Thursday evening.

You know, this will sound incredibly wrong and possibly insensitive, but this lockdown year has been my best opportunity for ongoing self-improvement. It all sort of sneaked up on me: just in the last 24 hours, aside from work and sleep (happiness is when you do more sleep than work; I am not happy), I worked out, studied some Spanish and French, made some homecooked meals, rediscovered the formula on calculating the odds, fell in love with and purchased a rather dense (but funny!) math book, read the author’s entire pandemic blog, read a few long-form articles, participated in some civilized political discourse online (quite rare these days), came up with a fun business idea, analyzed some stocks, worked out a bit more, and treated myself to an episode of Schitt’s Creek. And, of course, I blogged.

This makes me sound like an overprivileged showoff who has the time (that most precious commodity) and energy to do all these things, and I don’t disagree. Nonetheless, I can’t remember another time in my life when I did so much self-directed learning, and with a bit of self-directed physical activity as well. My university years come close to matching this, but the learning that happened there was mostly assigned: my only choices consisted of selecting which classes to take, and not all of them were very educational. (Some of my professors were the most brilliant people I’ve ever met; others were the pettiest and cruelest.)

On the balance, I’d still very much like to have avoided this plague year, please and thank you. But if that’s not an option, I feel like I’m making the most of this long lockdown, or fairly close to maximizing that potential, in any case. (I’ve yet to experiment with my ocarina/harmonica/guitar collection, use my small hoard of art supplies, or open that beginner circuit kit I bought last year… Heh.) To clarify, I don’t expect everyone to do something comparable during this pandemic, nor do I think less of them for not doing so. There’s no right or wrong way to make use of this sudden overabundance of time: the only victory condition is staying safe and responsible until you get vaccinated, and there’s no right or wrong way to get there. The middle part is irrelevant, whether you’ve turned into a couch potato or a marathon runner.

The blog I mentioned earlier is run by Jordan Ellenberg, a mathematician who teaches at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. There are only 42 entries on covid thus far, but they date all the way back to mid-March. It was wild to read someone else’s perspective: not only because he approaches things from a mathematician’s perspective but also because everything has changed so much, so relatively fast. From his earliest entries where he, just like everyone else, was intrigued and/or excited by hydroxychloroquine (spoiler alert: it’s worse than useless) to careful optimism about the virus’s spread pattern, to the acknowledgement that he was wrong about a few things… Reading it took me all the way back in time, to the innocent days of the early 2020.

I wonder sometimes: if any baseline news-reading pandemic participant (such as myself) could go back in time to January, what would you even say? How manic and crazy would you sound to everyone when you try to warn them that the strange virus from China will kill 1.6 million people worldwide, including over 300,000 Americans before Christmas? Those are the numbers we live with nowadays, but before all of this, they were unimaginable. A particularly bad mass shooting might kill 20 people. 9/11, with its almost 3,000 dead, resulted in two wars, a fundamental shift in the US government’s structure, and trillions of dollars spent trying to fight terrorism. And here we are, with more than 100 times more casualties than on 9/11, and many more to come… All that, in less than a year since covid first appeared in the US.

The final tally in the US might exceed 500,000 – hell, that’s probably likely at this point if you include all the excess mortality. Or will the numbers get even higher? What strange mad prophecy would a time traveler from 2021 bring us, and would we believe it?

In covid news, the US has crossed 3,000 deaths per day for the first time. There were 3,264 deaths, if I’m looking at the right portal. I think I wrote something similar about the death toll a few days ago, but that was for 24-hour period. This is for an actual calendar day, without any shifting boundaries. This looks like the Thanksgiving spike – it was exactly two weeks ago, and this matches the incubation/hospitalization timeline, from what I understand. If that spike came from all the travelers and Turkey Day enthusiasts, it may continue. Hopefully, it’ll drop to “only” 2,000 deaths per day, but Christmas is just two weeks away, and that means another spike two weeks after that… A lot of bad stuff is already priced in, and will almost certainly happen. It’ll be so much more tragic to have avoidable deaths when mass vaccination is just around the corner.

Stay safe, y’all.