Tag Archive: for the future

Tuesday evening. Good news: my face shield has finally arrived. Bad news: according to the context-free label on the mask, it may cause cancer. FML. I guess it really was too good to be true: time to return it to Amazon.

No word yet on my permanent residence application, but I feel like it’ll be finalized within a week – and after that, there’s just a bit more waiting, for a few more months, and I’ll be a real Canadian. (And then a citizen a couple of years later.) My timing is perfect because Americans are no longer welcome in some parts of the world. The European Union will start opening up on July 1st, but a leaked draft suggests that US tourists wouldn’t be allowed to fly in. That’s a pretty huge development… The US wasn’t going to sustain its superpower/world leader status in the 21st century, but still… Damn.

Trump is holding another rally, this time in a megachurch in Arizona. The true faithful claim that they’ve invented an air filtration system that’ll kill covid and keep everyone safe. This world is getting too weird to even make fun of.

Twelve days ago, I mentioned that Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighbourhood has declared independence and adopted the name CHAZ. Well, they have a shooting a day now, and since they won’t let the police enter, that means paramedics can’t go to an unsecured scene, and it takes 45 minutes for victims to get to the hospital. So much for that experiment, it seems. (If you’ve ever watched The Wire, this is an awful lot like Hamsterdam, a designated neighbourhood where everything goes and no one gets prosecuted.

Hard to believe that the year isn’t even halfway through yet. Folks on Twitter are posting things like, “I wish I’d done more before the world ended.” Heh. It seems to me that the second half of 2020 will be even stranger and more outlandish than what we’ve seen so far.

Monday evening. Another day just like any other. Over 100 days now since I’ve actually gone to work. That place must be so different now, with all the precautions they take…

I’m trying to concentrate on the advice I read the other day, that life should be about living, not waiting for some other, better part of life – but there just aren’t that many fulfilling and fascinating things to do right now, when every stranger’s every cough could hypothetically change your entire life. I’ve finished binge-watching The Walking Dead series, though the last episode of season 10 hasn’t been released due to covid. (Somewhat ironic that a show about the zombie plague got stopped in its tracks by the real plague.) Time to tackle another piece of entertainment: there’s enough out there to fill a lifetime…

One of my landlords is looking forward to the US-Canadian border reopening. (I can’t entirely understand what his employer does, but it has something to do with tourism.) The current reopening date is July 21st, but that’s been pushed back a few times now, and it likely will again. I tried explaining that things will like stay close till at least August, but I’m not sure he believed that.

There’s civil unrest, even in the allegedly civil EU. An apartment building in Germany got quarantined after two covid cases turned into 120. There are 700 people, and they’re rather unhappy… They clashed with the police enforcing the quarantine. Cases are spiking in rural India, after all the migrant workers got home from major cities. (I’m positive I’d predicted this earlier, but I can’t find that blog entry for the life of me.) Brazil crossed 50,000 deaths – and that’s just the official count. The excess mortality analysis showed that the true worldwide death most likely stands at 600,000 – not 450,000. 25% of the total isn’t being accounted for… And last but not least, they’ve discovered the D614G strain with more “spike” proteins: it came to the east coast of the US by way of Italy, and it appears to be much more dangerous than the west coast strain that came from China. It’ll be hard to determine just how much impact different state reactions had when they weren’t quite dealing with the same virus. Small wins, I suppose.

…I wonder how many people these days read as much covid-related news as I do. 50%? 10%? I have this sneaking suspicion that if more people had read about the long-term risks, the worldwide reopening wouldn’t be greeted with quite as much enthusiasm. And if I were the kind of person to disregard the news… Would I be happier? Likely. Would I be more at risk? Certainly. And as a side effect, then y’all wouldn’t have this blog to keep you company. Heh.

We’re one step closer to the weekend now, for what it’s worth.

It’s Sunday night, the 100-day plaguaversary of my personal pandemic experience. One-hundred days ago today, xgf (or just gf back then…) and I had that fateful phone call when we agreed things were getting too dangerous to be around other people. The following day, we began our AirBnB odyssey across Ontario and Quebec, a journey that lasted 72 days. Today is four weeks since we returned and parted ways. It’s also ninety-seven days since Trudeau declared the state of emergency and declared that the US-Canadian border would get closed. It’s also one day since the summer solstice, which I’ve completely missed. The year is past the halfway point. I wish I could say the same about the pandemic.

The first mention of the US death toll I found on my own blog was 1,045 – way back on day 12. The current official estimate (which doesn’t include the excess mortality above the baseline) is 122,000 Americans, or at least 1,375 people per day since I posted that first number way back on March 25th.

The world has changed so much… If you went back in time even 100 days ago and described what has happened, no one would’ve believed you. At best, you’d have been accused of being a fear-mongerer. I wonder what strange tales a time traveler from 100 days in the future might tell us. Guess I’ll look back at this in late September and find out.

There was a miniature alarm on the personal front today: I woke up to the sound of my landlords’ son coughing. Didn’t get a chance to talk to him, so I just called xgf and said it might not be a good idea to meet today. We compromised and sat very far apart in a sunny park while we had a picnic, and cut the day short after an hour. The whole time, we were talking about whether it’d be better for me to get a month-long AirBnB or just build my own mini-kitchenette in my room so I wouldn’t have to go downstairs at all. When I got back home, the kid said he always coughs when he wakes up because his throat is dry… False alarm, then. I’m not a fan of having to be so hyper-attentive and far more anxious than I’d been before the pandemic. Then again, can’t be too careful, right?

Not much is new in the world covid news. At last night’s rally, Trump openly admitted that he ordered less covid testing because he wanted to bring the numbers down. There’s no way to estimate how many people died because of that alone. There’s some fist-shaking over this, but it got relatively little media coverage. It may get used in a campaign ad or two, but even in the best-case scenario (barring unexpected covid casualties), he’ll still be in power for another seven months. I left the US partly because other horrific things had gotten normalized: things like concentration camps for children whose families tried crossing the southern border. And now it’s just a fact of life, like so many others… I’m glad I got out. I’m sad none of my friends or relatives followed.

I’ll keep this blog going daily until a) there’s a working vaccine, and b) I get vaccinated. Something tells me it’s still far away. I fully expect there to be a “Day 200” post, and maybe one for “Day 300” and beyond. Whatever else happens, this should never get normalized or forgotten. I’m just one guy writing random stuff on an outdated, unfashionable medium, but hey – it’s better than nothing. Happy plaguaversary, y’all.

Plague diaries, Day 99

Saturday night. I’ve made peace with the fact that we all live in a satirical article (likely written by The Onion staff binge-drinking after the 2016 election), and yet the news never fails to surprise me.

The big rally scheduled in Tulsa ended up half-empty, and the overflow stage didn’t get any action. The interesting part is that six of Trump’s staffers helping out with the event tested positive for covid. Fortunately, since he claims the virus isn’t a big deal, he should be safe.

Meanwhile, Florida is setting a new daily record with every passing day… One of my sisters lives in New York and has a condo in Miami. She didn’t get out of New York in time when the pandemic spread there, but her family has been lucky so far. It really is a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” thing in her case, given the virus’s spread in those two cities.

An old friend of mine reconnected with me recently. He moved back to Reno after having his own share of adventures… Among other things, we talked about DuoLingo: he sent me a friend request through the app, and I got blown away when I saw his progress. He hasn’t skipped a day in two years, and covered an impressive amount of Spanish and – for some reason – German, while also flirting with Norwegian. It’s a fun app, and now I have a mild competitive/envious urge. Did you now that the French word for “yuck” is “beurk”? Heh.

Xgf’s neighbours were having a barbecue earlier today, so we moved our weekly hanging out day to tomorrow. (My landlords also brought four friends and relatives to celebrate the fact that they didn’t catch any fish earlier today.) There wasn’t a lot of social distancing going on at either gathering, so we each stayed inside. Here’s hoping a) nobody was sick, b) nobody will cough at us tomorrow as we go hiking, and c) there are no more shootings next to xgf’s house. Modern life is weird, eh.

Plague diaries, Day 98

Friday evening. There was a fatal shooting on xgf’s street, just two blocks away from her home. The shooter had been waiting for his victim, shot him, and jumped into a getaway vehicle. This is far, far different from the mass shootings that plague the US (and which were part of the reason I left that country), but that’s still mighty unsettling. Xgf is feeling fine – 2020 has greatly reduced her capacity to feel anxious.

The world is… not well, to put it mildly. There are reports of hospitals in the hotspot states (Florida, Arizona, Texas) running out of ICU beds. They’re all going through what New York had experienced back in April, and it’ll get very ugly before it gets better. Meanwhile, Florida’s governor decided to blame migrant farm workers for the spread of covid in his state. (Without taking any responsibility himself, of course.) Marginalizing a powerless minority group and blaming them for the world’s problems… There are some ugly historical precedents here.

Meanwhile, in Colombia, President Iván Duque Márquez decided to jumpstart the economy by eliminating the 19% sales tax for three days, essentially creating a Black Friday sale in June. The first day was today. Everyone who cares about public health is sounding the alarm, but they’re being ignored. I don’t think this impulse to put economy over people’s lives is deliberately malicious: I think there’s a distinct lack of understanding of basic science.

I’m just a 30-something guy, but I’ve had plenty of experience in running away from malicious governments, toxic managers, cities that didn’t feel welcoming… (One of my personal heroes is Rincewind from Terry Pratchett’s novels.) Part of me feels sorry for the people stuck under those petty imbecilic tyrants who don’t give a damn about the raging pandemic. Part of me is just glad that I’m very far away.

Today is the Juneteenth. Credit where credit is due: at work, all the meetings and calls got cancelled, and the entire company was encouraged to watch multiple roundtable discussions and speakers who described the systemic racism issues in the United States and beyond. It was educational and eye-opening. Let’s see if those words are followed by actions… Tomorrow, Trump will have his first rally in months – in Tulsa, the site of the infamous Tulsa massacre that happened 99 years ago. There’ll be room for 19,000 people: they all have to sign a waiver stating they accept the risk of catching covid at the rally. Tulsa’s government, as well as Trump’s own people, haven’t encouraged the attendees to wear a mask. That may end up being a super-cluster.

…time for more TV show binge-watching to keep my mind off this insanity.

Plague diaries, Day 97

Thursday night. The downright depressing covid news keeps on coming, but the sheer mass of it has made banality out of what would’ve been horrifying before the pandemic.

Media outlets no longer post how many people die each day, though there sporadic reports of some states, some cities getting more cases, more deaths. A few days ago, even the bare-minimum official death count managed to exceed the US death toll in World War I, but that was also mostly ignored. What’s really strange is that masks themselves have become a political issue. The fundamental scientific knowledge of airborne disease is being dismissed as some liberal conspiracy, a sign of cowardice, and so on.

The divide is particularly interesting on the state level. California governor Gavin Newsom has issued an order calling for mandatory mask use. There are, of course, lots of exceptions – if you’re walking, running, dining 6′ away from the staff, etc. (I would love to see servers toss plates and coffee at their shitty patrons.) On the other hand, Nebraska governor Pete Ricketts said that counties that require masks in government offices will not receive federal covid relief funds.

If this were a work of fiction, no self-respecting editor would allow such blatant partisan prose to be published. It’s too much on the nose, too ridiculous to be believed in. I heard that some of the contemporary accounts from the last days of the Roman Empire are so bizarre and outlandish that historians think they were just exaggerations – fables designed to make a point about the political decay. Some think that all of those stories, weird though they may be, are true. I think our own age will be remembered the same way: just far too many random happenstances, all unbelievable and stranger than fiction. Heh… There’s a chance that if someone reads this blog far enough in the future, they’ll think this was an exercise in creative writing, embellished here and there with my own imagination. It’ll definitely be easier to accept than the fact the world has turned into one giant satire, if only for a while.

If Kurt Vonnegut were still around, he’d have a blast.

Plague diaries, Day 96

It’s Wednesday evening, and I’m a bit of a prophet. There was a rather big reorg at work a few weeks ago. I’d immediately predicted that there would be many departures on our team. The newbies I spoke with were aghast, but they had to admit I was right when the fourth person announced their departure earlier today. (Well, technically, the third and the fourth announced that simultaneously.) Now, in addition to being the oldest Amazon employee in Canada (I joined before Canada was even launched), I’m also the fourth-most-senior person in Canada Finance. Heh… That’s somewhat amazing, considering I transferred in only 14 months ago. This world – it’s very strange. Of course, every crisis is an opportunity, and being at the top (even if it’s for all the wrong reasons) will definitely have its benefits.

The lawyer ferrets at work are still working hard on my application for permanent residence. HR friends at work came through with yet another final piece of paperwork, sooooo – any day now, maybe? With my luck, my PR application will take either a couple of weeks or the entire six months to get processed. We’ll see.

I chanced a trip Walmart today, face shield be damned. It was peculiar to see most people wearing masks. (~70%, I’d say.) Granted, some of them wore their masks incorrectly, without covering their noses, but hey – an attempt was made. I see no rhyme or reason for the different mask adoption rates on my admittedly infrequent visits. My best bad guess is that everyone is alarmed by the covid-related news coming out of the US. There were no coughers this time around.

The supply chain breakdown is making itself known. Ground beef is still roughly the same price, but regular AAA beef is far more expensive than I’ve ever seen it. I snagged some for $31 CAD/kg, or $10.35 USD/lb, which is rather excessive. (If you’re reading this in the future, it probably costs even more. Sorry for destroying the world for y’all, eh.) This is probably not related to shoddy manufacturing practices, but one of the cans of cider I bought sprang a leak (that never happened before), and now I have a blueberry cider-flavoured trunk. Heh. (Note to self: my half of the freezer can fit exactly seven pizzas.)

In covid news… Today, social media had a genuine damn glee party over the reports of a Florida woman who went to a bar with her friends (the number varies between 10-15), after which they got covid. Apparently, she works in healthcare, though it’s unclear what she does. Many blame and laugh at her, yet she was merely following the government’s instructions: when the US reopened, everyone got the cheery all-clear signal, as if the virus had gone away. Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, is refusing to shut down the state, even as covid cases keep climbing. It’s the government who is to blame, not its people. (As someone originally from Russia, I say that a lot…) In broader world news – the president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández, and his wife, Ana García Carías, both got diagnosed with covid. I wish them well. Trump’s Tulsa rally is still scheduled for Saturday, June 20th, and that alone is likely to become a super-cluster.

If you’re reading this in the future and can’t figure out what the hell we were thinking… If it’s any consolation, I have no idea either.

Plague diaries, Day 93

It’s Sunday evening, and I’m trying to be cognizant of changes.

I’ve always been a bit of a hermit and a workaholic. The current lockdown is unique in that my social life is effectively zero, not counting sporadic short conversations with my landlords or hanging out with xgf on Saturdays. At the same time, work has blended with my home life: working from home, from my laptop, means I don’t commute to the office – it’s already here. Without going out, the main ways to pass time are video games and binge-watching TV shows.

This is certainly a defense mechanism: deliberate depersonalization to pass the time faster. Even so, this is a bizarre combination, with my life limited almost solely to work and solitary activities. Xgf says that after we parted ways, I immediately snapped into the “fingerguns Grigory” – a corporate caricature filled with artificial cheer, buzzwords and, well, fingerguns. That too is a defense mechanism.

Today, my Apocalypse Beard turned three weeks old. It’s rather sad-looking (my facial hair has always been very patchy) but I plan to make up for that in volume. My landlords as well as xgf both say that I’m skinnier than ever before. (Note to self: buy new batteries for the bathroom scale – the old ones died.) I know for a fact I’m low on protein: I try to keep my trips to the grocery store as far apart as possible, and that means having meat for just a few days and then going without much longer. (It doesn’t stay fresh all that long.) That’s certainly something to look into, but meh – as long as I stay covid-free, I’ll take the mildly unhealthy weight loss. (Before the pandemic, I was 6’2″ and 165 lbs.)

Lately, I’ve been reading about the difference between waiting and living, and I realized I’d spent many years simply waiting for one thing or another instead of enjoying life. How ironic that I realize this now, the one time during my lifetime when going out is a spectacularly bad idea. Oh well, at least I’m making some slow progress learning French. C’est la vie, eh?

…I wonder just how different I’ll be once the pandemic ends. I aim to keep this blog running and updated daily until they find a viable vaccine and I get my shot(s). Or maybe a little longer than that. Something tells me that’s not going to happen anytime soon, though.

Plague diaries, Day 92

Saturday night. Spent the day hanging out with xgf again: she’s doing better but not great. She recently swallowed her pride and called the local volunteer group that delivers groceries to people with disabilities or compromised immune systems. (And she has both.) After the groceries are dropped off, you just transfer the total amount to the volunteer through Interac – a really cool (and free!) money transfer system everyone uses in Canada. I’m not sure if that group existed before the pandemic, but nonetheless, this is a great example of random acts of kindness in the world.

Xgf was also worried about catching covid and developing severe symptoms (to the point of not being able to get out of bed), since she lives by herself. Her frame of reference was some random person on Reddit, who said hospitals won’t admit you unless you’re in critical condition. My arguments to the contrary didn’t help, not even when I mentioned that a rural hospital in Quebec gave her top-notch treatment (including a brain scan) when she had chest pains. After 10 minutes of back-and-forth, I called Toronto’s health department.

The person on the other end of the line confirmed that treatment (such as it is) is available to everyone, and that hospitals will definitely provide help if the patient’s condition is bad enough. When I asked for details, she said that only 52% of ICU beds in Toronto were occupied. She also said that although 81% of acute care beds were occupied, there were always overflow options. That seemed to make xgf feel better, if only for a bit. She comes from a strange background… Just the other day, her mother (who moved here from Poland) said that a Polish surfer on Instagram (heh) said the virus was a hoax, and she believed him because he always such positive and heartfelt things…

It’s hard to describe the strange reality we’re living in, when surfers from landlocked Eastern European countries are listened to for their medical advice; where volunteers go grocery shopping and spend their own time and gas to help those in need; where there’s simply too much news for any one person to digest, and many end up reverting to their previous worldview and biases.

A couple of days ago, Ontario rolled out the plan for 10-person social bubbles. Your own family, plus another family, plus however many people it’d take to get to 10, can all hang out together – as long as nobody joins another bubble. If at least one person cheats on their bubble, and if one bubble develops a covid infection, the overlap may infect others. This isn’t something that can be enforced, and judging by all the large groups we saw in the local park today (it was picnic weather), many will likely ignore it. Still, as bad ideas go, that one isn’t too terrible. It’s an attempt to give some semblance of order to the chaos that would result if everyone just gave up. We’ll see how that plays out.

And meanwhile, only four weeks to go until my hopefully relaxing vacation. Just 20 business days, and they fly by so fast… In exactly 28 days, I’ll be sleeping in my rental car at some highway rest stop, halfway to Thunder Bay, the amethyst capital of Ontario. I can only wonder how different the world will be 28 days later.

Plague diaries, Day 91

Friday night. If I were less honest, I would’ve said how much I miss going out on a night like this – but, to be fair, most of my evenings before the pandemic were just like this: finish up work, play some video games, stream some TV shows, maybe read. The main difference now is that I’m saving a whole lot of time and money on my commute, and that I’m not going to the gym after I leave work. (I miss the gym…) And to be fair, after this whole mess ends, my routine will likely stay exactly the same, give or take a few minor differences. People always default to their baseline, eh?

I’m still celebrating the invitation to apply for permanent residence. That plan has been in the making over four years. Even in February 2016, I knew that a country that would even consider Donald Trump was a country that had something very wrong with it… I never could’ve foreseen his victory on technicality, or the mess he’d make, or the once-in-a-century pandemic. (I hope there won’t be another one like it anytime soon, but my hope could be wrong.) I tried transferring first to the United Kingdom, then to Poland, then to Canada, then to Australia, and then to Canada again. It took five tries and three years, but I made it out. And now, 14 months after I got here, I finally have the permanent residence within my grasp. It’s an indescribably amazing feeling, having your long-term stratagem play out just as expected.

…and meanwhile, in the US, approximately 1,000 Americans die of covid each day, but you wouldn’t know it if you watched most media. It’s almost as if people are fooled into thinking that all is well now, that it’s safe to come out, that the virus is behind us, just like a particularly persistent news story that just wouldn’t go away but finally left us at last. Part of it is just human nature: people are likely tired of waiting and self-isolating. Restaurants are open again, and the weather is great, and why the hell not, eh?

My own resolve wears thin sometimes: I would love to have some of those scrumptious Tim Hortons egg&bacon sandwiches, or go to my favourite Egyptian restaurant that’s just a few minutes away. And yet… That’d be a phenomenally bad idea, even if Ontario has just had fewer than 200 new cases for the first time in quite a while. Oh well. I guess I’ll just have to get better at making beans and/or eggs.

Enjoy the first night of your weekend, fellow pandemic peeps.