Saturday evening. It feels so good to do absolutely nothing, with the option of doing a little bit of everything.

Last night, I made a leap of faith and signed up for a DuoLingo membership – an upgrade from their free version. It costs about $10 a month and has the potential of becoming an amazing investment. In the free version, you’re limited to making just five mistakes per day. Now, for the price of a few Tim Hortons breakfast sandwiches, my potential to make mistakes is limitless! (Mwahahaha.)

With this overabundance of linguistic freedom, I took a quick stroll across their non-French offerings. Arabic has a very unusual alphabet. Since that’s the fundamental part of learning the language, I’ll come back to it a bit later. Apparently, I remember a whole lot more Spanish than I’d thought. Finnish is beautiful and very clear in terms of both its grammar and pronunciation, but I probably won’t get to use it very much outside Finland. Curious about their Navajo module… Not for the first time, I wish DuoLingo had been more widespread when I was a perpetually under-stimulated warehouse grunt, about a decade ago. Oh well, the second-best time is right now, right?

My slowcooker love affair continues. I think I accidentally reinvented chili (or a sad version thereof) when I dumped everything I had together: beef, beans, onions, and spices. The result looks downright bizarre (seeing as I didn’t have any tomatoes), but it’s mighty scrumptious.

Since I still don’t trust my fancy gym enough to go back (and those pre-scheduled 75-minute blocks are incompatible with spontaneity), I’ve decided to gamify my current routine. No cider unless I complete 100 pushups and/or squat for the day. (The exchange rate is 100 exercises = 1 bottle of cider.) Who knows, I might actually emerge from this pandemic more buff than I’d entered it. And on the same note, I’m making a deliberate choice to switch from black coffee to black tea. The latter seems to be slightly better for metabolism. The former is apparently bad for cortisol, aka the primary stress hormone. (That explains so much about folks in Seattle…)

Lots of changes, but since I’m kind of stuck in self-imposed lockdown here, I might as well make the most of it.

In covid news: the Trump administration has declared that covid lab tests will no longer need to be approved by the FDA. This is a classic catch-22: people hate it when the FDA takes its time to study the full impact of promising tests and drugs. On the other hand, without that rigorous process, there’d be a lot more junk on the market – and that’s where we’re headed, it seems. This is unlikely to do much to stop the pandemic, and will likely result in confusion and inaccurate homebrewed tests produced by random entrepreneurs. (Incidentally, I’ve just found out that my step-nephew from New York has been selling bedazzled masks online. Heh.)

Evidently, a prison in Arizona told the inmates to decline covid tests in order to drive down the official numbers. That was less of a suggestion and more of a threat, with severe repercussions. The families of some of the inmates have gone public with this, as they rightfully should. And in some odd news, a major movie starring Ben Affleck is moving its production from the US to Canada due to covid-related reasons. I wonder if this will be the first of many such moves. If the pandemic never gets fully extinguished, it’ll be difficult to convince millionaire celebrities to risk their lives on a crowded movie set.

And now, as promised quite a while ago, some vacation pictures from my 2,500-mile roadtrip across Ontario just a month ago:
1. a cozy reading perch on the shore of Lake Superior;
2. mysterious and abandoned-looking industrial buildings in Thunder Bay, about 15 hours north of Toronto;
3. an amethyst mine-farm-thing in the same location, where you could find 4. and buy your own rocks, or just pay for the cheap ones on display;
the Sleeping Giant, an amazing mountain formation in northern Ontario.