Sunday night. Weekends sure feel longer when you wake up at 7am without an alarm.

You know that expression, “life is what happens when you make other plans”? Well, there’s just not much happening right now. Leaving the house only once every 10 days for a grocery run, working from home, and with dating not really being an option right now, there isn’t much of anything going. So might as well make plans, eh? I’m sketching out a mental model of what my 2021 will look like. A lot will happen next year, contingent on getting my Canadian PR and covid vaccine. And after that… well, there will be some interesting life decisions to make. A year from now, I expect to be someplace much more fun, tropical, and entertaining than this strange, cold-but-snowless suburb of Toronto, with landlords who break lockdown regulations (four guests this time) and keep bringing over that fun but incessantly barking Corgie.

Just to give y’all some idea of the sheer levels of boredom at work here: during my big roadtrip to Ottawa last month, I was listening to some podcasts and learned about exciting advances in the CRISPR gene-editing field. (It really is exciting: they managed to completely eliminate someone’s sickle-cell anemia!) Afterwards, I found out that the University of Toronto has the best Molecular Genetics in Canada, and learned all about their admission process. The deadline for 2021 was three weeks ago… In the end, I decided against it, if only because I’d have to get a whole new undergrad degree, and wouldn’t get my Masters degree (and join the gene-editing party) until six years from now, at age 40. I know, I’ll turn 40 one way or another, and yes, I know, Julia Child didn’t roll in culinary school till she was 37. One fun thing about CRISPR, though, is that anyone can join that party if they really, really wanted to – and even if not, cheering on from the sidelines is still a fun potential future.

So yeah… Chilling, staying healthy, planning, plotting, waiting. So much waiting. I’ve started something new to keep ye olde grey matter active: one of the huge gaps in my education is classical music. To remedy that, I’ve started streaming the greatest hits of the greatest composers while doing other things. (Literally just started that today.) First impressions so far: Bach is pretty good, and his Badinerie (especially this flute performance) is brilliant. I figure it’ll take me at least a week to get through all the biggest classics, at which point I’ll be able to sagely nod and say pretentious stuff like “ahh, yes, just like Beethoven’s 42nd!” at cheese&wine parties. Or, barring that, become the classiest ex-Russian out there. (Or the most interesting Russian-American-Canadian in the world! Heh.)

In covid news, there is a fascinating study by Kate Petrova of Harvard that links negative reviews for scented candles with the rise of covid. This is my favourite kind of research: the kind that looks at publicly available information through an entirely different lens to find a striking conclusion. (Not unlike the very recent discovery that platypuses glow under the UV light: it took them that long to shine a UV flashlight on one of them. But I digress…) Petrova’s data suggests that the 2020 spike in negative reviews for the hitherto bestselling scented candles was caused by the covid-induced loss of smell. Online, there are anecdotes from Starbucks baristas who claim their customers don’t like the taste of their liquid candybars anymore, which ties in nicely with the scented candle issue.

That makes one wonder just how far the virus has spread, and how many got infected but not tested. It’s pretty obvious the actual number of cases in the US is far higher than the official 13.4 million. Two days ago, an online friend of mine in New York couldn’t get a covid test without a doctor’s note – at least not until she refused to leave the testing center. Even now, in late November, and in New York, of all places, not everyone can get a test. By now, tens of millions of Americans have most likely been infected. The true number may even be in the 100 million range. We’ll simply never know, but strange developments like the decline of scented candles will keep popping up. Someday, we’ll be able to paint the full picture, if only by focusing on the negative space.

Stay safe and sane, folks.