General update on the state of things

What I’m seeing here in Upstate NY.

Meat prices leveled off, and now appear to have dropped back down to something close to where they were before the shutdown.  However there are still supply shortages.  I can get eye of round via my wholesaler again, and the price is back down to normal, BUT, they’re only able to get about half of what they normally get for stock of it, and they’ve had to cut their overall available products list by more than half.  Products just aren’t available.   ON the other hand the sales person I talked to says they’re still running flat out selling what they can get.  People are still stocking up.

Paper goods, toilet paper, paper towels, paper plates, and the like, are still not back to normal.  They’re doing way better, but they’re not where they were before the shut down.  People are still panic buying, if not quite at the same level.

Cleaning supplies are still fucked.  If the shelves appear to be full its because the store has “spread to fill” what they have for product.  Home Depot actually issued “spread to fill” orders, take what you have, whatever the product IS, and make the shelves look full, because we don’t know when we’re going to be able to get the normal products, and maybe if we make the shelves look full people will stop panic buying.  Its kinda helping, but the people who’re looking for specific cleaners are still walking away frustrated.  In addition HD has brought in all sorts of cleaners that they don’t normally carry in an attempt to provide SOMETHING to the customers who’re looking for products.  Not just disinfectants, but whatever they can get.

Garden hoses and sprinklers are still in short supply, though that aisle looks better than it did.

Pressure treated lumber might have managed to recover, mostly anyway, but whats in the stores is still wet and green tinted as hell, its that fresh from the factory.

Appliances are still fucked, and they’ve no clue when they’ll be able to get caught back up.  If you’re in a position where you NEED an appliance, be aware that its most likely going to take months to get the models you want.

Cabinets are just as behind as appliances.  Hope you weren’t planning on redoing your kitchen any time soon.

Power tools are running short, shelving is running short, doors and windows are running short (though only in some lines).  Paint is behind or ahead depending on what exactly you’re looking for.  Pesticides are short, weed killers are short.  Generators are short.  We’re already sold out of a fair bit of the Halloween stuff and it was only put on the floor less than 2 weeks ago.

I’d previously thought that the slowdown in buying was because people were running out of money and going back to work as things opened up.  And certainly some of it was from that.  And some of it was because other stores were opening up and people had other places to spend their money.  But a large portion of it was because we started to run out of things to sell.

I’ve had a chance to talk to several vendor reps at work, as well as a variety of truck delivery drivers.  Everyone says the same thing.  The warehouses are empty, they echo, and there’s NO backstock to be had.  Home Depot, Lowes, and all the other stores that stayed open through the shutdown, sold through a year or more’s worth of backstock of just about everything in the space of 4 months.  Add in the manufacturing, and transportation, shutdowns and slow downs, add in the issues getting ANY supplies from overseas, add in that people bought out products that they’d never have even CONSIDERED buying a year ago, add in that people haven’t stopped buying those things since the shutdown hit.  The manufacturers are running flat out trying to catch back up.  If they have the people, and the supplies, their line is running 24/7, and every single item that comes off the line is going right onto a truck and sent directly to a store.  Where its promptly bought by someone and the process is repeated.  All the vendor reps I’ve talked to stated that their company has reduced their product lines to the minimum base products and converted the other manufacturing lines over to those base products, and they still can’t get caught up on those items.  The vendors who are exclusively outdoor products, hardscapes and gardening supplies and the like, have hope that once snow starts flying they’ll be able to catch up because people will PROBABLY stop buying their products.  The rest of them are just hoping that people will run out of money before the guys running the manufacturing lines drop dead from exhaustion (ok, no one’s specifically said that, and yes, they’re all delighted at the money thats coming in, but good lord people, can you please stop buying long enough for everyone to catch up??!!).

While it’s certainly possible that some manufacturer somewhere has decided to slow things down deliberately to make things look even shorter than they are, I really don’t think its the problem.  Honestly, based on what I’m seeing, most of these products, they could double the retail price of the items, and people would still snatch them off the shelves as fast as possible.   None of them WANTS their normal customers to stop buying the original choice items because they got used to something different.  The supply chain is just that fucked.  And its going to be months before things settle down.  Possibly quite a few months, as in, next year, if people continue to buy at the same rate.  Even longer if the .GOV tries to force another shutdown.  Longer again if any of the international suppliers of parts or chemicals has to shut down again.

 


Memes 14

Twitter is up to date

Trying a slightly different format for this one. Previously if you clicked on one to make it bigger you then had to hit back to go back to the main list. This time if you click on one you should be able to just scroll through. Please let me know if that works better for you, if people like it better I’ll edit the previous meme posts to match.

Read moreMemes 14


Dear 2020…..

 

Cancer sucks.

I’m pretty sure the only thing I’ve seen him in was the Marvel movies, I’ll have to correct that.  But if you stop and think about the timing, he filmed at least 3 of his Marvel appearances, if not all 4, after his cancer diagnosis.  Even when you consider that Marvel does some pretty bad-ass CGI that’s pretty damn incredible.


Food Intolerance

Last summer (2019, to be clear), I suddenly started experiencing some fairly significant stabbing intestinal pain.  It would come out of nowhere, leave me curled up in a ball wanting to die for a day or two, and then fade back out and disappear and I’d be fine for weeks before it would hit again.  It was accompanied by random diarrhea, extreme gas and bloating (also excruciatingly painful btw), and weird headaches and weird brief bouts of vertigo.  Though I didn’t actually put all those symptoms together as being caused by the same thing till at least several months in.  I’d previously had a diagnosis of diverticulitis, and worried that the intestinal pain was because of that, so I called the gastro specialist (several times), went into urgent care (twice), saw my regular doctor (once), and had a phone conversation with my rheumatologist.  CT and god only knows how much bloodwork and time later the diagnosis was: there’s nothing wrong with you that we can find.  Over the last several years I’ve come to highly dislike the phrase “well, your bloodwork is normal”, and this didn’t help with that.  We briefly thought that the intestinal pain might be caused by, or at least aggravated by, the methotrexate that the rheumatologist was trying for my  hand issues.  But nothing else seemed to be anything we could pinpoint.

It was November or so before I realized that clearly SOMETHING external was triggering the problem, food being the most likely, and easiest to track, culprit.  My brother had a severe lactose intolerance as a child, so I probably should have recognized the symptoms sooner, but who expects a new food intolerance at the age of 40??  I tend to eat a fairly boring diet, much the same thing over and over, but there is some variation.  I also tended to eat a lot of fast food for work lunches, supplemented by the vending machines in the break room.  The occasion where I wasn’t eating fast food for work lunches it tended to be pre-packaged meals from the grocery store rather than home made.  I attempted to start tracking what I was eating, but struggled to find a format that would work for tracking.  I carry my cell phone everywhere, so some sort of app seemed like the obvious solution, but none of the pre-done food tracking apps seemed to be what I wanted, and I hate typing out long lists of things or paragraphs on that tiny keyboard.  Late December I finally ordered a set of pocket notebooks, specifically I ordered a set of fancy ones that wouldn’t be ruined if they got wet.

January and February my hours at work always crash.  The downside to being part time in a department that basically requires good weather to get good sales.  But this year it was a good thing.  It made it ever so much easier to eat completely homemade, starting the week after Christmas.

Within two weeks of eating completely homemade my symptoms almost completely disappeared.

Then I decided to make myself popovers one day.  I love popovers, but they’re just fussy enough to make that I don’t actually  make them often.  Specifically using a mini muffin pan so that I could have popovers to eat all day.  Had 3 or 4 mini popovers for breakfast.  About half an hour after eating I had a mild vertigo moment, like I’d stood up to fast.  Then suddenly my head was pounding.  The headache faded back out quickly enough, I shrugged it off.  Had another 3 or 4 mini popovers for lunch.  Had another vertigo moment, and another brief headache.  WTF.  Then a couple hours later I suddenly developed severe gas bloating.  Ended up taking a double dose of GasX.  By supper time I was starting to notice some intestinal discomfort.  It wasn’t to the stabbing pain stage yet, but I could tell it was getting there.

The ingredients in my popover recipe: AP flour, milk, butter, eggs, salt.  I’d also grated cheese on the popovers before eating them.

The flour was the same flour I’d used to make the bread I’d been eating for the previous  couple weeks without any symptoms.  The butter was the same butter I’d been putting on my toast every morning.  Salt, well, if I was reacting to salt I was probably screwed, but since I’d been eating things with salt in them for the previous couple weeks without issue I was pretty sure I could ignore that too.  I don’t drink much milk, but I do put real cream in my coffee every morning, a fair bit of it too, I like my coffee light, I was pretty sure I could ignore the milk as a risk.  And I’d been eating the same cheese regularly for the previous couple weeks too.

Eggs.  I’d previously, several years ago, had a brief issue where eating eggs (of any kind) had given me some severe gas, but other wise no other problems with them, and that problem had faded back out in a couple months with no issues since.  But sure enough, the day after making popovers I had severe stabbing abdominal pain that took several days to fade back out.  My egg intake has always been variable.  I LIKE eggs, but sometimes I’ll eat them alot, and other times I’ll go weeks without eating any except as a possible ingredient in something.

The only good part of the problem being eggs is that eggs are one of the “major food allergens” that the FDA requires be explicitly listed on labels, including when the possibility of remnant traces could be present.  So while frustrating to avoid, due to eggs being a very common ingredient, it wouldn’t be impossible to avoid them at least.

I started adding back in the occasional processed food item to my diet once the reaction to the popovers had faded.  No gas, no bloating, no headaches.  Occasional, minor abdominal/intestinal discomfort, but it was really minor, I shrugged it off, it would probably take my system a while to completely return to normal.

Then I bought a package of Friendly’s Mint Chip Ice Cream.  Now there are some fancier ice creams that contain eggs as an ingredient, but Friendly’s isn’t one of them.  Friendly’s is pretty cheap ice cream infact, with alot of additives for texture and flavor and preservatives.  Half a bowl of ice cream later and I had a swing of vertigo and then a pounding headache, feeling flushed, as if my blood pressure had dropped and then spiked.  A check with my husband’s home blood pressure cuff confirmed that my blood pressure was higher than usual (though not in the range of needing immediate treatment).  I hadn’t thought to check my blood pressure with the previous headaches.  The next morning I woke up with stabbing abdominal pain that took a week to fade back out.

Fuck.

I put together a spreadsheet of the ingredients, and started working my way down the list of thing that were easy to test as individual items.  Its not dairy.  Its not soy.  Its none of the mint flavorings I’ve been able to try.  Its none of the chocolates I’ve been able to try.  Its none of the food colorings I can get ahold of.  None of the seasonings I’ve tried individually.  None of the cocoa’s or cocoa butters I’ve tried.  This leaves me with a fairly short list of texture, flavor, and preservative additives.

I bought a loaf of Italian bread with garlic spread from a local grocery as a treat to myself (I love the stuff, but have been known to eat half a loaf in a sitting, so I don’t buy it very often).  No eggs listed in the ingredients, possible traces of egg from things made in the same factory.  Either there was more than a trace of eggs, or I was reacting to some other ingredient in it, the reaction wasn’t as bad as the popovers or the ice cream, but it wasn’t minor either.  There was no overlap between the suspect ingredients in the ice cream and the garlic bread.

Bought a package of Pillsbury’s freezer biscuits (they’re just like the ones in the can, but you can pull out however many you want at a time to bake instead of having to bake the whole can, yes I can make biscuits, I was feeling lazy).  No eggs listed, not even traces.  I didn’t get any blood pressure swings or gas/ bloating from them, but I had stabbing abdominal pain from them for over a week.  Almost no overlap with previously suspect ingredients.  Or rather, the overlap is “natural flavor”, which isn’t helpful.

I have also confirmed that just egg whites will set me off, as will duck eggs.

I’m back to eating home made and whole foods (nuts, fruits, vegis, meats) as much as I possibly can.  While this is quite likely healthier than my previous diet it’s also frustrating as hell.  On top of dealing with the chaos that is 2020?  It has been hell.

The first allergist I saw was no help.  Blood work says you don’t have a food allergy, go back to your gastro specialist.  Gastro specialist says he can’t find anything wrong.  My regular doctor is sending me to a different allergist, but I’m not holding my breath.

I’ll note that figuring out a food intolerance is not “essential”, which in the year that has become 2020 means I get to deal with it almost entirely on my own, regardless of anything else.  Thank god I’m not especially prone to depression.

Everyone who thinks that we need to shut down all “non-essential” services and businesses in order to survive a pandemic that has a tiny death rate can go fuck themselves.


Look, I don’t care

I don’t care if you think everyone should be wearing masks.

I don’t care if you think masks are useless.

I don’t care if you think the pandemic is going to kill us all.

I don’t care if you think it’s all a hoax.

 

You know what I care about?

The lowly retail employee who went from being vilified as a minimum wage drone to applauded as an essential worker in the space of a week.  The cashier who got told they were putting their life on the line so that people could buy something.  The sales floor employee who got told they were probably going to get sick so that people could buy something.  The retail employee who spent 4 months getting a minimum “hazard bonus” for working double shifts to try to keep the store open while the rest of the world lost their collective brains.

The slightly simple greeter who gets assholes yelling at him because we dare to have signs up spelling out the states facial covering mandate.

The service desk worker who has assholes yelling at her because we don’t kick out someone who’s not wearing a mask.

The sales floor employee who’s getting yelled at multiple times a days because “why the fuck aren’t you carrying bird seed any more?!” (seriously, bird seed, I’ve had more pissed off people over the lack of bird seed than anything else this past week)

The specialty department supervisor who’s almost old enough to be MY mother who’s been doing this her whole life who walked off the sales floor in tears after dealing with that one last asshole on the sales floor last week.

It’s not the fault of anyone in the store that we’re out of what you want to buy.  We’re stocking out onto the shelves every single god damned thing we can find that even kinda sorta fits.  And the company is using every bit of their pretty massive buying power to try to get us stuff to put onto the shelves.

It’s not the fault of anyone in the store that the state not only wrote up a facial covering mandate but has started fining stores for each unmasked person they find in the store.

I suppose it might be our fault for not turning away people who aren’t wearing masks, but since we carry some pretty essential supplies the company has decided they’re not going to do that.  And frankly if you want to come stand at our door and try to stop that big ass angry dude from coming in without a mask then feel free.  Frankly I’m not paid enough, and neither is anyone else in the store.

If you want to bitch about something the company might actually be able to control feel free to take it up with the corporate office.

If you want to bitch about the politics of it feel free to take it up with your local politicians.

Don’t take it out on the people who’re way to massively overworked and underpaid and who don’t have any control over it anyway.

(and yes, all the described incidents of asshole customers have all happened, either to me personally, or where I could see them happen to a co-worker.  I seriously have no idea how in hell this country made it through the last few months without some kid working their first retail job losing it completely and going postal on customers, I really don’t.)


One Day Sourdough bread

The below recipe was the result of exhaustion and error that worked out beautifully.  Also note: the below loaf of bread is sized to fit into my 2.5qt dutch oven.  You’ll want to double things if you’re baking in a 5qt.

In case you haven’t figured it out from reading the rest of my blog, I work at Home Depot.  As soon as the shutdown hit Home Depot’s sales went absolutely batshit.  Someone described it as “Black Friday Weekend for 3 months straight” and I haven’t come up with a better description.  Except it was worse than a normal Black Friday weekend.  A normal BFW we know when its going to happen, we know when its going to end, we know what we have to sell, we know when we’re getting more, and what we’re not getting more of.  On a normal BFW the average customer knows that things are limited quantity and that they may  not be able to get what they want.  None of that was true of this last 3 months.  The last 3 months have been retail hell.  My pedometer app on my phone clocked me at over 24,000 steps one day.  Over 20,000 became my “normal” for most of this.  The brand new shoes I bought back in March look like they’re a year old.

And to top it off, store bought bread is no longer an option for me on any sort of a regular basis (great big long post coming on THAT), and you STILL can’t reliably get yeast at any of my local grocery stores.

So, I’ve been making sourdough bread for most of this.  Which is fine, I LIKE sourdough.  But its a time/labor intensive bread.  I have to plan ahead by several days in order to bake on my day off.  Which is a pain!

One week, back mid-May, I got out the sourdough starter to feed up, so I could start sourdough bread so I could bake on my day off.  Except that I was so exhausted that I never got the dough started.  I managed to keep the starter on the counter fed twice a day, but anything more complicated than that just wasn’t happening.  So my day off came around and we didn’t have any bread in the house, and I hadn’t started any sourdough, and I didn’t have any yeast, and I can’t do store bought bread any more, and……fuck it, lets see what happens.

(the below % are what I’m currently baking with, it did take some trial and error to get them right, but you get the idea)

pull starter out of fridge the night before and feed*

the morning of baking day:

~350 grams of flour (I use 100 grams of Red Fife Whole Wheat, the rest King Arthur’s All Purpose)

225 grams of warm water

6 grams of salt

~60 grams of recently fed sourdough starter (ok, I don’t actually measure this, I tend to just dump in a nice sized glob)

mix till reasonably cohesive and no clumps of flour remain, adding extra flour as needed to keep it from being to sloppy wet

cover and let set for 15 minutes, then fold the dough in half, turn the bowl 90 degrees and fold the dough again, turn and fold.  Repeat 15 minute set and folding a total of 4 times

cover and let set in a warm spot till mostly doubled.  I’ve had this happen in as little as 1.5hours and as much as 3.

prepare your banneton, if you don’t have a banneton then a properly sized pyrex bowl will work – spray bowl with oil and then dust heavily with flour

shape dough into round loaf** and place seam side up with banneton/bowl, cover and place in fridge

I’ve let it set in the fridge for as little as 5 hours and as much as 10, both work just fine***.  I imagine overnight would work too, but I wanted a same day loaf.

When you’re ready to bake place your empty dutch oven into the cold baking oven and set the oven to 500 degrees (F).  When oven is up to temperature take the dough out of the fridge and carefully flip out onto a piece of parchment paper (I like to sprinkle cornmeal on the parchment first), and slash the top.

Pull the dutch oven out of the oven (careful, its HOT!) and, using the parchment as a sling, place the dough into the dutch oven, place the lid on, and put back into the baking oven, turn temp down to 450 degrees, and bake for 20 minutes.

At the 20 minute mark remove the dutch oven’s lid and bake bread for another 20 minutes.

Pull out of oven and carefully remove bread from dutch oven and remove parchment, place bread back into the baking oven, directly on the rack, and bake for another 5-10 minutes till properly golden.  Let cool before slicing, no matter how much like heaven it smells.

*while pretty much everyone agrees that you can feed your sourdough starter with plain white/all purpose flour I have found that you’ll have a MUCH happier sourdough if you feed with at least half whole wheat or rye flours

**if your no-knead/sourdough breads tend to flatten in the oven instead of poofing properly you’re most likely not shaping the loaf of bread correctly.  There is a temptation with these to just wad them into a ball and call it done.  Don’t do that, hit the internet search engine of your choice and watch some videos of the pro’s shaping loaves.  Or here, this is one I like.

*** this produces a nice mildly flavored sourdough loaf.  The longer it sets in the fridge the stronger the flavor will be.  If you like a stronger flavored sourdough then experiment with longer set times.