) and all I do is sit around in my jammies and surf the ‘net. *sigh* I keep thinking of what my dad says all the time. “This, too, shall pass.”

      • My passion project this weekend has been removing the winter mats from the dogs’ tails. They hate having their tails touched (I think they’ve played too roughly with each other in the past), but I’m starting to get them a little bit gentled. The olive oil experiment is going awry, I’m afraid, but it’s only day three, really. The mats are coming out, but the olive oil is attracting dust and making them look like punk rockers. Sigh.

    • Oh, neat! Canterbury Tales was a bit of a pain to read, but really rewarding. Some of that imagery, hee-hee! I’m looking forward to it.

      (-: Scattered is pretty much status quo for me. So much going on. Note: I commit to choosing one goal, and still managed to work four into the post. I keep firmly rejecting some of the other goals, but they keep coming back and begging for a little attention.

    • Also, if you don’t want to give out credit card information, you can always load money on one of those Visa gift cards that you can buy at the stores, and then use that. The only downside is that they may charge a fee, I’m not sure.

    • I think I may have to bite the bullet and get PayPal, not just for this kind of thing, but for business in general. (Hint, hint: Can a Lady or anyone with experience using PayPal for their writing business chime in with a post/guest post? Or is that even a thing to use PayPal for receiving writing payments?)

      Elizabeth, the VISA thing sounds like it might be worth the peace of mind, at least for me. I’ll have to see if that’s a thing here in Japan. Or work with my international partner (eldest daughter) for getting one.

      • I use PayPal everywhere that takes it and have never had a problem, and I’ve given money on a credit card to Wikipedia and the Guardian with no problems, too. I’m not sure that giving CC card info to them is any different than giving it to any other online retailer; I bet their banks all use the same security protocols. But that’s just me. My info has been hacked in all the big consumer hacks (Target, Home Depot, Blue Cross/Blue Shield—remember those?) and for some reason, knowing my info is on every crook’s database has made me feel more blasé about digital security rather than less.

        • That is really true — my bank is sometimes pretty on the ball; I’ve had my credit card cut because I bought stuff in Iowa when they were expecting me to stay in Nebraska on vacation. Maybe they’d be just as quick if a real criminal was using my card? I only have two credit cards, but maybe I should open up another for business expenses. This is reassuring (-:. Being hacked is not the end of the world, you are right.

      • I’ve had PayPal for years and years. You have to if you are selling anything on Ebay. I haven’t had any problems with it. Maybe there is a moral objection I am unaware of?

        If you are just buying things, you can set up a PayPal account with a credit card. I got an extra credit card account from my bank with a $500 limit on it for my daughter to use for this.

        If you want to receive money (writing, selling stuff, whatever) you need to link it to a bank account. I got my bank to set up a small checking account for me for this purpose (free, as long as I maintain a minimum balance in my primary checking account and savings account) where I keep no more than $200 at a time, no overdraw permitted. I transfer money into it from my primary account when it gets low. I like the idea that any losses I might take if there was a problem would be minimal. But like I said, I’ve had no problems.

        I use PayPal for any website where I don’t have complete confidence in their security. Amazon I trust. Target has already proven they can not be trusted. Small businesses, just no- too easy for hackers to compromise.

        PayPal is also the payment method preferred by my cleaning ladies, my pet sitter, and my therapist. I tried to get the pet sitter to take a check or cash and they said they won’t do business that way, it is PayPal or I may take my business elsewhere. My snow removal people prefer Venmo, but that’s owned by PayPal, too. They’ll take cash, but then I have to wake up at 4:30 AM when they arrive and run down the driveway through the blizzard in my robe to give it to them.

        Basically, PayPal has become a necessity in my life. Plus, I hate to give my credit card info out. So I minimize the necessity by routing everything through the protection of PayPal, whose access I then severely limit.

        Hope this is helpful, but probably you already knew all this already. 🙂

        • No, it’s tremendously helpful! I don’t have any moral objection to PayPal, just an irrational paranoia that they are going to be hacked and all my bank accounts will be compromised, etc. etc.

          Venmo is something I’ve also heard a lot about. Some writers have a tip jar, and I’ve watched enough American TV on YouTube that I’m familiar with “just Venmo me it” phrases.

          I think building up these kind of fences is really helpful. I need to check out the international ramifications, and then see what can be done.

          Thanks for all the info!

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