Tuesday night.

Today was a lot more productive than a baseline lockdown day. One of the rental people got back to me: after spending 50 minutes driving to central Toronto (20 minutes on the highway, 30 minutes in the surface street labyrinth), I got to see the place myself. It’s the most basic and barely habitable studio imaginable, but it’s got all the essentials and it’s actually above ground. That last part is key, since Toronto has a ton of barely habitable basements being rented out left and right. This city is Canada’s version of New York, and there’s been a bit of a real estate bubble, to the point where local TV news has a recurring segment with real estate advice. That’s what it must’ve been like to be in the middle class just before 2008. Heh.

The studio is tiny (I’d say about 350-400 square feet) but it meets all my criteria. Better yet, the guy that wants to hand over his lease will pay for January-February, which makes this deal ever more lucrative. (The lease runs through the end of August.) The place looks like an old-timey brick house sliced into as many studios as humanly possible, much like the place in Niagara Falls where xgf and I stayed eight months ago. The kind of place that has signs saying that setting off a fire alarm will cost you $1,320 CAD. Charming and gruff in that slumlord sort of way, but hey, it’s got a parking lot in the back and it’s just a few blocks away from a subway station.

It felt good to get out of the house: this is the farthest I’ve driven in about two months, if not more. Aside from the super-genius who tried to parallel-park by backing into my car in downtown Toronto, it was even enjoyable. (My honking dissuaded him from pursuing that ambitious course of action and testing whether two objects can, in fact, occupy the same point in space and time. Sorry, science.)

In other news, the Dark Matter book by Blake Crouch is full of awesome sauce. It started out as your garden-variety sci-fi yarn about a parallel universe, but then it went someplace I’d never seen in any work of science fiction, and I’ve devoured a lot of sci-fi, eh. This book is about quantum physics, and love, and life, and choices not taken, and regret, and acceptance. The prose itself is pretty (and occasionally brilliant), and the occasional quotes from other writers, as well as the afterword, provide a lot of follow-up reading ideas. Speaking of which, how much acid was T.S. Eliot on when he wrote “Burnt Norton“? It was either that or mushrooms because I refuse to accept that something so trippy could’ve been written by a sober mind.

Ditto for this quote by Mark Twain, the context for which I’ve yet to look up: “Life itself is only a vision, a dream. Nothing exists; all is a dream. God – man – the world – the sun, the moon, the wilderness of stars – a dream, all a dream; they have no existence. Nothing exists save empty space – and you… And you are not you–you have no body, no blood, no bones, you are but a thought.”

Hard to believe that I encountered so strange and heavy in a pop-culture bestseller. I think I might have a new favourite author now. Next up… Not sure. I’m very tempted to read The End of October by Lawrence Wright because that book came out before the current pandemic, and apparently predicted the worldwide dysfunction perfectly. However, I’m trying to read things that would distract me from pandemics, not give me a what-if scenario. Perhaps later.

In covid news, the vaccine rollout is happening a lot slower than anticipated. In the US, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar had initially promised 100 million vaccinations by the end of 2020. Then that number fell to 20 million. As of right now, only 2.1 million got vaccinated. That’s a big number, yes, but still less than 1% of America’s total population. At this pace, it would take years. Just like I’d feared, there’s no uniform plan: once the vaccines are dropped off, each state has to scramble with their own logistical plans.

Likewise in Canada. Here in Ontario, just over 13,000 shots have been administered, though the initial plan had called for 53,000 by the end of the year. Making things worse, the province’s vaccination clinics took a two-day siesta for Christmas. The official explanation is that they didn’t think medical personnel would’ve been willing to come in and work on those days. (Unofficially, I suspect that was a huge human error made by someone with lack of critical thinking skills and the all-too-common fallacy that holidays are untouchable.) If hostile space aliens ever decide to invade this sorry planet, they should aim for late December, because everything and everyone seems to be shut down during these last few days. I’ve seen (but haven’t opened) some headlines that claim that other countries are actually planning to execute efficient vaccination campaigns with dedicated spaces, schedules, etc. Good for them, eh.

And in much more local news, today’s Least Popular Canadian is Ontario’s finance minister Rod Phillips. It’s been fun to watch the story unfold throughout the day: first, a local journo got the scoop that Phillips went on vacation and left Canada after the legislative session ended on December 13. Then Phillips’s office tried to run interference and claim he might actually be around here somewhere. Then Phillips himself said that he was not, in fact, on vacation, and was very busy with important business calls and other busy business. (Did I convey how busy he claimed he was? Heh.) Then Doug Ford, Ontario’s premier, spotted a great opportunity to distract the public from his own epic fails, and publicly criticized Phillips for breaking the “please do not travel, eh” official guidance. (The “eh” is implied.) Of course, there’ll be no real consequences – the guy still gets to keep his job. Incidentally, he’s on the Caribbean island of St.Barts and not in Costa Rica, which was my first guess. I suppose he didn’t want to mix with the low-budget hoi-polloi.

It takes a fair bit effort to make Canadians angry, but this story seems to have everything. Up until today, most people probably didn’t even know who Rod Phillips was. Today, though, he’s the target of their anger. (I wonder if he’ll issue a non-apology apology and resign. Probably not.) What he did is ultimately inconsequential, but he’s a representative of the largely ineffective Ontario government, and his latest excuse (“Had I been aware then of the eventual December 26th provincewide shutdown, we would have cancelled the trip”) implies he just didn’t want to cancel the trip. That’s some mighty big personal responsibility you got there, mate. Phillips is ultimately a nobody, and this story is a nothing-burger, but today, here and now, he is the avatar of hypocritical government officials. Tomorrow there will be another scandal about someone else, and then more and more, an endless chain of failures that we shall hate and mock and condemn, but which may have been made by most of us. I won’t forgive this idiot, nor will I accept his hollow apologies, but if I squint just a little, I can almost understand where he was coming from, and how he thought he’d get away with it.

Incidentally, my sister, her husband, and their son returned from Miami today. So far, no symptoms. I hope there won’t be.

Good night, y’all – and kudos for not being the Internet’s Least Popular Person today. You’re all doing reasonably great, eh.