Monday night. The longest night of the year.

The winter solstice is virtually indistinguishable from other winter days if you don’t know any better, but it’s still a fun symbolic occasion to track and celebrate. We’ll start getting marginally more light now. (When the sunset is at 4:45pm, that’s just wrong.) There’s supposed to be a grand conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn today, but it’s been too damn cloudy to see any of it. Oh well, they’ll have another one of those in just 800 years. Funny thing about these rare astronomical occurrences: there are so many of them that there’s always something going on.

Even with the pandemic, the postal service is still working fine: all the Christmas presents and cards from family and friends started showing up in the mail. Let’s just say I’ll have enough candy and chocolate to last me for another month or so.

Just had a phone chat with my mom… She lives near Seattle, and she’s doing well, but she keeps going to a nearby Russian store to buy some exotic ingredients or cheap produce. The problem is that the store’s owners and customers ignore all the mask orders and laugh at her mask, and every now and then there’s a sneezing kid or two. When we last talked, I asked her not to go there anymore: it’s not worth getting exposed to potential covid carriers. (Those who disregard one set of restrictions are likely to do so with others.) And yet, I just got an earful about the great deals that store had on persimmons. (And how nobody there wore a mask this time around, either.) I was as diplomatic and patient as I could when I explained that she’d get her vaccine shot in just a couple of months, and that maybe those persimmons aren’t quite worth dying for. She said she wouldn’t go there again. I’m not sure I believe her…

Between my sister vacationing in Florida, and my mom going time and again to a store that ignores every public health warning, the odds are not great for our entire family coming out of this unscathed. Hope everlasting, eh.

In covid news, Ontario is finally doing its first real lockdown after a series of poorly orchestrated localized restrictions. (If you can drive a few minutes and get to a township that’s not locked down, your “lockdown” isn’t all that efficient.) Good news: schools will be shut down, there’ll be no dining anywhere (except for takeout), and most stores will have to do curbside pickups. Bad news: they’re starting on Boxing Day, December 26th. Premier Doug Ford’s official explanation is that businesses need a few days to adjust. The unofficial explanation is that he doesn’t want to ruin people’s Christmas. This is effectively a huge wink-wink-nudge-nudge to everyone, encouraging them to party it up just before the lockdown begins. That’s despite Ontario’s own epidemiologists saying we need to lock things down ASAP. I get that this is just human nature, but this is getting really old at this point. (Jehovah’s Witnesses might have a point about avoiding holidays altogether.)

And given how many people in the States ignored the official guidelines and had big Thanksgiving get-togethers, there’s little reason to believe things will be different on Christmas, either. (It’s tiresome, trying to keep up with the news in two countries at once.) The big lockdown in Ontario will last at least four weeks in the south (Toronto, Ottawa, Niagara, etc) and two weeks in the north. I would be very curious to see how or if they will enforce it this time, since it took a massive outrage campaign to shut down the defiant BBQ diner a few weeks ago. 2021 should be off to an interesting start.

Happy solstice, y’all. May your lives be increasingly brighter.