I regularly worked from home at least two days a week for quite some time before then, so I didn’t expect it would be much of an adjustment3. And I’m an introvert, who while I like spending time with my friends, need to spend quite a bit of time alone in order to not be mega-cranky.
My husband, in the meantime, was still having to go into work five days a week4, which of course had me fretting. I’ve been fretting about all my friends and loved ones throughout this mess. Earlier this week, he and most of his co-workers were furloughed, so he’s going to be home with me all the time for the foreseeable future. Which means slightly less fretting, right? Of course it also means we need to figure out some new routines.
On the one hand, it helps that he’s also an introvert, and we already have a habit of spending most of our time at home ignoring each other. He usually sits at his computer and I sit at mine. If I’m watching TV he’s usually playing games on his computer, or designing 3D figures to print on his 3D printer, or sitting at the table painting said figures. So we’ve got that part sorted, for now.
But worrying about everyone else does wear on you. And even though I have been a news junkie5 since I was a kid, I’ve noticed that I’m starting to avoid some of my usual news sources during my daily reading. But even though I’m trying to avoid some of those external sources of anxiety, stuff still comes across my stream that just demands a comment.
For instance, White nationalist planned to bomb a Missouri hospital as revolt against coronavirus lockdowns. Seriously? Geeze. If you don’t want to click through, the guy was under surveillance by the FBI for some time because he was active on some of the same neo-Nazi message boards as several other people arrested over the last few months for similar plans. He had been in communication with someone he thought was building a bomb that could be installed in his car, and he showed up to pick up the bomb, not realizing it was an FBI sting. He resisted arrest, and got shot and killed in the process.
Bombing a hospital? Really?
I really don’t understand some people.
Meanwhile, there is a slightly positive development in another news story about an angry white nationalist: Christchurch shootings: Brenton Tarrant pleads guilty to 51 murders – A man accused of deadly attacks on mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch a year ago has pleaded guilty to 51 charges of murder. At least the families of the victims won’t have to watch a long jury trial uncertain of the outcome.
Speaking of angry white men who may finally be held accountable for some bad stuff they’ve done: Alex Jones Loses Sandy Hook Court Appeal, Must Now Pay Nearly $150,000 In Legal Fees. I hope he keeps losing lawsuits from the families of those murdered children until he’s homeless8.
Another feature of angry white men we don’t spend enough time talking about is just how stupid they are. And it’s the kind of stupid that causes real harm to others. So I’m going to close with this video, where Rachel Maddow talks about one such stupid angry white guy. Take it away, Rachel!
Rachel Maddow blasts Mississippi governor for banning cities from coronavirus business closures:
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
1. A couple days before that tree pollen count went into the deep red, and what few other symptoms I had were consistent with a severe hay fever attack, so I was fairly certain I didn’t have the coronavirus2. But, better safe than sorry, right?
2. I have been following the advice from the World Health Organization of checking my temperature several times a day ever since. I have had no fever in that time. The cough went away for a while, then came back, and then went away. No other symptoms have shown up, so knock wood!
3. And when some people on some of the podcasts I regularly listen to were talking about how difficult it was coming up with things to do to amuse themselves while avoiding going out, I admit I chuckled. I have so many books in my to-read pile, for instance! And there are all those shows I have been trying to get to on the various streaming services! The problem isn’t finding things to do, the problem is still not having enough time for the things I want to watch, read, or listen to!
4. Riding the bus back and forth twice a day. At least he doesn’t work directly with the public like he used to. He even pointed out that because his workbench in in a cage (because he works on hard disk and other highly valuable things that are easy to pocket), most of the time all of his co-workers are far enough from him to prevent casual infection.
5. I sometimes blame Weekly Reader6, which was this sort of mini newspaper that we used to get in some of the elementary schools I attended. The idea of Weekly Reader was to provide age-appropriate versions of the big news stories kids might be hearing their parents talking about or whatever. It was an interesting publication.
6. Though my paternal grandfather was a big fan of reading the newspaper, as well as the nightly news. And most of the radio stations in most of the places we lived during my childhood had an hourly news break provided by one of the major networks. And there always seemed to be a station that carried the Paul Harvey show at noon7.
7. Which I now realize had a quite skewed viewpoint and was as likely to report urban legends as it was real news, but there was something entertaining about it.
8. He deserves much worse, of course.
I linked to this story a couple of days ago: Wall Street Journal Types Wonder Aloud If Nation’s Health Is ‘Worth’ The Economic Hit. And then of course there was this guy: Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick: I and Many Other Grandparents Would Rather Die from COVID-19 Than See the Economy Ruined . And online I’ve seen a number of people grumbling because they think only older people are vulnerable to serious illness. One comment that was extremely chilling: “Why do we have to suffer to keep some people alive who don’t have that many years left, anyway?”
It may not be quite as bad as that time (when I was a very closeted guy in my early-twenties) while my head was bowed in church when the pastor leading the prayer thanked god for the scourge of AIDS which was “killing all the gays” but it came close. Nor is it quite as bad as the time a college classmate said to me, “I know Jesus said to take care of the sick, but they didn’t know what caused all illnesses back then. We know what causes AIDS…”
So, in both cases we are talking about a virus. As I have pointed out, outside of the U.S., the vast majority of people who have been sickened and died of AIDS are straight women and children, not gay men. HIV is a virus, a natural phenomenon which is passed from person-to-person through behaviors that are a natural part of being a human being.
And while you can cherry pick the data to show that older people are more likely to die of complications of COVID-19, they aren’t the only people who do. In fact, that data is looking more and more suspect as time goes on: The Coronavirus Is Sending Lots Of Younger People To The Hospital – It’s increasingly clear that early data out of China was an anomaly: the coronavirus is severely harming substantial numbers of people under 50, too.
We know that factors which increase the likelihood of developing severe symptoms include a lot of chronic health problems that are widespread in the population. About 60% of adults have at least one of those known chronic health disorders. We also know that people how smoke or who are ex-smokers are at higher risk for getting severely ill. We have less data about whether vaping is also a risk factor, but it isn’t unreasonable to think so.
But there’s another risk factor that people aren’t taking into consideration: lack of health care options. Sure, it appears that the death rate is about 3.4% in general… yet we have places such as Italy and Spain that are seeing something closer to 8%, and at least one reason why is that so many people got sick at the same time that there weren’t enough hospital beds for the severely sick, and there weren’t enough respirators for those severely sick people who needed them.
Which is why the shelter-in-place/stay-at-home orders are important. Slowing the spread makes it possible that we might not have too many people severely sick at the same time than we have facilities for.
Though it’s quite likely that several spots in the U.S. are going to overwhelm their medical facilities, soon.
I am worried about my own health, it’s true. I am far more worried about the health of people that I know and love. I am worried about the economic hardships many are already facing, and that a lot more of us may be facing, soon. But most of those economic hardships (and many worse) will happen if infection rates surge to the point that millions die. The notion that ordinary people aren’t going to face disruptions and financial problems if all the orders are lifted and everyone goes back to work is simply wrong.
Humans are social animals. One of our survival traits as a species is that we take care of each other. My community didn’t survive the plague of AIDS by taking an “everyone for themself” attitude. The world won’t survive if you fail to learn the lessons of our ordeal:
Edited to Add: I’d already started the draft of this post before this tweet went across my timeline and I chose to re-tweet it. Decided I should add it here:
Many, many years ago, my late-husband, Ray, made some disparaging comments about our vacuum cleaner. When I suggested we could buy a new one, who immediately scoffed, saying that the one we had worked fine for our needs, since our place was so small and we didn’t need to spend the money. “Okay,” I said, and made a mental note to research vacuum cleaner so I could buy him one at the next gift-giving opportunity.
Which I did.
And when he first tore open the wrapping paper he gave me such a look… so I thought I had really screwed up. But when I tried to apologize for getting the wrong thing he brushed it off. Later, after we’d unboxed it together and I vacuumed our living room with it, he commented that at least it was a lot quieter than the old one. And later still, after we had been using it for a few months, he apologized to me for being less than enthusiastic about the present. He claimed that the lack of enthusiasm was because he assumed that I was expecting him to do all the housecleaning from then on. Which was a bit odd, given how long we’d lived together and that we’d both always tried to split the chores.
He seemed to become quite fond of that vacuum cleaner over the next few years.
After he passed away, and a few years after that after Michael and I had been living together for a while, Michael once commented on the vacuum cleaner. When I suggested we buy a new one, he countered that maybe we should look at getting a Roomba… which eventually we did. And it was upgraded a few times over the years. But we still used the stand-up vacuum occasionally, for the carpeted stairs and the upstairs hallway.
During the many months of our move from Ballard, we made a lot of decisions about things to keep and things to get rid of. The vacuum cleaner didn’t come up until after we had signed the lease at the new place. For the first three weeks after signing, we were transporting car loads of medium-sized boxes until we had enough of them out of the way that the professional movers could handle all the furniture and a bunch more of the boxes. At which point there was still odds and ends to move from the old place, but mostly a lot of cleaning to do.
At some point in that interval, Michael brought up the vacuum and the fact that he didn’t think we needed it. The new place not split level, as the old one had been, so the Roomba could, in theory, get everywhere without human intervention. And since the new place was larger, had a more open floor plan, and we had already decided to get rid of a few pieces of furniture, Michael’s reasoning was that the Roomba would probably be less prone to trapping itself.
For spot cleaning, he had a handheld Dyson which he felt was adequate to the job. And by that point, the stand-up vacuum cleaner was over 20 years old. So we left the stand-up at the old place, and it was used to vacuum up there while we were cleaning each of the rooms as we cleared out the final stuff and so forth.
At the end of the last day of cleaning, Michael removed the full bag, which I carried out to the dumpster. He put a new bag onto the cleaner, and then attached the pack that had a couple more unused bags and a replacement belt (they came in multi-packs, so when we had had to replace it, we had spares). And it was one of the things we dropped off at Value Village on our last drive between the old place and the new.
We’ve been here for almost three years, and mostly Michael has been right. The Roomba does a good job keeping the floors clean. We have replaced the Roomba once in that time (the old one had been due for replacement when we got the news of the old building selling, so we had put off buying a new one), and Michael has had to replace a few parts on the new one. It is a very busy little robot here.
But the Dyson hasn’t quite worked out for spot cleaning. The two main troubles are that 1) I forget where Michael has it stashed in the computer room, so if I decide I need it when he’s not home I wind up looking around for it for a while, and 2) half the time when I find it, the charging cable has come loose so the battery is dead, so it won’t run. And no, you can’t run it directly from the charger.
So recently, I happened upon a very cheap vacuum cleaner which is, design wise, a Dyson knock-off. It can be used as either a hand-held vacuum or with the longer attachment a traditional floor vacuum. But the big advantage is there is no battery. You just plug it in and it goes.
And when I say cheap, I mean, less than the cost of a replacement battery for the handheld Dyson.
It arrived in the middle of one of my work-from-home days (of course, right now, every one of my work days is a work-from-home day), and I assembled it, but hadn’t used it, yet when Michael got home from work. I had to run to the pharmacy, and he decided to try out the vacuum while I was gone. There were about three places in the house that the Roomba can almost never get to, and he vacuumed those up.
He says it works great, he understands why I bought it, and can’t argue with the price.
The Roomba still does most of the work. But now we can reliably clean all the weird corners. Which is a minor load off my mind. Sometimes it little things like that, you know?
“Et in Arcadia ego” finds Jean-Luc’s motley crew confronting mortality while wrestling moral dilemmas
We are at the penultimate episode of season one of Star Trek: Picard and it is a doozy! The official title is “Et in Arcadia Ego, part 1” and it ends on many more cliffhangers than any of the previous episodes.
Before we do anything else, I want to geek out a bit about the title of the episode, which I can do without any specific spoilers. The title is in Latin, and the phrase has been used as the title of a number of works of art over the years, most famously a painting by 17th Century French Baroque painter, Nicolas Poussin. The phrase is usually translated into English as, “Even in Arcadia, there am I” where the I in question is usually interpretted to be Death. The usual interpretation of the phrase is that Utopias are never perfect, or that Death is a universal fate everyone faces.
In another interpretation, the painting is used by certain conspiracy theorists (who say that the I in the title is Jesus, not Death) to be proof of their claim that a bunch of Kings of France in the Middle Ages were descendants of Christ.
There are other interpretations, of course. There is no way to know which meaning of the title really applies until we see the finale, which we all assume is entitled, “Et in Arcadia Ego, part 2.” Of course, given that Raffi within the show is a conspiracy theorist, while Commodore Oh, Narek, Narissa, and Ramda are all members of a secret conspiracy, we can’t rule anything out.
This was a fun episode. Lots of interesting things happened. We got answers to some outstanding questions. There were a couple of fun reveals, and some teasers for what might happen in the finale.
Which means we’ve reached the point were I can’t make any other comments without revealing major spoilers. So it is time for the cut-tag. Past this point there be plot spoilers. So if you don’t want to be spoiled, don’t read on.
If you click through, you’re crossing into the former Neutral Zone without backup!
A friend shared this image last week, and then I shared it on twitter, and I have subsequently seen mention here and there in various streams of cocktails called the Quarantini. I understand the urge, because many of us are staying home and dealing with any anxiety about our own health or the health of our loved ones, so coming up with a pandemic- or quarantine-themed cocktail seems like a fairly harmless way to pass the time. Well, maybe not entirely harmless: The rise of the quarantini! People whip up coronavirus-themed cocktails at home during the pandemic, prompting Emergen-C to warn that its products should not be ‘taken with alcohol’.
But assuming you aren’t mixing things that oughtn’t to be consumed at the same time, this can be fun. My husband, who used to be a bartender, shared this post about one bartender’s version of a Quarantini: The Quarantini! which does look tasty (not surprising coming from a bartender) and at least has a nice story to go with it. I object to this one a bit because it hits two of my pet peeves regarding cocktails:
- The first is that a good cocktail recipe should not be dependent on super-specific, branded ingredients. If you can’t make it without buying a specific brand of an uncommon alcohol, liqueur, or cordial, most people aren’t going to be able to make it.
- A true martini is a three ingredient drink: gin, vermouth, and a garnish (olive or a twist of lemon, traditionally). It has been argued that a martini is actually a four ingredient drink, because they taste best if served very cold, so if you consider temperature an ingredient, that is that. Regardless, the above recipe has eight ingredients (and is also recommended to be served chilled, so nine counting temperature) and that just isn’t a martini!
An important caveat to my first point: while it is true that I have specific gins that I will recommend if one if making a martini, as well as a favorite dry vermouth, those are recommendations, but the actual recipe. I have a number of favorite bourbons and ryes for making Manhattans or Old Fashioneds with, as well, but the specific brand isn’t part of the recipe, right?
Anyway, I find this recipe much more fun: Margaret and Helen introduce the COVID19 Quarantini. It’s strong enough to make you think Obama is still President and will knock you on your ass from 6 feet away. #SocialDistancing. And half of that is that is it always fun to read a new Margaret and Helen blog post. If you aren’t already a fan, you should check it out.
One part vermouth and 19 parts gin sounds insane, until you remember that a lot of people make their martinis by putting a little vermouth in the glass, swirling it around, then dumping it out and pouring the chilled gin into the glass. My typical recipe is closer to a 1 part vermouth, 9 parts gin, for example.
I’ll allow the vitamin C table garnish on the assumption that you are swallowing the tablet before you begin sipping the drink. If you want to get vitamin C into the cocktail itself, maybe a twist of lemon will be fine.
Edited to Add: It’s been pointed out to me that because Margaret and Helen often write in a distinctive style that one should not always take literally, that not everyone understands that when Helen says to serve this with hand sanitizer, she means that if you’re making a drink for someone else, you should use hand sanitizer since both you and the person you are making the drink for will be touching the surface of the glass. Not that you should put hand sanitizer into the drink.
Let’s begin with this: These Senators Sold Millions Worth of Stock After Private Briefings on the Impending Coronavirus Crisis . First, I want to point out that the original headline talks about Republican Senators, but even in the initial breaking story, there was one Democrat, as well. So I fixed the headline. So, Senators receive a number of classified briefings about the looming pandemic, and several of them, just coincidentally, sold off millions of dollars in stock in industries likely to take a hit. At least one of them doing so while simultaneously writing editorials and going on the various news shows to insist that the country was ready to handle any such emergency and that everything was going to be fine.
One of those Senators has been trying to defend herself by claiming that all the sales were done without her knowledge, but the problem is that her husband, who just so happens to be the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, also unloaded a bunch of stock after the briefings. Most of the others are trying to defend themselves by claiming the sales conform to the law… And it is true that the law gives Congresspeople a lot of leeway to do this sort of thing: An Invitation to Corruption – As long as lawmakers are allowed to trade individual stocks, disaster profiteering is always a risk.
The short version is that members of congress are allowed to buy and sell stock based on public information that they learn during the course of their work so long as the transactions are reported within 30 days. Which is very lenient, because the definition of public information is broad. As congress people receiving briefings, the information they received is often contextualized in a way that the information isn’t available to the general public. In other words, they have taxpayer-funded help sorting out the signal from the noise, while the taxpayers are left with the noise…
However, the information received in classified briefings shouldn’t count as public information. So I think a few of these guys might actually suffer consequences. I mean, even Tucker Carlson, who normally defends any crime and outrage every single Republican commits has called this one out: Tucker Carlson demands a Republican senator either explain his stock sell-off or resign – “There is no greater moral crime than betraying your country in a time of crisis.”.
I nearly spit my coffee all over my keyboard when I saw the word “moral” coming out of Carson’s mouth. But, even a broken clock is correct sometimes!
And as the story developed House members, Senate aides traded stocks in early days of coronavirus. We know that it is a lot more members of Congress involved.
Part of the reason it is so outrageous that the law is so lax on this is because not only do members of congress have access to information that the public doesn’t, but they write and vote on laws that funnel tax dollars into various efforts. In private business, insider trading laws recognize that employees of publicly-traded companies have information before the public does, and therefore are in a position to sell their own stock at times just before information that will greatly devalue that same stock once it is know. Such trades are effectively stealing money from the people who are buying those stocks. So it’s illegal for employees of private companies to buy or sell the stock when they are in possession of information the public doesn’t yet have. Executives, who not only have a lot more information than the average employee but can also change policies within the company that effect the value, are limited to very narrow windows, beginning a number of days after quarterly earning reports are published, and ending a short time later.
Members of Congress have no such limitation.
It isn’t just corrupt politicians we have to worry about profiteering off of a national crisis. A lot of other rich a-holes are similarly morally bankrupt: Wall Street Journal Types Wonder Aloud If Nation’s Health Is ‘Worth’ The Economic Hit – Not making that up. Stephen Moore of The Heritage Foundation and his former colleagues at The Wall Street Journal are “asking the question” if COVID mitigation measures are “worth” the economic hit..
If you must have the sanctity of human life explained to you, maybe you shouldn’t be allowed to be in charge of anything. At all.
Let’s end with this: Rachel Maddow: Media Needs to Stop Airing Trump’s Lie-Filled COVID-19 ‘Fairytale’ Press Briefings —
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
Every time I’ve sat down this week to try to compose a blog post that isn’t somehow related to the pandemic, I’ve found myself digressing into the topic, anyway. A comment about it crept into the draft of my Star Trek: Picard review, even. I think I need to just admit it’s a part of my life right now and deal with it.
I’ve seen a lot of people sharing tips about staying productive while working from home. I’ve been working from home at least one day a week for many years, now, but I still have been reading those posts and twitter threads because 1) it’s always interesting to see how other people handle things, 2) they may have some ideas I’ve never tried, and 3) it never hurts to brush-up a skill set.
Now, just like writing advice, what works for some people doesn’t work for everyone. And pitfalls that trip up some people don’t interfere with others. For instance, a lot of folks are advising against working in your pajamas or such. To which I say, “pffft!” I wear sweats or shorts (depending on the ambient temperature) with no problem of thinking of it as a work day. OTOH, I always grab a clean t-shirt and do a runs a comb through what little hair I still have before I log in to work. But I admit mostly that’s because I’m paranoid that I’ll accidentally turn on video conference while I’m in an on-line meeting.
I realized while I was reading the various posts that I haven’t been doing a very good job of sticking to at least one of my own rules about working from home lately. And it started before the semi-quarantine.
That rule is that there is a point in the middle of the day when I close the work laptop, go make my lunch (or pull it from the fridge, whatever), and sit somewhere away from the workspace to eat lunch and scroll through some news sites OR do some writing.
Since we’ve moved to Shoreline, that also almost always meant that I take a fresh mug of coffee, my food, and my iPad out on the veranda, so I’m technically outside. Even in cold weather, a few minutes outside with hot coffee was a great break. But this year we had a small version of the snowpocalypse, again, and I wound up working from home for at least one week. It was a bit too cold to sit outside that week. I did go out every morning and make sure the hummingbird feeder wasn’t frozen, and that the other feeders all had food, but that was in the morning before logging in.
Then I had another two week period not long after that where I had the flu so I didn’t go into the office my usual days. And I didn’t do my lunch outside during that time, either.
Since the current work-from-home stretch started a bit more than two weeks ago, I have occasionally thought, after finishing lunch inside (usually wolfing it down quickly, often at my desk) that I ought to have gone outside to eat. It occurred to me that maybe the reason my work days aren’t feeling as productive and I’m being more cranky late in the day might not be merely ambient anxiety because of the pandemic or all the network lag I’ve been experiencing since everyone is working from home.
So today, Thursday, is the second day in a row that I have made myself stop, close the laptop, get a fresh mug of coffee, and take my lunch and iPad outside to sit at my silly IKEA outdoor table, watch the birds at the feeder, listen to the nearby traffic, and have a real lunch break.
And I’m really glad I have. I think Wednesday afternoon went much better because of it!
So: tricks and tips to put your mind in the work-day mood are good. Just as important, though, are to take regular breaks and a little self-care.
My episode-by-episode reviews of Star Trek: Picard continue with the eighth episode, “Broken Pieces,” in which Raffi, Rios, and Jurati finally meet Soji, while Seven of Nine comes to Elnor’s rescue and is faced with a horrific situation.
This was another bloody episode, with a rather lot of deaths, some depicted less graphically than others. And the deaths were hardly the most disturbing things to happen! I think it was an excellent episode. Since we are nearly to the end of the season, most of all the diverse subplot all start to come together.
I can’t say anything more without major spoilers, which means it’s time for the cut-tag. Past this point there be plot spoilers. So if you don’t want to be spoiled, don’t read on.
You’re crossing into the former Neutral Zone without backup!