Friday, August 21, 2020

Sam's Weekly Quarantine Digest #22: August 17, 2020

Hi all,

This week, I've been thinking about how we can express our true selves during this time of physical separation.  There are so many ways we traditionally do this - from the clothes we wear to the items on our desk to the topics we choose to speak about over lunch.  For example, I've always been a shoe person, standing tall in 5-inch heels (often brightly colored).  I have a plaque in my office at my law firm that features a cartoon image of chocolate chip cookies with the words "More Cookies, Less Drama."  I own chocolate chip cookie earrings, a Cookie Monster hat, and shoes that appear to be covered in sprinkles, and I proudly wear these items at my annual Cookie Party.  Even the books we choose to read can be conversation starters in normal times - I had many conversations about Dante's Inferno when I started my new job last fall and my coworkers saw me carrying it in the elevator on my way into the office.  Many of these modes of expression we've become accustomed to have limited effectiveness over Zoom.

However, it's just as important to express ourselves now as it always has been, and there are also many ways in which Zoom has revealed parts of our private lives that have not traditionally been a part of our work lives, or that we haven't chosen to or had the opportunity to share before.  We've seen each other's living rooms and offices, our children and pets, our most comfortable clothing and our natural hair color, our favorite recipes and books, and our deepest frustrations.  It's become normal to talk about feeling lonely or sad or scared or unfulfilled, and to worry aloud about whether we're successfully balancing the many demands of our daily lives or about what the future holds.  We go out of our way to make our friends and family feel special and connected on birthdays and holidays and wedding days.

As the months go by, it's easy to slip into unhappy rhythms, so do your best to find a minute this weekend to step back and think about who you want to be, and how you want to be perceived.  Take a moment to find something that really speaks to who you are and proudly make it visible in your Zoom background.  Surround yourself with things that make you smile or feel proud or loved.  Maybe even wear those neon yellow high heels with your pajama pants to remind yourself about what you love, even if they're tucked under your desk where no one can see them.  We've spent a lot of time talking about how to feel connected to each other over the past five months; don't forget to connect with yourself, too!

Previous digests can be found on my blog at  If you have suggestions or would like to stop receiving these emails, just let me know.


Express yourself
  • Wear quirky shoes that make you giggle when you see them in your closet.
  • Stay in your PJs, but look like a hero on your next Zoom call.
  • Engage in a virtual murder mystery event and get into character beforehand (I wore a ballgown, layered on most of the jewelry I own, and further accessorized with a terrible British accent).
Stay excited and engaged
  • A friend of a friend of mine recently founded River City Opera in Richmond, Virginia, and she was pretty immediately faced with the challenge of reimagining one of the oldest and most traditional forms of institutional entertainment for the modern, digital world.  Check out their three-part series of discussion with opera experts meant to lead change within the opera industry (the first took place last week and can be viewed here), or follow them on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and their website.
  • Check out this celebration of the past 40 years of conservancy efforts in Central Park.
  • The newest show that everyone's going to be talking about for the next few weeks/months is Lovecraft Country, a fascinating story that follows a protagonist on a trip across 1950s Jim Crow America that also happens to be populated with monsters reminiscent of the stories of H.P. Lovecraft (an infamously hateful man).  See here for one perspective on the fledging show.
  • I'll be honest with you: I'm not entirely sure what string theory is.  But the World Science University (which has really come through for me in the past with some seriously nerdy but truly awesome videos and activities) is offering a brief window into the contributions of string theory to our collective knowledge: "Cumrun Vafa, together with fellow world-renowned string theorist Andrew Strominger, developed a new way to calculate black hole entropy in the language of string theory.  Follow Vafa as he guides you through some of the more astounding things we have learned since string theory's inception."
  • The latest thing to change in response to our new-found awareness of racism in our country may be surprising to you: the traditional jingle played by ice cream trucks across the U.S.  Good Humor has partnered with RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan to create a new jingle that will replace the old one starting this month.  Learn about the history of ice cream truck music and the new transition here.
  • Wondering why your children's sleep habits have changed during the pandemic?  Read this overview from sleep experts.
  • Trying to squeeze in a workout but just can't find the time/motivation?  Check out these suggestions for fitting in some sneaky moves throughout the day to stay active and strong.
  • Check out the NYT's take on how to plan a date night at home.
  • Trying to figure out which pay-to-play music livestreams are worth it?  Check out this list of recent performances whose virtual tickets are worth both the money and the time.

Recipe of the Week: Nutella Shooters: This four-ingredient delight is easy to make and even easier to make disappear.  Freeze your mixer bowl and whisk attachment for 5 minutes if you can spare the time - it will make things a bit easier for you if you're a novice baker.  Beat 1 cup heavy whipping cream until stiff peaks form.  Fold in 1/4 cup Nutella until no streaks show.  Place 12(-ish) Oreos in a Ziploc bag and use a heavy saucepan or a rolling pin to smash them into crumbs (bonus: you get an arm workout and a very cathartic stress-relief session in the process).  Place a layer of Oreo crumbs at the bottom of a dessert bowl or a shot glass.  Using a piping bag or a Ziploc with a small piece of the corner snipped off, pipe in a layer of the Nutella whipped cream (don't be intimidated by this - just start at the outside and pipe all the way around in a spiral until the surface is covered).  Repeat (including the Oreo crumbs) until the glass/bowl is full.  Finish with a drizzle of chocolate syrup or homemade caramel sauce and some more Oreo crumbs (if that sounds like heaven, feel free to layer that in between the Oreos and whipped cream throughout the dish, too!).  And voila - you just made a cocktail-party-worthy mini dessert! 

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