January 2021

Well it’s been a helluva month. In COVID-19 news, the world continues to rage with the disease. It seems like some places will be a bit better for a while and then will get bad again. My town was for some time at the top of the list of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, which isn’t a list I feel especially good about being at the top of. Our family has thankfully stayed safe and COVID-free. We’re continuing to live as hermits for the most part, though we are letting my son play more out in the neighborhood than we had been, which I hope is a calculated risk we don’t come to regret. The world out there seems largely normal, but with most people wearing masks. That said, I do see people crowding restaurants and bars and such, which blows my mind.

We got a dog named Baxter, a Great Pyrenees whom I’ll write about at greater length before too long. I’ve resisted getting a second dog for a long time but decided five years to the date (coincidentally) after we got our other dog that I was willing (and even eager) to get a companion for her. After visiting a couple of shelters with so-so luck, I found a lesser-known animal rescue group nearby that happened to have this lovely big pooch. We gave him a trial run for a couple of weeks starting at the end of 2020 and made the adoption official in the last week. He’s a sweetheart, if a loud one.

And then there’s U.S. politics. Trump was thankfully voted out of office, but I wasn’t going to believe he would actually leave office until I witnessed it on January 20. I figured he and his minions would find some way to cheat or intimidate their way into keeping him in office. And they sure tried. On January 6 while I was working, I started hearing news reports that a “Stop the Steal” rally in D.C. had erupted into an assault on the Capitol. January 6 is the day that the legislature vote to certify the election results. Trump conveniently held a rally on this day during which he incited the crowd to march down the mall to the Capitol and basically see their will done. A mob of people in MAGA hats and various flags (including the Confederate flag) stormed the Capitol and overwhelmed the curiously small police force there, breaching various offices and one of the chambers of legislature. It was brazen, as if they knew they’d get away with it minus any consequences. Some have begun to suffer some consequences, but it was terrifying that things came to this point. They erected a gallows and called for the assassination of Nancy Pelosi and Mike Pence (whom Trump was upset at for not colluding with him to steal the election). Eventually, reinforcements arrived (it appears that Trump’s goons at the Pentagon were complicit in withholding troops) and the situation was gotten under control, but even then, the rioters were politely escorted away and allowed (most of them) to leave. By contrast, BLM protesters all summer were shot with rubber bullets, pepper sprayed, beaten, and locked up. This is what white supremacy looks like.

The legislature resumed their work and in spite of the resistance of 100+ Republican legislators certified the election. Biden would be president, it seemed. (But who knew what else Trump and his mob might try?) A week later, the House of Representatives voted (with 10 Republicans crossing the aisle) to impeach Trump, the first time a president has ever been twice impeached. And the week after that, Biden and Harris were sworn in. This was a profound relief.

Trump had had his social media accounts suspended as he continued to lie and foment his supporters. That alone was a relief, but then seeing Biden sworn in and the Trump apparatus disassembled, with Trump and his crooked children making tracks at last, enabled me to exhale. Normalcy and dignity and something resembling the truth are returning to at least the executive branch of the U.S. government. Now we just need to shame and indict and punish Trump and his many enablers.

Here’s to a less eventful February, and here’s to a vast reduction in how much we have to hear from Trump and his sort. What a stain.

Reading, 2020

I read a scant 44 books this year, down from 67 last year and 100 in 2018. It’s weird, since I felt like I had read pretty consistently. One factor is that I led an in-depth group read of Adam Levin’s Bubblegum in the middle part of the year. This took 9 or 10 weeks of focused reading and thinking and writing during which I might otherwise have read a few other books. I also read a handful of long books that took a fair bit of time. And I false-started on a few (not listed below). Finally, this was the dreaded year during which my youngest child lost interest in our nightly routine of reading aloud (my eldest having lost interest a couple of years ago), and this change partway through the year will have diminished my number a bit too. The number of books doesn’t mean much, but I feel oddly self-conscious about a significantly reduced amount of reading. I did also watch a lot of TV. And I continued to spend a lot of time prepping and playing D&D — time I would in previous years have devoted to reading.

31 of the 44 books were written by women, 17 by people I believe would identify as non-white. I mention it because I’ve been trying for a few years to avoid reading mostly (straight) white men, and I like to keep loose track of how I’m doing at getting outside my own experience of the world. I read a mix of fantasy, nonfiction, social justice, literary fiction, and even a couple of books of poems and a play. I read some people I had heard of and also branched out to read well-known authors who were new to me or random finds from my local bookshop, which I’ve tried to patronize a little extra this year.

Highlights this year were Ducks, Newburyport, The Greenlanders, Bubblegum and The Instructions, How to Be an Antiracist, The Nickel Boys, and The Last Samurai. I enjoyed most of the books I read this year, with only a small handful of two-star books and no one-star books.

I list the books below by rating and by a few non-comprehensive categories of my own devising.

FIVE-STAR BOOKS

  • How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi

FOUR-STAR BOOKS

  • Horse Heaven, by Jane Smiley
  • Patsy, by Nicole Dennis-Benn
  • The Last Samurai, by Helen DeWitt
  • Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, by Jason Reynolds
  • Beowulf: A New Translation, by Maria Dahvana Headley
  • Pet, by Akwaeke Emezi
  • The River, by Peter Heller
  • The Fearless Organization, by Amy C. Edmondson
  • Memories of the Future, by Siri Hustvedt
  • A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry
  • The Poet X, by Elizabeth Acevedo
  • Sugar Money, by Jane Harris
  • The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • The Nickel Boys, by Colson Whitehead
  • Thick: And Other Essays, by Tressie McMillan Cottom
  • Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars, by Kai Cheng Thom
  • How We Fight for our Lives, by Saeed Jones
  • Bubblegum, by Adam Levin
  • The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • White Noise, by Don DeLillo
  • The Instructions, by Adam Levin
  • Ducks, Newburyport, by Lucy Ellman
  • Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey, by Kathleen Rooney

THREE-STAR BOOKS

  • The Paper Wasp, by Lauren Acampora
  • The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree, by Shokoofeh Azar
  • The City We Became, by N.K. Jemisin
  • Hot Pink, by Adam Levin
  • Tracks, by Louise Erdrich
  • Eternity: Selected Poems, by Tracy K. Smith
  • Dragonsdawn, by Anne McCaffrey
  • Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern, by Anne McCaffrey
  • The Court Dancer, by Shin Kyung-sook
  • Dragonquest, by Anne McCaffrey
  • Hard Mouth, by Amanda Goldblatt
  • Lazarillo de Tormes and The Swindler, by Francisco de Quevedo and Anonymous
  • Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey

TWO-STAR BOOKS

  • The Bingo Palace, by Louise Erdrich
  • Once Upon a River, by Diane Setterfield
  • An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, by Hank Green

NOT STARRED

  • A Radical Shift of Gravity, by Nick Tapalansky
  • Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount, by Wizards of the Coast

NONFICTION

  • How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi
  • Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, by Jason Reynolds
  • The Fearless Organization, by Amy C. Edmondson
  • Thick: And Other Essays, by Tressie McMillan Cottom
  • How We Fight for our Lives, by Saeed Jones

LGBTQIA

  • Patsy, by Nicole Dennis-Benn
  • Pet, by Akwaeke Emezi
  • Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars, by Kai Cheng Thom
  • How We Fight for our Lives, by Saeed Jones

FANTASY

  • The City We Became, by N.K. Jemisin
  • The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Dragonsdawn, by Anne McCaffrey
  • Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern, by Anne McCaffrey
  • Dragonquest, by Anne McCaffrey
  • Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey
  • Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount, by Wizards of the Coast
  • Pet, by Akwaeke Emezi

YOUNG ADULT

  • Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, by Jason Reynolds
  • The Poet X, by Elizabeth Acevedo
  • An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, by Hank Green

COVID Update #8

I haven’t done one of these in a while. COVID has become pretty routine for me. I wasn’t one to leave the house without a good reason previously, so for me, this is largely more of the same.

The most stark contrast I’ve seen between now and March or April has been that wearing masks is pretty normal now, and it’s fairly rare to go out and see somebody at the grocery store without one. It’s a nice change. The other night, I was watching a TV show in the realist tradition (mostly I guess I watch other stuff) and I was suddenly horrorstruck that nobody was wearing masks. What were all these people from this TV show from 10 years ago thinking?

Whether things seem all that different to me or not, here’s what we’re looking at right now in Tennessee.

Tennessee Daily Cases 11.16.2020 (Source: TN.gov), via Inside of Knoxville

Back in July and August was our first big uptick. It looked pretty severe at the time, and I think it was actually at about that time that I noticed more consistent mask usage. New cases even dipped for a while. But now they’re 2-plus times higher than they were during that spike. And with Thanksgiving and Christmas around the corner, it’s hard to imagine this sort of graph will start to look better any time soon.

Meanwhile, we had an election. Trump lost, though he is not conceding and indeed is raising a big lying stink about it, opening lots of lawsuits to try to end-run around the results somehow. I worry that he and others will find a way to get past the election results and that we’ll double-down on fascism if he manages it. Meanwhile, he seems to be doing nothing but tweeting and golfing. He’s not really acknowledging that this virus is still a thing (though he and a bunch of the people who work closely with him contracted it) and has no apparent plan to try to do anything further about it. Biden and Harris meanwhile have formed a committee but can’t do much until the White House starts working with the transition team.

School is still in session, though I’m seeing more and more short-term closures as specific schools run out of custodial staff or substitute teachers. With the numbers climbing again, it’s really hard to believe the kids’ll go back post-Christmas, but then I thought they’d only go for a week or two so far this year, and they’ve been in session since late September. The school system has done a surprisingly good job with things, though I wish they had taken a different approach.

D&D Tabletop Virtual Maps

When I first started running D&D games a while back, I drew battle maps on whiteboards or the grid on the back of wrapping paper. When my group moved to playing virtually due to COVID, I started using maps built into a module a bought for use on Roll20, and I searched the web for maps when I needed to make up an encounter. There are lots of really neat looking maps out there.

I don’t imagine I’ll be playing in person any time soon again, but I’ve seen some neat setups that either project onto a table or that turn a TV or monitor horizontal for the display of vivid maps without all the hassle of drawing maps by hand (which can take some time even if you draw crudely, as I do). I’m not much of a builder but decided on a whim on Saturday to try making a frame to hold an old 27″ monitor I had lying around.

I took some rough measurements and bought some 4″x1″ (so actually more like 3.5″ x .75″) lumber, two 8-footh lengths. I also got some small trim pieces and a sheet of plexiglass cut to the approximate size I figured I’d need. I’m pretty bad at carpentry and so tend to make a rough plan rather than to pretend that I’ll measure or cut very precisely. The end result tends to be crude but mostly serviceable work. Here I’ve marked and begun cutting my frame pieces.

Next, I wanted to sort of route out a couple of slots in one of the boards that’d allow me access to the buttons on the bottom of the monitor and that’d let me feed cords through the frame. I sort of eyeballed it and did some crude routing with a drill and a chisel. I should have measured properly, as my button slot is misaligned by a wide margin. By the time I saw how badly it was misaligned, I had already assembled the frame and slid the monitor into it. I can contort my finger in there and push the power button, but this is not the finest craftsmanship, even by my low standards. I may figure out some sort of button offset gadget I could 3D print to allow me to push buttons inside the frame by pressing buttons on the outside, but it’s a low priority.

In the next shot, I’ve got my frame pieces cut and ready for final sanding. You can see from the knot in the one piece that I’m not super finicky about the look of the wood. I sort of like the knot, actually.

I assembled the frame using wood glue and nails. The black band around the frame in the next photo is this neat clamp my dad got me many years ago that’s designed precisely for holding this sort of thing together while letting the glue dry. Next, I drilled some pilot holes through the plexiglass and the frame. My intent was to both superglue the plexiglass down and nail it in place, with some trim pieces finishing the look and covering some of the monitor’s bezels. I carefully got as far as getting the plexiglass cleaned up and attached to the frame, and I slid the monitor into the frame for a satisfyingly snug fit. Then I cut a piece of wood to hold the monitor into place from behind and screwed that into the sides of the box, long-way (not pictured). When I turned it back over, I found that in spite of my clean-up job, I had managed to get some sawdust between the monitor and the plexiglass — and not just a little. A few specks I could’ve lived with, but it was very noticeable. I tried shop-vacuuming the dust out to no avail, and finally I decided to try carefully prying the plexiglass back up. It cracked as I did so.

So I went back to the hardware store to get more plexiglass. Luckily, they still had the piece they had cut my bit from, so they just cut me a new piece out of it at no additional charge, since I had paid for the whole sheet (I don’t know why they didn’t give me the whole sheet to begin with). I was able to give more precise measurements for the plexiglass this time based on the dimensions of the assembled frame, so I wound up with a better cut than my own prior trim-up job on the the initial plexiglass to make it fit my frame.

In the next shot, you can see that I’ve moved from using an old end table in the garage as a workbench to using the table in our breakfast nook. A little sawdust in the kitchen never hurt anybody. Here I’ve thoroughly cleaned the frame and monitor and plexiglass, re-glued the plexiglass, and have affixed three of the trim pieces using pilot holes and nails. I managed not to crack the plexiglass in spite of hammering nails through the pilot holes. I made the holes about the size of the nail, but not terribly deep, so the nails could slip easily into the holes but still bite into the wood down deep in the frame and hold things together.

And here’s the finished piece, with a little sawdust on the exterior. When I peeled the film off the plexiglass, I was left with a nice clean surface. There’s a gap in the trim on that lower left corner, and the nails don’t look great. I didn’t attend too carefully to spacing of the nails. The slots I hand-routed in the bottom (not pictured here) look a little rough-hewn, but then the whole aesthetic here is pretty rough hewn. I didn’t feel like waiting on stain or varnish, and besides, I didn’t figure I ought to make this thing any more flammable than it already is by adding chemicals to the wood.

The monitor’s bottom bezel (pictured at right here) is wider than the others, and I decided just to live with it, since I thought a uniform trim width was preferable to varying trim widths.

Finally, I plugged the thing in and pulled a map up on it:

You can see that I’ve placed a few of minis on the map too. The idea here is that in the future, I might be able to run a game using Roll20 and show the map here. I can then drag the map around as needed to expose different parts of it within the frame so that we can see big maps without using a lot of table real estate. And they can be vibrant maps that’re much nicer to look at than my crude sketches. I’d like to figure out how to properly go into full-screen mode to get rid of the browser window bits (Roll20 isn’t great for this). But I’ve got lots of time before I’ll feel comfortable playing in person anyway, so there’s time for that yet.

Bunnies

A couple of weeks ago while I was mowing the lawn, a little bunny ran out and tried to fling itself under my mower. This was not my first run-in with bunnies in the yard, though I would not have you, reader, imagine me as some Mr. McGregor chasing rabbits out of my garden. I think bunnies are cute. But, a few years ago, there was an unfortunate and grisly and, I assure you, unintentional bunny mishap as I prepared the ground to put in some new plants. Earlier this year, my dog found a couple of baby bunnies in the yard and made a bit of a mess of them, to the horror of my children, who were in the yard at the time. So when this little varmint flung itself at my mower from out of nowhere, I was horrified but, thankfully and I daresay heroically, I was able to avoid running it over. Later, I found a second bunny, and both are pictured above. I was shocked at how close they let me get. I didn’t spend much time looming over them, as I didn’t want to terrify them any more than was necessary to document that I am not a monster.

COVID Update #7

This past Sunday night, before the kids started school for the year on Monday, I got word that there had already been a case of COVID among the staff of my son’s school. Similar news from my daughter’s school landed on Monday. This isn’t surprising, really, but it’s discouraging. Our school system provided a pretty crummy set of options for returning to school — either virtual with the possibility (and, it turns out, reality) of limited access to certain classes or in-person with the associated COVID risks. Other school systems have taken what seem more sensible approaches to me, with in-person and virtual school staggered to reduce in-person class sizes. I really don’t understand why we didn’t do something similar. I wrote a fair few emails to school officials late in the summer, to no avail. We opted for in-person schooling, hoping sense would prevail and that school would be shifted to virtual. So now my kids are in the building; at least they have their correct classes. It certainly feels like a bit of a Sophie’s choice.

I get that none of this is easy for school administrators. Federal funding has been tied to in-person attendance, for example. Well, schools are already under-funded. I imagine it’s a bit of a Sophie’s choice for administrators who wish to provide education but have their own options limited. Still, it’s frustrating, and I am consistently baffled by some of the magical thinking and lack of basic human decency and any sense of equity in our government at all levels (which is not to say by all individuals in those governments).

COVID numbers in Knoxville had begun to look better in the week or two leading up to school. I had seen a lot more people with masks on out in public. I think it’s finally been normalized enough that most reasonable people have adapted to the inconvenience of it, and that has been heartening. But the university opened back up and kids started partying, and naturally that resulted in hot spots on campus. It seems likely that the return to school (not just for college kids) will further the spread. The numbers in the county are beginning over the last week to creep back up.

Gas prices have risen a bit, though they’re still a dime or so under $2. Groceries on the whole are available, though paper products and isopropyl alcohol and such remain in pretty short supply.

Another Black man, Jacob Blake, was shot by police offers this week. They shot him in the back while his children watched from his car; now he’s paralyzed. He was unarmed and doing nothing wrong. Police apologists are saying that he had a knife in his vehicle (which he was not inside). Protests erupted as they should have, and a 17-year-old white boy shot three protesters with an assault rifle, killing two. Police did not shoot him.

Meanwhile, the Republican National Convention has been held this week. I haven’t watched it, though it sounds like it’s been a circus. It closed, apparently, with a rally on the White House grounds, which besides being a breach of ethics at best (and actually a breach of the Hatch Act, meaning that it’s illegal) also seems profoundly risky during a pandemic. These conventions are always circuses. I didn’t watch the Democratic convention either, though I understand it was more measured. I don’t typically go in for politics that much, though I do vote. I’m starting to pay a lot more attention to local politics. I feel so helpless about policy at the national or even state level, where I think largely you pay to play and it’s hard for politicians (if they even try) to understand how most of us live. And I say that as a very privileged person who knows he’s disconnected from how hand-to-mouth many people live. But at the local level, double digit vote differentials can determine outcomes and influence policy, I’m learning. I don’t like this stuff, but I’m feeling more these days as if it’s important for me to become more engaged and to lend my voice (or at least my vote) more conscientiously on the local scene rather than leaving those who are not as privileged as I am to shoulder the whole burden of caring and engaging. I’m not patting myself on the back here; it is pretty much the very literal least I can possibly do that is not doing nothing.

That was a bit of a digression, I know, but these things — racism and politics and public health — seem so profoundly intertwined right now that it’s hard to think of one without thinking of the others.

On the whole, for my very fortunate family, things seem normalish right now. The kids were definitely ready to see friends and have more structure in their days again, so even though the decision to send them to school was very difficult, I think it’s been good for them so far. Let’s just hope we don’t regret it. I’m sort of skeptical school will remain in session for long. The sense I’m getting from emails being sent out these days is that the school is basically trying to get the kids trained on how to use virtual schooling technology (most of my son’s first week focused on this) so that when school inevitably goes virtual in the coming weeks, the kids will be better equipped to handle it.

COVID Update #6

COVID-19, while only getting worse after a brief trend toward improvement, has all but fallen to the background of the national dialogue in recent weeks. The murder of George Floyd by police offers a few weeks ago was a straw on the proverbial camel’s back, and led to a number of protests and marches, which police largely responded to with remarkable force. Trump has continued to stir up his base, today apparently tweeting a video in which a supporter shouted in support of white power. He has also continued to weaken the federal government, removing people fit to do their jobs and putting supporters with little experience in their place. It is shocking and pretty scary how unfit he is for the office and how little the other branches of the government have really done to try to rein him in. It is such a strange time, and I feel like I’m living in a satire or some sort of over-the-top dystopia. I feel pretty powerless. Mostly I am responding by donating money where I think it’ll help, but that feels pretty toothless.

Meanwhile, COVID cases and deaths continue to rise. Cases in Tennessee continue to climb as bars and other businesses open up. Texas and Florida have become hot spots. People have flocked to beaches for summer vacations. Nationally, the death rates have fallen some, but here’s a graph of a big recent uptick in cases (presumably deaths will follow):

That’s the graph since March, and we’ve got more daily cases than ever. The biggest hospital in Austin this week had all of its ICU beds full.

I see people wearing masks in public, but I see plenty who don’t, too. Plenty of folks have masks but have their noses exposed.

This is a big election year, and Republicans are limiting polling places. I read that in some places, single polling locations are now going to have to serve hundreds of thousands of people. Trump and his ilk have tried to prevent mail-in voting options. Democrats traditionally fare better at the polls when more voters show up, so this all makes sense but is very disturbing.

Meanwhile, Black people continue to be treated badly. Amid all the protests, after some of the gatherings had begun to dissipate, several Black people were found hanged, their deaths apparently ruled suicides. Police officers in Wilmington (near where I grew up) were recorded venting, using racial slurs and wishing (or even maybe plotting) violence toward African Americans. It feels like we’ve regressed 100 years. It’s shameful.

I worry a lot that Trump with Russian or other allies will steal the coming election and that our government and its checks and balances will further erode over the following four years. I worry that he’ll do more damage in the next few months in any case. Biden is the current Trump alternative, and he’s a milquetoast establishment candidate I have trouble getting excited about, though I’d take very nearly anybody with an ounce of intelligence and a rumor of integrity over Trump.

Gas is still cheap. You can get toilet paper if you go to the store at the right time, and when I last went, restrictions on how much meat you could buy had been lifted. So things feel a little more normal on the surface, but when you read the news, it’s clear that the new normal is anything but normal.

Giant Pencil or Tiny Watermelon?

A couple of days ago, I needed some lime zest and lime juice for a recipe. I’ve been a bit of a slob about the kitchen lately, so I just left the lime halves lying around, and today it occurred to me that they looked like tiny watermelon halves.

Also, in the U.S., we’ve had nearly 90,000 deaths from COVID-19. But don’t worry, states are opening back up before we know it’s safe, and people are blithely going out without regard to the safety of themselves or others. I’m sure it’ll be ok. As long as we don’t test people, Trump has said recently, then we won’t have any new cases to report.

In other news, I know I said that I had left some limes lying around, but actually those are watermelon halves after all. I know I also said that it was a tiny watermelon. But it’s actually an extra-large watermelon. And an extra large pencil! I wrote this post with it. Also the pencil isn’t a pencil, it is a mastodon named Chuck who assures me that truth and facts and reason and empathy don’t matter anymore.

COVID Update #5

I’ve been eating junk cereal again and today was struck by how the back of the box of my Cinnamon Toast Crunch depicts pretty well the current state of mind of a lot of the world. This image takes up the whole of the back of the jumbo sized box:

If you’re not afraid to breathe when you must scuttle out for provisions, there’s some chance you’re outraged that the gubmint is trying to limit your freedoms as a ‘murican. Or maybe you’re outraged at those imbeciles. Or maybe you’re just not used to being around your family as much as the last few weeks have called for and are a little on edge. Maybe you’re just stir crazy. Maybe you work in a grocery store where people without masks breathe on you all day. Maybe you work in a hospital, risking your health to help others. I don’t believe this is a special edition box of cereal printed for this moment in time, but it certainly seems to fit the general mood.

Gas yesterday at my usual station was $1.699. Grocery availability was reasonable, though some things are still being rationed. I was able to buy a 6-pack of toilet paper for the first time in weeks. I did have to go to a second store to get some cannellini for a white chicken chili.

School is officially shut down for the year, and the district has shared plans for calculating final grades. AP exams are still on for my daughter. A driver’s ed course I had signed her up for is moving to an online format for the classroom portion. My son is having an extended break. He is chewing through books very rapidly, which is nice, as he had really slowed down his reading for a while. He spends a lot of his afternoons out in a hammock in the yard with a book.

Some neighbors continue to have guests, which is sort of disturbing.

My hair is about as long as it’s been in my adult life; so is my beard, though that I could trim confidently. I figure if I’m going to look like a caveman, I may as well wear the whole look.

Our postal service is apparently struggling, and people are buying stamps to try to help save the organization. I ordered a couple of books of dinosaur stamps I’m a little excited about. This matters because there’s a very plausible fear that with an election coming up in November, we’ll need to vote by mail if social distancing is still called for. If our authoritarian president allows the post office to go bust, he increases his odds of winning, as greater voter participation tends to go badly for Republicans. It’s shocking that this is a thing we have to worry about. Who would have thought 5 or 6 years ago that this would be a worry?

Life for me remains mostly as it was before the pandemic, though I feel a little more contaminated when I come home from the grocery store now than I did before, and I go outside the neighborhood a little less than I had before (but not much; I was a homebody to begin with). I do feel like I’m living at the top of a slide down into an authoritarian dystopia, which is unsettling and a little hard to fathom. Maybe it’s also hyperbole. I do hope so.