A Journal of the Plague Year,
being random jottings of personal experiences during the coronavirus pandemic

March 22, 2020

It was about the beginning of September, 1664... Excuse me. I shouldn't ape, or plagiarize (plague your eyes?), the master. It was actually yesterday, March 21, 2020 (gotta love the number of the year) that I picked up the new lawn mower at Home Depot, and many of the people there seemed curiously frenzied; I can't quite characterize their behavior, but they had an uneasy quality. Many of them moved faster than they usually do.

Later, I walked down to my local shopping center and saw that the parking lots were almost entirely empty. That was a Saturday. Except on Christmas or whatever, they're always almost full. Women walking their dogs were giving me a wide berth (more than the recommended six feet), pulling the dogs so as not to be within spraying distance if I sneezed or coughed. I walked for about an hour. On the way home, I stopped at Rimann's Liquor and said, "I'd like to support the local breweries, but I don't want to buy a six-pack". One of the employees led me to a shelf and showed me the local brews I could buy as singles. The cans were lined up, and he touched the top of every can in the front row with his fingers. He clearly was not thinking about the virus. I waited until he left, and took a can from the second row, went to the register, and put it on the counter. The clerk said, "Oh! That's a good one!", and touched the top of the can with her fingers, right on the pop-top and the hole you drink from, thank you very much. I brought it home and put it in the fridge, wondering whether to try to sanitize it, or throw it out.

Friday, the day before, I'd gone to the grocery store, there in the Village, just around the corner from Rimann's. As I observed to a friend, it looked like Moscow under Brezhnev: empty shelves. Well, partly, anyway. (The other day at Sprouts was even worse: entire sections of vegetables completely gone. And Susan, my wife, said the line at Costco one day went from the registers all the way to the back of the store. I'm estimating that's several hundred feet.) This beggar-thy-neighbor panic is madness. Best to make the reasonable assumption that the food supply will continue, and not grab up stuff, some of which will spoil before you eat it, and some of which will deprive your neighbors of supplies. As is usual, there are exceptions (not toilet paper, you wimps!), such as paper towels, which I find myself using a lot, because I constantly wash my hands. And of course soap. I understand people buying up that stuff, because our consumption of these things is increasing. But milk? The bottom row of the milk cooler was empty for a width of about five feet, and the rest of it was denuded 50%, at least. This is absurd. Man up, people! You're only creating shortages and spoilage.

Two of my friends, who, like me, have Parkinson's, self-isolated about a week ago. This, to me, was premature. I sent them and some others an email that calculated the chances of infection given the ratio of undiagnosed cases, number of known cases, etc., and ending:

"We're not in N.Y., Washington, or California. Sure, this will get worse. Sure, avoid crowds. Sure, if you have contact with infants, take extra measures. Sure, if you're immune compromised stay home. But for the rest of us, it's not time to self-quarantine yet. There are other considerations, such as the effect on other people, who will lose their jobs if we don't patronize the places they work. This is an economic disaster in the making.

"A final comment: as one of the few people locally who carries earthquake insurance on his house, and the only Parkinson's sufferer (to my knowledge, and I know a lot of them) who's lost his sense of smell and gone out and found a natural gas detection alarm (and hired an electrician to install it at the top of a wall, because natural gas rises), I think my assessment of risks can be described as conservative, not cavalier."

Now I'm enjoying my large helping of crow. This damn thing has accelerated, and most of us locally are ordered to stay home, starting Tuesday. (By the way, do mayors even have the legal power to do that? Where is it written?) I do think, though, that this will trigger an economic catastrophe of a magnitude far beyond 2008, probably closer to the Depression. It could well result in the Democrats taking control of both houses and the presidency in November. But we saw in the preceding paragraphs how accurate my crystal ball is. I'm switching to the Magic 8 Ball, online version. [Brief pause here.] I just asked it, "Will coronavirus trigger a depression?" The answer was "Yes". Really, it did. Would the Magic 8 Ball lie to me? [Brief pause here.] I next asked, "Will the Democrats take over the federal government in November?" The answer was "Without a doubt". I am not making this up, people.

Perhaps the most obvious thing about the reaction to this virus is the amazing lack of traffic. There are few cars on the street, about like Thanksgiving day, when traffic is always minimal. But foot traffic has increased. My neighborhood always has lots of walkers, but the number seems to have zoomed.

The worst thing about this is that the gyms are all closed. To hold back my Parkinson's I work out every day: three days of cardio, three of weights, and one of non-contact boxing, every week. Now I'm working on home routines, but it ain't the same. Not at all. Not to mention that I miss my friends. This is a prelude to weeks, and more likely months, of boredom. How many rock songs will we be hearing about cabin fever?

March 23, 2020

Where's Tom Lehrer when we need him? Anyone who could make us laugh about nuclear war would be able to help us get through this pandemic with a sense of humor.

Woke up in the night having trouble breathing. This, combined with the cough I've had for some days (five days?) now, has me worried. Things to do, in case I have the dread disease: pay bills, cancel dog grooming, send Susan all the stuff she needs to know in order to carry on ... Later: we took my temperature, and it was my normal reading of a bit below 98 degrees. False alarm. I'm usually not hypochondriacal. The reason for the cough and transitory breathing problem (and congestion) must be the dust from all the construction we're having done in the house. Susan had trouble last night, too.

Sociolinguistic change? I'm noticing a change in our phatic speech. The farewell that started back in (I think) the early 70s -- "Have a nice day", which more recently is often "Have a good day" -- has turned in the last week or so to "Be well" or "Stay healthy", and the like. Will have to email Phil Duncan about this to get his take on it.
Later -- his response:
So, ironically I got your email right as I was going into a Zoom meeting. My initial thought was something like, "hmm, I feel like I see these more in writing than in oral speech..." Then, what do the two people say closing the meeting? Speaker 1: "Be well!" Speaker 2: "Stay healthy!"
My (very loose) impression is that people are leveraging some closing expressions (or phatic expressions, as you say, a la Jakobson's multifunctionality) that may have already been on the uptick (sometimes for other reasons, like an increased interest in and normativity of things related to health/well-being/mindfulness, etc.). In email, I know a good amount of people who have been using "be well" as a closing device over the last year or so. Until now, I'd kind of put that in the camp of a fad-ish type behavior, like when it seemed that a good chunk of academia suddenly preferred to use "cheers" to close out emails a while back. And, I can think of at least one person who has regularly used "be well" in both email and conversations for over a year. Of course, the phrase "be well" to say goodbye or end a conversation has been around for quite sometime (& sometimes in longer phrases like "goodnight & be well"). On the other hand, people I know who never used phrases like "be well" as closings have started to do so only in the last few weeks - and with high regularity to boot. And, as I have heard even more recently, this is definitely found across modalities.
So, it does seem that people are quickly transitioning in connection to covid-19, integrating these phrases into everyday interactions & conversations.

March 24, 2020

Susan came home early yesterday. Curiously, the hospital where she works was only half full (because people are staying away? because discretionary treatments, such as surgeries, are delayed? must ask her). Management naturally didn't want to pay a lot of people to twiddle their thumbs, so Susan volunteered to use some paid time off. She stopped at Costco on the way home. While she was in the store, the store management limited the number who could be inside, and made customers wait in a line outside. Unless they enforced social distancing, though, they were merely moving the problem of disease transmission from an enclosed space to an outdoor space, and, I suspect, worsening it, because people in line would be closer together than they would be when spread out through the store.

Susan's hospital has also changed in other ways. The weekly early-morning tumor conference she always attends, where they discuss patient cancers, was cancelled probably a month ago.

I keep thinking of Colin, our son. Must contact him. He's been doing very well as a travel agent, but now, I'm sure, he's at home, the phone dead, no business.

I see in the latest LSA missive that CoLang 2020 has been cancelled. This is sad, it being one of the few gatherings dedicated to the practical preservation of indigenous languages. It was at CoLang 2016, in Fairbanks, that my Parkinson's symptoms first presented... Indigenous populations in the U.S. are at high risk from the virus, because they have what may be the worst health systems in our country. There's simply not enough funding. With the old people being most at risk, and the old being the few remaining fluent speakers of all those marvelous languages, the rate of language loss may accelerate even further, taking away those underpinnings of their cultures.

Heard by email from my good friend Larry, asking how Charles and I are doing. Okay, I suppose, except for not being able to get together with them every other week, and except for the gyms being closed. I feel the effects of not doing my workouts. People have commented how extreme they are (to which I reply that it's medically advised), and I just can't get that really hard exercise here at home, lacking all the different weights and machines and bikes, etc. I walk for an hour every day, and I do body-weight exercises, but the new regimen feels lame and largely ineffective.

Trying not to touch my face is a pain in the neck. It was never obvious how much I did it, every day -- just touched the itchy spot unthinkingly. The face seems to be by far the most demanding part of the body in this respect.

I take the dogs, all three of them, to be groomed today. Grooming is classified as an essential service, which I find curious. But for some dogs, like our Jack, it's a matter of health. His fur continues to grow, unlike most breeds, and he develops hot spots that can be a medical problem. They drive him right up the wall, poor fella.

I've done the taxes myself for many years, but am finally throwing in the towel this year and hiring an accountant. Dropped off the paperwork last week. I will not be meeting him in person -- we will confer by phone this evening.

Many people are working from home, something I'm familiar with, having had to remote in uncountably many times over the past twenty years or so. It's become much more common recently, and luckily so. Think how the virus would be spreading if the technology had not developed and everyone had to be physically present at their place of work. If this virus had appeared in the first decade of this century, we'd be screwed.

Family dinner, which has been our tradition for well over a decade, is cancelled. No more gathering of the four local siblings every Monday evening, hosted in rotation. No more trading our news, chewing the fat, and just generally enjoying each other. This is sadsadsad. I saw my sister on the street, and our conversation was carried on from opposite sides of the road. This seems to me both dismal and symbolic.

Reading the New York Times online, I saw pictures of Florida beaches full of people (before they were closed), and stories about students on spring break crowding into restaurants and clubs. These delusional inconsiderate assholes should be quarantined on a desert island, away from the rest of us.

And speaking of the Gray Lady, I see this little item therein, which should be a Darwin Award winner: "An Arizona man died and his wife was hospitalized after officials said they self-medicated using a fish tank additive that has the same active ingredient as an anti-malaria drug promoted by the president." Why did they listen to that fool? And why didn't they -- but never mind, the questions are endless. We'll never know. Maybe they were thinking, "What's the worst that can happen? It's worth a shot." The dangers of insufficient research.

And by the way, if you think I'm going out too much (grocery, liquor store, dog groomer), you've seen nearly the full extent of my ramblings. Most of them are documented here, and I try to practice social distancing when out, and I don't go to crowded places. Example: the only person in the grooming business is the groomer herself.

Morning news item: the U.S. may be about to displace Europe as the epicenter of the pandemic. Can we thank our broken political and health systems for this? I'm just sayin', as the sayin' goes.

Our neighbor's wife tells me that her husband is bouncing off the walls (though that's not quite how she phrased it). The guy has more energy than anyone I know -- his two speeds are fast and faster. I've seen him building a deck in a cold downpour. Now he has nowhere to go, nothing to do, though his wife does tell me that they can play golf: the clubhouse is closed, but the poles in the cups have been wrapped in foam. If your ball hits the foam, you're considered to have sunk the putt. This is just one of a million adaptations I expect we'll be hearing about.

March 25, 2020

Phillip (my relative, not my former professor) read the above and emailed me that he had a rowing machine, and I was welcome to borrow it. Then he put it in his car and drove right over. The man is the soul of generosity, and it's no wonder everyone loves him. After we set it up in the basement, we had a couple of glasses of wine and talked for a while. He's fun to talk to, in addition.

This morning I started wondering how Phillip and Janice's garden will be this year -- will it be affected by not being able to get some plants or supplies? Will they be reluctant to go to the nursery for flats, etc.?

Cindy and Susan tell me that Peggy has started a little business sewing masks in her house, since her customers are drying up, being unwilling to come over and drop off their clothes for alteration. I wonder whether the fabric of the masks will keep out the virus.

The neighborhood seems quieter, partly from the lessened traffic, but there seems to be a general lowering of noise otherwise.

I thought I had a tick bite on one toe, until I looked more carefully. (Note to self: get new flea collars for the dogs, and stop going barefoot all the time.) Then I started thinking about people who might have both coronavirus and some other problems, like a tick-borne microbe. A frightening thought. The doctors would probably miss the diagnosis, for starters.

Watched the news yesterday and noticed both local and national news anchors broadcasting from their homes. This seems quite remarkable.

Settled the taxes yesterday with the CPA. When he first called, I scarcely understood a word. The voice quality was not what it was at his office. (And the caller i.d. was a different number.) Turned out that he'd had to close the office. He couldn't find my taxes at first, because he'd hauled all his work home in three banker's boxes.

I scarcely need to check my schedule now. All those classes I take have either been cancelled altogether or moved online. Note to self: order a webcam and microphone, to enable remote attendance at stuff like Spanish study group, far behind though I am.

Wondering about Tim and Val and their weekly gig at the Brick, which I, disorganized friend that I am, have never attended, and which, like everything else locally, will now be inoperative. Knowing Tim, I expect that he's writing more songs. I still remember that one about Idi Amin. Almost forty years later I smile whenever I think of that song. Funny, and utterly original.

Amazon is hiring more workers. Of course. Their business will boom because people will order online instead of going to stores, or the stores will be closed and they'll have no choice but to order online.

It occurs to me that call centers will be very busy, and that they will be little epicenters of the spread of the disease. They work asshole-to-elbow. We need to start moving more of them remote, which has already been done for years. But of course the call centers that lack this ability will need the proper infrastructure, software, and setup. I'm betting that soon vendors will be struggling to keep up with the demand for this.

The Spanish flu was almost exactly a century ago. (And it wasn't "Spanish" at all. It started in central Kansas. Look it up, if you don't believe me.) Think how horrifying that must have been, at a time when so much less was understood about epidemiology and the spread of diseases, and there was so much less medical skill and knowledge. Rejoice that we live in a time when medicine has improved.

March 26, 2020

Walked past half a dozen women sitting in a circle of chairs on a driveway, spaced about ten feet apart. Social distancing, yes, but not so it makes conversation difficult. ("What did you say?", hand cupped to ear.) Not five minutes earlier, I'd walked by a group of women in the park, similarly spaced. My impression, from this and things like women distancing themselves from me outdoors, is that women in general are much more careful about social distancing than we men are, and therefore are probably much more cautious (realistic?) about getting the disease.

Woke up drooling. Still half-asleep, I wiped it off with my hand, then thought, Oh, I'm not supposed to touch my face.

My niece quit her job, and my sister-in-law's daughter quit hers, too. People who can afford to, often will, I think, and that's going to create a problem for their employers. Both these women were part-time, and I may be generalizing from insufficient evidence, but still, I think this is probably a trend.

Yesterday I couldn't send email to the CPA who's doing our taxes: all the mails bounced back with a message that there was no DNS entry for the domain. And yet I could ping the domain from a command window. (For those not initiated into the tech priesthood, I'm simply saying that the CPA's piece of the web did not appear, for email I sent via my ISP, but did appear when I tested it locally from my PC. This is like your Uber driver not being able to find your home.) Then I started getting messages for that domain, and for the University of Kansas, that my ISP couldn't connect to the recipient's mail server. Either the net is dying, or my ISP is -- but if the latter, how come I can still connect to it, and to my K.U. email? Gotta be the ISP; all the evidence points at them. Among other things, sending email from K.U. still succeeds. Electronic technology is wonderful when it works, as an electric company field worker once said to me, "But when it doesn't, I just want to throw [the toughbook] in the river". Preach it, brother. I'm glad I don't have to work on that shit any more, except of course for the annoying problems I run into here at home... This morning the problem appears to be fixed, and of course no word of explanation from my damn ISP.

I was surprised to find that people, including a relative, have doubted the existence of the pandemic. How does one help them wake up and smell the coffee? Maybe the culture war (Kulturkampf, in the broad sense) in this country leads people to deny the obvious, because they feel besieged, and think it's necessary to circle the wagons against any threat to their belief system. I'm speculating, of course, because I truly don't understand. When it's crystal clear from photos of Wuhan that the streets are empty, the place is locked down. And it's easy to go online and check the cruise line that owns the Diamond Princess. Et cetera. It's not difficult. So why this inability to admit the obvious?

It occurs to me that we've had such a long string of good luck in public health that we're spoiled. We've come to think we're invulnerable. But, hey, you ain't seen nothin' yet. Did you know that we still have repositories of the smallpox virus? Yes, and the last time I read about the place it's stored in Moscow, the stuff was kept in a building behind a simple chain-link fence with a padlock. (Contrary to the Wikipedia article, the Moscow site was not "tightly controlled". Let's hope this has changed, and Wikipedia's current description is accurate, though I have my doubts -- they have their share of errors.) Imagine some fringe doomsday cult getting their hands on that viable smallpox. Can we please agree to destroy those stocks? The risk/reward calculation is clear, because almost the entire planet has lost immunity to that disease by now, and smallpox vaccine stocks are probably slim and none.

Scroll to the bottom of this story for a weird symptom of Corona: loss of smell. Welcome to the world of Parkinson's, where anosmia is extremely common. This is not to claim that the causes are the same for PD and Corona, only that they share a symptom, and that it's curious that this unusual symptom is shared by both diseases.

March 27, 2020

Short entry today. Susan will be using the PC to remote into work.

What I'm hoping for is that I get the virus near the very end, when it's well understood and the medical facilities are no longer overcrowded. And that I'm asymptomatic. Welcome to my fantasy planet.

I've always been plagued with skin that's thin. (I mean this literally, not as a remark on any hypothetical emotional sensitivities, none of which, of course, I have.) With age this thinness has worsened. Now both hands have a small scabbed-over patch from all the handwashing I've been doing. I should start counting how many times a day I'm doing it, but that would be just one more damn chore to take up precious space in my daily-shrinking mind.

March 28, 2020

Teens -- where are they? School's out, but I see few of them on the street. Maybe they're all at home playing with their thumb pianos (smartphones).

Went to India Palace yesterday. Like every other restaurant in town, it's takeout only. The kitchen was hopping, as seen through the window, and the big tall guy who runs the place was a whirlwind. That dude can multitask like no one I've ever seen, and he never forgets a detail while he juggles taking orders on the phone, giving people their orders, ringing them up, going back to the kitchen to handle something. If everyone worked like he does, the world would run like a Swiss watch. (Okay, no one talks about Swiss watches as the epitome of accuracy now, but I've always liked that analogy. So I'm dating myself.) Glad to see that our favorite restaurant is doing well, though I have to worry about the servers. The room was empty, no one at the tables. Note to self: go earlier next time. I seem to have hit the rush hour today, with four to six people standing around, widely spaced, of course, and someone always immediately showing up to replace someone who'd just picked up their food. They're doing enough business that it's taking them longer than usual to fill the takeout orders.

Gotta get a webcam, because stuff is coming up that demands it -- virtual meetings with Larry and Charles, and some of the classes I've been taking, which will now go online, since the metro area is pretty well locked down.

Old Overland Park is a ghost town. The diagonal parking is usually full, or almost, but this afternoon there was one car. An SUV pulled up and the driver parked athwart three or four of the parking spaces, parallel to traffic flow (what little flow there was). Why not? There's plenty of room, for a change.

11 days since the gyms closed and already I see some changes in my body: smaller forearms, and man boobs.

Thinking about David Quammen's book Spillover, about zoonotic diseases. His usual superb job. Read it, what, maybe five years ago? Prophetic. We're living it now -- Corona is precisely the kind of disease he was writing about.

March 29, 2020

Recall the first entry above, the second paragraph, about buying the can of beer. Yesterday it had been in the refrigerator a week, so I figured any virus was kaput. But I wiped it down with one of those towlettes that's pre-soaked in bleach, then ran cold water on it, planning to pour it into a pint glass. Then I looked at what I'd bought: milk chocolate stout. I checked, and it truly does have milk in it. I'm allergic to cow milk. The one time in my life I don't look at what I'm buying, I buy what I must not consume...

Everybody and his brother is out today, the weather being pleasant. Lots of parents and kids on bicycles. Saw a number of tall women, the kind I think of as Valkyries. Always a pleasure to see you, girls. You brighten up my day.

Things are going to be different after this virus runs it course. The economy will probably be a bit simpler, there may be less complexity to our culture in general, many of us will have a lower standard of living (I expect to), and voters may realize the utility of having a functioning federal government, instead of trying to vote in incompetents who want to disassemble it. But we saw in the first day's entry, above, how accurate my crystal ball is. Which is to say, not at all. I simply hope that people come to appreciate each other, and pull together.

March 30, 2020

Men seem to be getting with the program and doing more social distancing. (See the comment in the March 26 entry, above, about women being more careful.)

I went online to see whether anyone else was putting up a personal journal about Corona, and the very first one, starting about the same time as mine, had the same title: Journal of the Plague Year.

We've got a guy coming by today to put up my speed bag and pullup bar, things I'll use to improve the limited workout I have so far. The weather's getting better, too, so I'll be able to skip rope outside. Susan is a bit annoyed with me for "setting such a good example", but she doesn't have a neurological disorder that requires forced exercise.

I wonder whether everyone is as paranoid as I am, noticing every cough and wondering whether it's a symptom of the virus. Back in the early 1980s, before anyone understood anything about AIDS, there were similar fears of infection, until the medical community figured out that it was transmitted via bodily fluids. Then all us straight people heaved a sigh of relief, and many of us (me included) figured "That's their problem", meaning that we didn't have to worry because we weren't part of the gay and drug-using communities. This time it's different, because we can get the disease from droplets in the air, or contaminated surfaces. We (or at least I) feel paranoid, instead of immune.

March 31, 2020

Went online to buy a webcam. Woops. Late, as usual. All sold out at Micro Center, Costco, Best Buy, and I think somewhere else I've forgotten the name of. Walmart no good, either -- only saw crappy ones. Had to buy from the Evil Empire Amazon. Hate doing that.

Thinking about that beer, the one that runs like a thread through this web page, I started wondering whether the liquor stores are closed. [Brief pause, while I check the Internet.] Yes, but they can sell curbside. (This must be the booze equivalent of the takeout-only rule for restaurants, and the we-get-your-dog-at-the-door rule for the dog day care place in the Village.) At least all the alkies can get their fix and avoid the DTs.

Noticed this morning that the women who run in groups, still run in groups, generally without social distancing from each other, as if to say: "None of my running friends will have Corona. We're too healthy". It's curious that men usually run solo, and I can't recall ever seeing more than two men running together, except in a race, though I must have. Women, however, often run in threes and fours. Contrarily, male bicyclists often ride in groups, usually of two, and they like to talk while they ride. Why is this? Am I the only one who wonders about these things? Jerry Seinfeld could make a comedy bit out of these little observations.

April 1, 2020

April Fool's Day, but somehow I'm not tempted to put anything here that would be a joke.

Take a quick look at The Quarantine Diaries. Looks like I'm not alone in this project. I wish I could draw, though. Some of the artwork is lovely. The discussion of paper versus electronic media at the end is apt: electronica are evanescent. As Steven Jay Gould remarked about researching how scholarly progress is made, when investigating collegial communications, and the lack of a permanent record saved somewhere: "Now it goes over a wire and straight into oblivion". (That may not be totally accurate, given my eroding memory, but it's close.) When he wrote that, the telephone was the major medium. Email's not so bad, but still not as good as paper (use acid-free, btw).

Glenn Beck says, "I would rather die than kill the country", to encourage people to go out, go back to the office, or whatever. The logic is clearly spurious: if people follow his advice, they will kill the country, in the sense that many millions more will die. I have an idea, Glenn: since you volunteered, you go first. But don't expect a large funeral crowd.

Broke a tooth this morning. The dentist's office is closed for you know the reason. The emergency number on their answering message gets no response. Damn good thing I don't have any pain. Later: they finally called back, and checked with my dentist, who said to let it be for the time being. She'll take a look at it when the office is open again. Fine by me, since there's no pain. Question: why is dentistry so gender egalitarian? My personal experience is that the ratio of women to men seems much higher than in the other professions, and has been that way for years. Is there something about the work that attracts women? There's a perfectionist streak in dentists, I've noticed, but that's the only characteristic that stands out to me, and not one I'd expect to be more common among women. Maybe they tolerate the tiny, cramped spaces and intimate contact better than men? That's kind of a stretch. They have smaller hands, but that wouldn't be the reason. I give up.

April 2, 2020

Wondering about all the aliens, illegal and otherwise, who do the work of cleaning the businesses and gyms and so on. Since these places are closed, what do they do? Go home to Mexico or wherever?

People trooping through the house for various kinds of work -- three of them just now. A bad time to be upgrading the house, neh? Makes me nervous. One of our guys just can't seem to maintain social distance.

Gotta go. Susan needs the PC for work now. I was going to write a couple thousand more words on the current novel, including a section about James and his dad, but that will have to wait. Ah: email it to myself, pull up email over wifi, and work on the laptop.

April 3, 2020

A guy who's working on our house told me about this: Stay the Fuck at Home. It's a good time to be on the space station, or, failing that, a desert island. I always wanted to be Robinson Crusoe... And speaking of the space station: if we ever do interplanetary, or even interstellar, travel, will viruses wipe out the inhabitants of a space ship? Cuz it's got to be an incubator, just like a cruise ship or an aircraft carrier.

The playground in the park down at the corner is closed, all the play equipment wrapped in several layers of bright yellow CAUTION tape.

The car sits in the driveway undriven many days. All my classes are cancelled, except the few that have been moved online. And of course the gym is closed.

April 4, 2020

The county newspaper says "drastic decrease" in traffic crashes. I believe it. 8 a.m. yesterday morning, walking down to the post office to mail a letter, there were almost no cars on the road, only one car at any stoplight (and usually none), at what should have been the height of morning rush hour. Air pollution is probably way down, too.

The news also says local tax revenues are way down. Natch.

Had a long, intricate, and problematic dream last night, most of which has vanished in the haze of my fogfilled brain, except for little wisps, little fragments that are feeling as much as pictures. (And why the hell don't I dream in color any more? I did for a while.) The clearest memory is of a rat, probably inspired by the pizza rat. (The video went viral; look it up, because I'm too lazy to give you a link this morning.) This rat was a Corona carrier (yes, I know they don't, but this was a dream), and it was getting into a chair I sit in. I have no idea why this chair was outdoors in a public space. I had our dog Jack with me, and I set him on the rat. He caught hold of the tail, and pulled, and the rat opened up, and the innards started coming out, too, being dragged out with the tail. So I grabbed the rat's head and Jack switched to biting that, and the rat followed Elvis and left the building. When I told my wife this story, she pointed out that Jack was the wrong dog, because Pogo is the rodent killer, catching chipmunks and mice and all. He hates them with unexcelled fury; when he's after one, he turns from the sweetest dog I've ever known into a killing machine. He'll spend hours trying to find one that's already eluded him. So why was Jack the dog in the dream? And why was that woman being such an asshole to me? And why did the scene look like a combination of rather grand public buildings and a badly damaged desert? And why is this dream stuck in my head like a tape loop, when most of it has evaporated? No, Sigmund, the dream was not about sex.

International relations are bound to be changed by this virus, simply because of the magnitude of its effects. Will Africa become poorer, and therefore more dependent on the Chinese handouts they've been gobbling up? Will Iran behave itself better, or become even more of a problem? Will North Korea be devastated by the disease, given their incredibly shitty health system, and will this make their wacko leader even more of a loose cannon? There are dozens of questions, and there are probably people thinking about these things, and I wish I knew their thinkings.

Economy: with money being pumped in and businesses going belly up, are we headed for huge inflation and/or price gouging? Given massive unemployment, which I think we can assume, will this be even harder for the public than it was in the 1970s? Will we see price controls, like under Nixon?

'Scuze the conjectures here; my mind is firing furiously on its one weak cylinder, and I'm speculating out loud from total lack of knowledge. Consider the source and disregard my ravings.

April 5, 2020

I'm in trouble. My symptoms are considerably worse since I can't go to the gym and do a hard workout every day. They've accelerated noticeably in the last week or so. I'd appreciate an exception being made for Parkies, allowing them in the gyms, but I know that ain't gonna happen. It will be up to me to work out more at home, though it probably won't be possible to get what I need. I'll have to bump up the quantity of exercise, since the quality is unreachable.

Bring Out Your Dead. It's getting a little like the Plague in some countries: mass burials, public spaces and ice-skating rinks used for morgues, funerals forbidden. Wait until it hits Africa. There will be a cataclysm of another order of magnitude. Looking at the charts, South Africa seems to have done a great job turning back the tide, but will they be swamped by a tsunami from their neighbors? And even if they're not, the die-off in the other countries will be apocalyptic.

Went to Sprouts yesterday. Until then, I think I'd only seen one person wearing a mask there. But things have changed: all the employees, and almost half the customers, had them on. What's curious is that the customers had on the good, commercial ones; not one of them was home-made. Susan says you can't buy the commercial ones now. They're all sold out. So Sprouts customers, at least some of them, were ahead of the curve. And the people in line stand six feet or more apart, which is also new.

Sprouts is also limiting the number of customers to 70 at a time, and the doors are no longer bidirectional: one is the entrance, and the other the exit. They have employees stationed at each door, and when I entered, the woman suggested that I sanitize my basket. 'Scuze me -- I thought that wearing my big fat leather gloves would suffice.

People are starting to hang out and talk in their cars, in the parking lot at the park, in the manner that cops do: pull up side by side, in adjacent parking slots, the cars facing opposite directions so they can roll down the windows and talk. Personally, I think this is very strange. I'd rather sit on a park bench, at opposite ends, than talk from an automobile. Apparently this is the new late-afternoon thing to do. Seems a bit teenagerish, somehow.

I think about the couples who are going through a rough patch, and keep things calm around the house by one of them going out somewhere -- the gym, a bar, a friend's house, the library -- to cool things down a bit. It's got to be worse, now that they're stuck at home all the livelong day. It's gotta be rough for them. I once lived next to a couple who had a business in their house, and seemed to get along beautifully. The woman had a little apartment four blocks away, on the second floor of a house, and occasionally I'd see her walking there. (Though I lived next to them, I had a sort-of girlfriend about a quarter of a block from the woman's apartment, right on the route she walked to get there.) I asked her why she paid for an apartment when she had a place to live with her boyfriend, and she replied that you just can't be around anyone twenty-four hours a day, every day.

How will this virus change religion in this country? Will some of us lose our faith after seeing their loved ones die? Will some of us lose the habit of going to church, when the churches have been closed?

I once read a piece on cross-country skiing, in which the writer documented the massive amount of energy and effort and time that competitive x-c skiers had to put in. Simply eating enough to keep their weight up was a big problem for them. Then the writer switched to his personal experience with the sport. At the end, he said that for him cross-country skiing served as a reminder about life that sometimes "you just have to grind it out". And that's what we're going to have to do with this pandemic: grind it out. I think of my own sport, rock climbing, and the times I hung on desperately. And that's what we're going to have to do with this pandemic: hang on with everything we've got, until the blood is coming out from under our fingernails.

April 6, 2020

What you can do about coronavirus right now -- though this may be a bit excessive, going so far as to discuss end-of-life documents. Anyone who doesn't have those already (and I'm as guilty as most of you) probably isn't going to go to the trouble of doing them now. But that's a quibble. Most of the article is valuable.

I really ought to re-read Camus' The Plague. It meant nothing to me at the time, but I was a teenager and hadn't acquired the life experience that's necessary to appreciate certain books. It would probably mean more to me now. Camus, that most humane of men and writers, often moves me deeply. The long version of Reflections on the Guillotine is way up there in my pantheon of the greatest essays I've ever read, just behind Tanizaki's In Praise of Shadows, the two of them as different as can be. Maybe his novel about the citizens of Oran, and of Dr. Bernard Rieux's warnings (unheeded?) to the authorities would mean more to me now.

April 7, 2020

The virus doesn't seem to have slowed the pace of teardowns here in my little corner of Whitebread Estates. (Those who lack a sense of irony, please don't take that name literally.) There's a line of four or five in a row up on 69th street, and a boatload elsewhere. Seems like there are new ones every couple of weeks. I'll never understand the philosophy of spending a ton of money on a house, followed by a ton of money to tear it down and cart all the bits away (not to mention the waste), followed by a ton of money to build a new house to replace it. Either these people have too much money, or they're taking on too much debt.

Will Corona change the nature of work? See above, where I speculated that call centers will more often be distributed, with the customer service representatives working from their homes. I couldn't hack it, because I like work/life separation. When the company I worked for was being split up and acquired by two other companies, I didn't want to move, so I went with the local company. I could have stayed here and telecommuted every day for years for the remote (and I do mean remote) company, which was HQed several states away, as two of the guys in my work group chose to do, but I'd rather eat ground glass. I want to come home in the evening and be away from work -- not that I ever completely was, with all those wee-hour pages for help. But what I did was already so virtual, never even seeing the servers I installed/maintained/configured/supported on the network, that another step of remoteness would have made it intolerable. Also, I like to get up occasionally, stretch my legs and get a cup of coffee and see the existence of other human beings in the building. There are good reasons companies like Apple and Google like to collect their employees in a place: human beings are a hypersocial species, and we're more productive together. There are exceptions, of course, such as novelists writing novels. But mostly, we like to be together.

April 8, 2020

Think of those who have been married for decades, like the Italian woman whose husband died of Covid-19. They'd been together for half a century, and she wasn't even allowed to go to his funeral. He didn't even have a funeral. Her mourning was intensified, bad as it already was. It's like I wrote in my Ada novel: "She had no one to share anecdotes about the children with ('Do you remember the time...?'). All the shorthand references to memories in common: extinct. The allusions to shared events and notions: no more. All had vanished ... They had spent decades building a life together, sharing it. Now that life existed only in her brain. His death had, in a moment, taken away a million sharings, had turned them intangible, had moved these recognitions from between them to inside her. All that remained had halved, had shrunk from two to one. When she died, the two of them would vanish altogether, and no more of him would be. Until then, the thought of him was all that remained to her. She would never touch him again. He would never hold her." Or that story I clipped a couple of years ago, by that man whose wife died, and who was remembering travelling with her in France. He couldn't get the memories quite right, and was frustrated that she had died and he could no longer check the details with her: "Here is the terrible beauty of being in love, that you will know things together that no one else will know, that there are events that exist only in the commingling and exchange of memories." This pandemic, when it kills half of a long-married couple, is killing their memories, reducing their lives.

April 9, 2020

From a story about the increased popularity of jigsaw puzzles: "Half the world -- about four billion people -- is now under some sort of order to stay in their homes." Half the world! Okay, go for it, puzzlers. We all have to stay busy somehow.

What will happen when this lockdown ends? The gyms will be jammed, for sure. The streets will probably be full of traffic, the stores full of people trying to get stuff they're lacking (making for yet more empty shelves). The restaurants (at least the ones that are still in business)?

Yet another reason dogs are superior to cats: cats can catch Corona. People with cats invariably tell me their pet is affectionate, "just like a dog". This baffles me. If you want a doglike animal, get a dog, you dolt. They co-evolved with us because they've been with us way longer than any other domesticated animal, and they sure as hell understand us and serve our needs better than those narcissistic felines. That's why dogs are called man's best friend. Cats are never mentioned in the same breath.

April 10, 2020

My friend Rich called up yesterday and we talked for a while. He observed that the sky is much more blue, with less traffic and fewer factories in operation. The sky has been overcast lately, but this morning was completely clear, and he was right: it's much bluer. My Brazilian neighbor pointed out that there aren't any airplanes. That was almost right, because I saw only two contrails in the sky this morning, far fewer than usual. And on the subject of aircraft, I haven't heard a helicopter, or seen a small airplane, in weeks.

April 11, 2020

From a N.Y. Times Coronavirus Briefing:

By profoundly disrupting modern life, the coronavirus is making itself felt in some novel ways.

The seismometers that geologists use to detect earthquakes also pick up the vibrations of human activity -- vehicle traffic, construction equipment, heavy machinery and the like. But with billions of people now staying home, the "thumping pulse of civilization is now barely detectable," Robin George Andrews, a volcanologist, writes.

A University of Chicago professor who developed a way to track electricity use as a measure of economic stability says he has seen a sharp falloff in recent weeks, suggesting an economic decline on a par with the 2007-9 recession, and possibly the Great Depression.

On the other hand, there has been a huge surge in plain old-fashioned phone calls. Voice calling had been dwindling for years, but Verizon says it is now handling twice as many calls on an average weekday as it usually gets on Mother's Day.

April 12, 2020

Putting up this entry a day early, because why not save myself the work. It's my page, and I can break any rules I want. Maybe I'll do a short entry in Unangam Tunuu one of these days. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

I was right (see the first entry, top of the page): Corona is turning into an economic catastrophe. It was obvious from the start that quarantining would result in job loss and business bankruptcies. The news is that the banks are sitting on the federal loan money instead of handing it out. Quelle surprise.

There's still a certain unreality about the disease because I don't know anyone yet who has it. That will change. I've started wondering who in my family will get it first, and I'm betting either Susan, from working in a hospital, or me, because sometimes I'm careless.

I've lost five to seven pounds in recent weeks, depending on the day I weigh myself. Some of that may be a change to my eating habits, and some may be the acceleration of the Parkinson's. But some may be loss of muscle mass because the gyms are closed.

April 13, 2020

Click here to help document the Coronavirus. (And by the way, the title of my page precedes knowing about any of its brethren namesakes.)

Or click here to read about "plague fiction".

April 14, 2020

What may happen: by May, everyone will be going stir crazy, and many will need to get back to work, and nearly all will have to do things they've been putting off, such as getting the car fixed. They'll hammer their state government to lift the lockdown, because infections and deaths have been going down. Then they'll go out and mingle, and the infection rate will spike again. I personally plan to avoid the gym, though I'm desperate to go there: a gym seems like an incubator, where I would be touching weights and handles that many others already had, and where people would be breathing explosively, and where we'd be too close to each other. No, thank you.

Food is being buried by the ton because no one's buying it -- e.g., onions often go to restaurants, and an onion farmer said "People don't make onion rings at home". Will these farmers go bankrupt? And other crops are rotting in the field because no one is there to pick them. Will we face shortages? And meatpacking plants are closing down left and right because the workers, whose jobs are elbow to elbow, are getting the virus. Again, shortages?

Pity the poor sex addicts. They can't hose with strangers now, unless they want to risk getting sick. (Here's an idea: full-body condoms. [Pause.] I just looked it up, and such a thing actually exists. 72 million hits in Google. I must be out of the loop.) I doubt that virtual sex over the internet has the same thrill as the real live thing. It wouldn't for me. Not that I'm in the same basket as these freaks, you understand.

A panhandler hit me up for money yesterday, and I gave him some. He got too close and I told him to keep his distance. He said not to be so worried: all I had to do was wash my hands a lot, and pray. That latter part struck me as the most supersitious thing I'd heard in years. Besides, praying for one's self is useless; only prayer for others, or "Thy will be done", count as true prayer. And as a confirmed non-theist, I don't believe in even those two forms. But praying for onself is an appalling leftover from childhood, when we were under the illusion that the world revolved around each of us, personally.

Doctors rescheduling patients until after the lockdown: will conditions be missed? Examples: melanomas, heart problems that signal the approach of a heart attack. Will people die because of the delays?

And speaking of delays, the tooth I broke two weeks ago, and was told not to come in, is discolored and starting to hurt, but not enough yet to justify a call to the dentist. If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all. (A song that's well worth listening to, especially the Albert King version.)

April 15, 2020

Car traffic looks up a bit to me. If this is not a random blip, are some of us starting to disregard the lockdown?

Out walking, I was crossing the street in a pedestrian crosswalk clearly marked "State law: yield to pedestrian in crosswalk". But some twat in a minivan wasn't going to, so I paused, to save my life, and flipped her off. The next car in the other direction stopped for me, and my sister rolled down her window, laughing.

April 16, 2020

Susan is working from home full-time now, instead of occasionally, which means I can't steam ahead on the novel unless I work on a laptop, which I don't like. I've always preferred big screens (one of the many reasons I refuse to own a smartphone). So yesterday I didn't write anything until evening, and this was good for me because I got a lot more exercise. Sitting still is the worst thing you can do for Parkinson's. So I got several hours of exercise, and feel better for it today... The symptoms have been getting worse since about January, but the deterioration accelerated when the gym closed.

Maybe ten or twelve years ago, during a flu scare (bird flu?), I was considered "essential personnel", and was one of the minority whom my employer gave a box of masks to, so I could continue coming to work. (Of course I would have been able to telecommute much of the time.) I haven't seen that box in years. In fact, I think I gave it away somewhere along the line. Sure would be useful now.

Email from a friend: "These are all wonderful ideas, sadly I've been sick with what I'm assuming is COVID-19 for the past 5 weeks (as of today). I haven't had the strength mental or physical to manage Nerd Nite (sadly). I'm hopeful that this next week will be a turn in my prospects and I'll be able to return to contributing because these are excellent ideas." ... To which I replied with an offer to help in any way I can. One thing notable about his email is that he assumed he has the virus. I take this to mean he probably couldn't get tested, which is illustrative of the incompetence of the U.S. response to the pandemic. Compare to South Korea.

April 17, 2020

The Mormons are starting to look smart, with their practice of storing a year's worth of food in the basement. I wonder whether any of the super-rich people who bought hideouts in old missile silos and such have retreated to them yet.

I wonder whether houses will be, on average, tidier because people are spending more time at home and have more free time (no commutes), or whether they will be less tidy because they're spending all their time at home and the kids are chaosing the house. (Yes, I'm verbing the noun "chaos". Deal with it.)

American pre-eminence has sprung, directly and indirectly, from our economic might. Or so it's always seemed to me. World War II was the real trigger for that, reading between the lines of the history books -- we suffered no damage, unlike the other major powers, and we ramped up our industry-- and that economic might has largely persisted. If this virus destroys our economy, will we no longer be the dominant superpower?

Are the interstates as empty as the city streets? My car hasn't been driven in a while, and only for short jaunts even at that. Time for a mini road trip. Lawrence? Nah. Too much time. If the battery goes dead, I'll summon AAA.

That broken tooth is a food trap. Can't wait for semi-normal life to resume, so I can get this sort of thing fixed when it happens. Imagine what life was like in the nineteenth century, when the major qualification for being a dentist was to be large and strong, so you could hold the patients down while pulling their rotted teeth. Those bad teeth, I've read, were the reason people didn't smile in those days when having their picture taken. Man am I grateful to live when I do. Life is so much better now than then.

The webcam I ordered about a month ago shows as "shipped", not yet "out for delivery". It was supposed to arrive today, and clearly will not. It's probably still on the hamster-powered paddleboat, crossing the Pacific.

April 18, 2020

Went to see Lawrin's grave, since why not, I was in the vicinity. There's plenty of time for this sort of spontaneous nonsense these days. Wow. It's been years, and I'd forgotten. What a gravesite. Lawrin and his sire, buried under large stones I would call cenotaphs, except that the horses are actually there, under the stones. But "cenotaph" sounds more impressive, and "monument" is too impressive. And these stones are quite big. The rest of it's not bad, either -- doesn't take up a lot of space, but is better maintained than the graves of human beings. It's curious that this little visit should remind me of its exact opposite, the closing words of Middlemarch, which touched me so deeply when I read them, and still do: "But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs."

April 19, 2020

Is the lockdown putting a greater load on the phone network, because people have to call their colleagues from home directly instead of locally inside the company (via the PBX), and because the kids are home, talking on their phones? Or might there be some reason for a reduced load? Internet traffic has got to be going up, because so many people are remoting in. I'm amazed I've seen no effect whatever on internet response here at home: speed and reliability are unchanged. Two different speed tests show us still running at 500 megabits, up and down. Ping is under a millisecond, and latency is in the upper twenties. Everything's up to date in Kansas City.

April 20, 2020

This virus should improve preparations for the next time around. (Although who knows whether the gap won't be so long that we slack again, resulting in expired equipment and other simple fumbles.) The big question, to me, is whether this will carry over into preparation for other kinds of disasters, such as famine and drought. I read a book back in the 70s, The Genesis Strategy, which asserted, among other things, that we need to get back to the ancient practice of preparing for famines and similar disasters. The idea is simple, but there will be those who protest the cost, I think.

It's all in the execution. Throwing money at the problems of unemployment and small-business revenue loss, is useless unless the mechanisms to get the money to those needing it are effective, trackable, and immune to fraud. These are exactly the opposite of what one would expect of a federal government run by a party that, at heart, hearkens back to the Civil War South in its opposition to federal power.

From the N.Y. Times: "[F]our factors are likely to play some role [in likelihood to getting the disease]: how close you get; how long you are near the person; whether that person projects viral droplets on you; and how much you touch your face. (Of course, your age and health are also major factors.)"

April 21, 2020

Now that the weather's warmer more teens, often girls in groups of three, are out. They never seem to make social distancing room, just walk three abreast.

Watching Dr. Anthony Fauci, long may he live, I noticed that this body is too small for his head. When all this is over, he really oughta hit the gym and beef up those shoulders, and probably the rest of the bod, too.

April 22, 2020

When people brush by me too close, especially when they're running (which requires greater distance), I'm starting to say "Six feet". It don't do a damn bit of good, except the satisfaction of jerking them around.

Stopped at Starbucks this morning, and they'd changed and only accept orders via their mobile app, but the fellow at the door gave me a coffee out of the goodness of his heart when he saw that I lack a smartphone, bless him. I'll leave a big tip when they start taking orders via the drive-through. I just wish it would go to him... I wonder whether these acts of generosity are becoming more common. I hope so.

This virus is only one more episode in a flood of problems we've brought on ourselves in the last half-century or so. It's clear to me that the human race is probably doomed, though all but one of the people I've mentioned this notion to have said we'll pull through. They're delusional. Here's the reason: in my lifetime, humans have caused these problems:
* Near nuclear war (the Cuban missile crisis)
* Massive pollution (metals, sewage, fertilizer, nuclear, plastics, ...)
* Habitat loss (forests, prairies, wetlands, coral reefs, ...)
* Ozone depletion (got better, now getting worse again)
* Resource depletion (sand, phosphorus, various metals, water, ...)
* Agricultural losses (desertification, soil depletion, overfishing, ...)
* Geostationary satellites at risk? (weather, spy, eco/ag, communications, ...)
* Overpopulation (3x since 1948; births ~2.5x deaths; half all historical humans are alive right now)
* Climate change (atmospheric carbon has doubled in the last 30 years; also more of other greenhouse gases)
* More-frequent catastrophic events (wildfires(U.S.=10x), storms, floods, ...)
* Accelerating species extinction (vertebrates, invertebrates)
* The insect apocalypse (75% of species biomass lost every 25 years)
Those are the ones I remember. I've probably missed some.
Be honest with yourself. The vast majority of species throughout the history of this planet have gone extinct. We're not as special as we think we are -- just another bunch of apes on our rock spinning through the void, circling an obscure star. But what other species will be able to appreciate the astonishing gift that this world is, in its beauty and complexity? What other species will understand mathematics? Will have mystical experiences? Will feel romantic love? Will have the gift of laughter? Of language? I bet we're the only one, and that when we're gone, a spark will go with us. I only hope that the man was right who said, "Mind will find a way to manifest itself," and that a similar species eventually takes our place. But if it can manipulate its environment in the ways we have, it too may be doomed by the unanticipated consequences of its actions.

April 23, 2020

LibraryThing sends me occasional emails. (Unlike many organizations that do, they are blessedly restrained in the frequency of their missives.) Here's a quote from the latest:
Coronavirus has hit the literary and academic world particularly hard. A partial list of its victims include the Chilean novelist Luis Sepulveda (NYT obit), actress and Holywood biographer Patricia Bosworth (NYT obit), Tony-winning playwright Terrance McNally (NYT obit), John Conway (NYT obit), creator of the cellular-automaton "Conways Game of Life," art critic and curator Maurice Burger, art critic William H. Gerdts, art critic and artist David C. Driskell, architect and author Michael Sorkin (NYT obit), Argentinian comic book artist Juan Gimenez, Catalan philologist Germa Colon, Puerto Rican author and activist Iris M. Zavala, sociologist-and LibraryThing Early Reviews alumnus-William B. Helmreich, American and presidential historian Henry Graff, ethnobotanist Arthur Whistler, Spanish historian Carlos Seco Serrano, Irish travel author Tim Robinson, experimental Belgian author Marcel Moreau, French priest and ecumenist Michel Lelong, Jesuit authors Henri Madelin, Andre Manaranche and Philippe Lecrivain, Guyanese poet and literary critic Michael Gikes, Romanian anti-communist activist Paul Goma, film critic William Wolfe, philosopher of mathematics Mark Steiner, medievalists Francis Rapp and Michel Parisse, linguist Robert Chaudenson, French historian Jacques Le Brun, and French philosopher Lucien Seve.
Here is a more complete list, although the year is clearly wrong: these deaths had to be in 2020. The table is titled "List of deaths in 2020", which is correct, but the header on the page is "List of deaths due to coronavirus disease 2019", which matches the URL, and is off by a year. How did the editors miss such a fat pitch? A simple change of URL and header, combined with a redirect for the existing blunderpage, will solve the problem. (My entry here was written at 2:06 PM 4/22/2020 CDT, and the Wikipedia page shows its last entry at 22 April 2020, at 17:13 (UTC). I include this parenthetical aside in case they fix it by 23 April (or later), that being the date my entry will go up. At the time of this writing, my attempt to find the corresponding correct page results in "Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name.")

Reading Charles Taylor's A Secular Age, a staggering work of scholarship on, among other things, how ideas of society and the individual and the relationship of the two has changed over the past millenium or so, I wonder whether these ideas will be changed by the pandemic. Will there be a greater sense of mutuality and interdependence? Will ideas of hierarchy and equality change? Or will there be greater selfishness? Or, as Taylor lays out in the book, will the changes be too subtle and complex to be so easily summarized?

April 24, 2020

Re-reading the entry yesterday on A Secular Age, I see how ridiculous and shallow it is. But let it stand. Better to show my warts and be honest than edit and hide them. That would be like posting a picture of a beautiful stranger when dating online, to attract women. The truth always comes around to bite you, and even if it doesn't, dishonesty just doesn't sit right with me... I've been working on that book for over a month (though not much, lately), and I'm only 170 pages into it, out of 772, not including the epilogue. How the hell do supermen like Taylor write these masterpieces? I can't even read them fully. Unlike my friend Larry, who reads slowly and meticulously and actually masters the books he reads, I end up with only a vague notion of what I bashed my way through. That dude Larry, and I bow to his inner Buddha, my forehead all the way to the floor, read The Cognitive Neuropsychiatry of Parkinson's Disease not once, but twice. You need a double Ph.D. just to understand the Goddamn jargon therein. I read it, too, but I only remember one simple idea from it, the most important one, but nevertheless... Taylor's book reminds me of trying to get through The Critique of Pure Reason. I wish I could say I had (but only got about 16% of the way through that particular foundation stone of the Western canon), but these projects of mine usually fail. My brain -- or at least my will -- ain't up to them. Matters were different when I was young, and could do things like work out my own proof of the prime number theorem. Now I seem to be suffering from synapse collapse (the name of a climb I never did, it being on the Apron and not a crack climb, but I wish I had done it, just because of the name, though it was above my slab climbing abilities; ditto Transistor Sister, in the same vicinity; ahem!, as so often, I digress...) On the other hand, these tomes can be relied on as soporifics, late in the evening... What, you ask at this point in my impenetrable thicket of words, does all this have to do with Corona? Not much. Accuse me of self-indulgent ramblings and I'll fess up.

April 25, 2020

I was in the class of 1970 at K.U. (though theoretically I couldn't graduate until January 1971), and 1970 was the class for which the traditional graduation walk was cancelled due to weather, one of three times that's happened in the more than 150 years the university has existed. A few months ago the administration mailed us a letter that our class could make the graduation walk with the class of 2020. Now that is cancelled due to Corona. 1969-70 was the time of three bombings on the campus (which, several years ago, when I returned for my second degree, my fellow students did not seem to believe), multiple arsons in Lawrence, the police killing two young men on the street, the governor pulling out the police and sending the highway patrol to maintain the law (because community-police relations were so bad), classes were cancelled, there were riots, demonstrations, and so on, as documented here (with a left-wing slant)... First all that, then the weather, and now Corona. The class of '70 is jinxed.

April 26, 2020

No entry. I forgot.

April 27, 2020

Can't get the webcam. It's been a month, the vendor has gone dark, I can't find one anywhere else, and Amazon either can't or won't do anything to make it right. In the meantime, my neurological appointment is coming up and I'm afraid she won't see me, except remotely (i.e., via webcam), and my symptoms are getting worse.

I keep seeing that people are getting depressed at being shut away. I'm not. What I feel is frustration and helplessness. (And don't tell me these are symptoms of depression, because I'm thoroughly familiar with the latter. These symptoms are standing by themselves this time.) Everything was hunky dory until today, and it's finally all caught up with me. I miss my classes, and meeting my friends, and talking to them, and working out, and getting out in the world.

April 28, 2020

So they finally figured out that my webcam was lost in transit (stolen, I'm betting), and they refunded my money without asking what I wanted to do, although I'd told them to just send me another in place of the one they'd lost. This, after twenty-eight days of waiting. I loathe Amazon. Monopolies are always like this: screwing us, unresponsive, too much power in one set of hands. All webcams from other stores are sold out. I did find a webcam on Craigslist, selling for nearly twice the retail value, but I'm unwilling to be gouged.

Email from Penn Valley Meeting, Ministry and Counsel clerk, offering help to anyone who feels the need. Haven't attended in years, but I still think of them. Gentle, generous people.

April 29, 2020

Failed to make an entry for today, so this is actually a 4/30 entry. It's tough to keep up when I'm also writing a novel and preparing the lectures for the class I'll teach in June. Especially when Susan uses the PC all day, because she's working from home.

April 30, 2020

A cool, rainy, windy morning yesterday. The entire hour I was out, I didn't see another walker. Had the city to myself. The woman behind the counter at Hattie's said business was very light. The previous morning, there had been four or five there at the same time as me, but that day there were none.

I've noticed that guys who work with their hands -- tree trimmers, carpenters, whatever -- don't seem to observe social distancing. I wonder why this is.

May 1, 2020

Hurray, hurray, for the first of May. Outdoor f***ing starts today.

Gorgeous day yesterday. Passed someone walking, and smelled her perfume, and though she was at least 6 feet away, her scent made me feel we were too close for social distancing.

I walk up to my parents' grave at least three times a week, and often my friend John is in his back yard, right next door, as he was today, and we talk over the fence. But of course only at a distance. This whole thing is endlessly sad and weird: people crossing the street to avoid each other. Today, a couple coming toward me started to cross the street, but spotted a pair of girls on the other side, leaving them in a dilemma, so I stepped out into the street and pointed at the sidewalk, so they could continue walking my direction. They raised their hands to me, because people no longer speak to each other. This is contrary to human nature.

On a screen-sharing (Zoom-ish) call with two friends yesterday, they told me that people are driving like maniacs on the highway, and even on city streets, since the amount of traffic has converged to near-zero. I haven't seen it, but then I live in a little bubble here, which seems to have reverted, in ways, to the time of Leave It To Beaver. That will change back once the virus is no longer a threat, and I expect that people will run amuck, and the younger they are, the more they will do so.

May 2, 2020

Nancy is over today, and we're all three of us having a great time. She and Susan are painting the Little Free Library we're going to put in the front yard. It occurs to me that this lockdown is probably bringing a lot of families closer because people have more time for each other.

When driving, I generally listen to classic rock or to NPR. Since I only drive a couple of times a week now, if that, I'm missing my diet of both. Which, really, I must not have felt I was missing because I didn't even think of it until today, when I happened to drive the car for a few minutes.

Concert in the neighbor's driveway three doors down from ours. Her husband's band "can't play anywhere [the lockdown], so...". First song was that Tracy Chapman number I love: Give Me One Reason. The band was drums, guitar, bass, baritone sax, and a female vocalist. Also a small dog that stood less than a yard from the singer and sax player, never budging, except to look from one to the other, occasionally nodding its head out of time to the rhythm. Wearing a pink sweater. And there ain't no more to say.

May 3, 2020

Pleasant weather, the house windows open, and I noticed the quiet. Now I hear mostly the voices of people walking past, instead of the sounds of cars.

May 4, 2020

To the hospital today, for routine skin check. Everything has changed. You don't just walk in -- you proceed from one "Stand Here" circle to another, and are required to have an appointment, which is checked by a woman on a workstation near the entrance. Everyone, staff and patients alike, wears a mask. The doctor had a face shield as well. You don't check out. They don't collect money when you drive out of the parking garage. Everything they can do to minimize contact, they do. There are other touches, too, like a list of symptoms; if you've experienced them recently, stay home. The doctor no longer shakes hands when greeting me... I'd planned to answer the question about "How are you" by saying "Bored", but the question has morphed into, "How are you? Bored?" Stole my thunder.

May 5, 2020

If I needed more evidence that online learning is inadequate compared to in-person classroom learning, I have it now. The four-hour seminar I attended today was so weak that by the end I was surfing the Net and listening with one ear. The same class, several years ago by the same person, was masterful. Yes, I admit some people will be better in one domain than another, and this may be such a case, but I'm not the only one. A friend whose kids are both in college tell him that they feel the same. No doubt this will improve, if it goes for another semester or two, but I'll still put money on it never (except the rare exceptions) being the equal of in-person instruction. The one consistent factor known to improve learning is small class size. I assume this is because fewer students enables the teacher to provide more individual attention. Can't do that over a wire -- the subtleties of expression that tell you whether someone's getting the material, or even paying attention, get bleached out. Similarly, my wife complained that she couldn't adequately see her clients remotely in her work, and that's a major reason she's glad to get back to the hospital, instead of working from here at home.

May 6, 2020

I wonder how this work-at-home thing is changing people's schedules -- whether they're getting loose, later, earlier, or more variable. Changing their sleep? Certainly changing the exercise of those of us, like me, who habitually hit the gym every day. For me, that's gone for the foreseeable future: there can hardly be a worse incubator than a gym (see April 14, above). Because this thing won't be over when the lockdown comes off. No, sir. There will be spikes for months to come, maybe more than a year. When the kids go back to school there's going to be a big one.

May 7, 2020

The food chain, or at least the meat production, is breaking down. Didn't see that one coming, although it makes perfect sense and should have been predicted by someone with foresight. Maybe after this is all over we can start working on a food chain that's less industrial, less focused on meat, and treats the workers better. I once stayed with a Quaker couple in Ames. The woman had assumed a false identity in order to work in a meat plant and write about it. What she told me was disturbing, to put it mildly.

May 8, 2020

Kansas Zen Center is doing its first Zoom retreat tomorrow. (The Dhamma Sukha center in southern Missouri started theirs in mid-April.) I'll be curious how this goes, though I don't intend to "attend", since the arrangement in this house on a Saturday is not suitable and the day would be one long continuous distraction.

The Symphony keeps sending out emails. Got me to thinking: they're probably not practicing together, since they're not performing now. These people are all astonishingly good at what they do -- but will not playing together for a while mean that their chops in performance will be poor when they resume? And how will they replace the people who get sick and can't work (or even die)? Of course they can bring someone in, but you probably don't just turn on the tap and get a perfect fit. [Later: and what about the problems of getting their famous soloists to travel here? Will people like Joshua Bell be reluctant, or ill?] ... I just got an image of the musicians on stage, all masked, and Michael Stern turning around, also masked, to acknowledge the applause.

Susan's hospital has just released its first coronavirus patient (i.e., the first one they admitted) after forty-eight days.

We keep hearing about the disaster this has visited on musicians and stage actors and even casinos, but I have yet to see much about the effect on movies and TV, which seems like a curious omission to me. Maybe I'm not looking in the right places, like Variety or something.

The Atlantic can always be relied on to cover important stories with clear, well-organized writing. But sometimes the pieces are hair-raising, as in this story about the small business die-off. My father had a small business, employing a couple of hundred people at its maximum. A pandemic like this could have ruined his company, impoverished our family, and put all those people out of work.

Reading first-person accounts of the virus is horrifying: medically induced coma, pain everywhere, fever and chills in rapid succession, "an anvil sitting on my chest", it feels like "it's mutating in your body every day, trying something else", total loss of energy, felt "like a very long hangover", "like I was in a U.F.C. match and beaten up", "felt like drowning", "barely able to walk or even stand". On top of all this, your family is not allowed to visit, and you can't even see the faces and bodies of the people who are treating you. I imagine lying there, with nothing to do and no substantive human contact, for days or weeks. I remember my own week in intensive care, when I almost died, and in some ways these stories are worse, because at least I saw my wife and the faces of my doctor and the nurses, vegetative state though I was in. So if I get this disease, I will seriously, and I do mean seriously, consider suicide -- but by the time I realize I should do it, I won't be able to, because I'll be trapped in a hospital bed and unable to choose my own path, a passive recipient of what other people decide should be done to me.

May 9, 2020

Had The Australian Dream last night. Apparently as long as I live there will be fresh, never-experienced dreams still to be had from the great Dream Closet. [Later. Note: You couldn't pay me enough to take that damn drug.] Who were the scary wild people trying to break into the house to savage the young man, and what was their grudge against him? Why did the entire land look like some sort of Dali painting filtered through aboriginal art? What was the point of photographing the two of us in the coffin, when I was still alive? And why was I wearing my underwear on the outside of my jeans?

May 10, 2020

Heard a couple of small aircraft yesterday evening, and that was unique. There have been very few for weeks now. Car traffic is higher. Etc. Things are opening back up, prematurely.

In recent decades what I think of as "the hug culture" has taken over. My wife and I happened to be in Oregon in 2008 and I visited an old friend, who greeted me with a hug. Hadn't seen him in years. He's never been a full-contact kind of guy. This and much other similar evidence showed me that the hug culture had taken over this country. With Corona that's changed, and I expect it will probably remain changed for quite a while, if not permanently, and that's fine with me personally. My wife once told me it took her a while to understand that I don't like to be touched (introvert?). I'm not a huggy kind of guy. But I regret the hug loss for the people who are, and they are clearly many. I can handle being hugged more easily than they can handle the loss of hugging. It seems to be very natural for them.

May 11, 2020

Our neighbor, whose daughter lives in Australia, told her not to come home for Christmas, because they're doing so much better there at managing the disease: "no matter how much I want to see her". This seems to me a wise and loving decision.

An accordionist busking in the parking lot at 95th and Nall. The checkout guy in Sprouts told me the player has been there for a couple of weeks. For Johnson County this is truly out of the norm -- this place is a little enclave of middle-class white-dom, which I call Whitebread Estates... A lot of people seem to hate the accordion, and I kind of get that. As the love child of the piano and the harmonica, with a bit of melodica thrown in, the poor critter has nowhere it fits, except polka and Mexican music. It's one of those hat-in-hand instruments that begs to be taken seriously. There's not much love for the squeeze boxes.

Have epidemiologists looked into the spread of infectious disease among animals, particularly domesticated herd animals? (Is "domesticated herd animals" redundant? The only exception I can think of is house cats, but then again, they often strike me as not yet really domesticated. Too self-absorbed. All the others -- dogs, horses, cattle, whatever -- are social.) There might be a bit to be learned about disease spread from such research. I'm sure this must have been done, but I'm reluctant to use Google or Bing on it. I'd end up wasting half an hour, minimum.

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LATER. NOTE TO READERS, if there are any: at the dentist's office this morning, my blood oxygen was in the 60% range, so they refused to see me and insisted I call my doctor because this indicates lung problems. What that means these days is Corona. So if there are no more entries here, it will almost certainly be because I'm in the hospital. Now I wait for the doctor's office to call me back, and probably call me in.

May 12, 2020

The doctor's office confirmed my blood oxygen is unusually low, and seemed maybe a little surprised by my lack of Corona symptoms. (It was odd, consulting with my doctor, whom I love and admire, while he stood in the street and I sat in my car, but odd mostly in retrospect. I, like probably most people, am getting accustomed to stuff that would have felt very strange indeed just a couple of months ago.) They x-rayed my chest and will call tomorrow. In the meantime, I continue to feel just as I have all along in recent months: fine, except for the Goddamn PD and its effects.

Walking around the cemetery where my parents are buried, I remembered the first week of North American Indian Languages (click "Courses" tab and scroll down to LING 747), when Dr. McKenzie took us the mile or two to Haskell and showed us around. "Always remember," he said, "that these are human beings." The cemetery on the grounds contains graves for many students, mostly from the 19th century, and I noticed that death dates for certain years were absent, while other years had an unusual number of gravestones. The likeliest explanation is years of epidemics. The year 2020 will be like that, in some cemeteries more than others.

May 13, 2020

No entry.

May 14, 2020

Getting into the fucking pulmonologist's office is like a Kafka novel.

Later: Why We're Obsessed With Celebrities' Bookcases. Speak for yourself, Amanda. I don't give a shit about their books, though admittedly I do try to read the titles and maybe that indicates I'm not really above it all. (What next? A subscription to one of those rags like People or Us, if they even still exist?) The story is interesting, though. Where's Erving Goffman when we need his insights? This whole "bookcase" (a pretentious synonym for "bookshelf") display idea is sort of reminiscent of Goffman's idea of how people disguise their stigmas when they're considered ritually taboo. Too bad Susan made me give away my physical set of the Encyclopedia Britannica, though when I get a webcam it will show the piano instead of a "bookcase". Jeez. I think I'm losing patience with our culture, esp. celebrities. Ship them off to the jungle after they've had a month of fame, and don't give them any publicity for at least a year after that. Note to readers: the web page linked to at the start of the paragraph came up with speaker volume set to zero, though not muted. That's unique. You may need to turn it up.

May 15, 2020

I'm a swabbie now. I got swabbed yesterday. Nasal rape is the best description I can think of. They tell you to put your head against the headrest of your seat. Because otherwise you'd yank your head back. It hurts.

This paper on the effect of Covid-19 and disease suppression policies on labor markets is interesting, and points up, once again, the uniqueness of the U.S. among the wealthy nations. For one thing, the U.S. has by far the largest job losses (measured as per cent of labor force). The paper discusses, among other matters, the true disruption to the labor force, which, here in the U.S., may be twice the official estimate.

May 16, 2020

I noticed in Sprouts the other day that all (5 or 6) black customers were not wearing masks, but the vast majority of the white customers were. Yes, it's a small sample size and may be a coincidence. I'll keep an eye peeled, because if this is consistently the case, it's very curious indeed.

My little suburb, which I often find insufferable, is considering an ordinance to require face masks in public. The police chief objects, because he thinks people would think it's overreaching and it "could tarnish our reputation". My initial reaction to this was to fill the rest of this paragraph with profanity. Instead, I'll merely note that the reputation of the police is not nearly as important as increased suffering and death. Think of those who try to be responsible and do wear masks, but get infected anyway because others did not. In fairness to the police chief, he did make other points, such as the difficulty of enforcing such an ordinance, especially when the surrounding burbs have different rules. (Race to the bottom?) I'd say, though, that if he can't stand the heat, he should get out of the kitchen. The one idea I found interesting is that having to enforce such an ordinance would require police to have more contact with the public, putting them at greater risk. The chief's main concern "is keeping our officers and staff healthy". If public safety is not more important, well, then, let the police work from home. (For the irony deficient, that was a joke.)

Got home just after 1 pm yesterday and there was a message from my doctor's nurse on the phone, asking me to call. If it was the virus test, as it was likely to be, that was quick, about 19 hours after I was swabbed, and I thought the speed implied bad news. She was not at the phone, so I left a message. When she called back, it turned out that they were following up and wanted to know whether I'd had the test yet.

May 17, 2020

Us Anglos are known for our personal distance being considerable. We squirm if people get inside it. This is one reason Arabs make us uncomfortable. They like to get close enough to share their microbes completely, which makes our skin crawl. So my question today is this: is the r factor higher, at least in the early days of an epidemic, in cultures with low personal distance?

May 18, 2020

Ran into my friend Dennis in a hardware store yesterday, and he says the Y will be reopening. I'd planned to stay away, gyms being incubators, but he says it will be by appointment, limited in numbers, require wiping down the gear (and weight bars) before and after use, locker room closed, and so on. I was reconsidering, then went to the web page. They may open our branch June 1. I checked City Gym, to compare, but they won't allow guests, and I'm not a member. Looks like I should just order more weights.

May 19, 2020

How the hell do these random notions pop up in my brain? I woke up wondering how this virus has affected Marfa, which probably has not crossed my mind in years. It's the ultimate case of gentrification: rich strangers moving in and starting up expensive boutiques (Prada!), art galleries, and restaurants; the poor locals struggling to afford their housing; et cetera. A town in the middle of BFE. Went to their website, and not a word about the pandemic.

Being stuck at home so much is boring, but it's better than that Goddamn job I used to go to every day. Getting calls at 3 a.m. to fix applications I'd never heard of and didn't know anything about. My equipment (and, thus, me) getting blamed for problems that were clearly in the PBX/telco interactions, and when, weeks later, it finally dawned on everyone what the problem was, they never apologized, or credited me for saying the right thing. Unrewarding drudgery and incompetent management. This is way better.

So what the hell? Why haven't I heard about my Covid test? It's been more than the 48 hours, even excluding Saturday and Sunday.

Things are getting back to normal at Susan's hospital -- they're doing Tuesday-morning tumor conference again. We'll see what happens when the second wave hits.

From the Shawnee-Mission Post: "On a 7-5 vote Monday, the Prairie Village City Council rejected a proposed ordinance that would have required people to wear facial coverings in public settings like stores. Mayor Eric Mikkelson said the idea of mandating masks had generated a wave of strongly held opinions from residents that had 'torn at the fabric of Prairie Village' in a way that troubled him." See the entry for May 16 above for my strongly held opinion. In the end, though, I think the whole question may be moot, because this seems like the sort of thing for which people will do as they damn well please, and any regulation would be unenforceable anyway.

Walked up to the cemetery and sat on my parents' bench. There was one person there, off yonder in a far corner, looking at something. He turned to leave, and I recognized him: my cousin. We chatted a while about various stuff (he's on the board of the cemetery), including, as all conversations these days do, the pandemic.

May 20, 2020

The Covid-19 test was negative. I knew it would be. Now I can get my broken tooth fixed.

May 21, 2020

Given the negative test, the dentist saw me today. My blood oxygen was 99%. This fluctuation is weird. Later, called the pulmonologist to get this on the record.

The dentist wore not only a shield, but in place of a simple mask one of those things that looks like the rebreathers that the Seals use (an "elastomeric respirator"), with the little filters sticking out to the sides. Poor woman. All the extra trouble and discomfort. But if anyone is vulnerable, it's gotta be dentists, constantly looking down into people's mouths, and she's wise to take precautions.

May 22, 2020

Weekly telemeeting / talk with two of my friends yesterday, one of whom had not been out of the house, except to walk the dogs, for three months. He was surprised by the changes: plexiglass barriers, "stand here" markings six feet apart, empty shelves. Both these guys are getting a bit depressed. I think I would, too, in isolation that extreme. I refuse to do that. Even a loner / introvert like me has to have human contact. A few times a week, in proper circumstances, with the right precautions, is the way to live. We don't have the chops needed to meditate in a cave like Bodhidharma.

May 23, 2020

There hasn't been as much discussion as there should be of what the socioeconomic structure of this country will look like after the virus goes away. I fear that our current inequities will be worse. Example: there are a lot of private investment firms like KKR that have real estate investments (KKR's "focuses on property-level equity"), meaning that people who lose their houses find them bought up by these 800-pound gorillas, who promptly rent the houses out for more than the mortgage payment was. Sometimes the renters are the very people who lost ownership. We have to expect more defaults in the housing market, since people (not just gig workers and waitresses) are losing their jobs; and we have to expect parasites like KKR to take advantage. This is just one example in one area of the economy. Others will be legion. We may end up with a new aristocracy that will make the Gilded Age look like a paragon of equality.

On my schedule, I have one dental or medical appointment every week for seven weeks in a row. Rather varied, including several specialists. It would have been nine weeks in a row, but I cancelled one, which left a gap (resulting in 1, none, then 7 weeks in a row). It's hell, getting old. The machinery wears out.

Walking home yesterday, I was horrified to see, in the parking lot of the new park, dozens of young children clustered inches from each other, waiting for treats from a truck. I spoke to two of the adults as I passed ("Why isn't anyone spacing those children? That's a mini-outbreak waiting to happen."). They didn't respond. Maybe they think the danger's over with the lockdown coming off. But they're risking the health, even the lives, of those kids, and the kids' parents and grandparents as well... Later: told this story to my wife, who said she'd heard about a similar instance from someone else.

Children have to be taught about risk and responsibility. One of them passed me yesterday on his bike, inches away, and I reprimanded him. I plan to make this a practice with everyone, including adults. If they get upset, that's life. Too many people are getting too damn casual, and I don't care what their delusions, or their politics, are. They endanger the rest of us, and a few words are the price they may have to pay. As the pro-Trump tee shirts say, "Fuck your feelings". We'll see whether they can take what they dish out.

Later: the rage got out of hand in the preceding paragraph, but let it stand. I'm tired of watching people take conservative shit without talking back.

May 24, 2020

We spent the day in St. Joe (a town I've only driven through, not in, despite living an hour or so away much of my life, and where I was surprised to see so many gorgeous huge old houses) with our quaranteam, four friends of Susan's from the Peace Corps (fifty years ago! -- the whole group has stayed in touch and see each other on a regular, ongoing basis). The Schrievers drove down from Nebraska, and the Johnsons drove over from Leavenworth. (It's worth noting that they've all been self-isolating.) We enjoyed ourselves, and it sank in thoroughly how much I need more human companionship than I've been getting in recent weeks. We should start holding gabfests in the driveway or something, which we see a lot of. Nancy (my sister-in-law) had a birthday this weekend, and she's coming over tomorrow, as are Susan's nephew and his wife. (They've only visited his mother, and only once, since the lockdown started.) More enjoyment. Just gotta be careful to manage this properly and not socialize indiscriminately.

Listening to descriptions of possible virus infections, and thinking over the rise in my blood oxygen, it occurred to me that I may have had the virus and been mostly asymptomatic. The blood O2 might reflect recovery. There were a couple of days I felt shitty, though I don't remember the details too clearly and I often have shitty days from the PD anyway. One problem was fatigue, common with the virus, but also common with PD. There's no sure way to know about virus exposure, though, given how unreliable the tests are. Talk it over with my primary care physician and wait until the tests are more accurate, maybe, or whatever he suggests.

May 25, 2020

Thinking over yesterday, my symptoms seemed better controlled than usual (though some of this was illusory, since I wasn't trying to do difficult things like moving fast). I've concluded that the emotional and social aspects of the day were the root cause of the difference. This, in addition, to medicine + sleep + exercise, is a fourth leg to fighting the disease. This could be called "engagement", and includes an element of commitment to life with friends and family, and the enjoyment of such things as meaningful projects (such as the class I'm preparing to teach). People who work in jobs they love already have a leg up on this, but I've seen too many retired guys who neglect this (e.g., some of the guys at the PEWC) and let themselves slide. This, I think, is the way to fight that decline in the "agentic self" that Patrick McNamara documents in his book. Without this direct involvement with other human beings and meaningful activity, that loss of will seems inevitable, and leads directly to physical decline because of the resulting loss of the agency necessary to engage in the actions (hard physical exercise, and the exercises taught by various kinds of therapist) that slow the disease's progress.

May 26, 2020

Guests in our house yesterday -- Susan's sister, nephew, and niece. Again, the social contact is a relief from my recent isolation. The nephew liked that beer that's been referred to many times above. (Yes, the can was disinfected.)

To the pulmonologist this morning. I am immaculate: blood oxygen never got below 97%, and I screamed past all the other tests like a Formula I race car: all lung function tests were well above 100% for my demographic. My vitals are even better than that. In short, I'm healthy as a horse, except the damn Parkinson's. There are two possible explanations for the low blood oxygen, according to the doc. First, I may have had cold hands. (I didn't, because I thought of this at the time.) Second, I was recovering from largely asymptomatic Coronavirus, and now it's gone. Dodged that bullet. Now all I have to do is correct my posture. That x-ray -- my spine looks like a freakin' semicircle.

May 27, 2020

I've been writing this journal for two months plus, and I'm still wondering when this running-amuck virus will be brought under control, either through herd immunity or a vaccine. (And speaking of herd immunity, some fools seem to be trying to accelerate its onset.) Let's hope a vaccine is found in record time. Not hopeful. My prediction is for waves of infection for well over a year. Let's hope I'm wrong again, as I so often am, and we get a vaccine much sooner.

Concerning vaccines, I read this story in the Guardian about a man with polio who still requires an iron lung. The wackos who deny the efficacy of vaccines (I'm looking at you, Jenny McCarthy) drive me right up the wall. My father had polio. He struggled with his withered leg his entire life. Nobody who got the vaccine had to do that. QED. We could get rid of that disease, if the last three countries that have it would get their shit together. The people who think they know more than the scientists, doctors, and epidemiologists are, quite simply, fools, and their foolishness endangers us all. Having watched my father's struggle, I'm deeply grateful for the polio vaccine, and vaccines in general. I got both of the shingles vaccines, for instance.

Per yesterday's entry, I will discuss with my primary care physician the possibility of being tested for antibodies. If I have them, I will donate convalescent plasma, like Survivor Corps. That is, if and when there's a test that can be relied on.

May 28, 2020

The United States has passed 100,000 deaths from Covid-19 (and that's the official number, the true toll almost certainly being substantially higher). Our proportion of deaths to population is way above that of the world in general. Why is this? Could it be the ostrichlike reaction of much of the population, and those in government who should have responded to the event? Could it be the simple incompetence of the agencies that should have gotten off their asses and acted? There are other reasons, such as the people who went to funerals and churches and caused outbreaks, and the bungling by nursing homes. There's plenty of blame to go around, and it all belongs to us, right here in the good old U. S. of A. For anyone who reads this and gets indignant because his patriotism is offended, I say, stop living in a fantasy and act like an adult. Admit it -- we failed.

May 29, 2020

I woke up imagining what it must be like to die from this virus in an ICU. Couldn't say goodbye to my wife and son, those important last words forever unsaid. Surrounded by strangers so heavily garbed the only part I could see was their eyes. No human touch. Dying not in my own bed, but in one soon to be occupied by someone else. Expiring inside an organization, not at home. No sight of the world, no trees and sky.

I found this story in the Washington Post, about hot spots of infection popping up in rural areas, interesting. (Later: removed my comment on the comments that followed the article -- what's the point? They're always like that.)

May 30, 2020

Rereading The Uninhabitable Earth, which begins "It is worse, much worse, than you think", and then sets out to make that sentence an understatement. I wouldn't be altogether surprised if this book hasn't triggered suicides. Follow the link to get some (some) idea of how alarming the book is.

Saturday morning. Out for a walk. Too many people, and they walk abreast, forcing me into the street. All the tables at the restaurants in the arcade (the biscuit place and the French Market) were full. Lots of runners. And a lot of babies in strollers. The temperate weather, and the day of the week, may have a lot to do with the crowds, but people are ready to come out of the lockdown, too.

May 31, 2020

(Later: revised) After writing the May 26 entry, I had the notion to check the weather on the dates I had low blood oxygen readings. Sure enough, I'd misremembered: though my hands did not feel cold, the weather was cold. So now I think that misreadings caused by vasoconstriction were more likely what was going on. Yes, I had extraordinary fatigue the week before, way beyond anything I'd ever had because of Parkinson's, but is that enough to indicate I had the virus? Maybe, given the result of the first x-ray, which indicated a problem. ... So the evidence is contradictory and unclear. It doesn't help that I never use the heat in my car, unless the temperature is considerably below freezing. Note to self: whenever going to a medical or dental appointment where O2 reading is the faintest possibility, dress warmly, including gloves and hat, and turn on the heat in the car... The pulmonologist explained to me that his 40-year-old sensor was more accurate than the $30 ones everyone uses these days, which give readings even when the data are uncertain. As he said, "Bad data is worse than no data". Yes, indeed.

Isolated indigenous tribes risk extinction from coronavirus comes out of the blue. Balsonaro is probably rubbing his hands in glee. Here's a better link, from inside the preceding one. I noted this: "if this virus that seems to afflict the elderly does reach isolated groups, it could have a devastating and lasting impact on the world's cultural heritage, too ... A lot of communities will be simply obliterated ... They are our walking libraries, our encyclopedia, and if that's lost, we're losing part of our history." See March 24, above -- we should be worried about the same thing happening here.

June 1, 2020

These trendy bodyweight at-home exercises just don't cut it. My fitness is going down the tubes. My local Y's webpage says "[T]emporarily closed with plans to open as soon as Monday, June 1." Hello? Anybody home? My PC and my watch read 6/1.

Some fella on Youtube that I stumbled across had a video in which he rejoiced that his local lockdown had come off and he could resume his 30-day body transformation. He looked okay, sort of like your average gym rat -- reasonable condition, but nothing to boast about. He challenged a famous woman athlete, who has lots of followers, to a fitness challenge. I figured he'd lose: she had a six-pack, and he didn't. It's tougher for women to get one, so unless you have an eight-pack, guys, you're better off not going into a contest you'll probably lose. Which he did, though he did much better than I expected. The only thing I envy the young is their health and fitness. I'd agree to shorten my life by half, if I could be the animal I was in my late 20s, at my peak.

June 2, 2020

When I was young, I never understood this poem:
    No man is an island,
    Entire of itself.
    Each is a piece of the continent,
    A part of the main.
    If a clod be washed away by the sea,
    Europe is the less.
    As well as if a promontory were.
    As well as if a manor of thine own
    Or of thine friend's were.
    Each man's death diminishes me,
    For I am involved in mankind.
    Therefore, send not to know
    For whom the bell tolls,
    It tolls for thee.
When I was about thirty, I had an experience in which I saw that we are all, every one of us, completely one, absolutely the same, in much the way pointed out by the man who said that when he had his breakthrough, every man who came toward him had his own face. This identity goes far beyond anything I can explain. The virus diminishes us all, in much the way the poem says.

The LSA sent an email saying, among other things: "the viability of endangered language and minority communities [is] adversely affected -- disproportionately so -- by the virus". See May 31 and March 24, above. Also "the postponement or derailment of educational or career plans", which I've been worried about, for the grad students I know. This is disastrously unfortunate for them; they've dedicated years of their lives to learning a subject, spent money they can ill afford, and worked colossally hard. Then this hits, and takes it away, or at minimum delays it and makes it more costly.

On the way to my appointment yesterday, police had the Plaza blocked off. Susan's nephew and niece mentioned this the day before. Here's what's been going on: Kansas City police overreact with pepper spray and a takedown. They look like they've trained to do this, the movements are so well coordinated.

June 3, 2020

The local online newspaper reports: "Johnson County has experienced an expected spike in COVID-19 cases following phased reopening plans". Exactly. Here we go -- wave 2 on the roller coaster.

My fourth quaranteam: sister, brother, and sister-in-law came over the other day and we had a gabfest in the driveway. Almighty delightful, at least for me, and it seemed for everyone else as well. It's not the same as weekly family dinner, but it's a jewel of its own.

From this morning's N. Y. Times, 19 scientists and their insights on the pandemic.

With all these cops running amuck, the word "police" is becoming a dirty word. In my late teens and early twenties, I had a lot of trouble with cops (long hair; that was the 60s for you), and I loathed them. Though their reasons are different, the troubles being so much so systematic and institutionalized, I understand, a bit, why so many black people fear and distrust the police. Yes, there are plenty of good cops; yes, this is a complicated subject. But there is absolutely no question that a legacy of racism lives on today, in the interactions of police and black people.

Per the observations above, about the lower per centage of black people wearing masks than white people: could this be because they know that many of their actions are interpreted differently from those of whites, and they don't want to take the chance of being considered robbers? This sounds farfetched at first, but it need not be a conscious decision; it could be one of those things people do unthinkingly.

Zuckerberg continues his appalling lies and evasions. Here's an email I sent Facebook this morning:
Sir or Madam,

I'm not sure this is the right email address to contact FB, but it will have to do. All the others seem less appropriate.

In letting Trump get away with incitement to murder, Zuck has once again shown himself to be the same spineless, truckling toady who pandered to the goons who run the Phillipines and Myanmar -- but now he's doing it at home. Let's talk about the elephant in the room, shall we? The only reason he lets these parties get away with murder is that it's in his interest to do so. Here at home, he's making the possibility of a totalitarian regime more likely by doing so.

This is what happens when one narrow-thinking, self-interested individual is allowed to dictate the actions of one of the world's most powerful corporations.

As for the rest of the lackeys at FB, if you have any conscience at all, you'll resign your jobs. Grow a spine, please.

It's been said, by a Supreme Court justice, no less, that your right to wave your fist ends at my nose. Zuck's nose is not the one being broken here; rather, it's the noses of the rest of us. But the man is so self-interested that he either refuses to recognize this, or doesn't care. This resembles his usual pattern of deny, delay, deflect.

I'd boycott Facebook, except that this sort of thing, among many other egregious behaviors, is why I refuse to be a denizen of your little (sorry, huge) walled garden. I will, however, encourage friends and family to boycott you.

-- Marc Robinson

P.S. Yes, I know you will save this and try to track me, but some behavior, such as this most recent refusal to speak truth to power, are too revolting to let pass without comment.

June 4, 2020

On re-reading yesterday's email to Facebook, it seems, shall we say, a bit intemperate. A flame, as they call such postings when online. I'd catch more flies with honey, but in this case I don't regret it, not a bit. If you need more persuasive evidence than mine, read Zucked, by an early investor in Facebook, and former Zuckerberg friend, who grew deeply disillusioned. The book, though tough on MZ, is still much too easy on him, and more than a little naive at times. I finished it thinking the author should have solicited help from a professional nonfiction writer. (Later (7/13): for more on McNamee, see this article.)

In the grocery store yesterday, I passed a woman whose cart was loaded with healthy fruits and vegetables. Even the arrangement, and the colors, were gorgeous, and I commented in passing that it was the healthiest set of choices. She said it was for her "quarantine weight", and slapped her right saddlebag -- or, rather, where the saddlebag would be if she'd had one. She didn't look to me like she needed to lose any weight, and I'm betting that she's eaten a supremely healthy diet for a long time. (I'm also betting that she's a great cook.) Such people always make me feel my own inadequacy, but I've gotten so used to the sensation that it no longer bothers me. Instead of feeling bad about myself, I rejoice for them.

I love the Dutch. In the novel I'm currently writing, the protagonist's girfriend's parents are Dutch who've moved to the U.S., and they're very sex-tolerant, and in other ways quite different from American parents. So I found this article about sex workers in Amsterdam's red-light district unintentionally amusing until I read it, and felt empathy for the workers and their economic plight. I remember walking around the red-light district, curious, back in the day. The women were in rooms with large windows that gave on the street, and I remember one who looked so amazingly sexy that I got a massive, instant erection. You're probably curious about what I did. The answer is that I did not buy her services, the various risks of paying for sex not being worth the price. But I've never forgotten that woman. She was clearly a pro at her work.

I've always wanted to do a long retreat, and have done quite a number of weekend and week-long ones, but even over a weekend, things can change. I remember a retreat when I was fifteen, and when we emerged from the weekend, we asked what had happened, and were told that Frank Sinatra's son had been kidnaped. That was impossible to accomodate -- the cognitive dissonance was too much. Imagine what it must be like now, when the weird factor has increased so dramatically, and the pace of change is often unmanageable. This fellow was overwhelmed by the virus-related changes during his isolation, which lasted 75 days. I found it extremely strange, though, this his cell phone was "locked in gray scale" during his retreat. Did he have the Goddamn thing with him? If he did, that negates the entire retreat, in my book. A retreat is a time of withdrawal from the outside world. The article clearly implies that he knew nothing of what was going on with the virus, or anything else, though, so why did he set his phone to gray scale? If he wasn't looking at it, changing the setting should have been irrelevant.

June 5, 2020

Falling asleep last night, I had a brilliant idea for today's entry. I woke up and wondered WTF it was. Now it's almost 6 p.m. and I have to admit to myself that it's probably gone for good. Getting hell is old. Er. You know what I mean -- I can't think of two things simultaneously any more, and even thinking of one is too much some of the time. Yes, the idea evaporates right in the middle of having it...

June 6, 2020

I've always thought of Sweden as a place where everyone's well educated, mostly tall and good-looking, they all own vacation homes, and they get six weeks of paid vacation a year. They've had generous family leave since the beginning of time. They don't much care about money, because they don't need to -- as a character in a Swedish novel scoffed and said when told he'd have no money, "This is Sweden. I could set a chair on the sidewalk and someone would come along and give me money." They're tolerant. And they have lots and lots of sex... That's mostly been my fantasy, anyway, along with the balancing idea that there's a lot of angst and depression. In recent years, I've been reading about their problems with homegrown neo-Nazis, and with racial intolerance. Now they admit they screwed up their response to the pandemic by trying to develop herd immunity instead of managing the disease. See Sweden's Tegnell admits too many died, and plenty of other stories. It's enough to make a boy lose his faith.

June 7, 2020

I've been thinking, or what passes for thinking in my ever more feeble brain, about computer "virus"es, and the analogy to the ones that infect human beings, in particular the coronavirus. The analogy is quite apt. Both kinds are small, invisible things that sneak in and take over and create havoc, spreading from one target to the next. Protecting against them is expensive, difficult, and time-consuming, and the battle is often not over after the first victory, as they may continue to improve. Vigilance is necessary before, during, and after they are encountered. They cause businesses and people to die. They introduce what I call "friction", meaning that they require effort, time, and resources that would be better spent on the normal course of operations, or of living. It's a strange world we inhabit, and this sort of contention seems to be built in. We have to learn to understand and manage these foes as best we can, and we will never be free of them.

I end up at a lot of academic web sites. This one from Oxford University Press, about their coronavirus support, is interesting.

Speaking of OUP, why is their handbook of endangered languages so expensive ($175) and the Cambridge handbook of endangered languages ditto ($204)? Academic book prices are way too often outrageous. Ethnologue is a bargain, comparatively, though I haven't found the most recent edition (23rd) and expect that it's probably a bit over $100, which is what the edition I bought a few years ago cost.

The new edition of The American Scholar arrived a few days ago. I'm always excited to get it, and I generally read it while on the recumbent bike at the gym, but of course that's not possible at the moment. The title on the front cover was "The Pandemic from a Distance", but the lead article, a pastiche of Thoreau and observations about the pandemic, disappointed me. Unlike the usual well crafted essays in the magazine, this had a slapped-together quality, and felt like it was rushed into print. Maybe the editors thought they needed something on the virus, and asked the author to revise the piece. I've never cared for Thoreau anyway. His writing feels preachy and self-absorbed to me. Here are some little-known facts about him I've run across over the years:
* He didn't actually live in the cabin all the time. He walked into Concord almost every day.
* He once (carelessly, I think) started a forest fire that consumed most of the woods of Concord. The novel Woodsburner is about this event.
* Thoreau perfected the pencil, as we still use it today.
* He did not invent the idea of civil disobedience. He got it from the Quakers, who had already been practicing it for a long time.

In the corner of my gym there was a circle of half a dozen chairs where a group of old guys would sit and yak every morning, some subset of the ten or fifteen regulars. This little conclave, which would last for a couple of hours, seemed to be the center of their social lives. They even brought each other donuts and pastries. I can't help but wonder what, if anything, they've been doing the last couple of months, to replace this daily get-together.

June 8, 2020

The N.Y. Times reports: "Online sales of sex toys have surged during virus-related lockdowns." Seems obvious, once pointed out.

June 9, 2020

For those of us who need substantial personal space, social distancing is a blessing. But I've noticed that some people can't handle it -- I stop them at six feet, and we talk, and after a while they take a couple of steps toward me. I step back. A minute later, our little dance is repeated. This bugs me. They're adults, and they should be able to manage the distance.

June 10, 2020

On a map of coronavirus outbreaks, I noticed that there was a bright red spot in Oregon, right where a friend of ours lives, so I emailed and asked whether she and her husband were okay. The answer was reassuring, about them, but it confirms that lack of precautions for other people create a hazard. Here's a bit of her email:

"It's a rather alarming outbreak at Pacific Seafoods, a fish processing, packing, and distribution warehouse on the bayfront here. Apparently, the company brought in more than 100 'migrant' workers to work in the facilities at the beginning of May. I have a friend who used to work at the EPA. One of her former co-workers walks along the bayfront every morning, past Pacific Seafoods, where you can see through windows into the plant. He observed workers wearing masks, but not covering their noses. He observed this daily over two weeks until the plant was closed down on May 17th. His thought was 'Just wait two weeks!' Sure enough - this past weekend, 124 workers were reported as testing positive, 95% of them asymptomatic. Up until about 2 weeks ago, when the county entered Phase I of reopening, Lincoln County had only 5 confirmed positive cases and no deaths. Now we know for sure that there are cases here in Newport.

"On Memorial Day weekend, we had an influx of tourists, despite the beaches and parks still being closed. The Yaquina Head Lighthouse park, down the road from us, has been closed even to people walking in, since March. But tourists came anyway, very few wearing masks or keeping safe distance. Our cases started to climb from 5 a couple of weeks later, right before the Pacific Seafoods outbreak became public."

June 11, 2020

Weekly meeting with my P.D. guys, but this time, a first, in my driveway instead of online. We enjoyed it so much that we talked for two hours instead of one.

June 12, 2020

Our Little Free Library went up this morning. My wife and sister-in-law did the painting, and my brother did the construction work (putting the anchor in the ground, etc.). I leaned on the shovel, since I'm no good at any of that stuff. The LFL looks great, and has books waiting for a new home. Some are: No Surrender; The Razor's Edge; The Making of a Surgeon; The Shape of Content; Paris Was Yesterday; The Double Helix; Pocket World Atlas; African Short Stories; Historical Atlas of the World; Mr. Darcy, Vampyre; Blood Oath; Blue Shoes and Happiness; Timeline; Performance Rock Climbing; Njal's Saga; In Southern Light; Ultramarine; No Picnic on Mount Kenya; The Best Science and Nature Writing, 2000.

Later: I'm betting that the fiction moves a lot faster than the nonfiction, and the vast majority of my books are nonfiction. I'm going to need to publicize the books, to get them gone.

June 13, 2020

Filled out my application to vote by mail in the primary election. Though I rather enjoy going to the polls and seeing my fellow citizens, and feeling that I'm fulfilling my civic duty, this year I'm not inclined to spend any more time in crowds than necessary (and "necessary" = zero). This is especially true because so many people around here don't wear masks. So for only the second time in my life, I'll vote by mail. (The first time was 1972, when I was in Rome and got an absentee ballot at the consulate and mailed it back to the U.S., to vote against Nixon because of Watergate.)

Went online to look at classes I can take this fall at K.U., and was startled to see that they're listed as always: classroom lectures, discussion sections, and very few online classes. Apparently the administration thinks the virus problem will be over by then. It won't.

June 14, 2020

Watching a backpacking video today, I longed to get back on the Colorado Trail again, like last summer, but there's travel and virus to contend with, and my hip still acts weird. Maybe next year. But God that trail in the video was beautiful, though not as beautiful as the CT, which was truly lovely... Now if I could just backpack another section, then do a few days of rock climbing, my life would be perfect.

June 15, 2020

I gave away A Distant Mirror yesterday, Barbara Tuchman's book about the fourteenth century, which was the time of the Plague. One of the great books about pandemics, along with The Speckled Monster and Spillover. What we're going through now is less, and will remain less, than the bubonic plague, but it seems very likely to me that it will change not only our economy, but how we see the world, and organize our societies. The changes will likely be tectonic.

June 16, 2020

The little free library is gaining books instead of losing them, like a dieter who just keeps getting bigger, because my siblings are contributing books, damn them. I'm trying to shed books, not gain them. The thing is stuffed to the gills now.

Half a dozen relatives (my wife's) all weekend in the house, which made me (and still makes me) paranoid. Too many people, too close. Did what I could to avoid them, but you just never know.

June 17, 2020

The Y called a couple of days ago, to get me to come in. They aren't requiring appointments, but they do limit the number of people, and are never hitting the limit. But when I asked whether they required masks in the weight room, the answer was no. I said I'd have to pass. Desperate though I am to get back to weights, explosive breathing and people passing close by each other is nothing I'm willing to risk, in the middle of a pandemic that's mainly spread through exhaled droplets in the air.

When a vaccine, or vaccines, are available, there will be a hell of a battle to get immediate access. It will have to be given to health care workers first, of course, and then (if safe and effective for them) the immune compromised, and so on, based on need and vulnerability. But as for the rest of us, by which I mean the general population with no special claim on the treatment, I'm guessing there will be a lottery. That would be "fair", or the best imitation of fair that we have, since it removes human judgment from the decision. Later: I hope that political decisions don't affect order of treatment. I won't be a bit surprised if politicians get early access.

June 18, 2020

The N.Y. Times reports that the big spending drop among the rich has disproportionately affected low-income service-sector workers. I may not be rich, but I understand this, because for some time I've been feeling the need for a massage -- muscular rigidity is one of the four cardinal diagnostic signs of Parkinson's, and I have it, and feel it. But I don't dare spend 60 or 90 minutes in a small room with someone just now. There's way too much risk, even if we're both wearing masks. My masseuse obviously doesn't make a good living off her business. Note to self: pay for a massage that I can redeem later...

If anyone had told me the day would come when I'd be rooting for John Bolton, I'd have laughed in their face, but he's publishing his memoir of working for Trump, and Trump is suing to prevent its publication. You go, John. Maybe your book will make up for some of the fuckedupness you've been responsible for.

I've played, or pretended barely well enough to fool the uninitiated, several musical instruments. Saw a reference to "heavy-breathing flutists", which is accurate, based on not only my own experience, but also the common knowledge that flute is the wind instrument that requires the most wind from the player (there's no reed to help you, and you're blowing across the hole, which has got to be inefficient). So I wonder whether this has affected the income of my former flute teacher.

Went for a walk this morning at 5, a beautiful and quiet time of night, the silver curve of moon yielding to the salmon dawn, the frogs and birds expressing themselves. Few vehicles, and didn't see a human being for the first 40 minutes. After that, the number of walkers, runners, and bikers picked up. A woman's dog sat down and watched me pass, and we agreed that he acted as if he'd never seen a human before. Curiously, this morning the women were the solo runners, and the men ran in pairs; this is rare. As always, I hoped to see a fox, but of course the best time for that was already a couple of hours past, and I did not. They are among my favorite species, the others being otters and peregrine falcons.

June 19, 2020

The debate about when and how much to lock down and open up has been carried on by sides with different values talking past each other. (As is increasingly the case in recent decades, it looks to me like "Let's choose sides and ignore each other".) One side is focused on health, the other on economics. These values (criteria? domains? whatever) are so different from each other that there is no common ground on which to debate. Even for those of us concerned about both, as I am, reconciling the two is difficult enough that we can't give both the weight they deserve: in order to make a decision, we have to weight one side more heavily than the other. The two pieces of the jigsaw puzzle don't fit together. I don't have a solution for this, only the observation that we need to think about this without preconceptions. Instead of debating, we should wrestle with the problem. We should, maybe, explore. Chew the fat with each other for a while, without trying to make the other guy agree with us. Listen, question, propose, repeat...

Having said the above, let me further note that the discussion also implies taking positions on another criterion: social responsibility versus personal freedom. This, at least, and despite the overheated feelings of some of the debaters (such as those who show up with automatic weapons outside a state legislature), is generally more accomodating to discussion than the medical / economic debate, which has become a debate on illness, death, and swamping the medical system versus impoverishment and bankruptcy.

I find myself wondering what other fault lines are implicit in the discussion. Settling on a plan is difficult enough when trying to reconcile both medical / economic and responsibility / freedom questions. But what else do we need to consider, and how might it further complicate the deliberations?

Lastly (meaning that I hope I'm almost at a point of freeing myself from this tar baby for a little while) it's important that we all agree on what's actually happening, and has actually happened, on the ground. Some of the news makers and media, particularly the mythmakers like Trump and Fox News, are making this impossible by spreading lies and obfuscations. On the unlikely chance that one of their true believers ever reads this entry, I encourage him to read paragraph 5 of the March 26 entry above.

June 20, 2020

Here's an interesting article on vaccine development for the virus.

Un-freakin'-believable. The postman was just here, and I saw a package sitting outside the door. It was addressed to me, but I couldn't remember ordering anything, and assumed that I'd simply forgotten about something I'd ordered online. Opened it up ("unboxed" it, to use the trendy term), and it was the prodigal webcam. The labels on the package are like some sort of palimpsest: the original label is faintly and partly visible under a second label, which in turn has a third label pasted on top. See the entries above for the saga: I ordered the thing in March, and Amazon cancelled the order more than a month later as lost, and refunded my money. In the meantime, of course, I've ordered and installed a new monitor with integrated webcam, and love the size and clarity of the monitor, and its webcam works just fine. Plug and play, as they say... I'll probably give the webcam to someone who needs one, unless there's a use for two webcams. Maybe I can point them at each other to keep them from getting lonely. Do webcams dream of electr(on)ic lovers? (Pardon the sampling, Philip Kindred Dick, but the time for this webcam is clearly out of joint.)

Watching Trump recently, I note facial changes, stoop, a curling hand, and downward gaze, all of which are symptomatic of Parkinson's. I'm not saying the guy has PD, because I think it's too soon to say, but he probably has some sort of medical problem, and it looks neurological. This is especially likely when you consider his trouble raising a glass of water to his lips (needed both hands), and his hesitations on the ramp at West Point. None of this is reliably diagnostic yet -- not a red light, though maybe a yellow.

June 21, 2020

Yesterday was the longest day of the year, so we're now officially starting our yearly descent into the summer inferno. It's supposed to be bad this year, so will people stay inside more than usual, and the plague propagate?

June 22, 2020

Siblings over for our driveway meet-and-talk, since we've cancelled the weekly family dinner. Yakked for two hours.

Colin called yesterday, to wish me happy father's day, as is his custom. I appreciate it; always nice to hear from my son. At the end, again, he said "Thanks for having sex with mom," and I replied, "My pleasure".

June 23, 2020

One thing that sums up the change in my life, besides the lack of gym time, is the lack of library time. I used to be in my local library branch three or four times a week, but I haven't been there in months.

My sister observed yesterday that prices of RVs are rising because people want them (in order to avoid travelling in shared spaces like aircraft, exposing themselves to the virus). I responded that this is an act of ecological vandalism, considering the staggering amount of energy and the number of resources used to manufacture them -- and of course the appallingly low miles per gallon they get. More CO2? No problem! Climate change, here we come.

June 24, 2020

Ran a lot of errands yesterday afternoon -- two hardware stores, library, post office, pharmacy, liquor store. I keep a bottle of hand sanitizer in the car, for each time I return to the car. And I always wash my hands on returning home.

Sewer backup this morning, so there will be another workman in the house. That's where a bigger risk lies -- it's tough to show them things from six feet away when you're in a narrow space in the basement. LATER: Turned out not to be sewer, just food. There's a sort of kink in the pipe, and over the years it narrows.

June 25, 2020

N.Y. Times yesterday: "Travelers from the U.S. may be barred from entering the European Union when the bloc reopens on July 1 -- a consequence of the country's failure to control the virus... Their main epidemiological criterion is each nation's average rate of new infections over the past 14 days per 100,000 people (that number is currently 16 for the E.U. and 107 for the U.S.)." We're the failures, along with the Russians and Brazilians.

Drove by the Y recently, at a time of day when there would usually be a lot of cars in the lot, and there were only 7. So I thought it might actually be reasonable to go. Checked again this morning, on my walk, and this time there were several dozen cars, but they might have been people taking classes. May just have to go in and see for myself. 8:30 - 10:30 is the time they're open for geezers.

June 26, 2020

My friend John hasn't been out in his yard for weeks now, and the lights in his house are always off. I worry that he and his wife have Covid-19. If this goes on much longer, I'll walk around the long way, to the front of the house, and check how many cars there are, and maybe leave a note.

June 27, 2020

Woke in the middle of the night from the middle of a dream about a poet, one who can bleed on the page like Carolyn Forche, writing to her God about the agony of something she'd done:
    I don't know whose kiss was sweeter,
    Yours, or Satan's

June 28, 2020

It's baffling, utterly, that people think we're over the first wave of this virus. Not a damn thing has changed. Infections continue, and are accelerating in the south and west of this country. We're too damn self-indulgent here -- we live in a fantasy world where everything is going to turn out fine and we don't have to discipline ourselves and make sacrifices. Not to mention that we're disorganized -- for starters, the show is being run by fifty different states. How the fuck is that supposed to work? All you need is a few idiot governors who deny the reality, and we have incubator states scattered around, to infect their neighboring states. There's more, but I don't have the heart, or the time right now, to continue. I'm fed up and there isn't a Goddamn thing I can do to wake up the fantasists. This is a cataclysm, and it was largely avoidable. The medical system is at risk (97% occupancy in ICUs in Houston, was it?). What happens when the nurses and doctors start collapsing from exhaustion? Again, I could go on, but why? There's not a Goddamn thing I can do.

June 29, 2020

I see from my change log at the bottom of this page that this is the 100th entry, though knowing myself I might be off by one or two. 100 entries. Some days it's hard to come up with one. We'll see how long this goes. I'll give good odds that the virus will be a serious problem for more than a year.

I've flown hundreds of times, but always hated it. The noise, the vibration, the temperature changes, and above all the crowding. I loathe being crowded; in fact, I'm a bit phobic about crowds. The sole panic attack of my life occurred in a crowd. Now I have another reason -- the virus -- not to fly. One of my friends probably got his case of Covid-19 because he was flying a lot.

Heard Hendrix on the radio, doing his version of All Along the Watchtower. The line "There are many here among us / who feel that life is but a joke" always stands out to me. I feel a bit that way sometimes, except that a joke implies a joker, and I wonder whether life is not, rather, an accident. But who knows? I don't. Christians think they know. Atheists think they do. I have to throw up my hands in resignation, because it's clear to me that none of us know anything at all. We think our brains work better than they actually do, and we constantly deceive ourselves into thinking we understand more than we do. We don't know shit. In fact, that's an overstatement, but I don't know how to properly phrase the idea that we know less than nothing.

Talking to my doctor and his nurse, we all agreed that this would be a good time to be on the space station -- and stay there.

With women wearing masks, it's getting difficult sometimes to assess their hotness. (If you find this sexist and offensive, so be it. Don't try to tell me this doesn't work in the other direction, though I admit probably not as much. I don't care anyway. Looking at beautiful women is one of the few pleasures left to old men like me. Their beauty should be appreciated, much as with music and art. I'm not going to be obvious, I'm not going to bug them. So keep your judgments to yourself. As either Kooser or Harrison said, approximately, in Braided Creek, so what if women don't appreciate me any more; I appreciate them.)

Listening to boogie woogie piano again. We need more of that these days: music that's cheerful, lively, intricate. And ragtime, too. And blues harmonica. Miraculous stuff to be grateful for. Try this.

June 30, 2020

Headline: "Trump was briefed on the Russian bounty program months ago." (The information was in his daily briefing.) Quelle surprise: he lied. He lies automatically, even when he should know he'll be caught out. He even lies sometimes when the truth would be more to his advantage. This is the so-called president who continues to claim the virus will die down and get better, despite all evidence to the contrary... As one who realized in the early days of his campaign that he's a stone liar, I can't understand how anyone trusts him. The man has betrayed our (his) armed forces to suck up to Putin by trying to get Russia back into the G7/8 -- Putin, of all people, a dictator who wants to destroy us, and who thinks the fall of the Soviet Union was the greatest tragedy of the 20th century. As the joke goes, Putin has made Trump his Russian bride. In a just world, Trump would be in prison for treason.

July 1, 2020

48,000 new infections yesterday. Arizona is in "crisis" care, meaning they lack the resources to treat all the infected. Presumably they're doing triage. And I see pictures of people in public places close together and not wearing masks. Around here, not all those I see working in stores wear masks. Young people above all walk around in small groups, close together and maskless. I saw a coach the other day, at the high school track, talking to his athletes. They were maskless and too close together.

July 2, 2020

New H1N1 swine flu threatens another pandemic. All this shit seems to start in China (SARS, Coronavirus, H7N9, this new H1N1, etc.). I knew that Xi Jinping seeks world domination (a billion and a half people ain't enough for him), but if they keep infecting us at this rate, there won't be anyone left to dominate. (The politically correct can stop reading this blog now, because you will continue to find your sensibilities rubbed the wrong way. If you can't see the tongue in the cheek, stop looking.)

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick of Texas says that Fauci "doesn't know what he's talking about". He also claims that Fauci "has been wrong every time on every issue". Leaving aside the sweeping nature of that second statement (how is it even possible to always be wrong?), I find it curious that Patrick, a former talk radio host, bar owner, bankrupt businessman (remind you of anyone?), and an English major, should claim that he knows more than a man who's devoted his entire life to the study of infectious diseases, and who has advised every president from Reagan on down. Fauci's experience goes back to childhood, when he worked for his father's pharmacy. His entire professional life has been dedicated to medicine. And "dedicated" is the word to describe him. He's received thirty -- thirty -- honorary doctorates for his work. (Later: Patrick also said "There are more important things than living". Include me out.) (Later still: he said that " 'lots of grandparents' would be willing to sacrifice themselves to facilitate the opening of the economy". Name three, sir.) On the other side we have Dan Patrick, the guy who said "In my view, the only way Trump loses in November, is if you have a proliferation of voting by mail-in state after state, particularly the swing states". This guy is farther out in space than the acidheads of the 1960s. He sure can't read (the polls, that is). He also reminds me of the Brown Shirts, when he says "If they're willing to burn the country, tear statues down, why not steal some ballots out of a mailbox?" He sure ain't espousing American values there. Reality doesn't listen to demagogues: the dogs bark and the caravan passes. After this particular dog is out of office the image that comes to mind is of him in a straitjacket, ranting, and the attendants ignoring him: "He's always like that. You'll learn to tune him out."

July 3, 2020

Here's an interesting, inexpensive idea that might help control the virus: paper strip testing.

July 4, 2020

Not much in the way of fireworks this year. There were a few last night, enough to terrify Pogo and Sophie, but not nearly as many as usual. Now it's one in the afternoon and I've only once, and briefly, heard any firecrackers today. And of course all the big fireworks displays are cancelled, to prevent crowds and the spread of the disease. Doesn't seem like much of a Fourth. This is also the most dangerous day of the year to drive, because there are so many drunks on the road. Probably not this year.

July 5, 2020

I've started running in the morning, though not all mornings, as the legs won't tolerate that much consistency yet -- every other day, or two out of three, depending. Walk on concrete, run on asphalt up to the track at the high school, a bit more than half a mile away by the circuitous route I take. Then run laps. Total, probably something above a mile. It's helped my PD-damaged posture noticeably. And gives a general tuneup of energy and alertness. It's always been a particularly difficult form of exercise for me, but it's turning out to be worth the suffering. The only problem is having to avoid those exercise freaks on the track, who sometimes use my lane or zoom past me, or whatever -- heavy breathing and risk of virus particles in the air. So far, so good. The solution is to get up at the crack of dawn; will start cranking my sleep schedule back so I can get up earlier and have the place to myself, or enough so, so I don't have to zig and zag as much, to avoid the other runners.

July 6, 2020

The KUMC yearly symposium on PD, always held in August, has been cancelled: "For the safety of all attendees, the 2020 symposium has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic." Why they didn't put it on as a webinar is baffling. It would have been simple to implement. A webinar would certainly have been easier for all the attendees in stages 3 and 4. There are probably well over a thousand attendees every year, many of them in those stages, and some in stage 5. I always learn something from the talks, as well as refreshing stuff I've forgotten. They could even have included all the vendors and classes and other exhibitors as a sidebar of some sort.

The ideal scenario is that Trump gets the virus immediately after the nominating convention, is hospitalized in an ICU for several weeks, and when he emerges has barely enough energy to occupy the Oval Office again. But even to those who voted for him in 2016, he's clearly incapable of handling the presidency, and he loses in a tsunami.

Hung out with my friend John (see June 26 entry) yesterday, and our friend Dennis, on John's deck, for more than an hour, and the time was a great pleasure. To shoot the breeze with someone other than my family or my PD guys was, well, more than pleasure. The time, inconsequential as it was, went a long way to filling a hole I didn't even know was in me.

Dennis told me that some of his family traveled through Springfield and stopped at a restaurant or a store. They were the only ones wearing masks, and all the other patrons were giving them dirty looks. Since the virus doesn't spread evenly, I will assume that Springfield has not been hit hard yet. When it is, the doctors and nurses will tell their families and friends how bad the situation is in the hospitals, and the news will spread outward in ripples. Then the attitudes of the deniers will change. The problem is this: during the time the news spreads, the virus spreads, too, and we get further behind the eight ball.

July 7, 2020

Well that's just great: more chance of getting the virus because it hangs around in the air.

Jair Bolsonaro has developed symptoms of Covid-19. Quelle surprise -- he denies the damn thing exists, walks around without a mask meeting people, acts as if all is normal. Of course he caught the damn thing.

July 8, 2020

Banditry -- is it easier, or at least more tempting, for criminals to rob businesses, since wearing a mask has become common?

See July 1, above, the last few sentences. The county newspaper had a story yesterday that that high school has nearly 20 athletes who've tested positive, kids who've been meeting with their coaches to continue their training over the summer. Since reporting is voluntary and testing isn't mandatory and there are probably some kids in the early stages without obvious symptoms, we can assume an undercount. The punchline here is that the coaches are going to continue meeting with the (so-far-thought-to-be uninfected) athletes, to continue their training. Since a few of the teens I see running on the track look like athletes (i.e., very fast and lean), I'm reluctant to share the track with them. Days I can't get to the track early early (like this morning at 4 a.m.), I'll run on back streets. Harder on the legs, but less likely to get the disease. Shin splints are manageable, minor, and you can fully recover; Covid-19 is the opposite of all that. Yeah, the track is outdoors, but I don't hear people approaching from behind, and once or twice they've run by too close to me -- and it's always the young runners. The old ones are more careful. Yeah, I veer away, but so? I ain't assumin' nothin'.

Here I sit, in my house in my lily-white suburb, no worries about losing that house, or losing a job, or being forced into a situation that puts my health at risk. All around, people are being evicted from their housing, losing their jobs, or getting the virus. How fortunate I am. How concerned I feel for those others. But besides charitable contributions, there isn't much I can do. So much of it seems to begin and end with money, and the inequity of its distribution, and it simply means digging into my pocket and giving to Harvesters and other charities. I haven't given enough.

July 9, 2020

As if the current plague is not enough, a herdsman in China has been diagnosed with bubonic plague. Late last year, two others had pneumonic plague, which is caused by the same microbe. Next door, Mongolia has reported several cases of bubonic plague, too. I was not aware that the U.S. has a handful of cases every year; I thought it was rarer here. This is the plague Daniel Defoe wrote about in A Journal of the Plague Year, the last great outbreak (1665-6), of which we've been largely free since then. Turns out that this plague originated in China, too.

With people losing their places to live, we'll certainly see more homelessness. But will some move in with family, leading to a greater number of extended families? And more crowding (and thus more likelihood of getting the virus)?

The N.Y. Times, where I get a lot of my data, reports that when treating U.S. states individually (i.e., comparing their rates of infection to nations, measured by new cases per million residents), the rankings for worst outbreaks, in order, are: Arizona, Florida, South Carolina, Bahrain, Louisiana, Qatar, Oman, Alabama, Nevada, Mississippi, Texas, Georgia, Panama, Tennessee, Kazakhstan, California, Arkansas, Armenia ... Seems that I live in a third-world country... You can see the data here. Click on the chart to enlarge it. Today we've passed three million cases of the virus. That's about 1% of our population.

Per my June 3 entry above, I see that I'm not the only one upset with Facebook. That's quite a list of organizations that have pulled their advertising from the company. Yesterday the number was 900-some. Today it's over a thousand.

If you're lonely because you're quarantined, get a dog. Of course, after you finally get out of your cage, you'll still have the dog, but by then it will be your best friend.

Yesterday I was sitting on a bench outside the vet's office, waiting for them to finish vaccinating one of my dogs, when three teen girls, maskless, walked past. They were talking about meeting some friends, and the shortest one, looking at her phone, said they'd gone to the skate park. Immediately, the tallest one -- within touching distance of me! -- yelled "Fuck!" at over a hundred decibels. Spray it, you rancid nitwit, doing your best to propagate the virus in the most odious possible fashion. Good thing I was wearing a mask.

What happened to the advice to "shelter in place"? I haven't heard that in a couple of months. It's still the right thing to do.

July 10, 2020

If one of the worst places for virus outbreaks is meatpacking plants, maybe we should cut way back on our meat consumption. Those people would lose their jobs, but at least they'd be alive. Ditto the prisons: maybe it's time for clemency for all those guys who are serving sentences for minor offenses like marijuana possession. They were supposed to have a finite time in the slammer, not a death sentence.

Vehicular attacks against demonstrators -- i.e., running them down with your car -- are on the rise: at least 66 since May 25. Drivers, has it occurred to you that the people you most resemble are the boyos who turned aircraft into weapons on 9/11? Look at yourselves. You're the same as the people you hate: the Islamists.

Advice from the N.Y. Times: The four factors that play a role in how likely you are to get the disease:
      "[H]ow close you get to an infected person;
      how long you are near that person;
      whether that person expels viral droplets on or near you;
      and how much you touch your face afterwards".
How to reduce your risk:
      "Keep your distance...
      Wash your hands often...
      Avoid touching your face...
      Wear a mask outside your home..."
8 simple things to remember. You could even write them on the back of a business card, using a fine-point pen, and put it in your wallet. Every time you pull out a credit card, you'd see the business card and if you'd forgotten anything, you could refresh your memory right then.

More evidence of virus-related change (as if any were needed): when I happened to drive past the county office in Mission, there was one car in the lot. Usually there are dozens.

And here's another: yesterday the guy who came to work on an electrical problem wore a mask. Recently, during the rewiring of the house, other guys from the same company did not.

I always hate it that when a microwave or other product fails after years of use that it's necessary simply to throw it away, because it's obsolete. This is wasteful in many ways. Here's a guide to minimizing the problem.

There have been few funny virus-related news items, but here's one: "Theme parks in Japan have banned screaming on roller coasters, because it spreads coronavirus". Maybe it's only me, but I think that's a scream.

I remain convinced that our species is almost certainly doomed (see April 22, above), and I'm even starting to think that we collectively deserve it. I tried to read parts of the transcript of George Floyd's death, but I couldn't bear it. Yes, that's only one incident, but there are uncountably many of them, up to and including the hundreds of millions of deaths that resulted from the actions of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Zedong, King Leopold, the North Korean dictators, Enver Pasha, Tito, Tojo, and lesser criminals like Saddam Hussein and George W. Bush. If that last one offends you, recall what George Bernard Shaw said: "Patriotism: your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it", and try to grow up and get over yourself. Until we do, and start thinking with wider scope and empathy, we don't have a prayer.

It occurs to me that I might get an audience that's in more than the single digits for these bloviations if I moved to Twitter or some other social media platform -- but never mind that. Social media turn me off, and I'd probably get a lot of hatred (trolls, stalking, death threats: who knows?). I'll go on shouting into the void instead. I have no illusions that I can make a difference. The end of my time on this planet is no longer on the distant horizon, but accelerating into view, and I'm preparing to make my exit. In the meantime, this obscure little corner of the Internet serves as a way to unburden myself. No one need pay any attention to these rantings. Sure, I wish millions of people would listen and be influenced. And I'd also like to live in a wonderland where we all have whatever we want, from chocolate bunnies and wax lips through being the coolest kid in high school and on up to daily sex, plenty of money, and perfect health. Whatever. It ain't gonna happen, so I ain't gonna waste my time trying to make it happen. Have a nice day.

July 11, 2020

Increasingly, the talk is that the nature of much work will change and people will remote in, rather than travelling to an office. If so, how much will this reduce climate change (particularly warming) because of reduced CO2 emissions? I doubt it will help as much as one would reflexively expect, because carbon dioxide is less of the problem (55%) than most people realize: see Figure 7 on page xx; though the data are for 1980-1990, they give a good general idea. Furthermore, transportation contributes only 14% of the CO2: see the second pie chart. So the reduction in warming would be about .55 x .14. That's a little less than 8%, at best, meaning if people stopped using carbon-emitting transportation altogether. Commuting sure ain't 100% of it -- there are all those trips to deliver Amazon packages, drop off the kids at soccer practice, buy groceries, drive to the mountains or beach for pleasure, fly to Europe (oops, not right now!)... Of course, buildings also contribute, and many office buildings might be shuttered. But that would be a small proportion of buildings' contribution, I expect. There are industrial, agricultural, and residential buildings, which would presumably continue much as they are now. The change in contribution by electricity generation looks difficult to assess, I think, because people would be at home with the lights and the PC on, while the electric usage of their office building would probably decline. But by how much? I don't know, and I'm betting that nobody else does, either. ("Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future." -- Niels Bohr) But I think that rough estimates from the per centages imply that we're not going to get as much improvement in warming as we'd like when more of us start to telecommute. My guess is that the improvement as a per centage would be in the low single digits. And the above figures probably only work for the economically advanced countries, so the results would be even lower.

All the Covid beds in Susan's hospital are full. 100%. And we're not even in a hot spot. And that's a hospital that's typically had a comparatively low number of cases.

July 12, 2020

Per my rants and flames above, here's more on (moron?) Zuck and Facebook here: "Zuckerberg never fails to disappoint". We can only hope that Facebook goes down in flames and takes him with it. Not that the users will revolt. There are too many who are addicted to his crack. Any change will have to come from the advertiser boycott and the employee revolt.

Went for a walk this morning, from about 6:40 to 8:10. Beautiful weather, but almost no one out and about until the last ten minutes.

I see that Trump finally wore a mask yesterday. Slow learner. And he told reporters: "I've never been against masks". Really. He's stretched the truth so many times he should look like a bodybuilder now, not a gordo... He's quoted as remarking about an earlier time he wore a mask (!) that "I looked like the Lone Ranger", which is odd, since Kemo Sabe's mask covered his eyes, not his nostrils and mouth -- the exact opposite of the ones we wear now. But, hey, maybe Trump really did wear a Lone Ranger style mask. Given his epidemic life-ineptness, it's possible.

July 13, 2020

The flood of Facebook horror stories is endless.

July 14, 2020

Sent my friend who lives on the Oregon coast an article about the virus surge in her state. She wrote back this, among other things: "I see the influx of tourists here -- almost as bad as a normal summer, when throngs of people come to the central coast and tie up traffic, flock to grocery and drug stores, and swarm into the local parks. Most people I see are not wearing masks or keeping distance." I don't get this. Even if you're one of the fools who doesn't believe that medical experts have more expertise than the rest of us, the reasoning is intuitively obvious: distance and a barrier should help. What's wrong with these people?

July 15, 2020

The news worsens: a flood of small-business closures, banks reserving billions in the expectation of bad debt, 5 million American workers have lost health insurance, the Trump administration cutting the CDC out of the statistics for the virus (probably in order to choke off the bad news), the U.S. is the only advanced nation in which infections are increasing (skyrocketing!) -- the rest have fallen dramatically. All that is only a small sampling.

July 16, 2020

More evidence that politicization is completely out of hand: man shows gun when told to mask up.

Stopped at the ATM yesterday, and saw several people lined up, with plenty of spacing, but when I got to the device I realized that they'd had their tainted fingers all over the buttons and panel. Then, after getting my money, I forgot to use the bottle of hand sanitizer I keep in the car.

Next I stopped at the cobbler, to get a shoe repaired. When I arrived, he and a customer were talking, separated by a few more inches than the width of the counter, which wasn't much, maybe two feet. Their masks were down, and they saw mine and pulled theirs up, embarrassed like kids caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

One of my pet peeves: lack of control over my personal data. See this article and its links. I'm surrounded by people who just don't get the dangers of all this, but I've noticed that every book I've read on the subject, the writer of that book has become totally paranoid by the time s/he finishes the research, and starts doing things like carrying their cell phone in a Faraday bag. And that's the least of their precautions. Don't believe me? See The Privacy Project. Some of my own experiences have been disturbing: looking myself up on data brokers, to find that they know way too much about me, and some of it is wrong (e.g., my salary; and I don't have any advanced degrees). Once I bought something at Eddie Bauer and the guy behind the counter asked whether I wanted to be added to their customer database, to get discounts and that sort of thing. I said no. He ignored me ("Yes, you do"), and added me in anyway. Two months later, their database got hacked and I got an email that they were buying me a monitoring service, to make sure my data didn't get abused. I never bought anything from them again. The next thing that happened, my data got stolen in the Equifax hack; I was one of the 147 million Americans who got hosed by their shitty security (and it was shitty). And by the way, I looked at the numbers, and their punishment, though it looked substantial, was less than a slap on the wrist -- they didn't have to pony up much. I never got a fucking dime. My take on all these disasters is that when personal data of a certain sensitivity for more than a certain number of customers is hacked, or when Facebook gives data to Cambridge Analytica, or whatever, the CEO should go to prison for a minimum six months, without any discretion by the judge. (Yes, they'd end up in those white-collar joints, the "country club" prisons, but that's still better than nothing.) That would end this nonsense real quick. As for blaming the guy at the top -- yeah, that's totally reasonable. That's where the buck stops. If they're going to make a living plundering our data, they have to pay the price when their scam goes wrong. The Europeans, who've had personal experience with the problem of spying (the Nazis, the Stasi, the KGB, etc.) are a lot more strict than we are, because they know the dangers first-hand. We should take a leaf from the book of the people who understand the importance of the problem.

Total U.S. Covid cases have reached 3.5 million. That's more than 1% of our population. The Republican governor of Ohio put it best: "My friends, this is not a drill. It certainly is not any hoax. This is not a dress rehearsal. It's the real thing. The enemy is here."

Turns out that masks really work: at a Springfield, MO Great Clips, two hair stylists had the virus, but used their masks, and of the more than 139 customers they came in contact with, none got infected.

July 17, 2020

What's with this trend to black masks? The look is counter to the medical color white (lab coats, traditional nurse uniforms, and so on). Mostly, though, black masks are offputting, like the kind a criminal would wear in a comic book. I don't understand.

And speaking of masks, I watched a piece on television about the pandemic in Italy. They all wear masks, but almost without exception they don't wear them over their nostrils. The masks only cover the mouth, which reduces their efficacy.

I'm washing my hands a lot more, since one of the dogs got worms. Picking up the back yard at least once a day now, too. It's amazing the amount of shit three small dogs produce every day.

Coincidentally, after I wrote my rant yesterday about privacy, today I found out that the top EU court has invalidated the data exchange agreement between the EU and U.S. companies. Essentially, I think, the court has ruled that U.S. protections are inadequate (no surprise there), and that U.S. companies will now need a legal reason for collecting data from EU citizens. Data transfers will no longer be permitted. Here are articles in Fortune, Forbes, and the Wall Street Journal. Much of this is over my head, though, so read and judge for yourself. My own (admittedly ain't-gonna-happen) preference is for the U.S. to adopt the GDPR, or an equivalent that's strong enough to satisfy the Europeans, but more importantly has sufficient safeguards to protect us from predators like Zuckerberg. The California law would be a good starting point.

July 18, 2020

When Susan told me that some places have signs asking customers to pay with plastic because they're short on cash, I wondered whether people are starting to horde money.

We had an insulation contractor out yesterday, to look at insulating the garage ceiling, and he was telling us about some fellow who insisted he not wear a mask, when he came out to bid his job. First these people say the virus is a hoax, then they say that masks don't work, or are politically motivated. Me, I just wear one because I want to stay alive. God help us, though -- these idiots are making the situation worse for the rest of us.

It was curious to me, listening to this insulation contractor vent his frustration with the limits on his daily life. He's about ready to explode, ranting that he can't accept the situation as "the new normal". (Reality check, man: this is not under your control and acceptance would be healthier, and of course mellower.) This is yet another attitude that baffles me, because I don't see the restrictions as all that difficult, just something to shrug off. In that way, the PD is paradoxically beneficial because I'm so preoccupied with it and spend so much time working on it that I avoid a lot of the exasperation other people feel. Instead, my preoccupation is for my disease, not for the cramped life the virus imposes on us. Admittedly, it helps that I'm retired and don't have to take care of any children. Still, the attitude of frustration with our current too-tight world seems simply a counterproductive waste of emotional energy. But I sympathize. Try twenty minutes of meditation every day, if you can spare the time. If twenty doesn't work, bump it to thirty. If that fails, too, ask your doctor for Valium or Xanax or whatever. Or smoke some weed. (Later: that was a joke. See the July 25 entry, below, for the reason that's a bad idea during a viral lung-affecting pandemic.)

There are plenty of people who oppose masks, including the governor of Georgia. See this article. Masks clearly work; to deny this is like saying it's useless to cover your cough. But even weirder are the people who say it's an "infringement". What, they don't think they have to get driver's licenses, pay their taxes, and not punch me in the nose for wearing my mask? "Infringements" (a loaded, simplistic, inaccurate term) are ubiquitous, and when the collective benefit outweighs inconsequential personal inconvenience, the personal side loses. Man up and stop acting like the world revolves around you individually. You were supposed to get over that when you became an adult, which clearly you have yet to do.

"A recent study found that your political affiliation is the best predictor of whether you wear a mask, even more than your age or where you live." I doubt this, given the nonexistence of masks on teenage faces and the ubiquity on oldsters like me. I live in a heavily Republican state (and, less so, neighborhood), and masks are almost universal when I go places like the grocery store. I think age is the most reliable predictor of mask wearing. But here are the supposed data, suspect though I find them.

Here's a vaccine that's way ahead of the others. Phase III trials are already underway. Deals have been made to manufacture two billion doses if it works. Zounds. Not only that, but this woman is the mother of (adult) triplets, all of whom are studying biochemistry. Superwoman.

Looks like the feds are running amuck in Portland, arresting demonstrators: U.S. Attorney requests investigation of unmarked vehicles and unidentified federal agents. Is he asking DHS to investigate itself? Excuse the skepticism, but isn't that likely to be a whitewash? Shoot a guy in the head with an "impact munition", grab people up -- hasn't this country always had local control of police? The mayor said it: "[Chad Wolf] is on a mission to provoke confrontation for political purposes". Also see Portland mayor says Trump administration putting city's protestors in danger: "Mr. President... Keep your troops in your own buildings or have them leave our city." Let's hope this isn't a preview of things to come, and that public indignation and the courts make Trump's minions back down. If they keep this up, his poll numbers will slip even further.

July 19, 2020

Yesterday another guy came to bid the insulation work, and Susan stood right next to him and neither of them wore a mask. And this is a woman who works in a hospital with Covid-19 patients. Say what?

I finally decided to set the formatting of this page to make it more readable when the browser is set wide. Still too simple, but I like simplicity and am not inclined to throw in background tiling and that kind of thing. I'm a flat-text guy. When I first got on the Internet, I used to look at people's web pages. Those were the days, before everyone went to the boring monoculture of Facebook. Pages that had a lot of pink, and kittens, and exploding stars belonged to teenage girls. If they were red on black, they belonged to goths. Green on black, usually programmers. Flat text, they were the C.V.s of mathematicians -- and those are my people. They're interested in the substance, not the show.

July 20, 2020

I see that in addition to his usual bald-faced lies (like the U.S. having the lowest Covid death rate in the world), the Donald won't say he'll accept the election results -- yet more evidence that he's an outlier, unlike any president in our history. He belongs in South America, where he could get away with this nonsense. I'm reminded of Nixon's resignation, when my sister's foreign friends all asked her, "When's the coup?" Which flabbergasted her. I had the same reaction, when she told me the story. This is the United States of America, Goddammit. We don't do that shit here. If Trump tries a coup, he'll fail, but that doesn't mean the rest of us won't suffer for his stupidity and egotism.

July 21, 2020

A lot of books about WWII, and especially about Churchill, are showing up in BookBub recommendations. I attribute this to the pandemic. There has even been at least one book that draws parallels between now and the war.

No PD speech class today. Last one for summer was a week ago. The next round starts in September. I miss you guys already. The classes will be even better when we can finally resume doing them in person, instead of online, and I can talk to my friends, like Charlie, face to face again. (Check out the business he started back in the 80s: Foot Traffic.)

Lots of small businesses are dying, including family businesses that have been around for more than a century. Long article in the N.Y. Times yesterday. Also see the May 8 entry, above.

July 22, 2020

This whole thing in Portland is becoming reminiscent of the 1960s, except that the cops involved aren't cops, but anonymous storm troops from the Trump administration. Watching Chad Wolf at a press conference, I was struck by his resemblance to Senator Joseph McCarthy, especially the way Walt Kelly drew him as Simple J. Malarkey, the vicious bobcat, in the old Pogo strips. Chad Wolf is right in that wheelhouse of mendacity and savagery, so the physical resemblance is apt.

July 23, 2020

While whole sections of the economy, from airlines to massage therapy to museums and live music performances, risk going down the tubes, others (though fewer) seem to be booming. My friend Larry, a dedicated cook, is unable to order flour online because baking has become popular. He also has to sit 10 weeks on a waitlist just to order a rowing machine -- and then will have to wait again while they build it. Myself, I was unable to find barbells of certain sizes. Fitness gear of all sorts seems in very short supply. They've got to be working night and day. And of course anyone making PPE has probably put on extra shifts.

The Y called again yesterday, not like the first time, which was a plea to me personally to come back. This one's a bit more subtle and generic, but much the same. My pal John has gone back, and he says that he's always the only person in the rooms he uses. But he goes late in the evening, and I'm not willing to go when the droplets from exhalations have been building up in the ventilation system all day. In the morning, on the other hand, I see cars in the lot. And I hear the weight room is busy. So I'll continue solo workouts at home for the foreseeable future.

Hadn't looked at eel slap in years, and thought of it for no reason. Still there, still the same. It's hard to improve on perfection. If you're uncertain what to do, swipe your mouse back and forth across the pic.

July 24, 2020

I'm amused every time Trump boasts about acing the MoCA test. So he got 30 out of 30. I usually do, though one time I got a 29. (I have to take this test occasionally because PD can cause cognitive impairment.) A lot of people who are normal (not suffering from dementia) get 30. It's easy. In fact, it's easily the easiest test I've ever seen. But Trump's rambling and inaccurate description of the test, and his taking of it, is bizarre and verges on incoherence. (Later: As usual, the comics nail it better than I can. Even if you like Trump, some of these remarks are hilarious.)

The news about the virus is calamitous, worldwide. If it goes on like this, we'll be facing social, political, economic disruption on a scale we've been assuming we were free of. I'm talking the Black Death here... We've got to wrestle this monster to the ground or we could be done for. On the other hand, if the virus puts our economy in the ground, at least the ecosystem will have a prayer. There's always a bright side, eh? It's enough to tempt me into the anthropomorphic fallacy: Mother Nature sat down and cogitated what she could do to get rid of these damn big-brained apes, and came up with this virus.

July 25, 2020

The virus is a reason people are considering quitting smoking. I sure hope so. Not only is it a major contributor to public health problems, I have people in my own family who smoke, whom I've encouraged to quit because of the virus. It ain't easy, but worthwhile self-disciplines rarely are. (My wife is an ex-smoker of more than 30 years standing, and once when I asked her what she'd do if she knew she only had six months to live, the words weren't even out of my mouth before she replied, "Start smoking again". That's how addictive it is.) It's regrettable that weed consumption has increased, and I apologize for my tongue-in-cheek recommendation above, on July 18.

Weird coincidence: I just finished re-reading, for the nth time, The Man Who Loved Only Numbers, about Paul Erdos. The guy who enabled his eccentric lifestyle, by keeping a library of his papers, forging his signature and depositing his checks, and so on, was Ronald Graham. He was thus instrumental in making possible the productivity of the man who was clearly the greatest mathematician of the 20th century. (Example: Erdos was once at a conference and walked past a couple of mathematicians discussing a long-unsolved problem he'd never heard of. He had to ask them to define the fundamental term they were using, he was so unaware of the problem. He listened, grasped the problem, and went away. They continued talking. It was generally agreed among the experts that the answer, when finally found, would be zero, or infinity. Erdos solved the problem in half an hour and gave them the answer: one.) Graham was in interesting character in his own right and just died.

Looking at the Wikipedia page for the Mandelbrot set, I am astonished at the many relationships with other mathematical entities. The Julia sets I knew about, and the Fibonacci sequence, and the connectedness, and the bifurcation diagram, and the (near) self-similarity. (Not that I really understand all these, except mostly in a rather vague way.) But most of the stuff referred to I've never even heard of: periodic windows in the Feigenbaum diagram, the Hausdorff dimension, Lebesgue measure, the relationship(s?) to pi, and so on. I found it startling that "[t]here is no perfect extension of the Mandelbrot set into 3D", but there is one in 4 dimensions. This is utterly counterintuitive to me... Back in the 1980s and 1990s, I used to write code so I could play with fractals (i.e., graph them on PCs and a Unix workstation). In the end, the work became tedious, and I quit. But occasionally I still go look at graphics on the internet that drill down into the Mandelbrot set. This is a strangely entertaining and hypnotic activity.

You catch more flies with honey. But somehow I can rarely resist the temptation to fulminate and criticize the fools who won't wear masks. A huge personal flaw of mine, and a statement about my inability to control myself.

A sampling of news stories from the bottom of the Bing search page (some of the text summaries of the links are my own): Death threats to Fauci's family. And Man waves gun and threatens to kill other shopper in argument about masks. And United Nations calls on US police to halt use of force against journalists covering protests. And DHS lied. Only in America, among the advanced nations. I get it when this happens in, say, the Philippines or (before they calmed down) El Salvador and Colombia. But here? Makes me ashamed. Small wonder some Europeans think we're just another banana republic.

Here's something a bit more hopeful. Dogs. I love them. They're incredibly adaptable, too: they hunt, track, retrieve, herd, guard, haul, sniff out (contraband, Covid, ...), assist the disabled, and any number of other useful activities. Long ago the dogs came to us and offered us a deal. They said, "If you will feed and shelter us, we will help you hunt, guard you, warn you, and attack your enemies. We'll figure out how to do other things for you. When you become 'civilized' and live in houses, we will be your pets and give you love. And when we're old, you can destroy us and replace us with a new dog." It was an irresistible deal, one we've never had cause to regret. I have three dogs, and they're more reliable friends than any human being. A dog just wants to love you.

Finished running on the track about 6:30 this morning, and who should be arriving as I left but my brother.

July 26, 2020

Woke in the middle of the night yet again. For a week I was getting great sleep, but this week has been hell. I finally rose, read 30 pages of Salter's Solo Faces, the part where Rand and Cabot put up a new route on the Dru, a mountain that has always beckoned to me; I still remember my first sight of it, in Chamonix, unique, foreboding, intimidating, seductive. The character of Rand is based on Gary Hemming, and Cabot is clearly based on John Harlin. I always thought it was strange that Hemming would be the inspiration for a novel, but maybe not. He was reputedly a ladies man. So was Salter. Around 5:00 I ate and went for a walk. I wanted to run, but my left calf told me that wasn't a good idea. Nobody around but me, the crickets, and the owl. So I intended to walk my long route, 2.9 miles out and the same distance back, but it was so muggy I bailed after a couple of miles and circled home.

Went to my nephew Aaron's birthday party yesterday. All that generation of the Ross descendants was there, including their wives and even their dogs. Fifteen-pound puppy Jag demanded to play with great dane Luna, who finally got control of him by sitting on him. The only persons missing were Colin, who lives 600 miles away, and Andy, who seems to have gone dark. Though I greatly enjoyed seeing everyone, I had to leave early; my eyes felt like hot coals. The entire time, I was paranoid, thinking that if one of them has the virus, ancient and asthmatic as I am, I am a dead man.

July 27, 2020

Protests in response to the federal militarization in some cities have grown violent. These people are playing right into Trump's hands. The correct response would be to imitate the civil rights movement of the 1960s, which succeeded because of nonviolence, and the empathy that tactic elicited. You'll gain more sympathizers if you're the victim, not the perpetrator.

Thinking about the concealed annoyance of my neurologist at our last appointment: she was probably thinking that "here's this guy still in stage 1, and he has an endless list of complaints and seems to think if he just works hard enough he can hold back this progressive disease, while I treat people in the final stages who are hopelessly fucked up". She's right. I've found it annoying to be simply monitored, but what else is a doctor going to do? They don't have the tools to fix me. It's up to me to do my best every day to fight the disease with the few tools I have (forced exercise, taking the medication on schedule, etc.), not demand or complain too much, and when the day comes that the PD turns intolerable, stop eating and drinking, and fade out. In the meantime, love my life and my wife and all my family and friends.

July 28, 2020

Reading about the young climate-change activist Jamie Margolin. I'm with you, girl. I've been saying the same things for years, and getting looks like people think I'm a nutcase. A guy at my gym, a stranger, once volunteered the notion that "some people" think they know more about global warming than other people, implying that we had our heads up our asses. Well, when it comes to climate change, a more accurate term for the problem, I do happen to know more than he does, and I gave him half a dozen clear examples of it off the top of my head, including one or two simple things one can observe without even having to swot up on the subject. I ended by saying "All you have to do is look." He was silent for a minute, pedalling his bike, then got off it and left. I should have been gentler and not lost patience, but he seemed like one of those who, as my father once said when we were arguing and I was "winning", as it were, "My mind's made up. Don't confuse me with facts." Nobody "wins" these arguments, but we all lose when enough people stick their heads in the sand. The juggernaut is not going to stop because you cover your eyes. Like they say, you're entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts -- and if you think you're on an equal footing with people who have taken the trouble to spend hundreds of hours studying up on the subject, you're the one with your head up your ass.

Another action that resembles that of totalitarian countries -- choke off the information. This is from my county newspaper:
"The federal government changed the system for collecting and reporting COVID-19 hospital data in June. Last week, the data on hospital capacity usage that regional officials had been able to access went offline.
" 'Last week...the hospital data stream became unavailable based on decisions made at the Federal level,' said the officials. 'This decision has hobbled the efforts of local medical officers and front-line workers to track the spread of COVID- 19 and respond accordingly to our region's needs.' "

My wife recently described to me the attempt by Cerner to convert the hospital where she works to the Cerner system. The result was a catastrophe. The radiology department, for instance, was completely unable to function and had to call all the patients scheduled to come in and tell them to stay home. Weeks later, my wife has records that are unreadable -- they are gibberish. She tells me that Cerner is still working on the conversion. I questioned her for a few minutes, and Cerner made at least three fundamental blunders that no competent I.T. organization would do:
   First, they ran the conversion during a weekday instead of a weekend, preferably a three-day holiday weekend.
   Second, they had no fallback plan.
   Third, they didn't do a trial run first with a copy of the data.
At that point, I saw no reason to question her further. Clearly, no one with a brain reviewed the plan and pointed out the holes. I've suspected for a long time that there's a culture of incompetence at Cerner. I'm more certain of it now.

July 29, 2020

Went to the post office yesterday, which was more crowded than I'd like. Fear of strangers is a strange sensibility.

A local radio station has announced that they're giving away a Harley and a free trip to Sturgis. I could hardly believe my ears. There's a virus incubator, if you want to get the disease. Sturgis? The terra firma equivalent of a cruise ship. "Sturgis" almost rhymes with "surges". Coincidence? I'm just sayin'.

I see that the state I live in is one of those in the red zone. Maybe it's time to move to Canada. I hear the weather's nice there this time of year, if you can avoid the mosquitoes. A search for 'canada mosquitoes' on Bing gets 25,400,000 results. Google gets 11,300,000. There's a big damn statue of a mosquito in a park up there, and pictures show people covered with the insects, and wearing nets over their heads, like beekeepers. So move north and stay inside, I suppose. At least if you must go out, your chances of getting the disease are lower than in this woebegone country. Here we've had 147,449 deaths. There, they've had 8,901 deaths. (Source: WHO) Our population is 332,639,102. Theirs is 37,694,085. (Source: CIA Factbook) So our death rate is about 1 in 2,256. Theirs is about 1 in 4,235. Hmmmm. Not as good as I thought. Quebec and Ontario seem to have thrown it off. On the other hand, Nunavut is looking real good, with 0 cases. Guess I need to learn how to operate a snowmobile. Not looking forward to eating blubber and hibernating through months of darkness. Maybe I could just go for the summer, with tons of insect repellent. But wait! It's largely roadless, and flying is dangerous for the virus. Oh, well. The Inuit languages are impossibly difficult, anyway. I studied Unangam Tunuu, another language in the Eskimo-Aleut family. Trust me. You'll never learn them if you didn't grow up speaking them. They make Mandarin and Arabic look like child's play.

Maybe Trump is waking up. At the end of commenting on Fauci's popularity, he said, "[N]obody likes me. It can only be my personality." Duh, as Billie Eilish says. Note: this is taken slightly out of context, not being the full quote, but look it up for yourself here.

See July 18, above. Turns out that "With coins in short supply because of the pandemic, some people have renewed calls to eliminate the penny." (N.Y. Times coronavirus briefing)

Seems that different states have different reasons for their surges: "The pandemic has splintered, with multiple epicenters driven by different factors. Each state, each city has its own crisis: vacation crowds in one, bars reopened too soon in another, a revolt against masks in a third." (N.Y. Times coronavirus briefing)

"Sinclair Broadcast Group recently published an online interview with a conspiracy theorist who claimed that Dr. Anthony Fauci created the coronavirus using monkey cells. Sinclair -- which operates almost 200 television stations -- has also run segments downplaying the severity of the virus." (N.Y. Times Wednesday briefing) This conspiracy theorist accuses Fauci not only of creating the virus, but of murdering a virologist... In the meantime, Fox News (there's an oxymoron for you) is helping the crackpot caravan along by belittling the seriousness of the pandemic.

July 30, 2020

Colin and I were driving back to his condo in Denver one time when I was visiting him, and he asked what I thought about the Singularity, in the sense of downloading ourselves into machines. He seemed to want to believe this can happen. After a short back and forth, I pointed out that the fundamental quality of being human (what could almost be called the "fundamental theorem", if you were a mathematician), is that we are embodied. So this hypothetical operation of transforming ourselves would mean the loss of our humanity. This would begin with the loss of the understanding of most of our own memories, as implied by my argumentation below. We have minds, yes, but they are intimately bound to our bodies in ways we don't understand. ("Everything is deeply intertwingled", especially our minds and bodies. A more accurate, and deeper, expression of this, is the observation that nothing has any own-being, but exists only at the intersection of other things which also lack own-being. Our minds and bodies do not exist in separation, only in relation to each other.) The Cartesian dualism we've been saddled with for centuries is false at the core, and therefore misleading, and once we've seen it as the delusion it is, we are free from this notion of downloading ourselves. See this explanation for more detail on dualism... Much, perhaps most, of our thinking is linked to our senses. See Charles Taylor's The Language Animal; or Zen and the Brain; or writings by George Lakoff, Edward T. Hall, and even Erving Goffman; or look up "conceptual metaphor theory" -- all of which is slippery and often quite speculative, and arguably some of what these writings claim is necessarily intrisic may merely be handy shorthand tricks we use when thinking, but nevertheless these writers are pointing at something unavoidably bound up with being human. Yes, our mental states are clearly influenced by the biochemistry of that meat machine, the brain -- how could it be otherwise, when drugs like Prozac change mood? And yet the qualia of body and mind differ -- e.g., compare the act of climbing a ladder with that of devising a mathematical proof, or the pain of a migraine with the grief after the death of a loved one. But regardless of the qualitative difference, to be embodied makes our very existence possible, and is a source of joy (e.g., sensual pleasures, aesthetic appreciation of the visual arts, successful exertion in an athletic act). At the same time, embodiment puts our lives at risk (aging, illness (including from this current virus), and death). It seems to me that there is no escaping our predicament: what makes human life what it is, also necessarily enhances and troubles that life, in degrees (sometimes simultaneously!) of both amplification and damage, the latter leading up to the inevitable snuffing-out of each one of us. I think, in fact I assert without any hope of proof, that there is not, and probably never can be, any escape from the dilemmas our state of embodiment presents to us.

July 31, 2020

Saw on TV some Portlanders leaving the scene of their demonstration, and they were passing by the apartment building where Dad and I lived in the mid 1970s. The shot was brief, the building partly obscured, but I'm pretty sure it was the place. Hadn't thought of it in a long time. Last time I was out there, in 2008, I saw it, too. Not much in the way of memories, just a place to hang the hat and sleep, and work. I remember the rooms as always feeling cold. I had a strict workout routine in those days and could do one-arm pushups, which I've never been able to do before or since. The park was about half a mile away, and when the weather was good, a few times I ran up there and played pickup soccer. But the weather was usually damp: Portland has 30 nice days a year, and they're all in August. I remember seeing Pele play what was supposed to be his last professional soccer game there (but he had a lot that were the "last"). And I remember stopping at a bar and the bartender gave me a beer, compliments of "Big Frank". I slammed the beer and got right out of there. And I remember when the GA 18/30 was delivered, and they'd given us the wrong interrupt system. I flew to L.A. with disk drives and cards and successfully rewrote the operating system overnight, and flew back in the morning. One of the most difficult things I've ever done.

Our Google fiber has slowed way down. The download speed is in single digits, or the teens, depending which speed test you choose to believe. The upload speed remains right where it should be, 500 mb. I've contacted them twice, tried just about everything. They seem to have given up on me. Will have to ask the neighbors whether they have Google fiber, and would they run a speed check.

Watched PBS Newshour, the stories about the collapse of the development of antibiotics. The economics are screwed up. Big pharma isn't interested, and the little startups are hanging on by their fingernails, or they've gone bankrupt. We're losing the arms race with the microbes, because we're not developing the drugs we need to knock out the resistant forms. I myself had what appeared to be a resistant bug back in 1987, when I was in the ICU and dying, and one of the doctors described one of the antibiotics they were giving me as "extraordinarily powerful", maybe a bit defensive of their apparent lack of success, like saying, "We're doing everything we can". I was lucky, but having been through something similar, I can relate to the Covid-19 victims who develop secondary infections and can't get treated with the drugs they need. Think of it: surviving the virus and dying from a secondary infection by a microbe, which could be treated with a new antibiotic, except that the hospital can't afford to use it and instead gives you the standard drugs, sentencing you to an unnecessary death.

August 1, 2020

Fauci's showing the strain. His face has changed, has weathered. He's an unflappable guy, hugely experienced, but even granite wears away under the constant flow of water. He keeps talking, and the ideologues cover their ears and chant "nah nah nah" so they don't have to hear. Gotta be hugely discouraging, not to mention the threats and hatred he gets.

August 2, 2020

When I met my wife, nearly forty years ago, she introduced me to some of her friends from the Peace Corps. We were all sitting around a table and they switched to speaking Marathi, to discuss me without my understanding them. They couldn't do that now, because they've all forgotten the language. In the last decade or so, though, they've taken to having reunions, in Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Kansas, Iowa, and Massachusetts. There was to be another this fall, in Illinois, but it's been cancelled because of the virus.

Weather on Friday was gorgeous, and my PD guys and I met in the back yard of one of our houses and talked for two hours. Pleasant, and a great pleasure.

August 3, 2020

Siblings over for weekly jam session, i.e., food and talk, and we talked beautifully today, like jazz musicians improvising on theme after theme. It mostly escapes my memory now, though, except a discussion of which businesses are dying, and which are booming. Obvious among the latter are Amazon and its ilk -- any that deliver to your house. Carboard boxes proliferate like rabbits breeding in a math problem to illustrate the Fibonacci sequence. I remember one time when I visited Colin, he received a box for his job, and in an irritated voice, he said, "They always do this, Dad. Watch." He opened the box. Inside was an envelope. Those idiots had written him a letter, sealed it in an addressed envelope, and then shipped the envelope inside a box. Nuff said... All this talk of carboard boxes leads me to fear that someone somewhere is working on a plastic substitute. I'm reading Plastic Ocean, and the plastic problem looks like yet another of the quagmires we're foisting on the planet, likely to kill it and us. We don't need no stinkin' plastic.* We need to wean ourselves off it.
* (The reference, in case you're young, is to The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, not to any heavyhanded preachy English band.)

August 4, 2020

This whole thing of forced exercise is a pain in the ass. Like running on my ancient legs and lungs. Sure it helps, but it's the farthest possible thing from fun.

August 5, 2020

Went to a store today, looking to buy some dumbbells, and they were still out of them, after all this time. The guy who worked there told me to come back in two days because they had a shipment coming. I retreated, because he wore his mask low, not covering his nose. I guess the idea is that if he can't infect people with his mouth, he'll do it with his nostrils.

August 6, 2020

Assuming my application for readmission is approved (and they always have been, in the past), I will be taking an independent study class this coming semester. The initial meeting with the professor, a guy I like and respect, will be via Zoom. I do not expect to see him except across the internet during the course of the semester, although I will certainly be on campus to pick up books at the library. Instead, I will be writing a series of papers, and submitting them via email. This feels odd, but that's what the virus is doing to us.

From today's N.Y. Times briefing: "[O]nly one affluent nation has suffered a severe, sustained outbreak for more than four months: the United States." Here's the link. As usual, first clear your Times cookies, if you have any. The bottom line, as they say: "With only 4 percent of the world's population, the United States has accounted for 22 percent of coronavirus deaths."

August 7, 2020

Yesterday was the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing. I've been there, and Nagasaki. I have no word for the photographs of the Hiroshima bombing -- "horrifying" is inadequate. Look them up for yourself online: the flesh gone from one side of a face, the eyes melted, the shadow on concrete where someone had been sitting and was vaporized by the explosion. Read John Hersey's book Hiroshima. My father in law was not one to talk about the war. The only time I heard him do so, he described being in Nagasaki a few days after the bomb was dropped. He was busy working most of the time, doing things like destroying their military aircraft, but on the occasions he had some time off, he walked the city. He described the brick buildings that were still standing (Nagasaki is hilly, and the blast effects were less than those in Hiroshima, which is flat.) He said that not a bit of wood was left in them: the window frames and everything else had burned, and all that was left were brick and the "bare metal" of any equipment inside the buildings. All that was left was "brick and the bare metal", and he made a gesture, and we were all silent, because there was nothing more to be said.

What is the source of this continuing trend to informality? A photograph of closing night at the Metropolitan Opera in 1966 shows a room of people in evening dress, and nothing else, a sea of black and white clothing. I like opera, and classical music, but when I go, many men don't even wear ties to the opera, and some wear jeans to the Symphony. Yes, you heard me right. Admittedly, I go to the Kauffman Center, not the Met, but still...

August 8, 2020

Out for a run yesterday, in my brand-new shoes, and did they ever make a difference. Perfect, thanks to the guy at the store. He really knew what he was doing. But I ran too much, and during the night I had a cramp for the history books. The left calf is still taut. No run today, just a walk. On the home stretch yesterday I was passed by four girls; this neighborhood has a lot of these cross-country high schoolers, out for training runs. They passed me like I was standing still. Boy do I wish I could run that speed. "Youth -- it's wasted on the young." An understatement, if there ever was one.

August 9, 2020

I always think people are irrationally afraid of events that are rare, but which get a lot of press (hijackings, school shootings, kidnapings). But this one smelled all wrong: Yesterday morning, with the dogs in tow, I was leaving the park, and a blue van next to me, in the end parking space, started up. I didn't think much about it. I neared the swale over the creek, and the driver pulled the van off the street and parked between the gate and the bottom of the swale. Two young children were standing on the sidewalk, close to the van. They moved from the sidewalk onto the footbridge and stopped. The driver of the van stayed put. In a little while, a woman came from across the street with a third, younger, child, and directed the two children back onto the sidewalk, telling them they were going to the Village. The van then pulled away. I was behind it by that time, and thinking the driver's behavior was strange, I thought I'd memorize the license plate. But the van had no license plate. While it's extremely rare for children to be snatched by strangers, this time the behavior of the driver seemed like that was his intention, and the lack of a license plate seemed like further confirmation.

August 10, 2020

Culling books, I ran across Toulmin's The Philosophy of Science, from my freshman year in college, price $4.95. My copy of Advanced Engineering Mathematics, a massive tome of complex typesetting and printing, more than a thousand pages long, cost $27.95 in 1980. Both those books would cost probably 5 to 10 times that now.

Sturgis. See July 29, above. Or see this Weekend Edition Story: "For the next week, the rally and the coronavirus may seem like a local problem for Sturgis and the state of South Dakota. But the people here for the rally come from all corners of the country, and will soon be going back home." All hundreds of thousands of them. Later in the month we'll be reading about them, and all the people they passed the virus on to. Collectively, the attendees should be nominated for a Darwin Award. I looked, but someone beat me to it.

August 11, 2020

Dinner with the siblings yesterday evening, as always distanced and outdoors. Latest news: one of our spouses is flying to Florida, then driving somewhere for a family reunion. Out of their mind, and a great way to introduce the virus into our family, despite the idea of quarantining on return. What? Like you can share a house with someone and guarantee not to infect them? And that sibling will still be coming to the dinners, to pass it on. Include me the hell out. I won't be seeing anyone for a month. Flying to Florida? Flying is bad enough (it's how one of my friends got the disease), but Florida is the worst, or fifth worst, in the nation, depending what measure you look at. The positive test rate is 18%. There won't be any more family reunions if you're dead. This reminds me of those bikers going to Sturgis. Simpler to just get a six-gun and play Russian Roulette. I'm very likely to get in trouble for this entry. So be it.

August 12, 2020

Called the sporting goods store yesterday. They had one pair of dumbbells left in the weight I wanted. 40 minutes later, when I arrived, it was gone. I've tried several times since the lockdown started. The fella who works in the department explained that it's like this every time they get a shipment, twice a week -- the dumbbells arrive at 10 and are gone by noon. All they have left are 8 pounds and lighter.

Almost finished re-reading the book on the Riemann Hypothesis. Highly abstract in places, and it got me to thinking about abstraction in general -- complex numbers, higher-dimensional topologies. I've concluded that it's useless to try to visualize most of these things. Simply treat them as abstractions. Trying to imagine them as similar to our sensory world (three dimensions, real numbers) is self-defeating. Here's an example. What's missing in this version are the footsteps that get smaller as they approach the circumference of the circle, because objects become smaller as they get closer to the end of this finite but unbounded geometry. The lines p and g are parallel and meet at infinity. The curve c is infinitely long and straight. Understand? No? Join the club. For more extraordinary examples, simply search for    poincare diagram    and sample the resulting pics. Be prepared to have your mind boggled.

August 13, 2020

The number of Covid cases among young people is rising. Quelle surprise -- I see groups of them everywhere, maskless and close together. Yes, I know you think you're immortal. Sorry to tell you.

August 14, 2020

Preliminary Zoom meeting arranged with my professor for my independent study project, on the epistemological underpinnings of the methods of representation used in linguistics. That's a mouthful, eh? It will be weird, not meeting with him all semester except online. I'll submit a paper every 2 or 3 weeks, and then a final paper, and that's it.

Everybody who's going back to K.U. this fall has to be tested for the virus. I wonder whether this applies to me, since the only time I may be on campus is to pick up and drop off books at the library. Whatever. I just won't go until September 7. After that, it's not required.

Long story in the N.Y. Times about cherry farming in Washington state, and all the problems involved, and the laborers who pick the fruit. How much (including how much injustice and risk) goes into it all. I've been here in my house, eating my dried dark tart cherries, with no thought for the supply chain. Those unfortunate farm workers are, of course, at higher risk for Covid-19. The poor tend to get it in the neck while the rest of us sit behind our moats.

Looking at the map of the average daily cases, with the exception of the agricultural parts of California and a handful of other places, the red spots (highest rates) are in the south, exactly the part of the country that seceded from the Union.

Dreamed last night about attending a meeting of the climbing club. Arrived a bit late, and everyone was in line for food. They all saw me, and the PD had progressed to a point that they recognized I had a medical problem, though they didn't know what it was. (The dream was so specific that Jesse recognized me and said hello.) I was embarrassed by their recognition of my physical deficiency. More important, I knew that my disease had progressed so far that my climbing career was over. Of course, this is just my dream life confirming what I already knew and have already admitted to myself. This loss of climbing feels to me like a personal tragedy. For many years, climbing was so central to my life that I thought of myself as a climber, not as a computer programmer or husband or student or Buddhist or anything else. If someone had asked me, "What are you?" in that way that implies a deep question about identity, I would have replied, "I am a climber." It was only about the time I became a father that climbing stepped down from its primary place in my conception of myself. Decades later, I recognize that I can't go out anymore and set hand to rock, and go up, and feel that joy, pure and clear (or for that matter, that terror also pure and clear). I can no longer stand on a stance hundreds, even thousands, of feet up in the air, watching the birds and the clouds, or unlock the secret of a tricky move, or crank on a hand jam and pull over the lip of an overhang, or walk down from a climb with that sensation of being truly, fully alive and awake. The loss of that is a narrowing of my life. The people who are frustrated with the narrowing of their lives by the pandemic (e.g., see July 18, above) feel something like this, but the difference is that sometime next year this plague will be under control and we'll resume a more normal life together, if not precisely what we had in the past. But my inability to climb is permanent, irrevocable. I feel as if I'm grieving a death.

August 15, 2020

Out for a walk this morning and saw, down by the park on the three residential corners, signs in the yards saying
   "Developer to Avoid Bankruptcy
   Forced Auction
   Rolls Royce Picassos
   Fine jewelry, Rolexes etc"
followed by more fine goods, and contact information.
If this is genuine (and it's worth questioning, because the sign lacks the sophistication one would expect if it were genuine), I wonder whether this fellow is facing financial doom because of the pandemic. Maybe he owned a retail business or some other enterprise that's tanked. I wish him well, but putting these signs on corners in a neighborhood full of Cape Cods and ranches is the wrong idea. People here can't afford that stuff. Or maybe the idea is that people will read the sign while stopped at the light: "Say, Lovey! Write down that phone number. I've been looking for another Rolls" (said in a locked-jaw Thurston Howell III accent)... I'll give long odds that this is a scam, and anyone who calls the number will be asked for money to reserve a seat. Then the organizers will abscond with the cash, or abuse the credit card numbers. God forbid anyone give them their checking account number.

August 16, 2020

It occurs to me that I spend almost all my time at home and therefore see so few people that I have little idea of the scope of reactions and feelings and problems people have because of the pandemic. There should be somewhere on the internet people go to talk about what they face and how they feel. Note to self: look for sites.

August 17, 2020

No entry.

August 18, 2020

Gentle weather, and parties. The swimming pool house had people out in the afternoon, the neighbors to the west had visitors on their deck, and we had the siblings on the patio for a couple of hours. People gotta get together. They can't stay at home all the time, hiding from the virus.

Death Valley at 130 degrees, the hottest temperature anywhere since we've started recording them. One time in Joshua Tree, when I was there climbing, I had a long conversation with a fellow who walked across Death Valley every summer until his son talked him out of it. He musta liked to suffer, is all I can say. I couldn't figure out why anyone would do such a thing. More than forty years later, and understanding much more, I still don't understand. I never will.

August 19, 2020

I knew about the Hawaiian guy who sailed a catamaran around the world by dead reckoning and tides and sun and moon, to show the old Polynesian skills. What I did not know was that it had already been done, in 1984, by a New Jersey professor of geography: Marvin Creamer dies at 104. That means he was in his late sixties when he did it. Kinda takes The Lost Art of Finding Our Way an order of magnitude further. I attended a lecture by Huth, and he told what motivated him to learn the skills and write the book and even teach a course: two young women died sea kayaking near his house when fog rolled in. He liked to sea kayak as well, and I think on that very day, he was also lost, but heard a foghorn, knew where it was, and used the direction of the sound to orient himself. He paddled to shore and "handrailed" along it until he got home. Later, the skills he acquired saved him again, when he was kayaking a complicated route around an island off the northeast coast. Impressive guy. Particle physicist at Harvard, works on CERN a lot.

August 20, 2020

Two guys came today to insulate the garage ceiling. They didn't wear masks. I asked one either to do so, or to stand back. He said he might have a mask in the truck, but he wasn't sure. This was incomprehensible to me, and confirms my impression that people with less education (as he clearly seemed) are less likely to be careful. Maybe the reason is that those who've had an education have read more history and know what can happen, and have brushed up repeatedly against the invisible things that are real, and which affect us. But how would one go about figuring out whether these are, in fact, the reasons?

August 21, 2020

The Times reports that men are less likely to wear masks than women. After reading that, I was tempted to say, "Duh. What was your first clue?" We've all noticed this, haven't we?

People, all of them, have the most incredible stories to tell about their lives, and if you're patient and stick around long enough, you'll hear some of them -- things you'd never have suspected, that are far out of what appears to be the orbit their lives follow. Patience can be necessary, and there are people who simply don't talk about themselves much, but every life, it seems, has these nuggets of something-that-happened, or something-I-did, or something-I-saw, that trigger a light of astonishment in your brain when you hear the tales.

The PDG were over here yesterday and we had our weekly outdoor meeting. I love those guys. I never would have known them except for this disease, and it's a silver lining to the dark cloud of PD. I commented to one of them that I'm probably better at being alone than anyone I know, but that even I get restless in quarantine. Our weekly couple of hours together are often the big highlight of my week, along with the weekly gathering of my siblings, and sometimes even more so.

Fauci's been talking so much in recent months that he's developed a polyp on his vocal cords and needed surgery. Wow. This reminds me of a bit of linguistic knowledge I found peculiar: there's a language the speakers of which develop a unique growth on their vocal chords. This happens not only to native speakers, but also to those who learn the language as adults. No other language has ever been found to do this to the human body. The details escape me, though I vaguely think that the language may have been from the Caucasus (but don't hold me to that).

Steve Bannon arrested on fraud charges. How many Trump lackeys does that make now? I can think of Cohen, Flynn, Stone, Manafort in addition, but I'm missing one or two, or maybe even three. The curious thing about this rogue's gallery is that the corruption appears to be much worse than even the Reagan and Bush 43 administrations, and these wretches are closer to the prez. The main exceptions to the latter are the family members he's appointed. The nepotism in this administration is worthy of a banana republic, or one of the kleptocracies that masquerade as "Communist".

A Putin opponent is poisoned. Quelle surprise. This has happened over and over again. Poison seems to be Valdimir's favorite weapon against individuals. Shades of the Borgias.

I see that Ann Syrdal, a researcher in speech synthesis, has died. But did Frances Ingemann, who pioneered the same thing in the early 1950s, get an obit in the Times when she died a couple of years ago? Not that I can find. By the way, she established the linguistics department at K.U., too.

August 22, 2020

Made a bet with my sister-in-law today. She thinks that this time next year we'll still be fighting the virus, and I think any problems will be small, and that we'll have herd immunity from infections and innoculations. We'll be able to attend church and school and professional sports events. I expect the pandemic to be largely resolved, at least in the developed countries, by mid-2021. So we'll wait until August 22 of next year, and we will see.

August 23, 2020

Listening again to Kashmir, a song I never tire of and that in my judgment is better than Stairway To Heaven -- and the band thought so, too.

I've not been seeing butterflies for some years now, but this year (as my sister also observes) they're more common, though still not as common as, say, ten or fifteen years ago. But certainly more than they've been the past few years. I can't help but wonder whether this might be related, improbably, to changes resulting from the pandemic, such as lowered pollution. I doubt it, though; there's probably not been enough time to make a difference... I've seen more hummingbirds, too, though maybe that's simply in my yard.

August 24, 2020

This, according to the N.Y. Times: "In one social-science experiment, people were told to spend 15 minutes alone in a room with their thoughts. The only possible distraction was an electric shock they could administer to themselves. And 67 percent of men and 25 percent of women shocked themselves, choosing -- as Richard Friedman, a psychiatrist, writes in a Times Op-Ed -- 'negative stimulation over no stimulation.' " One way I'm different from them. When I saw the pulmonologist a few months ago, I had to wait twenty minutes. The lights in the room shut off, and when he walked in, he freaked out because it was dark, and then he saw me sitting there when the lights came on. (If I'd moved in the least, they would have come back on.) I don't mind being alone and without stimulation. As I said to him, "Thinking things over... It's all those Zen retreats." Maybe these people who can't handle the Covid-19 boredom need some Buddhist training. It couldn't hoit.

August 25, 2020

Leonard Cohen tries too hard with his lyrics: "For you've touched her perfect body with your mind". As if that's not bad enough, next he rings the changes on that line by changing the pronouns. Or take the lyrics of Hallelujah (please). Much as I love that song, it's risible. Maybe it should be called Hellelujah.

August 26, 2020

On entering KUMC today, the procedures are different. Most interesting was the way they take your temperature: you hold your right wrist a few inches from a sensor. No touch... Saw Arne Z. there. Haven't seen him in months. He told me he's stopped going to the Y, too, and agreed that John is taking a risk in going there. I failed to ask whether he and Elaine and Stewart will be taking Spanish remotely. I've given up on that, not quite sure why.

Saw an article in the county newspaper about our "pleasure parks" in the past. They mentioned Fairyland, which was over on the other side of the state line. I remember Dad taking us there when we were little. The place was abandoned for years, the wooden roller coaster looming. Now the land is occupied by a big warehouse and they appear to employ blind people because the stop lights at the intersection emit that blind-person beep. While it was abandoned, though, a friend of mine sneaked in there with some other people and if I remember correctly, made a movie. For some reason this reminds me of Carnival of Souls (the 1962 film by that title, not the more recent one), which I've seen repeatedly through the years. It just seems to keep popping up occasionally in my life. There was an abandoned amusement park in that movie; must be why I free-associated from Fairyland to the movie. The movie was made by Centron, or maybe only by a fellow who worked there, in Lawrence. A few years ago I went to a retrospective about the company, which mostly made not horror movies (that being their only one, if it even was associated with the company except by being made by one of their people) but industrial films and educational films. I noticed a curious thing in watching the clips: most or all of the actors, all of whom were Lawrence locals, had slight Southern accents. Then they brought up some of the people on stage who'd been in the films, to talk about their experiences with Centron and the films. Now adults, they'd completely lost those accents and sounded totally local. Language changes all the time, as I discovered when I took my first class in linguistics, in 2015, and of the dozens of other students (all of them in their late teens), not one could hear the cot/caught distinction. I was the only one who could -- and the only one who used it. I'm still flabbergasted that all of them had lost it. The linguists appear to be behind on updating their maps. (What's even more amazing, though, is that my sister doesn't hear it, either. It's plain as day to me.)

August 27, 2020

The last few weeks the neighbor has been driving to his office instead of working remotely from home. I wish him well.

In my dreams last night, or rather in a brief period of wakefulness after a dream, I thought of the unfortunates who've lost their jobs and can't get unemployment because the systems are overloaded. They have to move out of their apartments and live in their cars (if they have one), can't pay for food or gas. They have to go to food pantries and other privately run organizations for help. What a horror. The system in this country doesn't take care of people. They need help, and they don't get it.

I see in the latest missive from the chancellor that the overall positive rate of testing students for Covid-19 is 1.14%. The rate among the "Greeks" (fraternity and sorority population) is 5.47%. The local public health authority is ordering ten houses to quarantine for two weeks.

N.Y. Times: "Older men are up to twice as likely to become severely sick and die from Covid-19 as women of the same age", not to mention much more likely than the young. As an old guy who's asthmatic, it behooves me to be careful. To anyone who mocks my precautions, I say, "The dogs bark; the caravan passes". In case you missed the point, you're the dog.

And speaking of dogs, what's this thing I've been seeing the last few days, women in nice dresses walking their dogs. Is this the latest trend?

August 28, 2020

I was raised by a Catholic mother (who later rejected Roman Catholicism, though that was late enough to be irrelevant here) and an atheist father who mostly zipped his lip about religion (also irrelevant, because it was clear he was an unbeliever). When people ask me about my religion I invariably say, "I was raised by a Catholic mother and an atheist father. I became a Buddhist in self defense." While the premises are true, and the conclusion also, the syllogism is disingenuous. It is meant as sleight of hand, because humor is distracting, and the joke always seems to work. My ideas and feelings are way too complicated and ambiguous (unclear? unresolved?) to discuss, or even sort through in solitude. The one thing I firmly am, is a non-monotheist, by which I mean that I reject the fundamental premise of the Abrahamic religions -- their belief in an individual who is omnipotent, omniscient, and all-loving. I should not need to point out the contradiction in that iron triangle... I still belong to a traditional Quaker monthly meeting, and believe in their testimonies (simplicity, peace, integrity, and radical equality ("that of God in everyone" -- not a contradiction, but there's no room to explain)). And I'm an unorthodox Buddhist (I don't believe in karma, but the rest of it, starting with the four noble truths, I accept). What I believe can maybe and partly be summed up like this: the world, and each of us, is a miracle, but I have no idea how or why. This mystery is utterly impenetrable. Nothing, including each of us, exists by itself, but only as the intersection of other things. (Nothing has any "own-being".) Something has unfolded that my mind is too small to comprehend.

August 29, 2020

Here's the problem with the Goddamn internet. More than a decade ago, my wife and I stayed at a B&B when we took a short vacation. I created a unique email for that B&B to communicate with me, and never closed it. That email forwarded to my true email address. Clearly the B&B's database has been hacked, because recently I've started getting dating emails written in Slovak -- three of them to date. So first I had to create the email address in my domain, and now I get spam on it and have to get into my cPanel and delete the email address, which I finally just did. None of this should have been, or be, necessary. Just goes to show that you get what you pay for, and the internet is free, or nearly so, at least on its surface. When you think about it, though, we pay through the nose in dozens of different ways. [Insert my standard Facebook / Zuckerberg rant here.]

Every so often I run across something that vindicates what I've been saying for years -- in this case, trying to tell people who are hung up on solar power that the panels are produced using, and contain, some nasty shit, such as lead and cadmium. But much of the problem is in their manufacture. See Forbes, the IEEE, and FEE. This last link also points out that "solar energy has a higher carbon footprint than wind and nuclear energy". Get serious: LFTRs are the way to go: inherently physically safe, simple, nonproliferating, cheap and abundant source (thorium), efficient, miniscule greenhouse contribution, can be used to destroy current stocks of nuclear waste, self-sustaining reaction, can be used to make medical isotopes, produces a vastly reduced nuclear waste stream of few and shortlived products, easy to turn power generation up and down. 3 shipping containers of thorium could power the U.S. for a year. Other countries are way ahead of us in bringing LFTRs into production.

Another email from the chancellor. The positive rate has increased to 2.18% in the general population, and 10.01% in the fraternaties and sororities. See above, two days ago. This means the rates have nearly doubled. But get this: "During the last seven days of our collection period, we have seen a positivity rate of 3.82% in test results among our overall student population." I'm glad my class this fall is an independent study, producing a paper and not attending any classes in person.

August 30, 2020

My sister-in-law went to a funeral Friday and she's over here every Saturday (such as yesterday) and Sunday most of the day, working closely with my wife on the garage. She wore a mask on Friday, but I'm giving her a wide berth anyway, and will wash my hands more frequently. Later: most of the people at the funeral wore masks, and she avoided the few ("hillbillies") who weren't.

Trees are dropping their leaves already, probably because it's been dry. This reminds me of 1980 or 1983. Both of those years were very hot, but one of them was also very dry. I don't remember which one. A lot of trees turned brown and died. Given the trend in weather in recent years, I expect we'll see more of this. We'll also see more of the grass fires that have been a problem recently in the rural parts of the state, which will cost farmers and ranchers a lot of money, not just from losing their hay but also from having to replace fences. We can expect more baked ground, and floods when the rain runs off the hard, dry clay. Also fewer insects. (Already a problem, since insect biomass appears to be decreasing by more than 75% every 27 years or so, and not just in Germany. I researched this and gave a talk on it. Just so you know, it appears that climate change is only one of a handful of reasons for the die-off, and not the most important one.) A guy I know who owns a farm near Ottowa says he almost never sees quail anymore, and I figure the reason is that the chicks eat insects before switching to their adult diet. So we can expect even fewer quail. The list of problems certainly goes much further, but I'm not inclined to think about this any more. I was fantastically lucky to be born when I was, and not in, say, the 1980s or later -- people, such as my son, who are in their 30s and younger are going to see a world gone to hell. I will be dead. There will be social and economic disruption, and human death, on a scale never seen or imagined. Everyone I've talked to (except one friend, who's both smart and tough-minded) about this has scoffed and said "we'll figure it out", or words to that effect. Heads in the sand, which is exactly the reason it's going to happen. (Although I've noticed that the more people educate themselves on the subject, the more frightened they become.) Almost everyone but the scientists is in denial, and most of the scientists seem to think it's up to them to figure this out, but not to try to influence the public. Own up to it: the human race as we've known it is coming to an end. If any humans survive, they'll be a miniscule fraction of the billions now living.

August 31, 2020

Another theft of my data. This is at least the third one I know of (Eddie Bauer, Equifax, now this one). Worse, the breach was at a hospital where I go for my PD. I opened the letter this morning. I quote: "the compromised backup file may have contained some of your patient demographic and guarantor information, such as name, mailing address, and telephone number as well as your email address and date of birth, and possibly limited medical information about you, such as date of service and department of care." The breach was of a third party that the hospital foundation uses. (This is like the virus: spread it around, why don't you? The more the merrier.) Third parties are often where these breaches occur, and they increase the risk. They're cheaper than doing the work yourself, because they're specialists -- "[the breached company] is a widely used ... software provider for engagement and fundraising efforts in higher education and nonprofits". So, to sum up, my hospital wanted to touch me up for money, gave my data to an agent, which then screwed up and let some asshole in to steal my data, along with God knows how many other people's data. Why can't I opt out of this sort of thing?

September 1, 2020

Many people are complaining that they're bored because of the restrictions imposed by the virus. I almost never feel that way. There's plenty to do. I'm writing a novel, working on a paper for independent study, reading books, playing with the dogs, and on and on. I think the problem these people have is that they're not loners like me. They want to get out among people, go to restaurants and movies, that sort of thing. Patience, grasshopper. Practice new skills. Take up a musical instrument (harmonica's cheap and portable). Exercise. Write individual poems for everyone you know, on nice paper, by hand, and mail them (yes, the old-fashioned way -- that will make it special). Take care of those minor house repairs you've been putting off... Sit down and think what you can do. In ten minutes you'll come up with a list that will keep you busy for days. And remember: this too shall pass. All you need is a bit of patience, combined with enough organization to make a list of stuff to do in the meantime.

Quick spit tests for the virus.

A quiz on your carbon footprint. "[T]he most meaningful change would be to have fewer children. The next three are living car-free, avoiding air travel, and eating a vegetarian diet." Sounds about right to me.

Here's another guy who sailed around the world adventurously. (See August 19, above.)

"[C]ollege towns with the greatest rise in cases relative to population include ... Lawrence, Kan. (University of Kansas) ..." (boldface added). 8 universities were listed.

September 2, 2020

I'm taking the day off from writing an entry in this journal. There's plenty to do on the novel, and more than plenty to do with research for the linguistics paper. Not to mention the chores I have today, and so forth. And to think that it hasn't been quite half a year since I started this blog. Sometimes it feels interminable, but it's one more daily reminder of the pandemic.

September 3, 2020

Iowa. I loved the place. Used to drive to Ames to work on the book of Faith and Practice for Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative), representing my monthly Meeting. They were the kindest group of people you could imagine. And there were a lot of little things I liked about the state -- just in education, it had the highest per centage of Ph.D.s in its population of the 50 states, and a schoolhouse on the state's quarter (the coin). Now the place has a rate of infection three times the national average. Friends in the center of the state tell us that few people wear masks. And they elected a fool for their governor -- her attitude to a football game at Iowa State was, if you don't like it, don't go. Like she doesn't have a responsibility to encourage people to stay healthy and not to infect others.

I see that Trump is encouraging people in North Carolina to vote twice. He never fails to surprise, breaking the limits of propriety and exhorting his admirers to break the law. Wait until after the election. If he loses, I predict he'll tell his followers to take to the streets with their guns.

September 4, 2020

Marjorie Taylor Greene, a candidate for the House of Representatives, believes in QAnon, a conspiracy theory that hatched on 4chan. To quote the Wikipedia article, 4chan included: "posting of illegal content, threats of violence, misogyny and racism". Greene, being a Republican in Georgia, is likely to win. Just what we need -- a fringe Representative, in addition to a President who encourages voters to break the law. This is starting to be reminiscent of the later days of the Weimar Republic. The problem with talking to conspiracy nuts is that when you ask them "What's the evidence?", they talk in circles. There ain't no stinkin' evidence, but they already believe what they're saying, so firmly that it's impossible to break through the circle. I knew some wackos like them back in the 1960s and 70s, but in those days most of the loonies were on the left. I find the right much scarier.

September 5, 2020

I voted by mail in the primary, but I will vote early in person in November. Now I have to figure out the safest time, day, and place. Here's some info, for people who live in Johnson County: how to vote in Jo. Co. for the 2020 general election.

Yet more gun problems locally: Stray bullets hit homes in southern JoCo. "On Thursday, Matt Keys of Stilwell described his day May 31, when, after listening to three-and-a-half hours of gunfire coming from an adjacent field, he discovered four bullets had struck his home in an area often used by his children."

September 6, 2020

Read an article by a Black woman who was a U.S. consular officer in Juarez and got stopped repeatedly by Customs when crossing into Texas. Her treatment was indisputably racist -- her diplomatic passport being ignored, being asked whether she'd stolen her own car (registered to her in their system), and on and on. Read it for yourself. One quote from the article really got my attention: "At one point that day, a State Department official told me that what I was experiencing wasn't racism, because personally, he had no issues crossing the border as a white man." I have to confess this leaves me at a loss for words. It's not exactly doublethink, but it's somewhere in that ballpark. This reminds me of a Black friend of ours who used to get stopped every time she drove through Mission Hills (an exclusive, expensive, lily-white suburb here), if a cop saw her. Yes, "driving while black" is a real thing, and can be carried to extremes like those detailed in the article, and worse. If you don't understand why Black people are upset and demonstrate, get a clue. You're the problem.

September 7, 2020

People came by to check out our old car top carrier, which we listed on Craigslist for free. It's about 27 years old, and the buckles don't attach well to new cars, which appear to have the metal around their windows more flush than they used to be. The buckles are too big for their narrow profiles. Maybe the idea is to reduce the drag coefficient. We found a workaround for the problem. Glad to get rid of the thing. Takes up too much space, and no one's used it in a decade or more, since Colin was working for Rock The Planet, following bands all over the country. That enterprise appears not to exist any more, although there are a zillion other things by the same name. The half-life of all human enterprises appears to be converging to zero.

For years I've been keeping a list of names for bands -- weird ideas that pop into my brain. The very first one on the list, from about twenty years ago, is "Venom Pandemic", which now strikes me as a curious coincidence, though I had to wait a couple of decades for it.

September 8, 2020

Yet another hack. (See 8/29 and 8/31 above.) This time it's of Wattpad, an outfit I haven't used in years -- in fact, never did anything beyond sign up. I need to go through these old websites and delete my accounts. I signed up under a fake name, with an intermediate (forwarding) password and am glad to have taken the precautions. The damage could have been worse. Here's what got hacked:
* Email address
* Date of birth, gender, and language preference (if provided) [I didn't specify DOB or gender]
* IP address upon sign up, if signed up before 2017
* Profile display name and any information which you have made public in the "about" or "status" fields of your profile, if you chose to use these, and account status for a very limited number of users
* Account name, salted and cryptographically hashed passwords
* Any third-party account IDs, such as Google or Facebook. Passwords associated with third-party accounts are not stored on our systems and are unaffected.
Firefox Monitor tells me the email I used appeared in the breach, but nowhere else. I deleted the account, with the message "I'm leaving because this is the third time in less than 2 weeks that one of my online accounts has been hacked." But I could still log in after supposedly deleting the account. LATER: Got an email saying "Your Wattpad account was successfully restored." Apparently when I tested whether it was gone, they brought it back to life. Fer cryin' out loud. That means they didn't really delete it, just marked it deleted, and it was still in the database, waiting, like Dracula, to be roused from its slumber.

September 9, 2020

On waking, I had the thought that my situation, and thus my reaction to the pandemic, is quite different from that of most people. For starters, I'm retired and live in a paid-off house and have no children to care for and am married to a woman who still works. That leaves me free to do pretty much whatever I please. And I'm really good at being alone. I always have projects going. This morning I jumped out of bed, eager to get to work on the novel and on my linguistics independent study project, trying to figure out which one to tackle first. Not to mention my beloved dogs, and my exercise schedule, and weekly meetings with my family and the PDG, and the online Zoom meetings for various stuff. My life is full of meaning and pleasure, and I'm grateful for that.

I see that "Keeping up with the Kardashians" is coming to an end, after 20 seasons. Jesus Christ. It's embarrassing to live in a country where a piece of shit like that can last two decades. I watched four or five minutes of it, way back when. Remembering it, I want to vomit. What the hell is wrong with that family? Did they come from another planet, to further mess up our beloved mother Earth? And why would anyone watch that shit? Were I single and dating a woman who admitted watching the show, I'd probably dump her. It's right up there in the second tier of my list of cardinal sins, alongside smoking and tattoos and too much makeup and a taste for nasal-accent country music.

September 10, 2020

At least two restaurants have closed recently in Corinth, a shopping center a bit more than a mile from my house. One has to wonder how far this will go, where it will end. Naturally restaurants are among the business most vulnerable to the pandemic, but "most" is not the operative word here. There will probably be other businesses. I dread a reduction in the services and goods I want, and sometimes need. LATER: It looks like one restaurant's space is already spoken for by another. Good news, that.

More evidence that Trump not only lies, he's sometimes stupid enough to admit it: "President Trump acknowledged to the journalist Bob Woodward that he had knowingly played down the coronavirus earlier this year even though he was aware it was 'deadly' and vastly more serious than the seasonal flu." And he did this in a taped interview. He's more than a knave. He's a Goddamn rogue. Not to mention that he's a bonehead, admitting this in a taped interview with Bob Woodward, the very man who brought down Nixon and has damaged countless politicians in between.

Also from the Times: "Indonesia has ordered some people who have not worn masks to lie in a coffin or sit in the back of a hearse -- punishments meant to underline the seriousness of the virus." Maybe they should make them sit there for 24 hours, sort of like timeouts for young chidren who misbehave.

The west coast burns, and places I've lived, or spent years in, have orange skies: Yosemite, San Francisco, Santa Monica, maybe even a little in Portland (not sure of that one). The videos shock: the size, speed, intensity of the fires. The graphics jolt: fires everywhere in CA, and all over the eastern halves of OR and WA. The facts sadden: one fire (in WA?) burned as much acreage as a normal fire season usually does. From health effects (breathing the smoke) to future mudslides and floods to people losing their homes to such lesser things as backpackers having to trudge through miles of ash, the aftermath will be endless and unredeemed. This is like the opening of some big Hollywood postapocalyptic sci-fi extravaganza, except that we won't get out of our seats after ninety minutes, get in our cars, and drive home. This is real. The damages are unimaginable.

Chiefs fans from Johnson County who attend the game tonight don't have to quarantine, but they're supposed to wear masks and maintain social distance. Right. The masks, maybe, but when they're in line, or seated in the stands, there's no damn way. This is just another superspreader event. The fig leaf is that if they don't wear a mask or maintain distance, they're "mandated" to quarantine, and the county will enforce the state recommendation. How? They won't know who went, and even if they did know, most of the fans will lie and say they maintained social distance. Can we say "toothless regulation"? This is a joke. It's exactly the sort of thing that promotes cavalier attitudes toward laws and regulations. Kansas recently had a surge in cases. This will either help bring it back, or make it worse.

September 11, 2020

Nineteen years ago today I pulled my car into the street, to drive to work, and turned on the radio and heard talk about something dramatic, but didn't get any context for several minutes. Then they said an aircraft had flown into one of the World Trade Center buildings. I think I was driving and listening when the second one crashed into the other building. This was like entering an alternate reality. The only event in my life I can compare it to is the Kennedy assassination, when I was in the print shop setting type and the radio (it's always the radio, isn't it?) announced what had happened, and I went running into the hall and shouted, "The President's been shot!" and a couple of teachers came to the door of the print shop and we all listened in silence. Shortly after that, we carried the radio, the only one on campus, to the lunchroom and the entire upper school ate lunch in silence, listening.

This pandemic is a prolonged alternate reality, isn't it? That's what Zen is about, in part: shaking you into a recognition of the strangeness and inexplicability and hereness of the world. Its suchness. "Only don't know." But I can do without this damn pandemic, not so much for myself as for other people.

These six-word poems about the pandemic are worth reading. I've started writing my own.
Those six word poems are addictive.

September 12, 2020

I remember watching Mort Sahl on TV when he said, "George Washington couldn't tell a lie. Nixon couldn't tell the truth. And Reagan can't tell the difference." If Sahl were still alive he'd probably add, "And Trump doesn't give a shit."

Friends in Portland and Corvallis have emailed that the air quality is appalling, but getting better. The entire snapshot in one of the emails was orange, from the smoke in the air. On the news I heard that Portland had the worst air quality of any city in the world (worse than Delhi and Beijing!). Australia burned, and now our west coast is burning. In the case of the west coast, much of this is due to prolonged drought, poor forest management, and other causes. California has been through an exceptional heat wave lately, too. But it's generally agreed that climate change contributes. How many of these events does it take before climate change deniers admit their error? The northwest passage is open for the first time in recorded history, ice around the north pole continues to shrink, the icecaps of Greenland and the Antarctic continue to melt, people have had to flee their Pacific atolls because rising water has made the islands uninhabitable, birds are shifting their ranges to the north (as are disease-bearing mosquitoes), there are people in south Florida who can't drive home during king tides, the Navy is desperate to keep Norfolk naval base open (and the DOD says that climate change is a major security threat). The list is prodigious. And it ain't from natural fluctuation: it coincides with humans dumping greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. The abruptness of these changes, and the way they coincide with the gasses, is the cincher. I worry because over the years, all the predictions I've seen scientists make have turned out to be optimistic. They say it's a train wreck in the making. It looks to me like the trains have already hit head-on, and we're feeling the initial jolt ("What was that?" think the passengers), and momentarily we're going to get a very unpleasant surprise (rather, series of surprises) indeed. See May 30, above.

September 13, 2020

Whoops. Forgot to update these bloviations today.

September 14, 2020

I see that Shere Hite (does anyone else always think "sheer height" when seeing her name, or is this just the rock climber in me?, though the first name is pronounced "share", which reminds me instead of two guys "sharing the rope" to climb high, but I digress), local gal (born in Saint Joe, MO), has died. She had Parkinson's, according to a friend.

Reading Milton Friedman, like reading any Johnny One-Note, always made me gag, and I don't regret that he's "so over", as the phrase goes. Turns out the Times published an influential article by him half a century ago, and the commentaries show that his time has passed. My own observation, after working my entire career for corporations, was that the idea he was pushing simply did not jibe with the way corporations acted in the 1970s and at least part of the 80s. Later, this seemed to change, and they swung in his direction -- but for me this was single-minded and unbalanced. The world is not so simple, and there must always be room for all our competing values, or we will end up painting ourselves into corners. Besides, what's the point of making as much money as possible, simply for the sake of making as much money as possible? Isn't this circular and frivolous? Where are the qualia of a well-lived life in this notion? What are you going to do with your money, if it's in the hundreds of millions? Yes, I know that I'm ignoring "shareholder value", but similar reasoning can be made. Piling up wealth is the economic equivalent of overkill. You're gonna die, bub. Try to be remembered with love, not reviled. One question: why do so many incredibly wealthy people, starting with Carnegie (mister "A kept dollar is a stinking fish") and all the way to the present (Gates, Buffett) give their money away? Maybe I haven't thought this through, but this behavior seems to contradict the values implicit in Friedman's doctrine of selfishness.

September 15, 2020

In the past month or two the word "Black", referring to race, has commonly been capitalized. This is a change, which I thought ridiculous until it occurred to me that all ethnicities, races, religions, and nationalities I could think of are capitalized (Latino/a/x, Native American, Indian, Jewish, English, Asian, ...) -- except "black". So I'm going with it. The change is long overdue, and I'm left to wonder why I never noticed the discrepancy.

Having recently read half of Carolyn Forche's book What You Have Heard Is True, and being unable to bear any more, it was so unrelentingly painful, I looked up Colonel Chacon this morning and was glad to see that Spain has sentenced him to 133 years in prison. I hope the bastard serves every day of it, and dies the moment before he steps out the gate. Before ending this, I should point out that I don't know that Montano is actually "Chacon". Forche has refused to give the real name, in order to protect his family. But Montano was one of the gang. Read Forche's original poem (same title as the book). That incident actually happened.

September 16, 2020

I've been thinking about climate migration for years now, and finally someone is writing about it. Should look in places like PLOS One. There's got to be an extensive literature about this somewhere, it's so obvious. It won't be just within the U.S., either -- our southern border will be swarmed, the problems Europe has been having with migrants will blow up by orders of magnitude, Australia will be overwhelmed, so will South Africa. Anywhere, to get away from the hot parts of the planet. Just looked in Google advanced search for the literal string "climate migration" and got about 198,000 results. That will grow.

September 17, 2020

Walking yesterday, I heard both a commercial aircraft and a distant train, and wondered why the one should be annoying and the other appealing, even romantic. (Clue: the quality of the jet's sound is harsh. But why do the sounds of the train's wheels, and its horn, appeal?) Has anyone examined the waveforms of the sounds we find appealing or not, in search of the reasons why? I'd love to know.

Checked out the book Rabid from the library. Its subtitle (digression: I've always wanted to write a paper titled "The Colon : An Examination of Subtitles")... As I was saying, the subtitle advertises the book as a "cultural history" of rabies. The disease has always fascinated me -- it's so fatal that we might as well round off the "error" and say 100% fatal without treatment. Even weirder, it can infect all mammals -- and it's the only disease so universal. (Of course it can't have been tested or observed in all mammal species, but given the evidence, I suppose scientists concluded this is a reasonable supposition.) Rabies is such a rich idea to mine. For instance, it's passed on by a bite. Is this where the idea of vampires originated? My dogs, by law, have to be vaccinated against the virus every year. Britain, being an island, had managed to stamp out the disease, and I remember reading years ago that a case had turned up; the government recruited hunters to go into the area where it was found and kill every animal they could find. There's the heart-rending end of the movie Old Yeller, where the boy has to kill his beloved dog. And the scene in To Kill A Mockingbird where Gregory Peck shoots the mad dog. Don't forget the story of Pasteur creating a treatment for the disease; that's a medical/science classic. The list goes on, though I'll stop thinking up stuff now. Rabies is one of those subliminal threads in our lives that surfaces occasionally. In that way, it could not be more different from the virus that we're facing right now, which has no history but is new, and is not subliminal and occasional but explicit and ubiquitous, infecting not only its victims but everyone else's thoughts.

September 18, 2020

Sometimes I read Pocket (yes, I'm a sucker), where I spotted this story about Chuck Feeney, whom I'd never heard of. Gave his billions away. (See the bottom of the September 14 entry, above.) He did a very intelligent job of it, too.

I thought this map of climate change risks by U.S. county was worth saving for future reference, so stuck it here. That way, I'll be able to find it in the future. We're sitting pretty here in my county, if we don't all die like rotisserie chickens.

I've been having dreams I know are related to the pandemic, but hell if I can pinpoint how. A couple of days ago I woke up from a dream about having dinner with Keith Richards and my roommate from 1980 (also named Keith). This morning I had a dream that the Polish customs people wouldn't let me into their country because I said I'd never been there, and they didn't believe me because I spoke fluent Polish. What the hell does this stuff mean, and why does it stick in my brain? It makes me long for high school days and wet dreams. At least they were pleasurable, even if none of that was gonna happen during waking hours.

Got an email from the clerk of Penn Valley Monthly Meeting that Shane Rowse had died. That floored me. His kids are probably in their late teens or early twenties, and the last time I saw Shane, a couple of years ago, he looked like he was in his mid 40s. I liked the guy a lot. We used to have great long conversations. Now he ups and has a heart attack. Poor Marianne. She must be distraught. As always with a death, I have no idea what to do, because the conventional words are so inadequate -- but I grieve, both for him and for her.
LATER: a GoFundMe campaign started 22 hours ago so far has 256 donors, for a total of $15,041. Clearly, I wasn't the only person who loved him. You can donate here. Just checked again, a couple of minutes later, and it's increased another $150.

September 19, 2020

Discussion with relatives this afternoon about haze from the fires on the west coast. Aaron mentioned that the sun was dim and red the other day. I knew the smoke from the Oregon fires had reached the east coast, but I'd thought we were too far south to see it. Apparently not. We all agreed that we're sneezing more than usual, esp. outside, but that might be due to fall seasonal allergies -- though the allergy conditions are moderate or low for the next ten days. (Can't find any history.) Ragweed's bad, though, so there's an alternate explanation. Isn't there always?

Searched in Bing for covid myths snopes.com and got 22,500,000 results. (Someday I'd like to actually see the last page of those millions of supposed hits. Color me skeptical.) Headline in the Washington Post: "There are so many coronavirus myths that even Snopes can't keep up" -- but the right all know that the Post just a liberal echo chamber. ... There's a new word from the WHO, which describes the flood of material about the subject as an "infodemic". At least, I thought it was new, but I checked, and the word also gets more than a million hits. Okay, it's not new. It dates back to February 2.

September 20, 2020

Trump wears adult diapers? I like that rumor. Spread it around... (I'm kidding.)

Trump stands tilted forward because he wears shoe lifts to look taller? I like that rumor. Spread it around... (Again, I'm kidding.)

Trump posted a fake video of Biden. That one's actually true.

September 21, 2020

Didn't have time for an entry today; too busy.

September 22, 2020

Looks like I'll have to kill another temporary email address. "Sweetheart" sent me some spam: "Salut! Perhaps you can message me and we will pursue to build up our own communication immediately. And then who really knows exactly where this could lead us towards. I'm actually young full of energy I love almost everything new , so please write to this address: liydmyla17deva@gmail.com, so that we can continue on this conversation. Seriously yours". Seriously? Now I have to remove an address that's used by numerous parties. Seriously.

September 23, 2020

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died and it's been all over the news for days. I fail to understand this canonization of her, given her selfish behavior, which led to our current crisis. She'd had cancer three times, as well as other serious health problems, and was old enough that this situation was quite possible. She wasn't stupid. She knew it. But when she was encouraged to resign, so Obama could appoint her replacement, she refused. Her self-centered behavior set up this catastrophe. And yet, that egocentricity pales into nothingness when compared to Mitch McConnell's behavior. That foul hypocrite has the audacity to invoke tradition and law for ramming through Trump's nominee in record time. He certainly didn't believe that four years ago, when he stalled on Merrick Garland's nomination for eleven months. Now he takes the opposite tack. These are both chapters in our march toward a fascist government. (And yes, when you have a president who encourages people to break the law (vote twice), and violate the 22nd amendment to the Constitution (take a third term in office, or even more), demonizes his opponents, spits on the Fourth Estate, engages in shameful nepotism, gathers power into his own hands by shattering checks and balances, disciplines his party into robotic yes-men, ...) McConnell is enabling this. The next result may be that the court will go so conservative that we'll lose Obamacare, and tens of millions will lack medical coverage in the middle of a pandemic. Not that the Republican Party will give a shit. Nor Trump, whose entire political agenda seems to have been motivated from the start by cancelling everything Obama did. Let the virus run unchecked -- Trump is so lacking in empathy that he won't give a damn. But he's playing out his neuroses on all of us, and even the world. The price we'll pay is likely more than we can manage.

September 24, 2020

Exactly what I've been afraid of for a year: that mad dog may refuse to leave office.

September 25, 2020

There are two counties in this state that vote Democratic, and mine is not one of them; it has always voted reliably Republican. But everywhere I've been (which admittedly is mostly within a few miles of my house, and thus a narrow sample) I see yard signs for Democratic candidates. I have seen nary a one for Trump, and less than a handful for other Republicans. It will be very interesting to see whether this corner of the county is an outlier this year, or whether the county as a whole has swung left. Even if it does go Democratic for 2020, that can't be expected to last; it will be an anti-Trump reaction.

September 26, 2020

Thinking about the Supreme Court, and its fixation on deciding the constitutionality of laws and government actions. (It wasn't always thus.) Reminds me of nothing so much as Vatican I deciding that when the Pope speaks ex cathedra he's infallible. Arrogate much?

Bought a copy of Scientific American the other day, off the rack at the grocery store -- the climate change "special collector's edition"! How that rag has changed from the periodical I read in the 1970s and 80s. Back then, as a physicist friend observed, the articles were "all written in code" and you had to be an expert already to understand much, but you'd finish the articles understanding a lot more, anyway. The graphics were gorgeous, beautifully crafted by hand. That changed at some point (the 90s?) to computer-drawn, which looked just as precise but somehow lacked the aesthetic appeal. It was like the difference between a mass-produced car and a handmade Italian supercar (Ferrari F40, say): something -- no, a lot -- was missing. Now they seem to have replaced even the graphics, and they're burning tons of space on the page with photographs. The few remaining graphics are almost cartoonish (sometimes not even "almost"). I miss the good old days, but once again, I digress. What I started to say is "while we're on the subject of pandemics, as this journal pretends to be...", because the second article listed on the cover is "Accelerating Pandemics". No surprise. Read Spillover (see March 28, above). And further digressing, I was surprised to see in Pocket this morning an article that Miami Will Be Underwater Soon. Its Drinking Water Could Go First. There seems to be no end to the unintended side effects we're inflicting on ourselves. Our industrialization and self-indulgence in comfort and convenience and consumerism and cluelessness / willful ignorance was and remains self-destructive. Barry Commoner said way back when that "There is no 'away' ", and what we've been ignoring is piling up and threatening to bury us. I thought I'd be dead before things got too bad to bear, but I'm beginning to see that I've been a Pollyanna.

Reading an article online about the differences between Japanese minimalism and Scandinavian minimalism, there were references to Ikea versus Muji, so I looked up the latter stores. They're bicoastal -- all in U.S. States or Canadian provinces bordering the Atlantic or Pacific, except the one in Toronto. This is what sucks about living in flyover country. At least I'm in a city. What would be totally unacceptable would be living in the wilds of Montana or somewhere. Nice to visit for a vacation, but wouldn't want to live there. Not that self-sufficient, and I like my little luxuries -- library a mile away, Symphony (as soon as the virus settles down), grocery stores with my favorite stuff, and all the rest of it. Sure, I hate the choppers that fly over, living cheek to jowl with neighbors, but on balance...

September 27, 2020

A lot of people write about how different they feel, staying home, avoiding things they used to do, reducing the number of trips to the grocery store, not being with family and friends, and so on. (One friend of ours has her groceries delivered, and when her husband has gone somewhere, he removes his clothes and showers, first thing, on entering the house. Another friend and his wife wipe down the grocery sacks before unloading them. These actions seem extreme to me.) All this, they write, has affected the tone and temper of their days. They feel limited (caged?), blue, frustrated, no longer the captains of their ships. I must be insensitive -- even though I was retired and spending most of my time around the house before the pandemic hit, and though I do see my family and a couple of friends once a week (properly distanced), I should probably be feeling more like those people. This is not to say there's anything wrong with me (at least in this respect), and not to say that my self-sufficiency is excessive (though maybe it is). There's something else going on, and I'm not sure what. See this article in the L.A. Times. I'd like to read some of those journals in a few years, when all this is over, and see how they strike me. Maybe someone will collect good bits into a book and publish it. Maybe I'll be able to understand why this is less stressful for me than for everyone else.

September 28, 2020

Maybe it's being locked up by the pandemic, and coming to terms with my PD, and certainly I'm reconciled to the reality that it will never happen again, but my love affair with rock climbing is over. Ten years after the last time I took a climbing trip, I've finally divorced my pastime and feel nothing but a tiny bit of nostalgia, and probably not even that. When I remember a climb, my body no longer feels that attenuated kinesthetic sensation, and my mind does not long to be on the cliff, as if it had happened to a different me, which, I suppose, it did. If this is a sign of aging, I accept it, with neither regret nor joy. Perhaps this is a bit like the original meaning of the word "nirvana", which meant "blown out", as in a candle being snuffed. That's what it feels like: gone, extinguished. Or, more accurately, there is no feeling whatever.

September 29, 2020

Spent most of an hour yesterday trying to get my bank to email me daily updates again. The last one they sent was on 8/31. I have repeatedly re-entered my email in my profile, and their system accepts it, and then does not send the emails, and when I look, the same error message shows: my email address is invalid. This is strange, since it hasn't changed in nearly 20 years, and my wife gets the emails, and her address is with the same ISP. Getting through their IVR system was a nightmare in itself -- error-prone, lacking options I could use, unable to find my info, etc. When I finally talked to a human, she couldn't solve the problem, and put me on hold for what felt like forever (more than 5 minutes) while she opened a trouble ticket. Modern life. As one of the linemen at KCPL told me about his ruggedized laptop, "When it works, it's great. When it doesn't, I'm ready to throw it in the river". I'm ready to throw my bank in the river. We started out with a small bank that got acquired, which got acquired, which got acquired -- and every time, service got worse and fees got higher. This was the result of bank deregulation... I will hear from a technician within 5 to 7 business days. I take this to mean I will only get a phone call, not a resolution. The damn thing broke, and they did it, not me. All they need to do is look at what they changed on September 1, or August 31. That's the first thing anyone in I.T. would do. This should not be difficult.

My father had polio, and I vaguely remember the polio scares of the 1950s, though I was very young. I'm grateful for the vaccine; I and my siblings were safe from the disease. My mother, I think, had scarlet fever, which, I seem to recall, could cause heart damage in those days. I'm grateful for antibiotics. What remains to be seen, given the possibility of increasing pandemics, low investment in finding new antibiotics, and the collapse of our economy when climate change gets really bad (that's my personal opinion) is whether we'll find ourselves in something like the times my parents grew up in: erosion of many of the medical advances we've come to take for granted. Take, for example, polio, which has an extermination program underway that's similar to that for smallpox. In 2015 there were only three countries left that had polio, according to Voice of America. Now there are only two, Nigeria having been removed from the list. But I've read that the project is having problems because of Covid -- and other efforts are hampered similarly. This summary is inaccurate, because among other reasons it's too brief. See Wikipedia for more detail.

September 30, 2020

Halloween. I'm betting there will be very few trick or treaters this year.

I plan to wear both a mask and a face shield when I vote. I don't care about all the articles claiming face shields / visors don't work, which is probably true when used by themselves -- but if they're good enough for doctors and nurses to combine with masks, they're good enough for me, and anyone who looks askance at me can go straight to hell, without passing Go and without collecting $200. Afterwards, I plan to use hand sanitizer and when I get home I will shower and change my clothes, because particles can get in your hair and on your ears and neck, in addition to your hands and your clothing.

Took Pogo for a walk yesterday, and on our way back, he was attacked by a dog five or six times his size. Weirdly, the dog never opened its mouth, which is reassuring, since I just read a book about rabies. The dog, named Shadow (what its owner called it), simply rammed Pogo three times. I've seen plenty of dogs and their behavior, but never this; this is unique. I know that some dogs lunge at other dogs because they're trying to play, and don't know how. In fact, that happened to Pogo this summer. But that wasn't what this dog was doing. The idiot owner apparently was giving the dog a bath in the driveway and had him off-leash, he saw Pogo, and came barreling down the driveway. She must have just acquired the dog, because she was clearly surprised at his behavior. She apologized. I said nothing, because what could I say? I could have ripped her a new one, I suppose. My poor little dog made a sound I'd never heard before, the dog equivalent of a scream.

I didn't watch the debate last night, because I can't stand to see, and above all to listen to, that liar Trump. Reading about it today, he clearly acted as expected. He's what the physicists would call a singularity. Even his body language (hand gestures no one else ever uses), posture (what's with that forward lean, anyway, his arms dangling out in front as if they're incorrectly attached?), and hair (a 74-year-old with a dyed-blond hood that invites you to wipe your feet on it) are bizarre, as if he were the first attempt by aliens to manufacture a human being, but they'd never worked with DNA before and ended up with an unconvincing facsimile. Send him back to Pluto.

October 1, 2020

These people who claim the pandemic is a myth baffle me. I personally know five people, and a possible sixth, who have had it. Are all these deniers living in a plywood cabin in the mountains, like Ted Kaczynski? My wife works in a hospital, and they've had plenty of cases. Then there are all the personal testimonies by the survivors, many of which are horrifying. This is not to mention the increased death rate, the mobile freezer trucks for storing the corpses so they don't rot and stink up the joint, the rooms full of coffins, the cruise ships that were marooned offshore, and on and on. (See March 26, above.) There's no doubt whatever that this disease is real. But there's clearly no limit to human gullibility. I have some land in Florida you'd like (with plenty of water rights!), and a bridge in Brooklyn you could put a toll booth on. I need the cash, so I'll sell them cheap... And as for you people who believe Trump when he says we're approaching herd immunity: NOT! Only 9% of the country, based on studies of blood samples, have antibodies. If we could harness energy from the falsehoods that man spews, we'd go carbon neutral in no time. He's a bad apple, and those of us with minds that can think are tired of him spreading his rot.

Now we're being asked to answer calls from numbers we don't recognize, on the chance that the caller is a contact tracer. No way. Let them leave a message on the phone and say they're a contact tracer. I'll either hear it and pick up, or call them back later. I ain't takin' a chance on robocalls. I got my fill of them years ago. The average person gets about 200 such calls per year. My wife and I probably get that many in a month, partly because of that other woman by the same name as my wife, who ran up tuition fees, an unpaid mortgage (I think), and at least one car loan she skipped out on. So thanks anyway, but if I don't recognize the caller, I ain't gonna answer.

The pandemic has highlighted deep-rooted problems in the federal tribal health service. This is not news. See March 24, above.

10 months since the appearance of the virus, and a million deaths. That's 100,000 a month, or more than 3,000 deaths per day. Keep in mind that this is likely an underestimate. Nor does it include the economic hardship, and other hardships. Nor does it include the lingering effects of the disease, like my friend who needed months before he felt he was fully recovering. See here for more.

I've been seeing a new kind of trash, related to the virus, the last couple of months: one-use masks discarded on the sidewalk as trash, across the street from my local shopping center. The stores must pick up the ones outside their doors, because there are none to be seen there.

No trick or treaters at all last night. That's unique. (Later: Halloween's a month away, duh.)

Got a text at 10:15 pm last night. I'm tired of late-evening pages when I'm getting ready for bed -- they mess up my preparations (the phone just keeps ringing until I punch it out), and the PD causes me enough sleep problems already. Not to mention that all those years of being paged out for work still rankle. So I looked at the message, on my tiny screen a pic of a sign, too small and fuzzy to be legible, from my niece. I replied "Late. Send during the DAY." There was another one, and a third, a picture of a newborn. (Sound of hand slapping forehead.) Oops. She just had her baby. I'm going to have some 'splainin' to do. At least the child's birthday will be easy to remember: Halloween. (Later: Halloween's a month away, duh.)

October 2, 2020

Chris Wallace on the debate: "I never dreamt that it would go off the tracks the way it did." Either he's lying or he's stupid. I'm an average Midwesterner, and it worked out exactly the way I expected. Trump has made a career of taking it to rock bottom, and then blasting the hole to a new, deeper bottom.

I logged into Instagram yesterday (yes, that's unlike me, but I'm crushing on Aspen Mansfield; don't judge me), and now I have four followers? Excuse my skepticism.

Through the years I've volunteered a number of times on election day or earlier, to drive people to the polls, hang literature on doors, act as a pollwatcher, and other stuff. Not this year. If it weren't for the virus, I'd volunteer again.

More on the Native American virus problem. Scroll down, just past the middle.

I see that Trump has tested positive for coronavirus. Strange to say, I felt no glee, no schadenfreude, when I read this news. For a number of reasons, I hope his symptoms aren't bad. I also hope this is a lesson to the morons who believed all the tripe he spewed about the virus, the disease, the pandemic. He's old enough, and male, so he's at serious risk. If he's incapacitated or dies, the crisis we've been facing will be an order of magnitude worse than it already is. Let this be a lesson to the gullible who went maskless: this is what happens when you don't cover your mouth and nose.

October 3, 2020

I was curious what QAnon would have to say about Trump testing positive, so I looked it up yesterday. QAnon followers believe the virus is fake, but also that Trump has it. There's also this: ... the president is stepping out of the public eye in anticipation of what they call The Storm. If these people weren't dangerous, these playground rumors would be amusing. I'd say KMN, but they might take me seriously. They probably don't understand irony.

Here's a weird notion (but not as weird as Trump being President; for four years, every time I've heard him referred to as that, a circuit in my brain has gone "Trump? President? Does not compute", and a few million more neurons burn out). Where was I? Oh, yes -- suppose Trump dies of the virus and Pence ascends, but he already has the virus, too, and he dies, before January. As I recall, the Speaker of the House is next, so Pelosi would be our first female President. This would drive the conservatives nuts, because they hate her. Never mind that, though. How long would she stay in office? Would there be an alternate (snap?) election? How would the Republicans choose their candidates? The Supreme Court would, of course, feel obligated to meddle, probably on the side of the Republicans, especially if Trump had won the Electoral College before dying. Chaos would ensue. So let's hope Trump survives the virus, unless you want to chance a Pence Presidency. That possibility gives me the shudders, no, the creeps. There's something reptilian about that man. See July 6, above, the second paragraph, for something similar but simpler and less hazardous to us all.

I see that in addition to Trump, at least three Republican senators have tested positive. Two of them serve on the Judiciary Committee! If it wasn't for bad luck, the GOP wouldn't have no luck at all. Looks like Amy Coney Barrett is going to have to wait -- there may not be enough votes to confirm. (Who knows? She might have caught it from Trump when she was maskless and undistanced, though she's negative so far. There's time yet. A positive result would really screw the pooch.) Others who tested positive are the re-election campaign manager Bill Stepien (oops, there goes!), Kellyanne Conway (couldn't happen to a nicer person), RNC chair Ronna McDaniel, and Chris Christie. I empathize with them, but still must point out that most of this is likely their own faults for not taking precautions. May you all get well soon, with a minimum of suffering. After that, please resign and get out of the way for a competent adult to replace you.

October 4, 2020

Stumbled across this: Trump's lies. What always baffled me was that it took people, esp. media, so long to start calling them lies. It was clear almost from the beginning of his campaign for the Republican nomination.

The Republicans, with their inability to wear masks (that's not as broad a brush as it sounds, when you examine the evidence), remind me of the hippies who didn't wear condoms and spread their STDs around. Both cases are described by the phrase "the gift that keeps on giving". Welcome to the creed (ideology?) of selfishness. Curious, that these two examples are usually considered to be at opposite ends of the philosophical spectrum.

October 5, 2020

Saw Trump on TV, talking from the hospital. (Muted him, though, because that lying voice of his drives me up the wall. I had the same reaction to Reagan, though he was a different kind of phony.) Though he was behind a desk and wore a starched white shirt, he looked like shit. He's obviously ill. This happy talk the White House doctor is dishing us sounds like bullshit to me. I do feel sorry for the Donald, but I'm beyond sick of the lies and nonsense and the smoke blown up my ass. If Biden wins, January 20 can't come soon enough for me. I've been grinding my teeth for four Goddamn years while this misbegotten chimera struts like the offspring of a tail-less peacock and a mad dog. Biden and crew will have to spend half their time reassembling the government and otherwise undoing the damage this wretch has inflicted on us and humanity in general. It may not even be altogether possible.

Today's entry is number 200, unless I'm off by one or two. I wonder how many hours I've put in on this little project.

October 6, 2020

No entry today. It slipped my increasingly slippery mind.

October 7, 2020

... and continuing with my recent observation about the number of entries in this blog (ugly word, that), I have decided to quit at 366, which will be exactly a year and a day.

Holy Mother of God: Michael Hayden is backing Biden! I never expected that. He may be the most disingenuous person on the planet, slicker than Teflon, and he's taking a stand he's not paid for.

I have been trying and trying to figure out why all the male Republican Senators are behind this push to confirm Amy Coney Barrett. Either Trump has something on the ones who might show some spirit (hired a PI to look into their extramarital affairs, maybe?), or they're a bunch of ball-less wonders. The latter would not surprise me; it's the thugs like them who are generally gutless when truly threatened. Now that I think of it, though, Jeff Flake was more or less forced out by the conservative base, and maybe there were others I've forgotten. But what the hell happened to guys like Ben Sasse and Mitt Romney? Is there some kind of infectious right-wing ethical virus infecting the Senate? The only Senators with testicles are Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, and Collins has kowtowed in the past, so maybe she's worried about all those independent-minded Mainers who no longer trust her -- she's in a tight race. Maybe Murkowski stands alone.

October 8, 2020

Everyone keeps talking about carbon as if it were the only greenhouse gas, but it only accounts for 40% of the problem. Why the hell aren't we discussing methane and fluorinated gases and the rest of the culprits? (I forget their names now. And by the way, at least as recently as last year the Chinese were releasing CFCs into the atmosphere by the millions of tons, though maybe this has changed recently.) This is like thinking we'll eliminate car wrecks by outlawing alcohol. The problem has multiple sources.

Mephitic software continually robocalls my cell phone (at least 4 times yesterday, as of 5 p.m., and probably more, since I'd deleted my "missed" calls in the late morning). They always use a phone number that pretends to be the same area code and exchange as my cell phone, varying the last 4 digits, and never leave a message. How naive do they think I am? If this were a human, they'd have given up by now. It's a sad truth of modern life that I have no recourse except to interrupt whatever I'm doing, look at the ANI (supposed calling phone number) to see whether it's family / friend / organization I deal with, put the phone back down, and try to get re-absorbed in whatever I was doing. I lack the information I need in order to drive to their data center, sledgehammer the door open, and turn a flamethrower on their servers. Not that I'd do that. But if our federal government would actually act in the interest of the human beings it's supposed to serve, instead of selling itself to special interests, this problem would have disappeared years ago... I thought this rant would make me feel better. On the contrary.

And while on the subject of mephitic software, why are there 20 Chrome files (dlls, JSONs, and other stuff) on my PC when I've never installed that crap? And I can't find it to uninstall it, because the control panel doesn't show it. Not actually installed, just has a few fingers in the pie, as it were. In readiness. Google is so good at looking over our shoulders that they make the Stasi seem like amateurs. But they seem friendlier than the Stasi as limned in The Lives of Others. Most people just shrug their shoulders about Google (and Facebook and Apple -- yes, them too -- and Amazon, and ...) and say either, "I have nothing to hide," or "There's nothing I can do". Both of these statements are false. The reason the Europeans, as I've pointed out above (July 16 and 17), are obsessed with privacy and we are not is that they've had first-hand exposure to the results of ubiquitous surveillance, and we have not. We're going to be really fucking sorry when this blows up in our faces (really blows up, worse than Equifax and Cambridge Analytica and Bush 43's illegal snooping on American citizens and all the other shitstorms we've had in the last couple of decades), like Chris Wallace saying he never dreamed the debate would blow up the way it did. The ostriches will cry "What?", and it will be too late. Those who warned us will have no satisfaction for having been right, because they'll be dragged down with everyone else. And by the way, Europe is not a paradise, either. CCTVs are ubiquitous in England, where they're used for surveillance.

No news recently about demonstrations, or DHS trying to take over police functions, or any of that stuff. Gotta wonder. Just seems to have evaporated. I see that Chad Wolf, he of the startling resemblance to Joe McCarthy may his like never be seen again (insert here an emoticon for depressing (im)probability), has got the head job in his department. (Why does the phrase "homeland security" sound vaguely fascist? Is it just me, or does it smack of brown shirts and the like?) Quelle surprise. But the half-life in office of these guys is much much shorter than it has been under other presidents. Keep that resume brushed up, Chad boy.

I see the little children playing soccer in the park, unmasked and within inches of each other, and their coaches, too. I cringe. Parents risking their children, and more likely the grandparents the children love and can infect.

I remember thinking when the worst places for the virus were in the South (the former Confederacy) that it was just those ignorant yahoos playing virus roulette. Yes, I'm as prejudiced as anybody. As Lenny Bruce observed (I had to look this up, because I didn't remember the quote exactly): "[T]he white Southerner has been getting kicked in the ass for the last 100 years. 'Folks, I think this nuclear fission is'... 'Aw, shut up you schmuck! You don't know anything.' " I apologize for being one of the non-Southern assholes doing the asskicking. Now the worst places are in the middle strip: North Dakota, Wisconsin. Recently I saw a map with Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Montana as the four worst states. (Speaking of the "middle strip", as I called it, why is the Midwest not the middle of the West, and why is it nearly half a world away from the Mideast? Geography should be rational. All we have to do is look at the dang map. It shouldn't be difficult to name these places so they're not misleading / contradictory / hilariously inept.)

October 9, 2020

Students and faculty at Notre Dame are furious at their leader, Rev. Jenkins, for not using his mask at that Rose Garden contagion jamboree. The guy has a Ph.D. in philosophy. Did that not include the study of ethics?

I'm reluctant to comment on the fly that landed on Pence's head for two minutes, though much could be said. "Shit for brains" is one of my more vigorous reactions. (Note to self: "reluctant"? Like Antony claiming he only comes to bury Caesar, not to praise him. There's a word for this rhetorical device, which escapes me.)

News in my email this morning: a hack of data, including mine, from the other hospital I go to. This is becoming routine: Eddie Bauer, Equifax, the B&B, Wattpad (my partly-fake data), one hospital I use for medical care, and now the other hospital. Plus also the linguistics server at BYU. I'm probably missing something. This new one sounds like the one from the other hospital, but the earlier one notified me by a mailed letter, which I'd have to dig out. I think they both used Blackbob, which was the third party that was hacked this time. So maybe the hackers are making the rounds of Blackbob clients. Why hasn't Blackbob tightened up security yet? And why aren't the hospitals demanding that our data be destroyed, and taking their business elsewhere? (Later: Becker's hospital review reported 66 healthcare providers that underwent cyberattacks in the first half of 2020.)

October 10, 2020

An unexpected bit of news in the Times coronavirus briefing Thursday: "Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, said that he had been avoiding 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for months because of the lack of virus precautions. 'My impression was that their approach to how to handle this was different from mine and what I insisted that we do in the Senate, which is to wear a mask and practice social distancing,' Mr. McConnell said." At least when it comes to self-preservation he's not a toady. Even for him, there are limits. Color me surprised.

Once again, I saw student athletes up at the high school within a foot of each other, unmasked, and their coach, also unmasked and close to them, giving them a talk. Then they whine when some of them test positive and their practices are cancelled. I'm increasingly disgusted with this place, where people insist on living a daydream and not having to accept the consequences of their actions. Idiots who insist that even if you get the disease you'll recover, like Trump. Yeah, a lot of people do -- but you're playing a game of chance. Apparently this is too subtle a concept for their simple minds. Of the seven people I know who have had it (yes, two more have gotten it, and yes I know that seven is too small a sample, so I offer this as illustrative only), two had little problem recovering, two had some trouble, two I haven't questioned about the subject, and one said he didn't feel like he was starting to get back to normal until half a year or so had elapsed. His problems were horrendous. Unlike many, though, he may be free of permanent damage. To the fools who put us all at risk with their delusion that everything's okay, I say: "You've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?" In the movie, all the rounds in the Magnum had been fired, and though I wouldn't wish it on anyone, some of these people will lose their little game of Russian roulette.

October 11, 2020

I once told a coworker who caused a lot of problems, "Curtis, you're a catalyst for chaos". He was proud, and added the phrase "catalyst for chaos" under his email signature. That was twenty years ago; now a search for the phrase turns up zillions of hits -- and the first image is of Trump. (Note: I had this entry all planned out before I did the search, the results of which surprised me. I expected a dry well.) I remember Trump pointing at a painting of Andrew Jackson and boasting, "I'm a disrupter, too". Him and his weird fixations. Trump was certainly right, for once, but he has no reason to be proud.

October 12, 2020

I'm struggling with my linguistics paper, rambling hither and yon, from Kimhi's Thinking and Being to Claude Shannon's paper on data communication to the use of symbolic logic in semantics to Tufte's book on visual presentation, trying to wrap my arms around all this stuff that's related to my central idea, but I can't organize it. The subject's too big and my mind is too small. I'm wrestling with an octopus. I need oxygen. I need a higher IQ.

The sight of people wearing masks remains subliminally jarring. When I go to the grocery, or a workman comes to the house, or I go to the library, it seems a bit like living in Hong Kong or somewhere. Of course, teens and younger still, with rare exceptions, or when required to, to enter a store, don't bother. If they're walking around together, they're unmasked. Only the adults are consistent.

We've been going through this for half a year now, and there's at least some evidence of fatigue with the inconveniences -- the militia that was planning to kidnap the governor of Michigan, for one. There are plenty more examples. What happens if this goes on for another year? Will we get used to it, or will there be a medical train wreck when we abandon caution? And what will happen to the economy? How will we bring it back? What happens to the education of our children? There's a lot of talk about how to deal these problems now, but what about the aftereffects, the long term?

I see that the water main in front of our neighbor's house (the next house to the west) has broken again, for the second time in a week. Water bubbling up into the street from the ground, like a big spring. Makes me reluctant to drink water from the tap. Tonight's the night we host the siblings for dinner, too.

October 13, 2020

I've been flooded with Republican mailings lately -- those big ones made of heavy, glossy paper. All of them are against Democratic candidates, and all of them have Photoshopped the pictures of the candidates to make them ghastly: sallow and dark, lined faces, gloomy expressions, etc. I momentarily turn against them when I see those disgusting likenesses. The psychologists are right: appearance does affect how we're (or at least I'm) disposed toward people.

October 14, 2020

A friend and I were discussing movie theaters and the financial problems they face because of the pandemic, and that some of them may have to close up shop. (I expect that the moneybags like investment banks and private equity and such would just buy them up for pennies on the dollar and then use them as a cash cow, like ants stroking aphids. But again I digress.) He pointed out that movies can be delivered right to the screens in your house now. To me, this is almost irrelevant, because the experience of seeing a movie in a theater is different. There's some ritual involved: you find out the time, drive there, buy your ticket, find a seat. Then the screen is big, the room is dark, and if you're lucky no one talks. The experience is immersive. At home, you're surrounded by your own furniture, and the doorbell may ring or your dogs start barking at a noise outside. Not to mention the temptation to pause the movie because you have the notion to do something else. All of this breaks up the concentration, the state of flow. It's not the same at all.

October 15, 2020

One of my neighbors seems to think I'm an expert on the internet, and was telling me that he hopes to sell his art online. He was soliciting my advice, without directly saying so. (In English class or criticism, this would be called the subtext; in linguistics, it's part of pragmatics.) I gave him a little obvious advice, such as you have to spend a lot of time promoting yourself. Also, you need something that appeals to an audience, and you have to find that audience, and you have to, for lack of a better word, stroke them ("groom"? them, though these days that has unpleasant sexual connotations). Most of the people who try to make money on the internet fail, I think, for lacking one of these, or simply from bad luck -- and luck is a factor, such as when you get noticed by a widely-read website. Me, I have none of these, and gave up decades ago, though I do wonder where I squirreled away that online journal with zillions of entries, some of then not bad. I could dig it up, probably, without too much trouble, but haven't bothered. Don't care much, really. I don't mind being my own best listener. (That sounds solipsistic, doesn't it? Reminds me of Schopenhauer's remark that the solipsist is a madman shut up in an impregnable blockhouse. Hey, there's a lot to be said in favor of living in such a place. For starters, it's safe: no one can get at you. I expect it could be kinda lonely, but not really being one, I don't know, and not wanting to be one, I'll never find out. Where's Sidney Morgenbesser when we need him? He'd be able to shoot the bombshell question at solipsists. (When a student asked him, "How do I know I exist?", Morgenbesser replied, "Who's asking?") )

The more time passes, the more careful I get about the virus -- going fewer places, taking a shower after prolonged (masked) contact with a stranger, such as the guy who came to set up a piece of equipment yesterday and whom I helped, etc.

October 16, 2020

Eleven members of the Swiss Guard have tested positive. Apparently even the Pope is at risk. I wish him well -- Francis is the only Pope I've liked in my lifetime, except possibly John XXIII, but I was very young when he reigned. As an American ex-Catholic, I merely observe that if we'd had the like of Francis sooner and oftener, fewer of us would have been voting with our feet. (Not that I wouldn't have anyway, because in my case it was inevitable: my faith was shattered when I went from a Catholic school to a prep school and learned about all the dirty laundry in the church's history. Then I started thinking things through, and all the unfounded assumptions emerged from the background. This bull about taking matters on faith is circular reasoning, to say the least. "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.")

October 17, 2020

There are a handful of poets whose work speaks to me: Rilke (especially the first Duino Elegy), Neruda (most of all Keeping Quiet), W. S. Merwin (anything; they're all great), Wallace Stevens, and Philip Larkin. Maybe one or two others, and the occasional poem by someone else. But for the most part, poetry flies past my ear. I'm reading Averno, by Louise Gluck (I regret the missing umlaut -- this is written with Notepad), and I see that there's much going on in her poetry. But most of what she's doing escapes me, and this is largely the case with other acclaimed poets and poems. Personal flaw. Like everyone else, I have plenty of them. Here's a poem I wrote for my wife:
    Who loves more, you or her?
    Do you think it matters? Leave it tangled.
    The strongest things are those
    we cannot see: time, and love.
    Stay alive -- she needs you.
    Without you, who would love her?

    Yes, it's in motion. You can't change that, either.
    Just stay, until that final stop, and hope
    you can say goodbye.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us now... The Trump administration is about to change regulations for the collection of biometric data. See my many rants about privacy, above. And you thought I was paranoid. "Responsible governing" my ass. First step toward a police state, more like. Can we say "mission creep"? "Camel's nose"? "Slippery slope"? Trump has a lot in common with those guys he admires -- Kim Jong Un, Putin, Duterte, Bolsonaro, etc. This is more of his dictatorial bent. The department didn't think this up on their own. Biden will need a team of dozens just to undo all this last-minute shit. And if the lawsuits get to the Supreme Court, we can kiss our privacy goodbye, with a conservative supermajority.

October 18, 2020

When this virus is beaten and we finally start getting back to normal (or what will pass as the "new normal"), people are going to be vacationing like mad. The national parks will be jammed, ditto resorts, our big cities will be full of European tourists as theirs will be full of Americans, and so on. Maybe this will help our economy come back, if there are enough businesses still in operation to meet demand. Maybe some of those people who lost their jobs will get them back, and maybe some of the small businesses can re-open. I hope so. Regardless, though, I think the demand from vacationers will be there. You read it here first, so "That will be twenty-five cents, please" (to quote Count Basie).

When did the phrase "the new normal" come into use? I don't remember hearing it as recently as five years ago. Geoff Nunberg's observations being a good guide to this sort of thing, I looked him up on the phrase just now. It's been around longer than I thought.

"Interactions may be less positive when they become artificial", also known as: "What cows can teach us about zoom calls", triggered a flash memory of a weekend project I went on, my first or second year of college, with dozens of fellow students, all jammed together, doing exercises that we were shown later applied to international relations. The point here is that being with them in close quarters and working on these projects was massive fun. I'd gladly go back and do it again right now, if not for this Goddamn virus.

I'm starting to miss going places with my wife -- restaurants, movies, ... We haven't done a lot of this in recent years, but I'm starting to yearn for it.

October 19, 2020

Walked to Hattie's yesterday, to get a green tea, and the person in front of me looked like my cousin Linda. I said "Linda?", and she shook her head and apologized. But I still think it was her: the bearing, the thinness, the unusual hair cut, what I could see of her face, all were exactly correct. I think she didn't have her hearing aids in (she's hard of hearing), and she wasn't wearing her glasses, and I was too far away, and was wearing a mask myself, so she misunderstood and didn't recognize me. If it wasn't her, she has a secret twin.

My forty-some-year-old Patagonia pile jacket has finally quit on me. The zipper teeth keep getting out of alignment. Had a hell of a time unzipping it yesterday. Maybe replace the zipper, because the rest of the jacket is still good. Not bad for a jacket I've worn climbing, hiking, working in the yard, and miscellaneous daily living. I think it's one of the jackets from the second-year production run. Certainly it was the mid 1970s when I bought it.

What I miss most while hermiting, at least at the moment, is meeting new people -- striking up a conversation with someone at the gym and making a new friend (or at least acquaintance), chatting with someone at a coffeehouse, going to a party, or whatever. They always leave a piece of themselves with me, like spy dust that sticks, a memory of an observation they made, a piece of their history they described, or simply their general presence. This aloneness has reminded me what a marvelously varied species we are. Human beings are endlessly different from each other, and most of them are fascinating. If you get to know them well enough, after a while you'll hear some remarkable story, something they did, or that happened to them, or a place they went to, or an event they witnessed. Something you'd never expect. This world is full of extraordinary people masquerading as ordinary. Even when they are ordinary, they're remarkable anyway. Everybody's normal, until you get to know them. Then they're unique.

October 20, 2020

Why I object to political correctness, put better than I possibly could. Even comedians (with the possible exception of Dave Chappelle) are self-censoring these days, and comedy acts should be a total free zone for the expression of anything. (Let the other comics take them down if they go too far.) Here's more on the subject, by some heavyweights. We could use more of this as a first step in returning to candor.

October 21, 2020

Most of our lives are private, I think: the constant stream of ideas, memories, speculations, fantasies. The things we never tell anyone because they're too sacred to us, or too shameful. The desire to merge with someone, and almost never achieving that; among the few cases I know is that of Chan / Zen, where transmission is said to be direct, "mind to mind". I believe this is possible, but most of us experience this only rarely, if at all. It think it's more common among identical twins. (Who wouldn't want to have an identical twin, someone who feels the same way you do, and who always understands you? As an identical twin I knew once said, "I never had an identity crisis. All my friends did in high school, but there was always someone there who felt the same way I did." Yup. I met her identical twin, and they sure seemed that way.) I once pointed out to my son that the fundamental fact of human existence, at least as I see it, is that we're embodied. So we are alone, as Thomas Wolfe never tired of pointing out: "Naked and alone we came into exile. In her dark womb we did not know our mother's face; from the prison of her flesh have we come into the unspeakable and incommunicable prison of this earth. Which of us has known his brother? Which of us has looked into his father's heart? Which of us has not remained forever prison-pent? Which of us is not forever a stranger and alone?" But that's incomplete. There are those moments of merging into our environment, or with a specific other person. In the end, I think that none of us exists as an entity, but only as the intersection of things, events, other people, ... -- like a woven carpet, we are not a single thing, but the interweaving of innumerable other existents, impossibly complex. And I think that when I die, all my parts will separate and be recycled. I will be no more, though really I never was. This self, and thus this separation, is an illusion. The mystics are right.

Starting today, the predicted daily high temperatures are: 54, 60, 84, 49, 51, 59, 37. How's that supposed to work? Where do these anomalies come from?

October 22, 2020

Woke up this morning (or went to bed thinking about, and remembered) trail names, the monikers people bestow on themselves, or which are bestowed on them by others, when hiking. This was prompted by a memory of my first day on the Colorado Trail last year, when someone asked me whether I had a trail name and I said no, and he replied that I probably would by the end of my walk. (At that point I told him my climbing nickname.) What's this urge to assume a different identity when out on a long hike? There's a woman with a Youtube channel about backpacking calls herself Dixie (has a southern accent). People have names like Boxcar and Ice and Oz, or Lost and Found, Mouse King, Magneto, Heat Wave, Banana Split... I pulled these from the internet because I can't remember any of the trail names people told me last year. If I go on the trail again next year, I'll invent a name in advance, because I prefer to choose, rather than to have one bestowed on me. Could always use Laggard, I suppose, since everyone else is faster than me. Somehow, though, that lacks the tang and originality of the best names. I guess I could use Alpha, for Alpha Synuclein. Nah. People would think I was calling myself the alpha wolf or something. Nuke, as shorthand for synuclein. No. That would invoke Duke Nukem. Well, dang. Maybe "Dang"? I've got it: Spartacus. When I introduce myself, I'll say, "I am Spartacus", and see how many people get the reference.

Surfing around the internet yesterday, I thought I'd look at sites on (the euphemistically named) "love" dolls. (Who knows where these impulses come from? I certainly wouldn't want one.) That is one weird little corner of the World Wide Waste Of Time. All I have to say is, the guys who buy and use those things have more imagination than I do, because if I bought one, the money would be squandered. I couldn't have sex with anything inanimate: no speech, no volitional movement, glassy-eyed. Not to mention that they'll never have an orgasm, or come up with some creative idea while lovemaking. If you want them to dress sexy, you have to do it for them, because they can't move... It baffles me, how those guys can do that. Desperate incels, maybe, leaving the gene pool by leaving no children to carry on their line. Cherry 2000, where are you? Damn consumer goods. They never last.

I thought the media manipulation casebook looked interesting. We need more of that kind of thing.

Saw a reference to the "fake pandemic". Knowing eight people who have had the virus, being married to someone who works in a hospital, and seeing the incontrovertible evidence, I find this sort of nonsense incomprehensible. Fake pandemic? The fakery belongs to the deniers. There's a real world out there, and things going on in it that are very different from what goes on in the heads of these fantasists.

Google's getting worse (i.e., its results are less accurate). Google is still better than Bing, or DuckDuckGo, which is really crappy. But I use Bing most of the time anyway, since I don't like being spied on, and for most searches Bing is perfectly adequate. (Back in the early days, I remember, different search engines were better for different subjects: a certain one for tech questions, a different one for news...) It's amusing that whenever anyone, such as the Justice Department, accuses Google of something, such as being a monopoly, their reply almost never directly addresses the accusation. Reminds me of politicians answering the question they would have preferred to be asked, instead of the one they actually were asked.

My wife says she never gets earworms. Wish I could say the same. "Danny Boy" is running through my head this morning, a song I haven't heard in years, maybe even decades, and which I don't know the words to. So the few words and the music play, and then only the tune. This is aggravating. I just now looked it up. You could get Type II diabetes from the lyrics, and Type I from the way the song is sung. Sentiment has its place, but must we take it to excess?

Pocket had a story on The Day After yesterday. Rather, the day after yesterday being today, I should have written "Yesterday, Pocket had a story ..." I remember a scene that was shot at the old St. Joseph hospital in east K.C. The contract said the hospital was not to be torn down until after the filmmakers had arrived, shot their scene, and departed, but someone screwed up, and the place was already half demolished. They were shooting in the ruin anyway when I and my then-girlfriend arrived to snag some sandstone blocks to put in my front walk. (Hey, better to re-use it than to see it go to a landfill.) As for the movie itself, I failed to see what all the fuss was about. Sure, everyone will die. I'd taken that for granted all along, and was surprised that most people didn't seem to have adjusted to the reality yet. Also, I thought that flick was amateurish and unconvincing. But the internet asserts that it had quite an emotional effect on its viewers, including then-President Reagan, and that the movie may have helped inspire his nuclear arms limitation agreement with what was then the Soviet Union, may it rest in peace (and good riddance, I say).

October 23, 2020

Looking at the references in my linguistics paper, though I didn't bother counting them all, it's fairly clear that the majority of the books are not about linguistics, but philosophy and math (including logic), so I appear to be going back to my roots, if I can dignify them as such. Strange, to write a paper about linguistics for which the books (and probably the internet references as well) are not directly in the field, but I suppose that's to be expected, since I'm attacking epistemological errors that underly the field of linguistics. Frankly, the unexamined nature of the assumptions in the field astonishes me. Why haven't linguists looked into them? Much of the foundation they rely on needs serious repair, and some needs replacement.

Gotta change up my workout routine; need to shock the old bod with something new. And anyway, certain muscles are getting overused, and others not taxed enough. This staying-at-home because of the pandemic has limited what I can do, and when I return to the gym, it's gonna be tough.

The final debate between the two candidates of our ossified political duopoly was last night. "Debate"? It is to laugh. I didn't watch, since hearing and seeing that simulacrum of a human being always costs me more neurons than I can afford to lose. Wasn't this event a waste of bandwidth? What per centage of viewers changed, or made up, their minds? My bet is that the % is in the extremely low single digits, and that any benefit of said made-up minds was far outweighed by the increased polarization the event probably generated. I do hope the polarization change was minimal, and I say that despite being one who is highly opinionated, at least concerning our current (and I hope temporary) crybaby in chief.

Marjorie Champion, the model for Snow White, has died at 101. She danced into her last year of life. Would that we all had such love for what we do.

Vermont has not had a Covid death in more than two months. That's where my youngest brother lives, so I'm glad.

October 24, 2020

Keith Jarrett stopped performing a couple of years ago because of strokes. His Koln Concert was extraordinary, and I loved it, though I wish they'd taken out his moans. Really distracting, those. He says he's a Christian Scientist. As one who believes that we are (for lack of a better term) the particles of a world that constantly affects us in unexpected and unpredictable ways (like tiny bits of matter experiencing Brownian motion), I've always found the core belief of Christian Science preposterous. We aren't in control of anything, including our bodies. We are infinitely weak and limited in all domains, but our big flawed brains delude us into thinking we know and can do more than is in fact possible. Christian Science is a particularly egregious example of this human shortcoming.

Oliver Sacks' essay A General Feeling of Disorder I can't fully identify with, having spent a vanishingly small part of my life in that state. Or course I know when I'm ill, but I have never had those afflictions like migraine (I exclude the ocular migraines I get, which, though annoying, are only that and nothing more) that lead to the sort of generalized ontological qualia he's referring to. Strangely, even my PD does not cause me to experience the highly specific sort of malaise he refers to. Maybe I'm simply impervious, or nearly so, to it. Even when I was dying in the ICU, back in late 1986 or early 1987, I don't think I experienced it, though my brain was so underfunctioning that I was almost vegetable, which could explain why I didn't notice it. Or maybe I've simply forgotten the times I had it. Regardless, I do think I understand what he's referring to, so I clearly have had it. I feel that it probably happened more when I was young, diminishing as I aged, which is the opposite of what one would expect from the essay. (As has been said: "Old age. It ain't for sissies.") I do feel that my body, and the increasing need to cater to its increasing weaknesses, is coming to rule my quotidian existence. That's about as close as I get to Sacks' "general feeling", though I anticipate that this would change if I got, say, cancer, which will rub your nose in the dirt very hard indeed. The closest thing to Sacks' essay I can think of is Dostoevsky's description of an epileptic seizure, probably in The Idiot.

October 25, 2020

Because of a case of the virus, Nepal has suspended trekking and climbing in the Everest region. I remember seeing the mountain (though I couldn't pick out specifically which one Everest was) when I flew into Kathmandu, probably one of the three most terrifying aircraft landings of my life. Saw the mountain again from a rooftop in that city, though again I couldn't pick out precisely which one it was. Though more than a hundred miles away, I think, the mountains still required me to look up to see their tops, covered in white, a ragged serration in the sky.

The virus is surging. The graph of infections in this country looks like a side view of a series of increasingly higher mountain ranges: rise to a peak, dip, rise to a higher peak, dip, then rise a third time to our highest peak yet. Record numbers of infections in more than a dozen states, and record deaths in some. Hospitals are filling up; some have had to turn away patients. And yet, the number of people here who say they'll be willing to take a vaccine has dropped by about 10%. I guess that means the line will be shorter for me. Weirdest of all, the Trump administration shut down the vaccine office in Health and Human Services. It's still gone, and the department won't say why. I wonder whether I can move to New Zealand for a while.

How the virus is changing our habits.

Family: my son lives in Colorado, where cases are accelerating. My youngest brother lives in Vermont, which has managed the virus in superb fashion: no deaths for months.

Might be time soon, when I've finished up the novel and the linguistics paper, to switch to writing a memoir. My son asked on a number of occasions for stories of my life, and even said I didn't give him enough. Maybe write them all down and send them to him. Probably a much more difficult job than writing a novel or an academic paper. How the hell can I organize that mess? Chronologically won't work, and writing by themes would be difficult. Just write a boatload of short chapters, then read through them looking for the threads to tie up the untidy package into some sort of shape.

While I was walking Pogo yesterday, a Republican candidate whom I won't name introduced herself and asked whether I'd voted. I told her not yet, and she offered me some campaign literature, which I declined, saying my mind was made up. She identified herself thus: "I'm the Republican", to which I answered, "I'm voting Democratic". Then she tried to re-engage, asking a couple of questions about whether I couldn't change my mind, for instance because of her "community involvement". I said no and kept walking. She didn't seem able to understand, and I don't give a rat's ass. I've been fed up with the party since Gingrich in 1994, when it started its continuing infernal slide. I have no love for the Democrats, but they're the only realistic hope for getting the freaks out of office. Maybe if there's a bloodbath and these people lose control of both houses and the Presidency, they'll wake up and return to the real world. One can only hope. In the meantime I live, despairingly, in a state where Trump leads Biden by 10 or 12 points, depending on the poll. This is what's happened to the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower, Rockefeller, and Jerry Ford, that its members follow an incompetent, narcissistic asshole who'd rather be a dictator than President.

This being Sunday, I'm tempted to take the car for a drive to Lawrence -- cars need to be used, and mine rarely is, and then only for short jaunts. The university should be empty, and I could drop the Cavalli-Sforza book in the library return. Get me out of the house, too. But I think I'll wait a week, it being just possible I'll use the book some more in my paper.

October 26, 2020

It has been said, more or less, that those who deploy brutal candor are more interested in the brutality than the candor. This is true, at times, of me. The other day, for instance, the short shrift I gave to the woman who aspires to political office. I time my walks, to try to force myself to go fast, forced exercise being useful in holding back PD. So her desire to talk triggered my impatience. But that rudeness may become another bit of political resentment on her part, discouraging her from working across the aisle if she is elected. Another: I was once at the gym, on a recumbent bike, sitting next to a fellow on another, similar bike, and he started up a conversation about climate change. He was watching Fox News, I think, on his screen, and remarked that he didn't see why some people thought they knew more about the subject than others. (But isn't that true of every subject?) So I hit him with half a dozen observations: the Northwest Passage is open for the first time in human history; residents of atolls in the south Pacific have had to leave their islands because rising seas have made them uninhabitable; some people in south Florida can no longer drive to their houses during king tides; the Navy is frantic to keep Norfolk naval base open; and so on. I said that the evidence was clear, and "All you have to do is look". He was silent, and after a minute got off his bike and left. I did my point of view no favors by beating him over the head with my facts, and certainly didn't change his mind. On the contrary, he probably dug his heels in harder. A friend of mine, when I told him this story, said that you can't take the world on your shoulders. It's my belief that even though you can't, you should nevertheless try to, every chance you get. That's what will lead to change. But skillful means are the way to do it. You catch more flies with honey.

Reading Max Boot's book The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right. Not bad, though I can't say much for his style, which, like that of many journalists, is functional, but nothing to make me get up and dance with joy. The man's honest, though just occasionally a note of self-congratulation creeps in, which brings to mind Comey's A Higher Loyalty. But Boot is much less that way. I'll see how it goes, being only a quarter of the way through. The narrative has turned from personal history to fulminations against Trump (and I thought I hated him!) and those who suck up to him like lampreys on a shark. Still, I don't think this is score-settling, just a sort of baffled outrage. (For score settling, read Taleb's The Black Swan. Wouldn't want to be enemies with him; might find ground glass in my dinner.) Boot's book reminds me of Ann Appelbaum's Twilight of Democracy, which is largely told through descriptions of people who have enabled the drift toward authoritarianism in some European countries, like Orban and Johnson and their like. She knew many of these people personally, and she tells the story through narratives of those friends and acquaintances. In the end she utterly fails to grasp their motives, though her descriptions of their acts seems incontrovertible. But her book is largely Eurocentric, and exhibits a certain sense of detachment, or at least emotional evenness. I think some of her snapshots are unfair, as when she says something along the lines of David Brooks having become someone who has turned to writing about personal growth. I suspect that Appelbaum may have slid some stuff I didn't notice under the door jamb; it was subliminal, and I missed it. Boot, on the other hand, writes only about what's happened here, and there's no mistaking what he thinks: he's apoplectic. He loathes Trump. Would that more Republicans had his balls. I never really knew, until four years ago, that my father was right when he said that most people are sheep. Republican politicians certainly are.

First snow of the season, most of the day, sifting down. Stuck on the grass, and on my car, but melted on the patio, drivewy, street, and sidewalk. Maybe an inch, so at least we don't have another October surprise, like back in 1996. Wet, heavy snow and the trees still had their leaves on, so they carried a lot of weight. Tree limbs tearing off, blue flashes from transformers shorting out. I was out in the yard with a pole, pushing the limbs on my trees to shake the snow off, wondering why no one else was doing the same. I didn't have any broken limbs, though there were plenty around the neighborhood.

October 27, 2020

Voted this morning, thinking that a cold day would have shorter lines. There were a lot of people there, but the shindig was very well organized, and I was only in the building for ten minutes, from walking in through voting to walking out. The line moved right along, the poll workers knew exactly what they were doing, and so on. Swiss watch. I was the only one wearing a visor in addition to a mask. Call me paranoid; I don't care.

Stumbled on another silly contest, this one for the most beautiful tweet ever. The winner was this: "I believe we can build a better world! Of course, it'll take a whole lot of rock, water & dirt. Also, not sure where to put it." Nice, but the screamer (that's an exclamation mark, in case you don't know) is inappropriate. In this case, interpreted literally, the tweeter clearly finds his own opinion surprising, as if he'd just wakened to a realization about what he believes... In recent years the bang has been so overused that I'd like to abolish it, or at least ration it. ("You've exceeded your limit this year. You were only allowed ten. The fine is a thousand dollars. You are number 3,397,211 in the queue. If you step out of line to use the toilet, return at the end of the line.") The exclamation mark should be rare almost to vanishing... I see that I've violated my own rule 32 times in the entries above, but a dozen or so were quotes, real or imaginary, and don't count. Plus there's a hell of a lot of text to accomodate a mere 20 or so screamers.

Thinking of Mary McCarthy and Lillian Hellman and their famous dustup this morning, I found this, by Dick Cavett.

Rev 222, 20201027