Sunday, August 07, 2022

To work, to work.

 I have landed a job, looks like. I am quite pleased, and this is a welcome development. I begin next week. Don't tell anyone. It's a secret. I will not believe it until I sign the contract on the 15th.

Onwards and upwards.

I have many sewing projects in mind, but I'm super busy, what with my chainsaw-juggling habit. Hopefully things will feel slightly less dicey with the exciting new additive of positive cash flow. 

The pressure dome that has been over this region of Texas for weeks and weeks is predicted to bugger on off starting tomorrow, and we'll have temps on Monday-Friday in the mere high 90 degree range. Fetch me my parka, Jeeves! Nighttime temps in the 70s will feel like a glorious reprieve. 

For now, I'm prepping for new job, and hoping to start some new container gardening for cool-weather crops for the fall. I'm planning on turnips, radish, and some lettuce in pots. I'm sure I'll bore you with the details as they develop, but I'm at least a month out on that development. 

I also would love to do some Ruth Stout method gardening. Our climate is mild in the winter, with the occasional snowmageddon, but I think if I started in late September, I could squeeze in one cycle of crops. It would be good to grow more of my own stuff. As it is, I currently have one beautiful fruit on my Ichiban eggplant. I'll probably harvest it tonight or Wednesday to go in the pot. It set many other blossoms, but they all disappeared in the last 2 days. Also, the plant is on my front porch and it is straining towards the light. I had help moving it over into a more full-sun situation, and I put a tomato cage in the pot, so hopefully it will pick up and thrive. We shall see. As it is, I claim the victory of a successful harvest even if the one fruit is the entire yield. We all must start somewhere.

I wrote a short story last week that was funny and skewed in a surprising sort of direction, and on that basis, I will soon announce a call for submissions of short stories on that theme for an anthology. I hope it will be fun and well-received. In any case, it is good to be writing again. 

It also feels good to blog again, even if I'm the only one who ever sees this. :)

Me:          "I'm blogging again."

Also Me: "I noticed!"

Me:          "Isn't this nice?"

Also Me:  "Yes."

Have a lovely day.

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Thoughts on food, and food for thought.

 This is a serious concern.

Not sure how long this Redacted segment will remain available on the streaming video service, but I think it should be a wake-up call for people who have not considered whence come their foodstuffs. More of us need to start producing small bits of food for our own tables at the very least to supplement what is (currently) available in stores. 

The recurring theme they mention here is "control the food, control the people" and this is a concern.

Remember Live Aid in the 1980s? I'm not going to do a dive to find out the particulars, but it was a global concert fundraising event to generate funds to feed starving people in Africa. Years later, I read somewhere that much of the food had spoiled in ships off the coast of Africa, because regional warlords did not want the population fed, because hungry people are more compliant. This is creepy. 

I am particularly concerned about the fact that many homesteader content creators are having their videos or their entire channels wiped from streaming platforms. Wake up, indeed.

Vandana Shiva has popped up on my radar more than a few times in the past year, and I think what she has to say merits serious consideration. 


Thursday, July 28, 2022

Workie workie.

     The heat continues. It was 113F here today. Yuck.

    It's hot now and has been for some many weeks, but this is not forever.

    Last night I watched a video of a guy in Japan clearing about 5' deep of snow off his roof from last winter. I'm thinking cooling thoughts. 

    I'm as busy as ever doing my usual chainsaw-juggling routine. A development is on the horizon that may be an answered prayer, so I'm hoping for the best. Hopefully, I'll have news to share with you soon on that subject.

    I have to say it's difficult for me to clear the noise of discomfort to be creative, but I need to be writing. I have a major deadline for my novel, and I need to shrug off the discomfort and tuck into the task. 

    In other, better news, I have to share this video of an adorable wee dachshund sneaking into bed with its person. This dog looks so much like Mochi that it melts my heart. At least unlike the heat, this is a good kind of melting.   <3




Saturday, July 23, 2022

The hotness.

 The heat has been terrible this year, but it's not the worst. The worst was 2011 or 2012, whatever year it was that we had more than 100 consecutive days over 100 degrees F. And those hot days started in late April, so it was brutal. This year, April and May weren't too bad, so I'm not going to complain. We have had a few days over 115, and that, frankly, is astonishing. I mean, it's awful, but it is baffling.

We also had a bit of a reprieve this week, because it was overcast and cold (like 80-95 degrees) for two whole days. The break was nice. 

I am ready for cold weather. I can put on as many layers as necessary to stay warm, but there's only so many clothes one can take off. 

I find that I'm much more heat-fragile since I've had the 'rona twice, too, so it does get old. 

I'm mostly going to try to hold it together, stay as cool as possible, and think cooling thoughts. 

Friday, July 01, 2022

SURPRISE!

 What? 2 posts in one year?

Yeah, surprise. 

Just thought I'd yank yer chain.


Found a beautiful poem today by Manoel de Barros.


O apanhador de desperdicios
I use words to compose my silences
I don't like words that are tired of informing
I like the ones that are face down on the floor,
such as water, stone, frog.
I understand the accent water has.
I respect things that aren't important,
and beings who aren't important.
I value insects more than I value planes.
I value a turtle's speediness more than a missile's.
I was born with tardiness.
I was equipped to like birds.
I am deeply happy for that.
My backyard is larger than the world.
I am a waste catcher.
I like leftovers, just like the flies do.
I wish my voice were a song.
Because I don't like informing,
I like inventing.
I only use words to compose my silences.
~~

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Alive and shuffling.

 Sorry not to write sooner. 

To my relief and disbelief, I submitted my Master's thesis earlier this year and my uni saw fit to grant me a degree in spite of it. I hope to publish the creative thesis as a novel later this summer. I expect my book to be included in the Big Ass Book Launch at FenCon in DFW in September. All the cool kids will be there. Watch this space and hopefully I'll have something to share by then.

Life has been quite busy. I am writing apace, which is where I should always have been. I'm hopeful that my writing is improving, as I am enjoying the process more and more. A wonderful writer/mentor guided me to Novlr, and I find it's a good platform for the task, except that it keeps yelling at me for the passive language. Because I'm sassy, I'm keeping some of the passive voice, but it's good to have something pointing it out as I'm in the moment.

I hope you all are well. I just moderated the comments that were backlogged here, and I thank all who expressed kind thoughts, and your prayers are much appreciated. I'm profoundly flawed and need the boost!

Wow, are we ever living in interesting times, or what? I'm trying to concentrate on the good, and to make daily process on the backlog of this-and-that flavored tasks that really piled up while I've been focused on full-time school studies and teaching. 

I have a shop selling on an auction site, and it's in the throes of a brutal summer slowdown. I'm hopeful to support myself entirely between online sales and my writing, so I'm elbows and poo-holes, lately(Mom reads my blog, and I don't want another mouth-washed-with-soap event). With the tenor of the times, and all the things on which I would not remain silent, I am hoping that I can make it financially without taking a job teaching. I don't even want to be involved in certain conversations*, and I will not join any crusade whose apparent goal is to dismantle civilization because they get their feelings hurt. They'll be shocked-- SHOCKED!-- when they find how sensitive to their feelings are the folks who run the gulags they so clearly hope to bring about. So, yeah, if you're a praying person, pray that I don't need to get a job, since I'd probably get fired tout de suite.

I will try to post updates more often. 

*For the record, I have no problem with people living as they choose. Consenting adults who do not impose upon anyone else's rights are fine with me. I strive to treat others with kindness and respect, and I expect them to requite that spirit. However, when shenanigans involve corrupting children, I will not hold my tongue. Harumph!

Monday, November 01, 2021

I was here.

 Life continues apace, incredibly busy, with many plates that I work to keep a'spinning. One of these days I'll bring you up to speed. For now, though, I am maintaining. I checked in. I was here.

Sunday, June 07, 2020

Having lost all my mirth...

Lately I've struggled mightily with the grief of losing Dad. I seem to have waves of days in which I cry a great deal, and this weekend has been sort of a tsunami. Maybe it's because Father's Day is next week. My eyes just get dried up and they start leaking again.

I messaged my sister tonight and she said to read Ecclesiastes 7, and that was good advice:
A good name is better than precious ointment
    and the day of death than the day of birth.
It is better to go to the house of mourning
    than to go to the house of feasting,
    for this is the end of all mankind,
    and the living will lay it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
    for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
    but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise
    than to hear the song of fools. 
For as the crackling of thorns under a pot,
    so is the laughter of the fools, this also is vanity.
Surely oppression drives the wise into madness, 
    and a bribe corrupts the heart.
Better is the end of a thing than its beginning,
    and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
Be not quick in your spirit to become angry,
    for anger lodges in the heart of fools.
Say not, "Why were the former days better than these?"
    For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.
Wisdom is good with an inheritance, 
    an advantage to those who see the sun.
For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money,

    and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it.
Consider the work of God:
    who can make straight what he has made crooked?
Ecclesiastes 1:1-13 ESV

I must be doing well, because I am SO so far from the house of mirth. But what a wonderful comfort to have my dear sister and brother and Mom.

I ran out of the house on an errand about 9 o'clock tonight. I got home about 30 minutes later and I saw something so beautiful that it felt like a little postcard from Heaven, the twinkling of Dad's eyes: the yard was aswarm with what looked like a thousand tiny fireflies emitting the visual symphony of their little phosphorescent semaphore. I haven't seen so many fireflies at once since I was a small child, and they were big green Ozark fireflies. These are so tiny that they are like little flashes of glitter, and you could almost doubt your senses if you only see one or two. Tonight they are out in force and emitting the glory of their species. I take a moment to hope and pray they will make lots of wonderful new fireflies that will hatch and bless the world a year from now. I am pleased to realize that I can still hope.

Saturday, June 06, 2020

An inexcusable series of hideously avoidable events.


Things have got full sporty up in here.

On May 25 in Minneapolis, a gentleman named George Floyd died of positional asphyxiation in police custody, and this is problematic in so so many ways. He was detained for a relatively minor issue, so the police response to the situation was excessive. However, the outrageousness of the situation is compounded by the fact that Mr. Floyd repeatedly said he couldn't breathe, even as an officer's knee was on his neck for nearly 9 minutes. Bystanders and even a fellow officer told the officer to get off of Mr. Floyd, to no avail. This incident was recorded on video that has been widely shared and has sparked outrage around the world. There is no good way to slice this, and this video and ones like it fuel the perception that we have a field of law enforcement that is run amok and out of control.

Law enforcement personnel have tough jobs. They are the rough women and men who stand ready to maintain peace and order in a society where things can go sideways in the blink of an eye. They see the very worst of our society and have witnessed horrors the rest of us will only ever see in nightmares. They are usually the first on the scene of ghastly car accidents, tornadoes, murders, house-fires, and every flavor of brutality that people serve up to each other.  No one ever calls up the local PD or SO to say they are having a wonderful day. Is it possible that this barrage of grief and despair is warping for them? Surely it is so. However, I know quite a few people who work in that field, and I can say unreservedly that most of them are decent, above-board people who want to serve their communities. I can also say with no hesitation that these good officers want the bad ones out as much as everyone else in the community does. They need to clean their houses, seriously, and they need to reach out to their communities rather than defend the indefensible.

In the face of stories of Mr. Floyd and the murder of peaceful citizens like Breonna Taylor, an EMT who was shot in her own home by a Louisville Kentucky SWAT team who invaded the wrong house in the night, it is easy to understand why the United States would be perceived to have an ongoing and serious problem in which persons of color are under threat of murder by police on a daily basis. Incidents like the killing of Mr. Floyd on video only serve to fuel this perception. That Mr. Floyd and Ms. Taylor were persons of color cements the narrative that their deaths happened because of racism, but I will say this with absolute certainty: the officers in that house in Kentucky would have killed whoever they found there that night, of whatever color. Also, any person who has an officer kneel on their neck in that position for 8 minutes will die as a result of that action. The bitter pill of this is that our law enforcement agencies have some serious soul-searching to do about the rot they tolerate among their ranks. Were the murderous officers racist? I don't know. I think the murderous bit is the real problem here. I don't wish to control the mind of anyone else, but I do expect everyone to behave in a civilized and respectful manner.

After Mr. Floyd's murder, protests in Minneapolis spread to major cities all over the country, and even overseas. Unfortunately, nefarious hate groups from both ends of the spectrum seize upon this moment to fan the flames of unrest, even going so far as facilitating violence, property destruction, and physical attacks against people at what were planned to be civil protests. Opportunistic outliers will always be with us, and will always seize the opportunity to wreak havoc and chaos at such moments.

People who have a goal of a harmonious society that respects all citizens should not allow themselves to be derailed by agents of chaos. We need to talk this stuff through, but many here seem to have dug in their heels and have no plan to budge. We don't know where this is going, but we don't seem pointed in a direction that results in sweetness and light.

People who want a revolution are naive at best and are wantonly evil at worst-- the outcome would be mere ruination and the downfall of western civilization. About a third of the world's wealth is in US dollars(and I've heard higher figures), so if we collapse, so goes the world. All the people already living in mud huts will see little difference, except that the billions of vaccines we send around the world yearly will evaporate and life will become more deadly for the most abject poor on the planet. For those of us who like electricity, conditoned air, and clean cholera-free water in our homes, well, this is going to be a big and deadly adjustment.

My point here today is to gird your loins. The truth is that someone is not going to flip a switch and turn our society and its many cultures into Happy Rainbow Unicorn Land - people here have no idea how difficult life can be (and how difficult it IS on the daily in other places around the world). We need to figure out a way forward in which we can live in peace and respect with one another, but that will require everyone to be on their best behavior, even if they don't love their neighbor.

The book of I Peter is a series of letters to Christian exiles in which Peter admonishes them to not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, in all your conduct, since it is written "You shall be holy, for I am holy." And if you call on him as the Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. (verses 14-19, ESV)

Christians only reject this wisdom at our own peril(and yes, I'm talking to me here), and even people who are not followers of Christ would be wise to heed the warning that they need to dance at all times like someone is watching, and that they will be held accountable for their actions. The weirdly full-circle effect we are experiencing is the way that someone or something is always watching here in this age of technology that was the bill of goods of "liberation" wherein machines do everything for us, like calculate numbers, vacuum our floors, or even put our words into writing. The meter is always running, the mic is always on, someone is always filming. You can ruin your entire life in a moment of carelessness - it happens daily in this rabid mob-ruled social media age.

Behave.

I've watched and listened as people argue this topic from many differing perspectives, and I'm trying to lay out the facts here as clearly as possible. You are welcome to comment on this post, but my comment stream is not a forum for argument. If I have misrepresented a fact, I appreciate a courteous word to set the record straight, but I am not here for an argument of politics or class or racial warfare. This is not only a time of soul searching for people in law enforcement, but for every human on earth. We are accountable for our actions, and we should act accordingly.


The 'rona:
As of 10:32 AM today according to Johns Hopkins covid tracking site, Global confirmed cases of of Covid-19 are 6,789,313, USA - 1,901,416, Global deaths 396,131, and USA deaths 109,215

Monday, June 01, 2020

On Russiagate and Ukrainegate, and how media outlets and the Democratic Party squandered the trust of the public

Generally, I'm sidestepping politics, but sometimes it is unavoidable. Like most people, I have strong feelings about a great number of things. To be utterly frank, I was shocked when Trump ran for president and I was more surprised that he won the nomination than I was when he was elected. Let's just say this has been an era of a great many surprises. I've also been pleasantly surprised by some of the things he has done as President. On the other hand, I wish Twitter didn't exist, but I can appreciate the way he uses the Twitter to run his feline political opponents silly after the laser dot, but they just never seem to figure out they're being played. On the other hand, there are times when he's been quite Presidential and acted with dignity on important occasions.

What's been frustrating was to hear the constant drumbeat of Russiagate and Ukrainegate, only to ultimately (and unsurprisingly) hear that the whole thing was fabricated and merely wishful thinking.

I must warn that the clip below contains a fair bit of profanity, so if you are averse to coarse language, do not click on the video. I have some major viewpoints in common with Jimmy Dore and we differ dramatically on others, but I think he is spot on in this clip with Aaron Mate on this issue. I've watched the whole video several times, and the final ten minutes repeatedly, because they cut to the heart of what happened with this episode, and Mate perfectly verbalizes why many Americans are fed up with the media and cynical about arguments Democrats make against the President. On the basis of the bumbling around with manufactured crises that amount to obsessing over the Obama birth certificate times ten, the Democrats have handed Trump a second term, if no vote tampering is successful. And this is why:

Starting from the 22:37 mark  - 
Aaron Mate:  It made no sense, but of course the media outlets reporting this never could look at the facts in front of them and use logic and rationality, it was all in the service of putting forward a narrative and all that is happening now is the more evidence that comes out—from now it’s been nearly three years ago—all it shows is just how baseless this entire thing was and it only further embarrasses the people who propagated it.”
Jimmy Dore: But this shows that Adam Schiff knew, he was in this- he was the guy questioning. So Adam Schiff knew that this was bullshit, and still he went on with this anyway. That’s what happened, right? – am I missing this?

AM – Well, no, and what’s crazy is after that, and it’s not only on this Russian email hacking allegation, we also learn from these transcripts that witness after witness—James Clapper, Susan Rice—all these intelligence officials, all these people who came in said “yeah we saw no evidence of Trump/Russia collusion whatsoever” and despite hearing all this, Adam Schiff who was the head Democrat on that committee, goes out in public and multiple times says that he’s seen evidence of collusion, he just can’t share it with you yet. So the guy is a pathological liar and it’s been a disaster for the Democrats that he has been given such a prominent role. I mean it’s amazing that after the colossal failure of Russiagate, what did Democrats do? They gave him the keys to the next big fixation which is Ukrainegate, and Adam Schiff led that one, too. He was the impeachment manager. Rachel Maddow was tweeting that Adam Schiff’s speeches during the impeachment trial are going to be taught in Presidential history classes, and so all Adam Schiff did, he may have pleased his donors who come from the weapons industry by drumming up tensions with Russia, like Raytheon, but in the process he humiliated the Democratic party and he helped channel the so-called anti-Trump resistance into dumb conspiracy theories and chauvinist anti-Russia militarism. And it’s been a disaster. It’s been a big gift to Trump possible. And I can’t say for sure, but imagine if Democrats hadn’t wasted the first three years on telling people that Trump is controlled by Putin, maybe it would be easier to convince more people now that Trump has done a really bad job handling the Corona virus, but now people understandably don’t trust the media. They don’t trust Adam Schiff. They don’t trust MSNBC because these same people were telling audiences for three years that Trump is controlled by Putin, and that there’s a pee tape, and that Trump and () are communicating via a Russian server, I mean all this insane stuff. No wonder people are sick of all these people and don’t trust them, and Trump has understandably been able to exploit it and he’ll continue to do so heading into his reelection campaign as it goes on now.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Quick post here - I've papers to grade.

I seem to be pulling out of my illness. I've a lingering cough and my tonsils are still quite swollen, so I'll continue to isolate so I don't expose myself to anything new.

The puppies are loving never being alone, I think, and they are bouncy and happy, if terribly nappish. I think they must sleep more than 20 hours a day. Rough life! But it's nice to have little cuddlers around the house, too.

As of today at 1:13 pm, the number of confirmed cases of covid-19 in the world is 1,475,976. The number of infected Americans is 404,352. So Americans represent somewhere between 1/5 to 1/4 of the infected people in the world. Hmph. Out of how many billions? Okay.

Mayor of nearby middling sized city announced yesterday that lockdown will continue until first week of May for the area.

This is not to backpedal, but to make a concession on what I previously said. I came across something online in which a scientist talked about the shelter in place plan giving the virus impetus to mutate, and that it would be less apt to mutate into something even more nightmarish if we let it have its run of the healthy population among us. He said of course the elderly and immuno-compromised should be kept apart from the exposed general population, but that letting the virus run its course was the most sensible approach. I can see his reasoning, but sheltering the vulnerable really is the problem, isn't it? It would be something people would need to work out with friends and family to make sure the vulnerable folks were supported with food deliveries and such, but how would they get handoffs safely from people who are circulating and possibly infected? I guess it's not THAT much different, but it does seem a logistical problem how that might be accomplished.

I guess one of the major problems here is the perception of safety. Panic is always driven by perceptions of things real or imagined. Panic is not rational, nor is it predictable. People are connected via social media, and they are idle. Lacking purpose gives fertile soil in which the seeds of anxiety germinate, and people simply work themselves into a lather over every little thing. War and rumors of war, etc.

It is perfectly understandable for people to balk at being told they MUST shelter at home for any given amount of time. Perhaps I shouldn't have been so hasty to call people jerks, but I felt like it was reasonable to act in a way (up to a point) that is mindful of those most vulnerable in our communities. I don't think this is a black-or-white situation, and my reasoning in the last post must have sounded that way. It's possible for me to believe we should be careful of people in the community without having some draconian mandate from the government that forces the actions of the people. It's clearly true that people who don't think business or life should be formally disrupted under state, local or federal mandates don't simply wish the most vulnerable in our communities to die.

One thing making people fearful is the potential for coups in which a government is utterly gutted and reconfigured at a time such as this. Hungary has never been known as a bastion of democracy, but the Prime Minister of Hungary pulled a major stunt last week which has people all over Europe quite concerned, and with good reason.  These are some of the interesting times in which we'd prefer not to live. Still, this is where we are on the continuum. I still think this crisis at this moment is not as frightening or dangerous as the bubonic plague or even the Spanish flu. We still have safe homes replete with the modern conveniences, and we have the world at our fingertips so we don't have to feel THAT cut off or isolated. There's something frightening about watching terrible things from a distance and being unable to affect the outcomes of those events. I don't think that a giant coup is happening in the United States, but I do think there are those here who want that kind of outcome here. I just pray for all this to settle down as soon as possible and in the best way possible.

Like pretty much everything, this is complicated, and I suppose there's not an end in sight. I'm hoping the whole mess will clear up seemingly overnight, but that seems unlikely. Ambulance Driver has lately been reporting thousands of new cases daily in Louisiana, and he's on the front lines. It will be good for this to be over. I hope this is the last incident of its kind, and that people home and abroad will be able to recover quickly.

There is still beauty in the world. Babies are born every day and bringing great joy to their families. Flowers are blooming. The winter is moving with haste to the back of the rearview mirror, and hopefully soon COVID-19 will join it in the past. Whatever happens, though, I'm still optimistic. Bad things have happened before, and we've gotten through. We will get through this.




Monday, March 23, 2020

What condition our condition is in: COVID-19 to date

I surprised myself to note that just three months into this year, I've already blogged several times as often as I did last year. Of course, last year was spent trying to breathe after having the very air punched from my lungs with Dad's death. It still hurts, but I am getting the occasional gasp in these days. Our fragile world reminds me daily that change is a constant, and I'll try to remember how Grandpa described Dad: the strength of a bull with the reflexes of a cat. The world is not a place for sissies at this moment, and we must adapt, find equilibrium with little help from the shaky edifices around us. If Dad were here, I know he'd say things of great wisdom and comfort. I also know he'd do his best to be prepared, he would be vigilant, and he would hope for the best and do all he could to bring about a good outcome for others whenever possible. To that end, I'm trying to manage my perceptions and to not succumb to the temptation of reacting emotionally to news that can be quite unsettling.

What's going on now is that we are in the midst of the sweep of COVID-19, the Corona virus,  around the world and in the United States. The virus first emerged late last year in Wuhan China, and spread quickly, hitting places like Northern Italy particularly hard, as the Italians did not heed medical authorities' advice to limit social contact. The US Surgeon General said today that we are roughly two weeks behind the wave that happened in Italy, and that this week will be bad. I believe him. This is one of those interesting times which we live in hope of never enjoying. There's a reason why that's an ancient curse. Many people have strong opinions about what is happening, but I've had to tune out quite a bit of noise that is unproductive, politically motivated, and frankly hysterical. I decided to track what's going on in what hard numbers I can locate. I may not have sensible conclusions to draw on these data, but I will keep this record because I believe the numbers tell a story that no amount of manipulation can tart up. Don't serve me mutton and try to tell me it's lamb. I'll also do myself the service of making peace with the fact that we simply don't know where all this is going and how it will resolve. The best we can do is to be vigilant, exercise personal responsibility*, and when we've taken care of ourselves, act as stewards for the more vulnerable folks around us whenever possible. In that way, we can act like the wisest of people with the strength of a bull and the reflexes of a cat.

Because things are changing so quickly, I will post occasional blog updates on things related to the virus and what's going on in my immediate area. For the sake of continuity, I will post statistics from a source I believe to be accurate and even-handed. That source is the Coronavirus Dashboard from Johns Hopkins University. As of today, March 23, 6:23 PM, there are 378,547 confirmed cases in the world among 168 countries, 16,497 people have died of this virus, and 100,982 are considered to have recovered from this illness. To give some sense of scale on these metrics, when I began tracking this site on March 10, there were just around 100,000 confirmed cases, and the growth in diagnosed cases appears to be about 10% /day.

Let's just consider the last 7 days according to Johns Hopkins:

Date   Time     Confirmed Cases        Countries        Deaths       Total Recovered

3/17     4:33PM       196,640                      155                7893          80,648
3/18     1:33 PM      214,894                      157                8732          83,313
3/19     6:43 PM      242,713                      160                9867          84,962
3/20     4:43 PM      271,629                      166             11,280          87,403
3/21     7:43 PM      304,544                      170             12,974          91,679
3/22     8:43 PM      335,997                      173             14,641          98,333
3/23     6:23 PM      378,547                      168             16,497        100,982

In the most loosey-goosey sort of calculation, these numbers indicate a disease that is doubling in confirmed prevalence very 7 days. On a planet of billions, 400,000 people doesn't sound like much, but growth continued at this pace would push the number to well over a million and close to two million in just two weeks. If the number doubles by millions per week, from there things will get sporty quite quickly.

Many have argued that these stats are skewed because 80% of people who will contract the cases will have such mild cases that they may not know they have it(even as they spread the disease), and the others will have such mild symptoms that they can stay home and nurse themselves through what seems like a mild cold. Therefore, 80% of the cases will never be diagnosed, so the metric for the actual number of cases is a huge underestimate, and therefore the death rate is even lower than it appears per capita.

The problem with this disease is not that it has a relatively low mortality rate in the absolute sense. The problem with this disease is that for the most vulnerable in our population, contracting this "minor cold" is not a survivable event. It is easily transmissible, and lives on surfaces for a ridiculous amount of time. We don't have enough hospital beds in this country for 20% or 10% or 5% of our population to all be hospitalized at one time. Furthermore, this is going to make a lot of our brave and dedicated healthcare professionals sick, so they'll be patients as well and will either work sick, or those who are able will face increasingly frightening work situations. I will not sport with your intelligence by explaining this in further detail.

Now we've been asked by our Surgeon General to stay at home, and to each act as though we are carrying the virus to level off the spike in new cases. I realize this is financially devastating for a lot of people, and ruinous to 401Ks and the like, but I also believe that the market will bounce back. I'm not thrilled myself, because this will no doubt create uncertainty in a job market I aspire to enter in 9 months. However, the way we conduct interactions is probably overdue for major shifts in our business and educational sectors to more environments online. These transitions bring so many challenges, but I think ultimately this may be more an incredible opportunity than a bad thing. Let's wait and see.

If this was ever going to happen, thank goodness it is happening at a time when students and workers can interact on network devices that nearly all of us carry. If this had happened 20 years ago, most people would be utterly at sea and terrified. Now we're all connected, so we can keep our sense of balance, right? Try not to think of this as a scary loss of contact, but of a realignment. This is not the Blue Screen Of Death, but more of a soft boot. We need to roll with it and make this work, whatever that entails. Is this a frightening moment? Yes, potentially quite. However, this is what is on our plates. Our houses aren't being bombed. We're not being marched into gas chambers. We have the wealth of libraries and museums and symphonies at our fingertips, dancing at our very command, so compared to what previous generations have faced, this seems less disastrous than other things that could happen. If this is the worst crisis of our lives, many of us are getting off easy.

On a more personal note, I am finishing my Master's while also teaching (really, a full-time job) at a university. Boy howdy is this a huge adjustment for me, but I also have the maturity (yes, it's a thing that exists in the world) to recognize that through my actions, my students will learn how to react to an unsettling and unexpected crisis. I will do my utmost to help them recognize that it's possible to have something wonderful come from a change you never wished for in the first place. I'm going to work with them and I hope to help them be their personal best in their own studies.

My task is made slightly more difficult by the fact that I am sick. I have been grappling with something since last Wednesday that was diagnosed remotely today by a doctor as 50/50 a cold or a mild case of COVID-19. I've already been isolating at home since Wednesday. Sick or not, I have dozens of students for whom I am responsible, and I will do my best to prepare them for future courses by giving them good value in this one, but from a distance. I'll keep you posted on how I'm doing, but it's been a mild annoyance, so far, and I'm getting lots of rest, though I've a raft of papers to grade starting later this week. Watch this space. I was told to go immediately to the ER if I develop a fever or shortness of breath. Trust me when I say I will be on a hair trigger on that.

I look forward to the great works of art, music, and literature that will come of this moment in time. I think when the dust settles from the COVID-19 scare, there will be a burst of creativity that will eclipse the creative renaissance that happened after 9/11. I encourage everyone to re-read favorite novels and listen to favorite music. When you cook or clean or garden, pull up an audio book of something you've always meant to read and listen to it on YouTube or Audible while you work. Make time and space for your own renaissance. If you can't think of something you should read, I strongly urge you to read (as I did for my students) either Howard's End or especially A Passage To India by E.M. Forster. His ardent theme is that humans need to behave in ways that are respectful of the sovereignty of other people, and that this can only happen through empathy. "Only connect" is his primary message. His message is as timely today as it was a century ago. A note on the two film productions of these books -- they are brilliant, but they only touch the hem of the garment of the writing of Forster. Don't cheat yourself-- read the books. They're not that long, and they are a delight and demonstrate an elegance and subtlety of mind that more of us would benefit from cultivating.

Not everyone will behave wisely, so we are better off staying home and keeping ourselves safe as this disease makes its way around the world. We only have so much control over whether we get it, but we do have control over our own behavior. Heck, my case is mild now, but there are no guarantees. I'm hoping for the best.

God bless us every one.


*Remember that: personal responsibility? It means that you recognize and behave in accordance with the fact that what you do can potentially have devastating effects on other people. People used to talk about personal responsibility quite a bit, but this is the moment when the rubber meets the road. Put up or shut up. If you are carrying the virus and have no symptoms and go about your business as usual, you will infect people, some of whom will die from it. I'm sorry that you're bored and sick of being cooped up, but you need to grow up and act like a responsible member of society and sublimate your comfort and leisure so that you don't kill other people. HOW IS THIS SO DIFFICULT TO GROK??? I don't think that's an infringement on your rights, especially when you do so voluntarily because you want to be courteous to others, and, you know, not kill them. Also, anyone who tries to make political hay of this at either end of the spectrum is a jerk.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Life's what you make it



Baby, life's what you make it
Celebrate it
Anticipate it
Yesterday's faded
Nothing can change it
Life's what you make it

Everything's alright

Friday, March 20, 2020

And what a year it has been.

It was exactly one year ago today, a Friday, such a beautiful day that was full of the promise of Spring. Two phone calls came from Mom that afternoon, like bookends that framed the worst thing ever to happen to me. We always say we love each other at the end of calls, and in that first call, she abruptly said "I'll talk to you later" and then she said "All you alright? Are you sick?" and the line disconnected. I noticed the abruptness, but life can be busy, so I went on, though I worried that Dad wasn't feeling well. I decided to call Mom back in an hour or so and check in. The next call was a short while later from her, telling me that Dad had collapsed, was on his way to the hospital, and to prepare myself because it didn't look good. I realized the words I heard Mom say at the end of the first call marked the last moment of his life. 

Every day I want to call him and tell him something. Every day, I think of something he would have found funny or amazing or wonderful. I think often of how happy he would be for every good thing that happens for anyone in our family. Missing him is hard, and I know it always will be. More than anything, though, I am so thankful that of all the billions of fathers in human history, I was one of the lucky three who got him. 

He was clear about who he was, where he stood on things, and about his faith, and that has been a comfort always, but especially in this last year.  I'm thankful for my lovely Dad, and for my wonderful Mom, too. In trying times, it's tempting to feel like everything would be so much better if we still had Dad around, but there's also joy in knowing he is spared the pain of awful things that happen in the world, too. We all talk about him, and about what he would have thought, how he would have advised us. My sister bought a truck and sold it rather quickly, saying "I knew I shouldn't have bought it, I could just hear Dad saying I shouldn't buy that one." Even as we miss him, we are delighted by his sweet, sunny wisdom. He'll be present with us, always. 

Grief is terrible and hideously painful for everyone, and actual mileage may vary. I'll never be the same, and it feels like pure joy is gone forever. Still, the memory of Dad and of all that he stood for is a great comfort, and I'm holding on to that. The only bitterness of his memory is of having lost him, and all the rest is simply sweet.