Archive for January, 2021

Plague diaries, Day 311

Tuesday night.

I’m trying to think of something non-work and non-covid related to write about, and I’m drawing a big old blank. Stardew Valley is getting tiresome: that’s blog-worthy, right? Heh. I’ve put in 54 hours into this game so far (that is sad, I know) and it’s getting a bit chore-like. My little farmer dude on his G-Land farm has a nice business going, he married a brilliant local lady that builds sentient robots, and they smooch multiple times a day. What does it say about you when your video game alter ego has a more adjusted social life than you can get because going outside is illegal? I guess it says “maybe a few more dozen hours, and then time to move on.” Who knows, maybe I can try and read all 44 novels and 121 short stories by Philip K. Dick. (I do believe I’ve already read three or four of his books.)

Or maybe I could finally start using that long-zoom camera lens and practice on all the squirrels hanging out in the backyard. I’d just need to open my window and boom – squirrel safari. …this is gonna be a long year.

In covid news, things have gone from weird to bad to worse with Canada and Pfizer. It happened so quickly. First, Pfizer said that due to capacity increase renovations at the Belgian facility, they’d delay shipments of their vaccine for several weeks, but everyone would be affected equally. Then they said that only Canada would get reduced shipments for several weeks, and that the EU would see very minor disruptions in their shipments. And now, just a few hours ago, they said that Canada will not get any vaccine shipments at all next week. That is quite the change, and no one knows what will happen next.

To start with, all first-shot vaccinations have been stopped, and the remaining Pfizer doses will go only to the second-shot folks to make sure they get fully vaccinated. (Or that’s the idea, anyway.) The first-ever large-scale vaccination center that launched in Toronto just a few days ago is being shut down until and unless we get more Pfizer vaccines. (Incidentally, a very nice person from a local health agency emailed me back and assured me that any leftover vaccines go to a waiting list of phase-one folks – they get notified right away. That’s a remarkably smart and efficient system – good for them.) Pfizer said that Canada would get its first-quarter order in time, which means they’ll just send more in February and March. However, they already broke their promise – twice – and trust is not easy to regain.

This is a hot mess, to put it incredibly mildly. Even if Pfizer comes through on their promise and delivers all the ordered doses by the end of the quarter, that’d still run into logistical bottlenecks. If all you have is, say, 50 nurses and 24 hours in one day, they won’t be able to vaccinate 10 times as many people if you give them 10 times more vaccine. There are bottlenecks in the process. No one is saying this out loud yet, but it’s possible that the previous “vaccines for all” timeline might get moved from August to September, or beyond. Of course, it’s always possible that Pfizer will treat Canada with as much respect as they treat the EU going forward, and that bottlenecks will not be an issue, and that no future shipments of any vaccine get misdirected, hijacked, or delayed without an explanation. Anything is possible: as always, I’d love to be proven wrong.

Canada is in a particularly vulnerable position because it doesn’t have its own vaccine manufacturing capacity: from what I understand, that got eliminated in the 1980s, and never got brought back. And despite its size and friendly disposition, Canada isn’t a major player on the worldwide arena, so it comes down to basic geopolitics: both the EU and the US have more pull than us. (Look at me, identifying with Canada after less than two years here, eh.) If some bigger, meaner country decides to flex some muscle to get their hands on the limited vaccine supply, Canada would lose by default. The Moderna vaccine shipments will not be affected by Pfizer’s shenanigans, but with only two approved vaccines so far, this will cut the phase-one vaccination at least in half, and for at least a few weeks.

Canada’s leadership’s response so far is a big shruggy emoji. Ontario’s fearless leader, premier Doug Ford, threatened to sodomize Pfizer’s CEO with firecrackers (no, really, I’m not making that up: “I’d be up that guy’s yin-yang so far with a firecracker he wouldn’t know what hit him”), so I’m sure that diplomatic gesture will help our international relations. Everyone gets the leader they deserve, eh?

Anyway – happy last night of Trump presidency, y’all.

Plague diaries, Day 310

Monday night.

I find myself having to look up what day this is – they’re virtually indistinguishable now, both during and after work.

Today’s walk was pretty amusing: I stumbled on a Ukrainian-Canadian museum, as well as a statue of St Volodymir, the guy who Christianized the Kievan Rus’ back in 988. My dad’s side of the family was from Ukraine, so that’d make for a nice homage to ye olde motherland when the pandemic ends.

Speaking of pandemics and things to do – if you’re reading this here and now, in January, check out this Humble Bundle deal. It’s a lot of e-books on programming for the low, low price of one dollar. (You can always buy pricier bundles, but you really can’t go wrong with a single buck.) I’m more of a SQL, Redshift, and Excel guy, personally, but this is a great opportunity to learn more. Incidentally, once I paid my buck for the bundle, I realized I had a lot of previous purchased bundles I never downloaded… Let’s just say that if I get so incredibly bored that learning every single coding language looks like a good idea, I’ll have plenty of reading material to do just that. Heh.

Meanwhile, new lockdown hobby: trying to actually eat all the random long-lasting food I’ve been lugging with me back and forth. I think I’ve finally microwaved the last can of beans, but all those jars of peanut butter… They vex me so. Guess I’ll subsist off PB crackers for a bit. (I’m not becoming agoraphobic – I just really don’t feel like going into a crowded grocery store unless I absolutely have to.)

Trump’s presidency will end in just over 37 hours. It feels like everyone is at the edge of their seat (or is it just me?) in anticipation. Will he or will he not go quietly? There’s still a whole lot of nothing from his administration regarding covid, in case you were wondering. The much-awaited Sunday protests in all 50 states turned out to be a big nothing-burger: the turnout measured in dozens, not thousands, and nothing of significance happened that day. The really big question is whether there are any shenanigans planned for the inauguration day itself.

The FBI has started to review the 25,000 or so National Guard folks stationed in Washington DC. I’m unsure what kind of background check they can do in so little time on so many people, aside from making sure they don’t have a swastika tattooed on their forehead, but hey, kudos to them for trying, I suppose. It’s possible nothing untoward will happen and the whole ceremony will go without a hitch. (I can just hear all the pundits sing praises to the peaceful transfer of power while thousands of armed guards are on standby. 2021: the year irony died.) It’s also possible something will go haywire on the same scale it happened on 1/06. It’s impossible to tell, but at this point there’s no such thing as too many precautions. It’s like the monster in every horror movie ever made: you don’t let your guard down until it’s been put down, decapitated, burned, and had its ashes scattered.

In covid news, my friend in Reno has mostly recovered, but her boyfriend hasn’t been posting much on social media after his trip to the ER a few days ago…

I’ve signed up as a volunteer for the ongoing covid vaccine trials taking place in Ontario: I’m curious when – of if – I’ll hear back from them. If I do get picked to be a human guinea pig (huinea pig?), what I get may or may not be placebo, and if it’s real, it may or may not be effective. Those are pretty slim odds, but it still beats sitting around doing nothing. I’ve also called the local covid hotline to inquire about any waiting lists for leftover doses if they run out of folks to vaccinate. Either I’m going crazy or the person who answered the phone hadn’t been briefed on the issue of leftover (and rapidly expiring) vaccines at all. I know they’re real: there have been quite a few articles on the topic, and my US friend got it the very same way. It’s possible that Ontario has an endless line of phase-one folks waiting to get their shot, but that doesn’t seem very likely…

Oh well. Gonna wait and see what local reporters can find out – because if there really are leftover vaccines, and if they do get distributed unofficially, it’ll make the news fairly soon. One strange development: the automated selection menu for the hotline stressed that I should remain polite, and that any rudeness could cause them to hang up. I’d never heard anything like that, in Canada or elsewhere. Just how rude, weird, or downright crazy have some of those callers been?..

I hope your Monday was okay – we’re already 20% done with this workweek, eh.

Plague diaries, Day 309

Sunday night. One more week passes…

I gave my car’s engine a little workout today by driving to the old landlords to drop off my room keys and pick up a little care package my warehouse accidentally sent to my old address. It was cute. They dumped all the papers from my old office in one box (and frankly, some of them weren’t even mine), added some year-end souvenirs (T-shirt and a customized sweatshirt), and threw in all the personal items I kept at the office. I’d forgotten all about them – a “Canadian polar bear in a snowstorm” coffee mug, an old cap from my Search&Rescue team, some glossy old-fashioned pictures I took way back in Nevada… It’s amazing how fast I forgot them, after only 309 days.

Walking around my little section of Toronto, it’s equally amusing and amazing how many squirrels there are all over the place, and how fearless and lazy the local pigeons have become. Almost anywhere else in the world, your typical pigeon would have at least enough self-awareness to fly away as you approach. These lazy birds just walk on by right next to you. Welllll, I guess we know Toronto has some backup protein reserves in case the food supply chain completely breaks down.

My steady exploration of the scrapping world continues. A lot of the people in that world are pretty hardcore, but the variation is interesting. Some have pickup trucks, while others have electric bikes with small trailers. Some post pictures of tons (yes, literally tons) of scrap they deliver, while others gather just a little scrap here and there before making their quarterly trip to the local recycler. Fascinating.

In covid news, my best friend in the US and his wife got their covid shots. They’re both in their mid-30s and (as far as I know) without any serious medical conditions (and definitely not in the healthcare business), but they made sure to get added to a waiting list in case the scheduled people didn’t come in. Their follow-up shot – and their ticket to freedom – is on Valentine’s Day. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous, and I seldom lie. …I have an internally consistent ethical code that might not always make sense to others. I will not cut in line or take someone else’s place. However, if not enough people show up to take their scheduled shots, and if the unused doses would go to waste, I’d gladly get vaccinated – as long as I wasn’t taking it from someone who needed it more. When the alternative means the limited vaccine will go to waste, any single person is better than none at all.

That’s also a big debate worldwide right now: even if you try to set up a system that identifies, contacts, and schedules those who need it the most, what do you do with the inevitable leftovers? Do you throw them out to avoid even the illusion of nepotism, or do you give them to literally anyone around you, because the more get vaccinated, the better? And if you choose that second option, how can you guarantee that the system won’t get corrupted, that wealthy donors and politicians won’t get their shots first under the guise of them going bad otherwise?..

Lately, I’ve been wondering about certain financial choices I didn’t make in the previous decade. Both Tesla and Bitcoin set all-time-high records earlier this month. I honestly’ can’t recall the first time I heard of either of those… Probably sometime around 2014. They seemed like bubbles: to be fair, they still do. But if I’d taken a random chance and placed just a few hundred dollars in each of them – well, I’d have a lot more dollars now, let’s put it that way. (To be fair, hindsight is easy: at the time, I had quite a lot of student loans and a car loan.) With all the regular planning and thinking – brainstorming the next vacation, trying to get promoted, etc – there are known risk factors that we don’t take. Those thousand-to-one odds, those funny and improbable but not impossible options. (Such as the idea, five years ago, of Trump becoming the next president, which is something Peter Thiel had bet a lot on.) There’s nothing I can do about the missed opportunities with paths not taken, but it’s not too late to start taking weird (but not dangerous) chances, eh.

As much fun as it would be to remain a hermit for another seven or eight months, it’s time to get a bit more proactive, to trade a lot of time and a bit of energy for a chance to win big. I’m going to see what – if anything – I can do to get on the leftover vaccine waiting list here in Toronto… Stay tuned, eh – and maybe do the same.

Plague diaries, Day 308

Saturday night.

The highlight of this day was my rediscovery of the maple pastry they have at Tim Hortons. (Not every location has them, so ordering them in drivethrough can be hit-or-miss.) It was delicious. Small pleasures, eh?

Lockdown boredom level: although video games are great for fast-forwarding through entire hours or days, the mind still wanders… Case in point: I randomly did a fair bit of research into gathering scrap metal. (Scrapping? Is that the technical term?) I might be blindly and overly optimistic here (and/or just plain bored) but there seems to be quite a lot of money there, especially if you put in the required legwork. I’m fairly certain my brain got the idea from Stardew Valley: in addition to being remarkably addictive, this game is also very big on recycling and dumpster-diving. Heh. Maybe that’s my superpower: getting ridiculous (yet workable) ideas from video games. Just like the time I joined my local Search&Rescue after playing way too much Skyrim.

Anyhow – more research required. This might make for a fun early-retirement hobby. Many years ago, I used to sell used books online. There’s a lot of money in that if you know what you’re doing. At the time, I didn’t take that as seriously as I should have, and while it provided some nice supplemental income, I never quite turned it into an actual business. Maybe this time will be different. (Famous last words, I know.) There’s something extremely exciting about “gamifying” the world around you, where every thrift store can become a potential gold mine for the right kind of scavenger with the right kind of equipment. If nothing else, I think I’ve found a way to turn my old toaster and a bunch of cooking appliances I’ve recently acquired into cold hard cash.

In covid news, Pfizer has released a statement assuring everyone that they do, in fact, have enough vaccines for everyone who needs their second dose in the US. The whole thing is quite murky. There still hasn’t been any official comment from the Department of Health and Human Services, but its director, Alex Azar, has suddenly resigned. The official explanation is the 1/06 attempted coup and the way it tarnished everything he worked on. That doesn’t quite make sense, since there’d been an entire week between the coup and his resignation. I’m sure we’ll find out more when the inevitable tell-all memoir comes out, eh.

On the other hand, here in Canada, we’re projected to receive only half of the promised Pfizer shipment in the next few weeks. The official reason is the big expansion of their European manufacturing facility. This is not doing wonders for people’s morale…

I’m curious what will happen in the US tomorrow. Maybe nothing, possibly something. After the attempted coup on 1/06, we’re all living in a post-conspiracy-theory world. The most ridiculous scenario – a goddamn Green Zone in Washington DC – has happened, so nothing is off the table now. A lot of folks are concerned about potential violence: if not today, then on the 20th, during the inauguration. If not from a giant mob, then from one or more “lone wolf” attackers. A friend of mine in Reno is a journalist. He had to buy a bulletproof vest for one of his photographers. If that doesn’t encapsulate the madness of early 2021, I don’t know what does.

I hope y’all are having a fine weekend, and here is to more of the same.

Plague diaries, Day 307

Friday night. Yaaaay….

Thus endeth my first week at the new place. It’s a little scary just how fast it flew by without any real-life human contact. (Aside from the twice-daily voice chat with my coworkers.) Gonna be honest: if it hadn’t been for this daily blogging routine of mine, I would’ve had no way to differentiate one day from another. And this whole daily blogging routine was really just a big accident: back in March, I stumbled on a reddit discussion that said keeping a diary might help pass the time. And here we are, some 300 days later. Heh.

Today’s walk led me to the tiny Taddle Creek Park, which was created to commemorate a creek that flowed across Toronto. In the middle of the park, there’s a gigantic artsy sculpture: a huge pitcher-shaped thing that may or may not be a fountain. It’s well over 10′ high and actually kind of impressive, in that Australian “Big Thing” sort of way. On some level, I always knew that Toronto, being an actual city and not a suburb, had a lo more interesting things than the suburb where I’d spent well over a year of my life, but wow. Actually stumbling on random busts of famous poets or giant pitcher sculptures is pretty amazing. Urban exploration at its finest, eh. Here is to more of the same.

My hair has turned into a mop – or a crown, depending on how charitable you want to be with it. The mousse I put in first thing in the morning keeps it relatively decent for the recurring 9am video call at work, but with all the hair-pulling I do throughout the day, I end up looking like a cliché anime character by noon, all spiky and improbably arranged. I’ve also finally devoured my Christmas candy – it’s more than a little impressive that it lasted me through mid-January. Until I do another grocery run, I’m stuck with honey and strawberry jelly like some kind of peasant.

In covid news, Washington Post released an earth-shattering article: there never was any vaccine reserve in the United States. The federal stockpile of vaccines for the second doses does not – and did not – exist. The doses that should have been allocated for the second-shot stockpile got shipped out as soon as they became available instead. Now all the states, all the municipalities, all the doctors who expected extra shipments will end up emptyhanded. It’ll be impossible to give everyone their second dose, and both Pfizer and Moderna already said they have no idea if giving the second dose months away (instead of three weeks) would be effective at all. This is a disaster…

Best possible explanation: the Trump administration just sucks at math and didn’t do the prerequisite sanity checks. Average explanation: they knew the vaccines they’d actually receive were less than what they’d promised (remember the 100 million dose promise in November?), so they decided to run a Ponzi scheme with millions of people’s health on the line. They might have hoped that more doses would show up just in time to keep this lie afloat. Worst-case explanation: just like with the PPE supplies almost a year ago, the feds sidetracked the vaccine shipments and sold them to the highest bidder. That last one sounds particularly paranoid, I know, but we’re dealing with cartoonish villains who sabotaged their own pandemic response, and later on tried to overthrow their own democracy. Literally nothing is off the table at this point.

Speaking of which… Washington DC is filled with National Guard troops now. There are mindblowing pictures showing hundreds of them napping inside the Capitol, ready to repel the next invasion of domestic terrorists, should there be one. There is an actual “green zone” in the nation’s capital now. It designates which areas are under the government’s control. The official positive spin is that all the National Guard folks are there to help ensure the peaceful transfer of power. But if you need actual troops to have that, then it’s no longer peaceful by definition. I’m sorry, y’all, but the US will have to reset its “world’s oldest democracy, yay!” counter and start from zero all over again. The experiment appears to have failed…

Today was Trump’s last Friday in the White House. He’ll be relieved of his duties on Wednesday. It’s unclear if he’s just in denial or if he’s actually planning another stupid stunt: a very skilled photojournalist took a picture of a document one of Trump’s buddies (My Pillow CEO Michael Lindell) carried out of the White House earlier today. The portion that’s visible said they plan to replace the CIA leadership with a loyalist, and there was something about the martial law… Hopefully, those clowns are just cosplaying and will not actually try to double down on their earlier insane plan. (Gee, sure would’ve been nice if someone had exercised their 25th Amendment power.) I’m extremely curious what will happen over the next five days. Here is hoping this is just a nothing-burger…

Good night, y’all – and have yourselves another covid-free weekend.

Plague diaries, Day 306

Thursday night. New lockdown hobby: trying to get my coworkers used to saying “Happy Thor’s Day.” It’ll be pretty funny if I actually manage to get a new meme up and running.

Today had some good news, for once. As of today, the stock portfolio I put together back in May is up by 80.1%. I celebrate every 10% gain with a bottle of champagne: today, I uncorked the fancy $80 bottle I bought a while back, but it didn’t taste all that different from the cheap $20 stuff. (Maybe slightly less acidic but not enough so to justify the 300% price spike.) So it goes. There’s probably some deep metaphor there, but frankly, I’m a bit too buzzed to care.

It’s strange to me. I feel some weird Soviet proletarian guilt over making so much money for doing nothing. Years ago, when I was a manual labourer (or laborer, back then) working at warehouses, it would’ve taken me six months of extreme frugality to save as much money as I’ve just made in the past six weeks simply by letting my portfolio grow. It feels so very alien to just imagine my pile of money growing all on its own, occasionally hitting yet another goalpost. And seeing as all of those stocks are still 30-50% below their previous 52-week high, they still have an awful lot of room to grow. I keep reminding myself that this is fine, and that I deserve these profits, and that I’d sacrificed an entire decade of my life to being a workaholic drone just to get to this point, but it still feels odd. (You can take a boy out of the Soviet Union… Heh.) It might get easier with time.

I ventured out for a 30-minute walk during my lunch break today. I deliberately did not take my phone out of my pocket and just tried to pay attention to the things around me. It was refreshing. I had no idea that just a few blocks away, there was a small park dedicated to Gwendolyn MacEwen, a famous Canadian poet. I’ll be honest, I’d never heard of her before I came across that park, but this poem excerpt inscribed on her bust is beautiful:
“But it is never over,
nothing ends until we want it to.
Look, in shattered midnights,
On black ice, under silver trees,
We are still dancing, dancing.”

In covid news, Ontario has officially entered what’s supposed to be a strict lockdown. In reality, no one is quite sure what the rules are (aside from all the big stores closing at 8pm), which means no one can really enforce them. There are 29 separate exceptions to the official “stay at home” guideline. That is not an exaggeration: 29 exceptions. Frankly, it would’ve been easier for them to explain what precisely is not allowed, rather than provide so many exceptions to their own weird rules. In theory, folks are supposed to stay home unless they’re going outside for some exercise, for groceries, to a pharmacy, or to work. In reality, when journalists asked Ford to clarify his rules, he just said people should use their best judgement.

In other words, those who exercised caution will continue to do so. Those who didn’t care will continue not to care. Without specific ironclad rules (ideally with far fewer than 29 exceptions), there’s no way to enforce this province-wide shutdown, and that means more absurdity like the BBQ-Anon demonstration a while back, where none of the maskless protesters received any penalties for being a giant public health hazard. On social media, folks are mighty pissed off. Also, I didn’t know that until just today, but Doug Ford, our fearless premier, never actually finished college. He dropped out after just two months. That explains a lot about his hostile anti-science attitude and inability to foresee the consequences of his shortsighted actions, even when his own advisors try to guide him in the right direction. He won’t be up for reelection for another 18 months or so, so I guess Ontarians are stuck with him for the duration of the pandemic. Still, it’s a bit better to be stuck here with him than, say, in Florida. So it goes, eh?

Happy Thor’s Day, y’all, and to y’all a good night.

Plague diaries, Day 306

Wednesday night.

I’m continuing to grow roots, eh. This big house is divided into 10-15 studios, and it’s rather remarkable how quiet all the neighbours are. Every now and then, I can hear a closing door or someone coming up the stairs, and then it passes. The fact that there are no pets allowed means that for almost the first time in two years, I can have some peace and quiet without barking dogs making the sort of ruckus that requires noise-cancelling headphones.

Going to try something new tomorrow: eating my lunch while working, and using the lunch break to just wander around the neighbourhood. Toronto in January isn’t the kind of environment where you can soak up a lot of vitamin D, but hey, better than nothing. (Besides, fresh air – and other humans! Woot.)

Finally finished reading Disaster Diaries by Sam Sheridan. It’s a mixed bag, at least in my opinion. On the one hand, he’s a skilled writer, and some of the information he presents is both educational and entertaining. (I still can’t believe I hadn’t known the difference between EMTs and paramedics.) On the other hand, despite all of his fancy adventures and learning from the best experts in North America, he still does remarkably stupid things. Here is a short list of things he admitted doing just in this book alone: negligently discharging his weapon; cutting himself with a fancy knife while playing with it and watching TV; dropping $200 on a pair of mittens at the REI (heh) and not researching what kind of parka he’d need in northern Canada. For what it’s worth, I’m glad he got to have so many adventures, presumably on his publisher’s dime. I just wish the book hadn’t been so overhyped.

Next book: The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson. It’s yet another sci-fi yarn about the multiverse – hooray for escapism, eh?

In political news, Trump is the first president in American history to get impeached twice. This time, 10 Republican congress-critters crossed the party line to vote against him. The rest of them were apparently fine with an attempted coup. The senate won’t convene to vote on this until next week, at which point it’ll really be too late to do much of anything. (The inauguration is next Wednesday.) I really wish they hadn’t dragged their feet so much with this… The initial hope was for Pence to exercise the 25th amendment option but that obviously hasn’t happened.

The attempted coup is growing stranger every day. One congress-critter reported that someone ripped out all the panic buttons from her congressional office, and her staffers couldn’t signal for help during the attack. Some online sleuths noticed that several terrorists had earpieces, which is definitely not something you see among random people who just happen to storm the seat of their government on a lazy Wednesday afternoon. And evidently, Republican congress-critters had given some domestic terrorists a detailed tour of the Capitol in the days before the attack, likely showing them where everything was located. This is getting uglier with every passing day…

In covid news, there’s some positive news coming out about the Johnson&Johnson vaccine. The phase three trial results will be released later this month. For now, people are cautiously optimistic based on what’s available. The J&J vaccine is a traditional one, unlike Moderna’s and Pfizer’s mRNA vaccines. (Though I doubt that would convince the anti-vaxxers who fear mRNA vaccines to change their minds.) The best part is that the J&J vaccine requires only one shot, which will really simplify things in terms of logistics. The big question is whether they’d be able to produce enough for everyone. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see – which is basically the only valid strategy in this pandemic.

Good night, y’all.

Plague diaries, Day 305

Tuesday night.

My transformation into a brain in a jar continues. (Well, more like a brain in a tiny studio.) I reeeeally need to start exercising again, but a) there was an awful lot of weightlifting when I moved all my stuff last weekend, and b) there’s not a whole lot of open space here. There are maybe two areas big enough to do pushups, but that’s about it. (Excuses, excuses, I know.)

At work, I’m spicing things up by creating yet another Excel-based tool. This one is called Whole Grain Spread (naming things is the best part of being a creator), and it does a high-level analysis of commonly available data to identify big trends that you won’t notice up close. I wonder if in some other life I’m an intelligence analyst for some three-letter government agency. Heh.

And ye gods, Stardew Valley is addictive… I’m fairly sure I’ll get bored with it within a few weeks, but until then, I’ll take what I can get. I am aware that this is not quite healthy to hide indoors with zero human contact and nothing but work, gaming, and a bit of reading. But there’s not much else to do, and the only goal right now is to fast-forward through the next seven or so months and get my shots. Some outgoing extroverts would probably call this approach crazy or cowardly (they did, in fact, say as much on social media) but hey, I kinda like my overall health and would prefer to keep it.

In covid news, congress-critters are reporting the first infections after the big evacuation and lockdown they went through during the attempted coup six days ago. So far, there are three that tested positive: representatives Pramila Jayapal, Brad Schneider, and Bonnie Coleman. There will almost certainly be more. They all get amazing healthcare, but for an older crowd, the odds aren’t always good. (And the representative-elect who died a couple of weeks ago was only 41.) According to the congress-critters, their Republican colleagues not only refused to put on masks but also mocked the mask-wearers. The coup might not have succeeded, but if someone dies because they caught covid during the evacuation… Well, that’ll make for an interesting asterisk in the casualty section of history books.

Good night, y’all. Stay safe.

Plague diaries, Day 304

Monday night.

Today was my first workday at the tiny studio that I now call home. Aside from two daily calls with my coworkers, there’s no more human interaction. It’s alarming how fast I adapted to the fact that I can just roll my chair from the bed to the desk to the kitchen, with an occasional bathroom break. A bubble of one…

My brilliant plan to spend my time walking around Toronto and people has one minor flaw: I forgot how early it gets dark. I typically finish work by 6pm, and prowling the streets in the darkness… Let’s just say there won’t be much to see. Google says February 24 will be the first day with the sunset after 6pm. Whelp, I guess I’ll just walk and gawk extra-hard on weekends.

I’ve come up with a new distraction to avoid watching the news: the Stardew Valley video game. I wrote about it a long time, during the second month of the AirBnB odyssey, about nine months ago. It’s such a simple, wholesome, and addictive game. There is no disease there, not even seasonal sniffles. (Though I think one NPC has allergies.) My alter ego has a little farm and spends his time selling his wares, fishing, and exploring local mines while fighting monsters. As far as I can tell, that game is more or less endless. That’s good: I might need that.

It’s been five days, and the US government still hasn’t held even a single briefing about the attempted coup. With every passing days, it’s getting more and more absurd. (Can you imagine going almost a whole week without any official updates after 9/11?) In a refreshing change of pace, the FBI is actually proactively warning the entire country that there will be armed protests in all 50 states (as well as Washington DC) this weekend, just before the inauguration. It’s hard to tell whether the protesters will be encouraged by the very nearly successful coup, or discouraged by all the arrests that followed. If even one of those protests turns violent, everything will go to hell: that’ll prove that the attempted coup was the beginning of a new trend, and not a random improbable outlier.

In covid news, another one of my coworkers got infected. He even knows how that happened: two weeks ago, he met up with his neighbour to watch a football game on TV. The neighbour tested positive a day or two later. My coworker got it a few days after that.

…if vaccines end up not working on all the new covid strains that have been popping up (especially the one from South Africa), and if the rollout continues at the same slow pace, then sooner or later we’ll all catch covid. I aim to be among the very last ones. (So far so good!) Learning how exactly the people I know got sick isn’t just morbid curiosity – it’s a way to learn from their experience, and to make my own that much safer.

Hang in there, y’all.

Plague diaries, Day 303

Sunday night.

I take back everything I’d said about being a space wizard. (Unless I can be a very unsuccessful one, like the guy from The Last Unicorn.) Even though I’d managed to wrangle my 42″ TV into the backseat of my Kia, it got damaged in the process. I think I pushed it too hard against the knob of the folded backseat. Now it’s got a big dead area up top: I could still ignore it while gaming, but it wouldn’t work at all if I invited friends or a date for a movie night. Ho hum. That TV has been with me longer than my car: I got a great deal on it back in 2012. I’ve transported it from Vegas to Fort Worth to Tampa to Seattle (all over Seattle) to Toronto, and now it’s time to give it away for free and get a smaller replacement.

I’ve spent most of the day nesting. The giant pile of stuff got sorted out for the most part. It’s gone from an enormous impassable slippery mess to a relatively small pile of stuff. (Something to do tomorrow, eh?) The downside is that now every flat surface of the studio is covered with gems, antique cameras (yay 1920s art deco!), and beautiful pieces of unique glassware I’d picked up in thrift stores. I could use another medium-sized bookshelf… This is a lot like the Schitt’s Creek episode where they end up with a gigantic family portrait that doesn’t fit anywhere. Heh. I’ll have to give away so much stuff before my next move in August… For starters, only flat art from now on: photographs or flat metal pieces such as this Braniff Airways sign.

I also made a few quick walking expeditions (no sense in driving three blocks) to the local LCBO (surprisingly cheap and diverse cider selection), Dollarama (improbably huge art section and literally the only place I’ve managed to buy a small handheld mirror), and a grocery store which had surprisingly low prices. This whole time, I thought the suburbs were cheap and the big city was expensive. Turns out I was dead wrong. Huh.

I’ve hung some of my art hoard on the wall – and then had to rearrange it because some of my, ahem, not-quite-work-appropriate art to make sure it wouldn’t be in the background of my video calls at work. (On the upside, the programmable Christmas lights I’ve finally put up – yay new batteries – look cozy as hell.)

One of my purchases today was a festive orange tablecloth for the disgusting stained table that came with the studio. It’s still every bit as disgusting, but that’s no longer visible. Creating illusions, for ourselves as well as others, is such an integral part of life…

It was strange wandering the main street during my shopping expedition. Most but not all are wearing masks. At this point, I’ve been away from real pedestrians (not a whole lot of those in the suburbs) so long that it almost doesn’t seem real when you see unmasked passersby. It looks almost like a hyper-realistic video game that renders randomized and flawless faces. I need to get out more often.

There’s a video making rounds online: one of the 1/06 domestic terrorists (unsurprisingly white, unsurprisingly male) threw a fit at an airport because he’s been added to the “no fly” list until they figure out the extent of his involvement in the attempted coup. That’s a tiny, tiny fraction of what needs to happen, but it still brings a smile to my face and gladdens my dark and shriveled heart.

In covid news, the attempted coup was four days ago. The Capitol’s attending physician, Dr. Brian Moynihan, notified the congress-critters that there was at least one covid-positive person among them while they sheltered in place at an undisclosed location. Some witness accounts from 1/06 state that a lot of congress-critters refused to put on their masks, being defiant and anti-science even during that unprecedented emergency. There were hundreds of people all stuck together in a place that might not have had perfect ventilation. That was four days ago. There will probably be a wave of new diagnoses. Thus far, only one congress-critter died of covid. Unfortunately, there might be more.

Good night, y’all. Stay safe, as always.