Archive for September, 2020

Plague diaries, Day 191

Sunday evening. If civilization collapses in a way that permanently eliminates the power grid, ice cream will become a strange and coveted memory.

A nice and quiet day filled with gaming, reading, and now some binge-watching before bed.

In today’s culinary adventures – to quote Arrested Development, I’ve made a huge mistake. I tried to pre-plan today’s meals by throwing a lot of chicken and beans into the slow cooker last night. Well, the end result was some highly nutritious yet completely tasteless goo that almost certainly broke the Geneva Convention. It took three separate attempts to eat the damn thing: it was so very, very tempting to just throw it all away, but hey, frugality. Lessons learned: even the slowcooker magic can only take you so far.

Today was a relaxy cardio day: just 20 minutes of stomping around in circles (in rectangles?) in the backyard. The end of my first week of trying to eat healthy (at least in terms of eating enough calories and protein) and doing compound exercises daily. I kind of sort of maybe feel like I can possibly some impact already, but that’s almost certainly placebo effect. I’m mighty curious how I’ll look a month or six months later, as long as I don’t give up on this project.

In covid news: depending on whose counter you trust, the official US death toll has either crossed 200,000 or will do some tomorrow. (It really is absurd: the excess deaths crossed 250,000 over a month ago. One counter says it’s 204,000 total; another says it’s 199,000.) Regardless, it’s bizarre how normalized this ongoing tragedy has become… The ongoing death toll means the US gets as many casualties from covid every three days as it got during 9/11. Is this indifference driven by the lack of larger-than-life visuals (it’s hard to ignore collapsing skyscrapers…) or by the existential fatigue? Or maybe by the media not reporting more on the runaway pandemic taking place in its own backyard?

I remember starting this blog and seeing the cumulative – not daily – US death toll go up to two thousand, then four, then more. That was a lot back then. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it reached 500,000 or more. When numbers get this high, you become numbed to them. Most of this was so easily avoidable…

Plague diaries, Day 190

Saturday night. A century ago, car ownership was a rare and luxurious privilege. Will private space shuttles be as commonplace in 2120 as cars are today?

Today was unusual: I spent most of the day hanging out with xgf, first at a local park and then playing video games on her parents’ tiny prehistoric TV. (The parents were both gone for the day, which is a rare occurrence.) Her little town is as safe as it gets these days: 1-5 new cases per day lately. The downside, of course, is that her parents are conspiracy theorists who go out thrift-store shopping every single day. Her dad has switched from “Jews are doing this to us” to “Bill Gates has created the virus,” and he’s a huge fan of Trump. I wore a mask and a face shield the entire time I was inside, and took a long shower when I got home… Fun distraction from the usual routine, though, and good to see that xgf is feeling better.

Before the pandemic, I used to walk to the nearest Tim Hortons every Saturday and treat myself to two egg&bacon sandwiches, a black coffee, and a doughnut. I grabbed the same order at the drivethrough before I left for xgf’s place earlier today – and was shocked to realize the meal took up almost my entire dietary fat allowance for the day. (I’m sticking to the 55%/25%/20% carb/protein/fat breakdown.) To be fair, the type of calories doesn’t matter as much as the total number of calories, but it’s still jarring to realize how much nutrition I was completely overlooking. When I made it back home at 9pm, I had to catch up by forcefeeding myself a pound of boiled chicken, as well as some bread and veggies. Lockdown life is exciting, isn’t it?

In covid news: Doug Ford, Ontario’s premier, took a seemingly decisive action against the virus. We’re getting more than 400 new cases per day now – the last time new cases were that high was in June. Public gatherings in the entire province will be limited for the next 28 days. You can’t have more than 10 people indoors or more than 25 people outdoors. Sounds great and smart, right? Well, wait till you hear about the exceptions: “The new limits do not apply to gatherings in staffed businesses and other facilities, such as bars, restaurants, cinemas, convention centres, banquet hall, gyms, places of worship, sporting or performing arts events.”

In other words, you’re not allowed to host a house party for your, say, 30 closest friends. However, y’all can meet up at the local gym first thing in the morning, go to a diner for brunch, then go bowling, then head over to a movie theatre, maybe drop by the local church if you feel like it, then go to another diner for dinner, and then party till you drop at the nearest bar. All of that will be within the rule framework. Oh, and of course this doesn’t mean school classes will be limited to nine kids each. (The teacher would make the 10th.) Nope, I guess we’re still going with the “kids are immune and magical” hypothesis in lieu of absolutely nothing.

I’m sorry, but this is simply garbage. The only good thing that might come of this is the elimination of house parties. All the elephant-sized exceptions for local businesses and places of worship will result in continued transmission at those venues. This is headline fodder. This is GIGO – Garbage In, Garbage Out. This is gonna be a long winter…

To end this on a slightly lighter note, here’s a picture of the Garbasaurus, an awesome giant garbage statue at a park near Toronto.

Plague diaries, Day 189

Friday night. This French Friday, the word of the day is “merde.”

Another week gone and done with… Literally the only way I can even mark the passage of time anymore is by the weekly releases of new episodes of The Boys, an Amazon TV show. (It’s jarring but interesting, and the casting is perfect. The comic book was just as good.) Well, I guess at least I can savour the new episode after getting through yet another set of five workdays.

The pandemic is rough on us regular people… My landlords got into a giant shouting match with their 16-year-old son today. It was in Vietnamese. I don’t know what they were yelling about, and I don’t feel like it’s my place to intervene. (There’s also a rather large language barrier between us.) As far as I can tell, it’s a typical teenager/parents argument, which would’ve happened even without the pandemic. Even so, I doubt the lockdown is helping… At work, nerves are getting more frayed. I’m fine – I’m a professional survivor with the durability of the proverbial cockroach in the midst of a nuclear war. Just doing my job and waiting…

There was some much-needed levity earlier today as I tried to install my newly purchased pullup bar just about anywhere in this house. The design is relatively modern, so there aren’t a lot of doorways in common area, no arches or corridors. The only suitable area had two walls that were a little too far apart for the pullup bar. In the end, I ended up securing it against my room’s doorframe. (It’s the adjustable kind that doesn’t need screws – like a very sturdy shower curtain rod.) I haven’t done any pullups in very many years: the upside is that I’ve figured out how to do them again; the downside is that I already know that’s gonna hurt tomorrow. Heh. The price of progress, right?

In covid news, Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei and one of his ministers have tested positive for covid. Giammattei is 64. It’s strange how relatively rare it is to hear about major politicians catching the virus. There was Boris Johnson and his 50-50 diagnosis, of course – and there was Herman Cain, who wasn’t as lucky. The former had insisted on going to hospitals and hanging out with covid-positive people; the latter went to a Trump rally without a mask. But aside from that… I guess the 1% really do get better healthcare than the rest of us. Interestingly, though, a couple of days ago there was a report about multiple White House staffers testing positive, just one day after the big accord ceremony between Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain. I hope everyone gets better, and learns the importance of taking this seriously.

In non-covid but very much political news… (Hey, I was a political science major – I’m one of the few people who are actually authorized to opine on that stuff.) Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died of cancer. She was 87, and had multiple health scares throughout the year. Her death is tragic. She had the opportunity to step down during Obama’s two terms, but she didn’t: at the time, everyone assumed Trump would lose. He didn’t, and RBG ended up keeping that Supreme Court seat warm just so he wouldn’t appoint a replacement.

Her death is tragic. Her inability to spend her final years in well-deserved retirement was partly due to her own actions, but no less tragic. The fact that the US will likely get a conservative Supreme Court justice to replace her even though the election is a few weeks away – that’s not tragic, that’s karma. A once-prosperous democracy has gotten so frail and fragile that all of its hopes depended on a single 87-year-old cancer survivor staying alive just a little bit longer. That’s the opposite of stability – that’s a gamble. Just like relying on John McCain’s decency when he voted against the Obamacare repeal was a gamble.

The McCain gamble paid off. Maybe the RBG gamble would’ve paid off too, had Ginsburg survived. But then there’d be another gamble. And another. Go all in often enough, and eventually your streak will end. If you do manage to win a few times in a row, that’s likely due to luck, not skill – and luck always runs out, just like it did here and now. This will get very ugly. I hope there will be mass protests, and enough Republican senators (like Mitt Romney just did) will vow not to vote for RBG’s replacement until the new administration gets sworn in. Realistically, though, I fully expect Republicans to bite into this sudden opportunity with all the amoral tenacity of a hungry alligator. This will get very ugly indeed.

Good luck, my American compadres. Y’all are going to need it.

Plague diaries, Day 188

Thursday night. Is there a greater tragedy than not being thirsty on a Thirsty Thursday?

An interesting development today: the company that’s helping me apply for PR in Canada has emailed me about biometrics. Apparently, Canada stopped taking the applicants’ biometric data when the pandemic began, all the way back in March. They’ve just reopened them – and hopefully won’t close them again if new cases keep rising. They’ve got one hell of a backlog, but that means at some point I’ll get a call from my friendly neighbourhood government official, inviting me to come in and give them my retinas and what not. That will likely be the only social interaction I’ll have that month, so I guess I’ll have to keep my phone’s volume set on high just in case. (The “do not disturb” mode is so much more peaceful.)

The body is still aching all over from daily workouts, but in a good way. Yay variety!

In the ESO game I’ve resumed playing, I’ve discovered the concept of player guilds – as well as guild-only markets. Now my character specializes in buying random food ingredients in bulk, cooking hundreds of servings, and destroying that fantasy world’s economy by dumping them all on the market. The mad chef! …hey, there’s no wrong way to roleplay, okay?

In covid news, the updates coming out of the US are getting wilder every single day. It took months for this story to see the light of day, but evidently there had been a program proposal to send five masks to every address and PO Box in the US, all the way back in April. The White House shut it down, presumably because Trump didn’t want to cause panic. (One assumes he didn’t want to panic Wall Street, because his random tweet-storms sure as hell cause panic domestically.) It’s hard to tell how many lives would’ve been saved…

On a brighter note, the Navajo Nation has crushed covid. They had a fraction of the US resources, and far less personnel, but they followed all the CDC guidelines, enacted strict lockdowns, mandated masks, organized a PR campaign equating wearing masks with showing respect, etc. The end result is that earlier this month, they had one day with no new recorded cases. (Even though they had four new deaths…) They recorded one new case the following day, so there was no winning streak per se, but that’s still great news. In May, the Navajo Nation was a major covid hot spot. Now they’re the envy of everyone around. The US could’ve been in the same exact boat if it just followed its own damn guidelines… Anyway, good for the Navajo Nation.

From an anecdotal perspective: now that the west coast wildfires no longer threaten them, my brother tried getting a covid test just in case before visiting our mom. (They both live in Seattle’s suburbs; she’s in her 60s.) The local clinic told him that tests are reserved only for those who are showing symptoms or were exposed. In other words, the whole “if you want to get tested, you can get tested” thing the US politicians have been promoting is still a lie. Even now, in mid-September, after all these months… Whoever reads about this pandemic in the future, without having experienced it (lucky bastards), will not be able to understand the sheer insanity of it all. Hell, I’m here and now, and even I can’t wrap my mind around it. This is gonna be a long winter…

Plague diaries, Day 187

Wednesday night. I have this dark suspicion that for the next 20+ years, job interviewers will always ask “how did you productively utilize your free time during the pandemic?”

I’m trying to make the most of my lockdown: taking DuoLingo French lessons in between my workout sets after cooking a homemade dinner, with a homemade protein smoothie once I’m done. Hopefully this will keep up. For the record: I’m not expecting anyone to do anything productive at all, mind you: merely staying safe and sane is good enough. Your mileage may vary: Susan Orlean (the author of author of “The Orchid Thief” and “The Library Book”) has fully embraced her love of wine. A couple of months ago, there was a hilarious series of tweets where she had a little bit too much, and ended up sending typo-ridden messages to her family as they tried to take the wine away. She’s Internet’s patron saint of lockdown drinking – and hey, in her defense, it’s a freaking pandemic. Pre-pandemic rules don’t apply, eh.

While looking up different nutrition facts about my usual food, I discovered something pretty horrifying: the beef&cheddar sausages I’ve been eating on Wiener Wednesdays are 80% fat. No more of those things, I suppose. I don’t want to retroactively analyze my earlier food consumption, but I’m guessing about 40% of the calories (if not more) must’ve come from fat. It has its place, mind you, but I think I was overdoing it. Ho hum. On the upside, the pleasant pain means my workouts are working and ye olde muscles are growing. What I wouldn’t give to have a picture of myself six months from now – hairier, with a bigger beard, and hopefully in much better shape.

In covid news: cases are on the rise in Canada in general and in Ontario in particular. It’s hard to say what specifically is driving them: could be crowded weddings, could be the asinine decision to send kids back to schools, could be all of the above. Compared to the US with its 30,000+ new cases per day, Canada’s count looks much better. Even so, we’ve gone from just 172 new daily cases in June to 1,479 a week ago. Ontario – or at the very least Toronto – will likely switch back to stage 2, or at least severely limit public gatherings.

India has just set the world record with 97,000 new cases. Per capita, they’re still not the worst in the world, but the sheer numbers…

There was something about Trump promising a safe and working vaccine next month, followed by the CDC issuing a statement supporting that, followed (within an hour) by the CDC issuing a statement to retract the first statement – but I didn’t bother looking into that too closely. At this point, US headlines might as well be from The Onion: strange and hilarious in a twisted, macabre way. When the only choices are to laugh or to cry, I know which one I pick. Sorry for the mess you’re in, my American compadres…

Plague diaries, Day 186

Tuesday night. If the Spanish word for “Tuesday” is “martes,” should we combine Taco Tuesday and Margarita martes just to be on the safe side?

Well, eating five servings of beans to catch up on ye olde protein intake definitely seemed like a good idea last night. Not so much this morning – but hey, lesson learned, right?

To keep this latest lockdown project going, I made a quick run to Costco to stock up on frozen chicken breast. It was my first time there in over six months… Either it’s a lot more hectic these days than it had been in the past, or I’m no longer used to having so many people around me anymore. Might be both, to be honest.

Upside: I’ve acquired plenty of chicken, and will be able to keep munching on it for quite a while. Downside: I had no idea I’d have to eat so much (not just protein, but everything) to get to my caloric target. The 55%/25%/20% split between carbs/protein/fat is interesting in that you have to balance the ratio as well as the total calories. A fascinating game of multidimensional tetris, that. (That’s also how I ended up baking three lonely beets next to my perfectly measured 250g of chicken. Heh.) The upside, though, is that with all the exercising, I actually get sleepy around the traditional bedtime. I’m going to miss running on fumes and staying up late… Here is to better sleep, though.

At Costco, I parked next to a car with New York license plates. I wonder who that was, where they’re from, and how soon they intend to skedaddle back in that general direction.

I don’t often write about the US news, but this was noteworthy: a whistleblower nurse said an ICE detention center in Georgia performed involuntary hysterectomies (in other words, forced sterilization) on women in its custody. They described it “like an experimental concentration camp.” The gynecologist has been identified as Mahendra Amin. He himself is an immigrant, and a doctor with 43 years of experience, which adds just another layer to this horror. How long until even this is normalized? That was, without exaggeration, exactly what Nazis used to do to their prisoners. The only remaining step is gas chambers – and seeing how so many folks in the US have normalized the existence of concentration camps for children, I honestly wouldn’t bet against that. How many more crimes against humanity are taking place right now, without conscientious whistle blowers to report them? How many more are just around the corner?

Not for the first time, nor for the last – I’m so incredibly glad I left the US for Canada…

In covid news: two days ago, Michael Caputo (a top official at the Health and Human Services) had a public meltdown in a video he posted on his Facebook page. It was rather impressive, really: he allegedly ranted about an anti-Trump “resistance unit” in the CDC and accused scientists of “sedition.” He also described “shadows on the ceiling in my apartment, there alone, shadows are so long.” If we live in a TV show, the writers are really mailing it in. All of this came after the media reported on Caputo’s attempts to interfere with the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports. It’s been two days: Caputo has deactivated his Facebook account, issued something that’s supposed to be an apology (addressed to his boss, not to the CDC), and said he might take a leave of absence. I hope he gets the help he needs, but I’m also disturbed that someone like that has a government job. Then again, it’s possible everyone involved in sweeping the covid numbers under the rug is just like him…

In more positive news, there’s a promising report from the University of Pittsburgh: their scientists isolated an antibody component (10 times smaller than a regular antibody) that neutralizes the virus, and created a drug they’re calling Ab8. So far, it’s been successfully tested on mice and hamsters. (Reader, if you’re a mouse and/or hamster, I’m incredibly happy for you.) There’s no timeline for human testing yet, and this could well end up being another amazing cure that doesn’t really pan out, but hey – this is still good news. A lot of brainiacs all over the world are working on the same problem, and they’re making progress, and eventually they’ll win. We just have to stay patient…

Plague diaries, Day 185

Monday night. How come we still don’t have food replicators in 2020?

Another Monday of yet another workweek. Another step closer to becoming a full-fledged Canadian resident, though.

I’ve decided to switch up my relaxation repertoire by switching from the zombie game (too monotone after some point) back to Elder Scrolls Online. I broke that particular addiction after spending a couple of weeks hiking through the Ontario wilderness in July. The real world is just way more picturesque and beautiful than even the best video game visuals… Nonetheless, the writing in the game is amazing and occasionally hilarious, and even though every interaction is hard-coded, that almost makes up for the lack of socialization if you try hard enough.

Today was the first day of my exercise regime. Let me just state one thing: there ought to be easier ways to overload on protein. Eggs are insufficient due to their high fat/protein ratio, and even with my awesome homemade protein smoothie with its 78 grams of protein can only get me halfway there. I’ve ended up setting ye olde slowcooker to cook some random beans I’ve found to cover the gap. On the upside, I’ve found my old digital food scale, which means I no longer have to use a complex system of cups to guesstimate the true weight of things. (Come to think of it, the scale miiiight have been for drug dealers dealers, since I can’t imagine why any cook would need to measure 0.1 grams of something.)

My landlords are not opposed to me buying and them installing a pullup bar (my only weakness!) but in the meantime I visited a local park a few blocks away. I’ve officially become the weird man haunting a playground after sunset. (In my defense, I wanted to see if there was a pullup-compatible metal bar I could exercise on.) That was a little too weird, even for me. Gonna have to hit up that secondhand sports good store, I guess. Aside from the pullup fiasco, though, and my arms feeling like they’re about to fall off after 40 minutes of exercising, all is well! The trick, as always, will be getting enough sleep. At least some positive changes will come out of this long lockdown… (I apologize in advance to all the chickens I’ll have to devour over the course of this vanity quest.)

In covid news, we’re out of monkeys. The pandemic has been highlighting some unusual and occasionally bizarre bottlenecks in the worldwide supply chain but huh, monkeys. Go figure. Evidently, 60% of the monkeys used for testing in the US had been imported from China. China stopped all exports once the pandemic started. No monkeys means no testing, and given how much testing all the various vaccine candidates are going through… It’s a great time to be in the monkey business.

There was a particularly unbelievable anti-mask protest in St George, Utah. This news report is only 99 seconds long, and it’s hard to believe that was a real event with real people – as opposed to, say, some poorly written satire. My favourite part was where the ornery mob tried to storm a school building.

One bit of good news: the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine trial has resumed after being placed on hold for a few days due to one person’s adverse reaction in the UK. Here is hoping the rest will go smoothly… Any vaccine that proves successful will be distributed to hundreds of millions around the world. Even if there are 100,000 participants in your final phase, a single bad reaction could mean thousands of identical reactions once it’s rolled out. That’s only 0.001% but someone somewhere will end up getting that bad lottery ticket. Whatever ends up getting approved at the end will have to be as bulletproof as possible. Toes and fingers crossed, eh?

Plague diaries, Day 184

Sunday night. When salmon goes extinct in a few decades, will tuna become the new luxury fish?..

This was the first weekend in a very long while that I spent completely alone. (Not counting my landlords, who aren’t very good conversationalists.) On the one hand, I didn’t have to risk the crazy Toronto traffic, and I got so much sleep and relaxy time. On the other hand, hanging out with xgf was my last non-work-related social activity, and now my brain is all out of distractions. I’m trying to divert my thoughts when they inevitably get to work, but it’s only partly effective.

Some good news, though: I’ve done some research and made a tentative first step in setting up a home gym. The first couple of stores I called said they didn’t have any strength-training equipment (adjustable dumbbells, to be precise) and wouldn’t get any till 2021. I knew I wasn’t exactly original with my home gym idea, but wow. Good line of business to be in, I suppose. Eventually, I found a local secondhand sports equipment store (like Gamestop, but for jocks) that had some goodies. The salesman said they get a shipment of several hundred smaller-size weight plates (never above 10 lbs) about once a week, and they all get sold out within two days.

As of today, I’m a proud owner of two adjustable dumbbell bars and eight weight plates ranging between 2.5-5 lbs – 40 lbs total. Not sure what’s more hilarious: the baby 2.5-lb plates, or having seven plates on one dumbbell to simulate 20 lbs. Heh. That won’t exactly turn me into Mr. Universe, but that’s a start. Also, I guess I have a new hobby now: calling up that store every other day to see if they got new, non-children-sized plates. So exciting, this lockdown life.

In covid news, Israel is the first country in the world to institute a second strict nationwide lockdown. Their first one was in April, and all seemed well, but covid cases are on the rise again. The new lockdown will be mighty strict: no venturing more than 500 meters outside your home unless it’s for work, no indoor gatherings of more than 10 people, etc. The lockdown will last for three weeks, and it’ll coincide with Yom Kippur on September 27th. I wish best of luck to whomever will be tasked with enforcing those restrictions on the big day. So far, one of every 60 Israelis has contracted the virus: there are 9,000,000 people in Israel, and 150,000 recorded cases. In other words, they’re pretty high up there compared to the rest of the world. Here is hoping the lockdown helps.

In slightly lighter news, earlier today I read about the most unexpected side effect of covid. Remote learning for kids means they don’t have to school. That also means there won’t be any snow days: it could be a genuine blizzard outside, but they’ll still have to log on and virtually attend their classes. We didn’t have snow days in Siberia when I was a kid (only if it got below -31 degrees Fahrenheit), but I sympathize with the snowed-in kiddos. If it’s any consolation, their summer break won’t be delayed due to all the skipped days. That’s something, right?

Plague diaries, Day 183

Saturday evening. What if 2021 will make us all feel nostalgic about the comparatively peaceful and easy 2020?

This is the 183rd day since xgf (né gf) and I ran away from Toronto, started a big AirBnB adventure, and generally started safeguarding against the virus. It’s been 183 days since I’ve been to work: there’s a bunch of new hires there now who wouldn’t recognize my face if they bumped into me. This is an important day, because it’s the half-year mark. From this point on, the virus has officially taken up the majority of at least one year in my life, in your life, in everybody’s life. Am I the only one who wonders what things would’ve been like in the baseline reality, one that’s free of covid?..

I tried to be proactive and googled Workaholics Anonymous. Turns out, it’s a 12-step support group based on the same general principle as Alcoholics Anonymous. It amounts “please proclaim undying faith in some almighty higher power that’s totally not God :)” – or as close as you can get to a taxpayer-subsidized cult that barely even bothers hiding. Oh well.

Doing some more reading, here and there. In order to get any significant results from home workouts (or gym workouts, if I felt safe enough to go there), I’d have to consume an unholy amount of protein every single day. Homemade protein smoothies and tons of boneless chicken breast it is, then. Incidentally, the more I learn about the best way to grow muscle (and, conversely, the worst ways), the more I realize how counterproductive my previous efforts had been… I’d go to the gym right after a long day at the office, without any protein snacks at any point in the afternoon. Or sabotage myself by getting just 4-5 hours of sleep per night. Or other stuff… Well, at least now I know better.

One interesting aspect of this particular new hobby is all the meal-planning. Not so much meal prep (who has the time, eh?) as knowing what to munch on ahead of time. Given that I’ve lost about 10 lbs over the past six months solely due to poor eating habits, that’ll be interesting… I’m off to order a food scale and those little measuring spoon thingies.

I keep reminding myself to check my privilege and realize just how well off I am compared to so many others, so I will not be so crass as to say that my self-imposed living situation is even remotely like solitary confinement. Nope. Not saying anything like that, just to make it clear. What I am saying, though, is that things are mighty bleak and monotonous – the more different hobbies and distractions I can bury myself in, the better. (A friend of mine in Seattle has just taken up knitting – good for him.)

In covid news: winter is coming. Fauci is being a realist, but even though he tries to look on the bright side, the media insists on using only the darkest quotes as the headlines. Things like “the US won’t get back to normal till the end of 2021” or “December will be really bad,” etc. I wish I didn’t have to say this, but we’re dealing with an increasingly violent country here… I hope no one decides to shut him up by force. His family has been receiving threats for quite a while now. Fauci may have royally screwed the pooch by dismissing masks back in March (so that there’d be more for medical personnel), but he hasn’t had any major blunders since then. He is, on the balance, one of the good guys – and possibly the only good guy in the US government when it comes to this pandemic.

Winter is coming, and it probably won’t be pretty. Earlier, folks thought summer would be relatively covid-free since it dies in the sun and so many people are out and about. Well, that didn’t quite work out that way. (People love indoors and air-conditioning a whole lot more than gallivanting in the great outdoors.) Summer has been pretty bad. Winter will likely be just as bad, if not worse – though if it’s any consolation for the west coast, at least there won’t be any additional wildfires. Prediction: there will be an awful lot of pictures of snowmen and snow angels on social media, since there won’t be much else to do. At least that’s my big plan, in any case.

Plague diaries, Day 182

Friday night. Someday, I’ll find out why people hate and mock Maroon 5, Coldplay, and Nickelback. Today is not that day.

I celebrated the long-awaited arrival of the weekend by munching on microwaved frozen burritos and drinking cider in the backyard while reading about nutrition – as one does.

Today was the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attack. That attack killed about 3,000 Americans. This pandemic has killed at least 60 times as many, yet there doesn’t seem to be nearly as much outrage. I’m definitely not the first person to point that out, but America’s lack of urgency – or unity, for that matter – is still staggering.

Things at work are getting more… interesting, I guess you could say – reminiscent of the late 2016, when my main objective was, just as it is now, to count days till March, when a long-awaited (and frankly, idealized) event awaited me. Waiting for my PR (and a few other things) would’ve been much easier if there was anything besides work in my life.

For those of you reading this in the future (you lucky bastards), here is what one immigrant’s life is like in Canada during the pandemic:

Dating life: nada. Meetups and mixers are all cancelled, and for good reason. (Xgf is tempting fate by meeting up with random folks from dating sites. Good for her, but if she catches covid this way after all our precautions, I’ll be mildly peeved.)

Finances: got some measure of job security, not going out, not dating, and the only real expenses are groceries and alcohol. In other words, I’m saving more money than ever before – and funneling it into my stock market account. Some say that all the giant stock market swings are due to people like me who sit at home and day-trade. Personally, I’m more of a buy-and-hold investor these days, but I see where they’re coming from.

Exercise: I try to force myself to do body-weight exercises. Gyms reopened not too long ago, but it just doesn’t seem like a good idea to visit the one place where people huff and puff. For now, doing some laps in the backyard helps break up the routine, but winter is coming…

Hobbies: mixing up binge-watching TV shows, reading new books, playing video games, and learning fun new languages on DuoLingo mostly breaks up the routine. All the shiny minerals I found on my geological vacation in July make my room look like a fairly impressive provincial museum. I’m making small (very, very small) progress with cooking. Ended up falling in love with garlic salt, of all things. Trying to learn to love vegetables, though frozen burritos win every time. Heh. I’ve yet to unpack the new zoom lens for my camera, or the art set I bought months ago.

Work: things are extra-busy at Amazon this year. We call it “the forever peak” since we’ve been running nonstop since March. Typically, such workload is reserved for the last six weeks of the year. Stress. Burnout. Far more turnover than I’ve ever seen. I’m relatively essential, so I’ve held on to my job, if only out of stubbornness. I keep reminding myself to be grateful, since millions have lost their jobs. For the time being, I’m just working from home. What used to be a rare treat before the pandemic has turned into a strange and grey routine: hypothetically, I can sleep/eat/work/shower without ever leaving my room. Now that’s a scary thought… We’re good to continue working from home till at least January. What happens next will be interesting.

And so it goes. I’m playing this thing extra-safe, which means no unnecessary outings until I get a vaccine shot – and that means anywhere between 4-6 months more of this routine. Ho hum. One major consolation is that my Apocalypse Beard and my hair will both grow out by then. I wonder what my hermit look will be, especially if I actually manage to get in better shape. (Grigory “the wild man of Mississauga” Lukin. Heh.)

In covid news, Florida just really hates science and loves money. On Monday, Florida’s bars will be allowed to reopen after the 2.5-month shutdown. They won’t be allowed to exceed 50% capacity, but that still sounds like 49% too many. A covid-proof bar sounds just as likely as a self-contained smoking section in a restaurant. I don’t mean to be too much of a downer here, but they’ll probably get a spike in covid cases in a couple of weeks.

In more positive covid news, there were no covid deaths in Canada over the past 24 hours. That hasn’t happened since March 15. For context, this pandemic chronicle began when xgf and I ran away from Toronto on March 14. The fact that deaths, if not infections, have been eliminated, if only for a little while, is a major victory. Now we just need to build a border wall and make New Mexico pay for it, and we’ll be good to go.

Enjoy your weekend, platonic pandemic peeps.