Covid-19


9
Sep 21

Open wider

This was the view on my morning walk. My morning walk … it sounds so casual. So routine. Perhaps it seems even a bit philosophical. But I don’t usually afford myself a morning walk. Perhaps I should. Instead I opt for more sleep. There’s never enough sleep.

But a morning walk does sound like a fine luxury, particularly as the weather turns a bit milder, if only for a short while. But this was no morning walk. It was a trip with purposes. I walked to the dentist, who has his office just down the street from our house. And if you think that doesn’t stick in your head each time you go by you’re fooling yourself. Every car trip, every bike ride, every run: did you brush enough before you came this way?

He has a new promotion. Follow him on Instagram, and you can win an iPad. Why not. The dental hygienist that works with me is a lovely woman. Her son is a freshman in college this year. And she and I usually discuss TV shows we’re watching. I assume she keeps notes on her clients. I’d mentioned, earlier this year, a great place to go whitewater rafting and she asked if I’d been anywhere this year. I expected more TV talk, or SCUBA diving talk or of the other things we’ve all mentioned in the past.

This is my third regular visit since the pandemic began.

It’s still weird to consider. Please lean over me and poke around my mouth with your pointy instruments which you have, no doubt, left in the nuclear autoclave out back for weeks between patients. You feel most … vulnerable.

This time last year they took my temperature at the door. Today they didn’t even point to a sign that asked if you’ve been having sickly symptoms.

Anyway, all went well with the appointment. And I hope I win that iPad. You can never have enough glowing electronics, no?

Saw this colorful little branch on the walk back.

After which we drove to campus. The Yankee to teach and me to sit in the office and do office things. It’s a carpool experience while her car is in the shop. She should get it back in the next day or two. Tomorrow she’s stealing mine altogether. So her car can’t get back to us quickly enough, you see.

I walked under this American sweetgum tree on campus. The breeze was blowing at the time.

The prickly little fruits of a sweetgum always take me right back to the gravel roads of childhood and running across such a tree is always a treat. Today, in the breeze, it looked like the leaves were waving.

Studio last night, as you might recall. One of the shows they produced has found its way online. First sports show of the season. From here, I’m sure, they’ll start to flesh things out as they go and grow.

And there will be another show to see soon. It’s a talk show and they discussed fantasy football at some length. You can find all those tips here tomorrow.


23
Aug 21

A day of hope

I, like billions of other people, don’t use Facebook that much anymore. It’s too crowded. And there’s only so much time in the day for noise, anyway.

But this year I have been trying to go every day and peruse the memories. It’s worth it to clean those up sometime. And these last few days have offered some doozies, all from just a year ago. It’s interesting to see how much has changed, and how little.

When was it, that the old life slipped away, and wise men and women worried that it was never to return again? Was it all at once or, did it come to mind gradually over that hot summer last year?

Someone instinctively felt it, but the signs were there for all of us to read. Henry White was a turn-of-the-century diplomat, and a signatory of the Treaty of Versailles. He noticed the same thing, as his biographer said, when Europe marched itself into the Great War. “He instinctively felt that his world — the world of constant travel, cosmopolitan intercourse, secure comfort and culture — would never be the same again.”

There may be great gains, yet, but when they are counted, what will we they be, and how will we measure them against what has been lost? It is at a moment like this where we search for the spirit of an era. This one having not been filled to overflowing with optimism and confidence, might cause a person to continue the search. A searching mood such as that could feel like a spark, a great light of promise by which we set the world to right, rather than being rolled under the world in the darkness.

It’s a cycle, and in our study of history we know it is anything but unique. Heroes shape the world, victims struggle through it. People have been warmed by that spark and felt that exuberance before. They will do so again. Hope never dies as long as we can move and feel. Sometimes it smolders low, at other times it will not be ignored.

We are, perhaps, at the start of such a moment. I pray that we are, and that others take up that feeling, as well. It’s too beautiful and full of possibilities to wrap it up and set it down in a box, all but forgotten for some later time.

This is a day full of hope.

And cats. It is Monday, after all. Even in the middle of a heat wave, Phoebe needs her blanket naps.

She does that all by herself. Usually Kitty Me Time means going all the way under the blankets, but maybe it was a little too warm that day for a completely immersive experience.

And I guess they’ve decided to have a cute contest this week. Look at Poseidon’s handsome face.

What’s not to love about a look like that?


9
Aug 21

So we let another Monday sneak up on us

I’m not sure why we let this happen. Again. By now, you’d think, someone would have noticed a pattern. Perhaps they could have gone down to the Office of Naming Things and said something. You probably get brushed off there. They’d send you to the Department of Reorganizing Units of Time. Now, if we know one thing, the humorless people in that office are no help. They’ll let you know straightaway. There’s a sign there that says it takes five business posplexes to get a response back on the paperwork.

The solution then, is obviously to get back to the time machine project. I’m planning on building the next test version in the body of a front-loading clothes dryer.

Unless future me comes back right now to tell me that’s the wrong approach.

No future me. So the dryer version it is. I should make some nice progress on it over the next few posplexes.

How was your weekend? Lovely and restful and productive in all of the proper proportions, I’m sure. I had a nice little run on Saturday morning. It was nice until my entire body rebelled. And that’s what you get when you try to run more than a 5K on no fuel. My blood sugar was a bit low, so I walked the last mile. That let me discover some of the largest milkweed plants you’ll ever see.

I wonder if anyone ever just decided to go for it and crack one of those seed pods open, to see what was inside: no tools, no rocks nearby, just hands and derring-do. I’d bet they were sorely disappointed. And their hands were sore.

We picked up the traditional Chick-fil-A lunch, parking right by the front door for the curbside pickup, watching people walking in right by this sign, maskless.

This county went back under a mask mandate last week. I understand, and am sympathetic, to some elements of the current vaccine debate. Because of that, I’m of two minds about the anger. But masks, this is a different category altogether. Masks are effective; they’re no infringement on your rights. You can breathe in them, and we all should know by now that our noses are connected to the respiratory system.

At which point we’re talking about people who, for some reason, want to conflate self-interest and public health. Like there’s a difference.

Went for a nice 25-mile bike this weekend, too. I only just realized that I didn’t take any pictures or videos. Just imagine me falling well behind on a short ride and going much slower than I should.

That was yesterday afternoon. And last night we stained a bit of wood. This is second or third coat, but you can still see The Yankee’s patented dot-dot-stain system.

I’m not sure where that came from, but that’s how she does it. She enjoys staining — now if I can just show her how much fun sanding is! — and has done a lot of the little projects we’ve built around here. I’ll show you what this is later this week.

Because, right now, we must get to the regular Monday check-in on the cats. They’re doing great, as you can tell. Phoebe is enjoying a bit of late evening sun here:

And here she is sleeping. This must be comfortable. She often finds herself wrapped around the arm of the sofa as a part of our evening cuddle.

Upside down is the way to see life, apparently. Poseidon thinks so, anyway.

So rare that the two of them agree on something, it’s worth noting as a universal truth.

And, finally, here’s Poseidon’s latest portrait.

And that’ll do for now. See you tomorrow. It’s only a posplex away!

Did you know that Phoebe and Poseidon have an Instagram account? Phoebe and Poe have an Instagram account. And keep up with me on Twitter. Don’t forget my Instagram. There are also some very interesting On Topic with IU podcasts for you, as well.


30
Jul 21

Two quick Friday notes

I spend my fair share of time reading about presidents. I enjoy digging up the definitive biographies because the good ones, as much as anything, become about the times, and the people around the man. And somewhere in all of that you find a few repeating themes. One of them is that a lot of things are just frustratingly beyond the control of the White House, no matter what they’d have you believe. This means, of course, that presidents generally take a bit more credit than they deserve for larger national events, and they receive a bit more blame than they deserve for them, too. Another theme that repeats is that the good ones know who they’re speaking to: simultaneously their constituency and history.

There’s another theme we cling to a lot, as Americans, and it shows up in those not-exactly-hagiographies. It’s a part of the American myth that’s not universal, nor transferrable across time or issues. It’s one part of our American optimism this notion that, sometimes, a man meets the times.

I was thinking of that when I was watching this speech today. It’s not perfect, and heaven knows people will disagree on things big and small. But if there’s anyone on the national stage that can speak credibly about empathy, this president is one of those men.

It’s a man who understands his moment. Whether it moves the needle, or even just loosens the screw that’s holding the needle down, remains to be seen, of course. But it’s clear, particularly in the ninth minute and sprinkled throughout, that the president’s writing team knows their man’s strengths.

(The other idea that keeps recurring is that none of them are as good as you thought. A few of them are as tough as you’d imagine. One or two are even bold. Most just really want to hold serve, and try to do well by people. And then there’s Andrew Johnson … )

Meantime … the local mask advice that will be listened to, or dismissed, according to each and their own.

Have a safe weekend, and be kind to one another.


29
Jul 21

Links of the day

We did it last week, and that went well, so let’s return to the simple link post in a good long while. So let’s do that. Here are a few items that have been in my browser(s) today.

This story is 1.3 million years in the making.

Archaeologists in Morocco have announced the discovery of North Africa’s oldest Stone Age hand-axe manufacturing site, dating back 1.3 million years, an international team reported on Wednesday.

The find pushes back by hundreds of thousands of years the start date in North Africa of the Acheulian stone tool industry associated with a key human ancestor, Homo erectus, researchers on the team told journalists in Rabat.

[…]

Before the find, the presence in Morocco of the Acheulian stone tool industry was thought to date back 700,000 years.

The dating is something there, isn’t it? It almost doubles the local timeline. If you aren’t paying attention to archeology news, that seems improbable, 1.3 million years. But not too long ago a team led by scholars from Stony Brook and Rutgers, pushed the timeline in Kenya back to 3.3 million years and Australopithecus afarensis or Kenyanthropus platyops.

The use of the word “industry” in that Al Jazeera story, the first one, also stands out.

It’s one thing to use a rock, but to make it into something useful — something we’d later recognize — is another. And then! Then, to be able to teach that skill to others, so that they can make more axes or spears or knives, maybe in exchange for something else, I suppose that’s industry. That’s civilization. And this one is apparently 1.3 million years old.

I’m sure you saw the new CDC guidance, which is still somewhat muddled. Maybe before we’re through the second year of the pandemic they’ll get their health and crisis comms in order …

Anyway, they’re recommending masks, even for the vaccinated (yes, even for you) if you live in a place where the Covid case load is rated as “substantial” or “high.” Really this is an actuarial exercise, with an element of risk assessment to it. Let’s all assume we have some understanding of percentages and risk aversion and game theory — sorta the same way we decide whether we’re going to drive over the speed limit speed the next time we go somewhere. It’d probably just be safer to driver more carefully every time. Same with masks!

Anyway, substantial and high are what you’re concerned with in NPR’s handy little tool. Just type in your county and you’ll get a read on the local happenings.

The change to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s masking guidelines came after pressure from many outside experts. The CDC’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said in a news briefing that new evidence showed delta was more transmissible than previously understood.

“This was not a decision that was taken lightly,” Walensky said. She noted that new data from outbreak investigations show that, rarely, vaccinated people can still get infected and spread the virus to others.

“On rare occasions, some vaccinated people infected with the delta variant after vaccination may be contagious and spread the virus to others,” she told reporters when announcing the new guidelines. “This new science is worrisome and, unfortunately, warrants an update to our recommendations.”

(Every county I’ve ever lived in, ever, is in one of those two categories right now.)

Wear a mask.

This is one of those local women dominates at Olympics stories.

They have trained together, raced together, wept together. Now they will swim together – in adjacent lanes – for an Olympic medal.

Bloomington workout partners Annie Lazor and Lilly King advanced Thursday morning to the final of the 200-meter breaststroke at Tokyo. They will be underdogs against South Africa’s Tatjana Schoenmaker, who challenged the world record in heats and semifinals.

[…]

“It’s going to be awesome, this is what we have been training for the whole time we’ve been training together,” King said. “So I’m really excited.”

[…]

Last month’s Olympic Trials was the first meet for Lazor since her father, David Lazor, died April 25. He was 61.

“The last couple of months I’ve been going through trying to achieve the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me while going through the worst thing that’s ever happened to me,” Lazor said in Omaha, Nebraska.

“Sometimes my heart, for the first few weeks, it felt like I was choosing grief that day or choosing swimming that day. There was no in-between.”

Update: How cool is this?

Used to be that the athletic performance was what I watched for. Now it’s just the reactions after the events, the culmination of all that work, and the joyous celebrations that come from people who’ve devoted themselves to something so difficult. I guess that means I’m getting older.

Just not 1.3 million years old. Yet.