Friday night – the first Friday night of the new year. (Woot!)

I had a bit of a rude awakening this morning when I asked my Amazon Echo “Alexa, what year is this?” (because you can never get too much satisfaction from defeating 2020) and got “it’s 2020” in response. Come on, Alexa coders: you guys literally had one job, eh. (They ended up fixing it around 2pm Eastern Time.) I wonder, though, just how much difference could one news junkie make if he got magically moved one year back. I’d probably sound like a raving maniac, with my warnings of ~340,000 deaths in the US alone. Well, good thing it didn’t come to that, I suppose. (Maybe that’s why we never spot any time travelers – they all appear way too disturbed to us.)

I’ve gobbled up Stephen King’s The Institute novel in just a couple of days, despite it being 576 pages long. (At least that’s what it says for the paperback version.) It’s mighty entertaining, and King really knows how to hook your attention and never let go. A whole lot of it was about politics and probably wouldn’t make a lot of sense 30-40 years down the road, but I guess he wrote it for the here and now. One thing I found odd – not just with this book but with a lot of American sci-fi – is how much the plot revolves around guns. A firefight here, a cool-looking gun-slinger there, etc. That was a significant plot element in the first book of my favourite trilogy, The Breach by Patrick Lee. This is a distinctly American feature, too: when I watched the British Torchwood show, it was pretty funny how their very rare and important “red alert” emergency consisted of them breaking out little pistols (no body armor) and trying to surround the bad guy. It’s funny, the things you can observe once you leave that environment…

Next up: The Disaster Diaries: One Man’s Quest to Learn Everything Necessary to Survive the Apocalypse by Sam Sheridan. I was originally going to borrow How to Invent Everything: A Survival Guide for the Stranded Time Traveler by Ryan North but apparently the Kindle formatting doesn’t work with all the charts and diagrams. That’s too bad: just the cover alone was beautiful. I’ve discovered an interesting distinction between the terms “prepper” and “survivalist.” On the surface, they’re the same. In reality, “prepper” has gotten associated with trigger-happy maladjusted weirdos – which, yeah, some are, but many aren’t. The term “survivalist” is intended to convey the original meaning but without all the negative baggage. That strikes me as just a stopgap measure, though: all the bad connotations will follow this term too, regardless of how cool and new and shiny it sounds. Those who judge, will judge; those who have a sweet first aid kit and the manuals to go with it, will have a sweet first aid kit and the manuals to go with it.

…I think my landlords have snapped. They’ve been entertaining guests almost every night over the past week or so. I rarely venture downstairs to see who is having dinner this time, but this time around, instead of their daughter and her two guests, it was two of our neighbours. Normally, I would’ve loved to be the nice Canadian and gotten to know them, but come on, people. Record-high cases. Rising death tolls. Goddamn province-shutdown. Do you want to start a cluster? Because that’s how you start a cluster. I don’t want to have to start wearing a mask to the kitchen whenever I hear an unfamiliar voice, I really don’t, but at this point I might as well live in a diner. A diner that gets very few customers, but still.

There is no reason for me not to pack up and move all my things to my new (and sad) studio right this second – I’m just irrationally concerned about the social implications of offending my landlords by running away very quickly. Well, that, and I’m addicted to the creature comforts such as having a freezer. I guesstimate that I have maybe three more carloads of stuff to move… All entirely doable in a single day, considering it’s a three-hour roundtrip (which includes moving the stuff to the car and back out again.) At this point, I’m just being lazy and making up reasons not to move ASAP. (See, writing this stuff down actually helps.) I’ll make a couple of trips this weekend and finish the big move next weekend, I think – while wearing a damn mask when more dinner guests inevitably show up. Blargh. Blargh, I say.

In covid news, a pharmacist in Milwaukee, Wisconsin intentionally destroyed about 550 shots of the Moderna vaccine by removing them from the refrigerator overnight. The Moderna vaccine doesn’t require super-cold temperatures like the Pfizer vaccine, but it still needs to be kept refrigerated. Now 550 high-risk people will have to wait longer to get their life-saving shots. The guy got fired, arrested, and is being charged with recklessly endangering safety, adulterating a prescription drug and criminal damage to property. Aside from refusing to vaccinate their children and spreading lies online, this is the first actual case of an anti-vaxxer sabotaging the public health system. That comes just a few days from the first-ever suicide bombing in the US. To quote a very relevant meme “I’m beginning to see a pattern here that I’m not so sure I like.”

Some videos from New Year’s Eve parties are showing up online. It’s as bad as you’d expect. Huge gatherings on the Las Vegas Strip. A tightly packed maskless party in Trump’s Mar-A-Lago resort. The silver lining of the mushroom cloud is that we’re officially done with huge holiday celebrations (though some smaller ones remain), so maybe after all this is done, there won’t be any extra spikes and we’ll just stick with plain old exponential growth without any more party infusions. Kinda sad that that’s our best-case outcome right now, but you gotta take what you can get.

On a mildly positive note, Israel has already vaccinated 10% of their population, becoming the first country in the world to do so. (The second and third places go to Bahrain with 3.4% and the UK with 1.4%.) To be fair, Israel’s population is only 9.3 million, so they objectively don’t need as many vaccines as the US or Canada would need. Nonetheless, I hope the rest of the world will learn from their best practices. As Canada’s Atlantic bubble showed, it is possible to achieve amazing results, but it requires tough choices and a lot of planning. Way to go, Israel!