Wednesday night.

The last full workday of the year… Folks are mostly calling it in at this point, with everyone leaving early tomorrow – followed by the extraordinary extravagance of having not two, not three, but 10 consecutive days all to myself. The rarest luxury…

Boredom status: I’ve started playing my personal drug of choice – Skyrim. That game is nine years old but it’s still more engaging than most of the stuff they release these days. (Just look at the Cyberpunk 2077 fiasco.) The more or less endless open world, hundreds of quests, the freedom to be an herb-gathering alchemist or a bloodthirsty monster slayer – and, of course, dragons. Oh, and amazing eye candy: the perfectly textured world, the night sky with its two moons, the unbelievable landscapes… I’m not sure if I’ve spent hundreds or thousands of hours playing this game in the past: it always manages to surprise me. Not a bad return on investment for the $45 I spent four years ago.

Over the years, Skyrim inspired me to join the local Search&Rescue group, grow my own mushrooms, join the local mycological society and look for mushrooms with them, start a mineral collection, and experiment with the modern-day version of alchemy – designing the perfect protein smoothie recipe. (FYI, it’s water, frozen berries, a banana, smooth peanut butter, and some protein powder.) It’s a little sad, but I’m not sure if my life would’ve been as interesting if I hadn’t bought this game back in 2016. That also makes me wonder how many potentially life-changing ideas I missed out on by not exposing myself to more games or books or movies. Or maybe this was a one-off, and there’s nothing else out there that would inspire me to such an extent. In any case, my new character, the melee orc named Grgor (who specializes in summoning his fallen enemies to fight by his side) isn’t intellectual enough to deal with all that. I’m almost done with the boring but mandatory grind (yet again) through the game’s first stage, and after that, there should be plenty of exploration. Anything to take my mind off this pandemic business.

In covid news, they’ve just uncovered yet another rapidly spreading mutation – this time in South Africa. As always, nobody knows anything for sure, but it might be infecting more young people than the plain old covid we’ve been dealing with. They think the new mutation might be responsible for South Africa’s recent spike in cases. The UK has already found two people with that strain. So far, 55 countries have set up restrictions on travel the UK. Only five countries have done that with South Africa so far, but that number will likely grow fast. It’ll be more or less impossible to keep that genie in the bottle, I’m afraid… Even the mink covid variant, which was supposed to go extinct after the mass culling in Denmark, ended up surfacing on the west coast of the US before making it to British Columbia. If they couldn’t stop the spread of that, the best they can do with the new contagious strains is slow down the spread and hope to buy some time.

This is frustrating. If anyone is reading this in the future (hi, future people!), then you already know how all of this played out: whether the new UK and South African strains were more dangerous, whether they targeted kids and young adults, whether the regular covid vaccines were effective against them… But here and now, there’s nothing: just the increasingly concerned and panic-filled chatter on social media, just the educated guesses (with plenty of disclaimers) from public health experts who don’t have any concrete data yet. We’ll know more in a few weeks. Until then, though, it’ll be the same old frustration lack of information.

Oh, and Dr Deborah Birx has announced her retirement. Incidentally, she happened to do so right after a news story claiming that Birx and her family traveled for Thanksgiving, violating the very guidance that Birx and her colleagues had promoted. Her official story is that she met up with another household (another guideline violation) at one of her vacation homes to weatherize it and prepare it for sale. She has not admitted that it was a Thanksgiving celebration, and at this point she probably won’t. Traveling to another state to prepare a house for sale and meeting up with your family – but not celebrating anything – on a major holiday is a pretty sloppy lie, and Birx’s refusal to just admit it and own her mistake is a little insulting. Her earlier assurances, back in April or so, that the pandemic would end soon, might have guided the White House’s decisions, and might have made things even worse. The sole positive here is that Birx is finally stepping down: at the very least, she won’t give the anti-mask brigade any more ammunition by breaking her own rules if she becomes a private citizen.

I hope y’all got something interesting (and safe) to occupy you during this holiday season too. Good night, eh.