Saturday night. If you eat a mermaid, is that cannibalism, seafood, or 50/50?

Another weekend day spent sleeping, munching on Tim Hortons drivethrough, gaming, and staying safe from covid. My usual Saturday morning treat of two breakfast sandwiches, a donut, and a large black coffee, which I devour in my car next to Tim Hortons while reading an e-book, feels almost like the old times, before the plague. If I pretend just a little, it’s easy to imagine that I’m just getting a quick and quiet energy boost before going out, or treating myself for making it through yet another workweek. That is a lie, of course, but sometimes even a small lie to oneself can be helpful.

I’m forcing myself to finish that Red Dead Redemption game I mentioned earlier. (I know, forcing myself to play videogames – my so-called problems are ridiculous.) The game’s second act takes you to Mexico just before a civil war breaks loose. I finally remembered why I quit this game about eight years ago: you can’t skip all the parts about politics, and you don’t have any choice in the matter. (I realize the irony of this blog being so political most of the time, but hey, there are actual cartoonish villains trying to sabotage pandemic efforts, so this is different.) At one point, your character turns into a gun-slinging Terminator, killing Mexican rebels and authorities alike by the hundred. And then, on top of that, there’s some really R-rated stuff that your character can’t stop. I can see where the writers were going with that: civil war is ugly, and it’s not glorious in the slightest. But then they kind of got carried away with it, to the point where your character ends up killing a statistically significant population of Mexico. Even for a Wild West video game where life is cheap, that’s really over the top.

I’m speeding my way through the game just to see how it ends: that’s sad, because some of the writing is borderline brilliant, with gems like “In a country where most people cannot read the newspaper, song is a powerful means of communication” or “If you win power, remember why you wanted it.” I’m a “completionist” when it comes to gaming, and it pains me to leave something undone. I might as well knock out the game now – if I don’t, I have a hunch I’ll just end up playing the whole thing all over again in another eight years or so. And hey, it distracts me from a pandemic killing thousands of people with every passing day. Whatever it takes, eh? (And yes, I really am that passionate about my entertainment choices.)

In covid news, general Gustave Perna, the military leader of Operation Warp Speed, said it was his fault that several states received fewer vaccine doses than they’d been promised. It’s strangely refreshing to see a government official accept the blame for something, for anything at all. (As Trump famously said on March 13th, “I don’t take responsibility at all.”) Of course, it would’ve been great to have had that before the government initially blamed the affected governors and Pfizer. A bit of a kneejerk reaction by this point, I suppose. I’m curious if Perna really did screw up, or if he’s just taking the fall for others. There’s no way to know right now – but at some point in the future, there’ll almost certainly be a special commission report on the pandemic handling in the US, as well as worldwide. It’ll be as significant as the 9/11 report a whole generation ago. (And hopefully with far fewer blacked-out redactions.)

There’s a new mutated strain of covid in southern England… I didn’t write about it earlier because that might have been just plain old sensational journalism: viruses mutate all the time, and most of the time it’s a nothing-burger. It seems to be spreading fast, though: it’s not 100% clear if that’s just because things are bad in England right now, or because this new mutation makes the virus more transmissible. It doesn’t seem to be more dangerous than regular covid, but it’s unclear if it’d be affected by vaccines… There are just too many unknowns right now. Meanwhile, the Netherlands became the first country to block incoming flights from the UK to keep the mutated virus out. That’s a mostly symbolic gesture, since it might spread all over Europe in any case. This is eerily similar to the situation almost a year ago, when no one knew anything, when governments panicked and set up travel restrictions just to be safe. Here is hoping the whole thing is a whole lot of nothing.

And in some good news (well, sort of good, by the 2020 standards, anyway), the mysterious illness that popped up in India two weeks ago was neither bacteria nor a virus. Looks like it was due to pesticide residue. On top of that, they also found high levels of nickel (potentially toxic) in the town’s milk, and mercury in the town’s water supply. The illness might not have been caused by that nickel or mercury, but that just highlights the sad reality of life in large parts of the world, with multiple contaminants in your food and water… It shouldn’t have to take a mass illness to find and fix these conditions. But hey, by this year’s standards, that’s almost a success story: not a new pandemic, not contagious, and theoretically fixable. Here is hoping the rest of this year’s weirdness gets resolved just as easily.