Author Archives: Matthew Appleton

About Matthew Appleton

A dad and loving husband who is also an easily distracted sf&f junkie, LEGO enthusiast, Phillies fan, and writer wannabe who really has too many other responsibilities to be working on his many different on-going projects.

Fuck Your “Freedom,” You’re an Asshole

I am done with maintaining even a thin veneer of civility. I have had it with right-wingers in this country, and I despise nearly every single one of them. Each time one of them starts bleating about their rights, freedom, and bringing the economy back, all I hear is incredibly narcissistic, overly-entitled, short-sighted whining.

Back in World War II, when this country last faced a serious crisis, we did whatever it took to win. Industries were nationalized, taxes were raised, lights out curfews enforced in coastal cities, rationing was common, and people sacrificed because it was understood that there was a greater good. It was a hardship, but it was necessary. Everyone understood that not chipping in and doing what was right likely meant putting lives at risk.

But, now… Well, according to the current deranged logic being spouted by the John Birch Society, Tea Party, Libertarian, (somehow) the Christian right, and whackadoodle GOP crowd, freedom is all that matters, and if they don’t get what they want they are going to march on state capital building while proudly bearing their arsenals in an effort to intimidate and scare everyone else in an effort to get what they want. They don’t give the tiniest shit about the health and well-being of others or society as a whole. It’s all about them, and fuck everyone who doesn’t agree with them.

Well, I just don’t have it in me anymore to attempt to be understanding or talk civilly to people like that. Their selfishness and preschool-level understandings of rights, freedom, and civic responsibilities and duties is getting other people killed — and the worst part is that they don’t care. They feel like they have a 99% chance of surviving if they should somehow get sick, and they are comfortable with those odds. Of course, if they get sick and come into contact with 300 other people during that time, they will kill three other people because of their selfishness and inhumanity to others. But, that’s not their problem.

I don’t have to be nice to such people. Fuck them. All of them. Especially those who know me personally. I don’t care if you are a friend or a family member. If you are of the mindset that your liberty and freedom is more important than doing the right thing, then you are a killer, and I want nothing to do with you. I’m holding you to a higher standard because if you know me, chances are excellent that you’ve seen other things I’ve posted here or on Facebook. You know how I feel about this. This is not a simple matter of “it’s just an opinion” or “let’s agree to disagree.” I have no fucks to give to that bullshit. Your attitude will cause others to die. If you are some kind of Christian who can’t be bothered to understand this… Well, I hope the God you believe in is far more forgiving than I am.

Hundreds of thousands of people are going to die in this country because of a deranged right-wing way of thinking that devalues society and the general well being — all for the fetishization of individualism. I don’t have to talk nice to such people anymore. I’m tired of trying to get them to understand and see the light — tired of trying to get them to develop the smallest shred of empathy. Sometimes, you just have let the lemmings go rushing headlong over the cliff to their death.

It just sucks that they are going to take so many people who are sincerely trying otherwise with them.

Notes From the Pandemic, Day 58

The plan, and still the intent, is to utilize my long morning walks as a time to listen to audiobooks. However, as was the case with workouts on the elliptical motion machines at the gym, it also seems to be the perfect time to dictate posts like this into my phone. That combined with a stretch of days that didn’t include a lengthy stroll has resulted in little progress on Camus’s The Plague over the past week. At some point, I’ll reach some sort of happy equilibrium, but until then…

Last weekend, we began work on what is probably our first pandemic project: properly organizing the garage and getting rid of the junk that’s accumulated via years of inertia. This task has really needed our attention for longer than we care to admit. Aside from the boxes of things that haven’t been touched since moving nearly nine years ago, much of what is currently stored in there is more or less haphazardly strewn around.

We started by tossing some of the things that could obviously go into the trash. However, that’s not necessarily as easy as it was just two months ago. As part of their efforts to protect their workers, something we totally endorse, the trash company will only empty their approved trash and recycle bins. They will not accept anything placed on the curb for disposal. As a result, a section of the garage has become the area where we will neatly stack everything that we will most likely need to pay a junk removal company to take off our hands.

Further complicating our efforts is the significant amount of e-waste piled into a couple boxes. Ideally, it should all go to an electronics recycling program. However, Virginia doesn’t really have such a program — at least, that was the case when I last checked the website for the state agency that should be in charge of such a thing. (Admittedly, that was at least a couple years go.) In fact, the posted directions/suggestions were to take old computers, wires, peripherals, etc. to Best Buy for their recycling program. Unfortunately, at this time the closest Best Buy is only allowing curbside pick up of online orders. So, more items for the junk section of the garage.

In the meantime, we are re-opening all the old boxes, deciding what can be saved and what can be pitched, and repacking what we are saving into sturdier plastic storage bins. Those Items are finding new homes in plastic bins freed as part of another long avoided project: resorting the Lego collection. Despite its size, and the amount of space it occupies in the garage, no effort is being made to whittle down the size. For the time being, I am relocating many Lego into larger bins and their original, smaller bins are being used for repacking items. This effort also serves to help remove the various sets currently taking space in my work office.

The garage isn’t the only place where this kind of effort is needed. A couple areas of the house also have turned into clutter zones. Those need to be tackled in much the same manner. When all this is done, it’ll be time to see who will remove all the detritus at the best price.

None of this spring cleaning would be happening at this time without the current travel restrictions and stay at home orders. Mind you, half the country is hell-bent on re-opening, proving once again humankind’s self-destructive capacity for selfishness, greed, and carelessness towards others. To a degree, it seems that as with things such as recycling and other forms of trying to reduce our carbon footprint and waste, we are left attempting to do the right thing while the powers that be allow the situation to barrel out of control. All we can do is lead our lives as best we can.

So much of life under these conditions is unnerving — and not just the pandemic and the federal government’s woefully inadequate response to the crisis. Before this started, we as a species were already facing a series of events (plastic pollution, pending environmental collapse, runaway climate change — to name a few) that could potentially cause the downfall of the U.S., and human civilization as a whole. Yet, little work was being done to address those. Given the collective denial and inaction of this country’s leaders to those problems, I suppose it’s not surprising that so many of them have collectively decided to shrug and act like the economy matters far more than human lives.

It’s all depressing as hell.

 

Notes From the Pandemic, Day 50

Today’s post is brought to you by a stream of consciousness dictated into my phone while taking a morning stroll a couple days ago. I considered editing, revising, and reworking in the interest of ultimately posting something that properly flowed and had real structure. However, reading and thinking it over made it clear that a significant amount of work would be necessary to make that happen. Ultimately, leaving it in the form it organically took (with just a few, though significant, modifications) meant getting it online faster, which seemed just a little more important…

It sickens me when reading about the various things that GOP politicians are doing to reopen the economy in the midst of all this. All of it shows an extremely cavalier disregard of human life. I have been fond of saying for a long time that the GOP is not actually pro-life, that they merely have a fetus fetish. The past few weeks have provided ample evidence for this. The GOP governors of Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and the states that never actually issued proper lockdown measures in the first place are all  deciding that the economy is more important than human lives. Worse, the ending of measures to slow the spread of the virus comes with particularly odious ramifications. If a business decides they don’t want to reopen because of wanting to protect their workers, they won’t be able to claim any kind of insurance or assistance designed to help businesses affected by the pandemic. By the same token, workers who refuse to report to work due to safety concerns (especially if their employer isn’t taking reasonable precautions to safeguard their health) won’t be able to claim unemployment benefits. After all, the job is there waiting for them regardless of  lack of safety measures deployed to protect them. To further rub salt in the wound, many in the GOP are pushing hard right now for laws to protect businesses from liability if workers get sick due to exposure on the job. All of this, proves the disgusting, immortal worship of the almighty dollar over human life. Those who suffer the worse: those who can’t afford to miss a paycheck if no other means of assistance is available.

As if they see just how morally indefensible their position is, a meme embraced by some acquiescent right wingers has been something along the lines of, “well, freedom means that you also have the freedom to not go to work if you are concerned about your own safety.” No, people are being forced to choose between their own safety on working low-wage jobs just to survive. That isn’t freedom — which is what the right-wing is claiming to defend. No, you just changed the economics of slavery. Actually, this is really nothing new. Slavery, feudalism, children in coal mines, companies taking advantage of economic disparity in different regions of the world, even current laws here in the US — such as those that apply to farm workers and restaurant workers — have all been about boosting profits for the business and upper classes at the expense of human life, health, and dignity.

Combine that with the right wing absolutist worship of the Second Amendment, their affection for throwing around US military might indiscriminately, the subsequent refusal to truly properly care for our veterans afterwards, and the absolute refusal to do anything to help American workers because it reeks too much of “socialism,”… Well, that calls for a revision of my statement about their fetus fetish. Really, America’s right wing, which of the GOP absolutely caters to in every discernible way, is a death cult with a fetus fetish.

Yesterday, David, a friend of mine posted the following on Facebook:

So when things get back to “normal,” does anything change on workplace rights / benefits? We’ve got 10s of millions of people working from home with young kids right now — does this move the needle on issues like paid family leave?
Does this ease any of the parent guilt that my generation has imposed on ourselves? Bad parents because we work too hard, bad workers because we parent too hard?

Bunches of questions have been raised — political, social, everything. But as we reopen the economy, I hope people will consider that there are opportunities to make improvements.

In response I wrote this:

I read this this morning and have been giving it a lot of thought. My “short” answer:

    1. Putting “normal” in quotes: well done. We are never returning to the previous normal. This is a society changing event on the scale of the Great Depression.
    2. Having said that, the GOP will do everything in its power to continue the path it had been on for the past 40+ years. The battle is not over, and it won’t be until enough people realize that the GOP doesn’t give an actual shit about anybody who isn’t rich and/or powerful enough to warrant their actual attention. They will continue to throw bones to the religious right and the white nationalists because they need their votes. Remember that it took years of the Great Depression before enough of the voting populace properly internalized the depravity of lassaiz faire economics the first time.
    3. The Democratic Party has its own issues to sort out, and many of the people behind the scenes who are bankrolling the GOP insanity will also do what they can to prevent a proper progressive takeover of the Democratic Party.
    4. If history is a guide, the progressive takeover will eventually succeed, but not before plenty of additional pain and suffering for the American people as a whole.
    5. Complicating all of this: we are still staring down the barrels of ecological collapse, runaway global climate changes, and an increasingly distressing problem with a plastic pollution.
    6. I don’t think its hyperbole at all to suggest we are in the opening stage of a protracted series of global events that will completely change what “normal” means for virtually everyone on the planet.
    7. I want to believe that when the new normal arrives, that it will be one firmly rooted in a new system that values things much differently than the old ones that have created the clusterfuck of events that is threatening human civilization was we know it. Unfortunately, I would say that the chances of a complete collapse of human civilization is disturbingly non-trivial. (I say this without the slightest hint of exaggeration — I truly believe this.)
    8. This has been your ray of fucking sunshine for the day. 🙂

Nearly everything in that rant is something I previously expressed on Facebook, to Sally in private, or via other means/forums. The future scares me. Not just the long-term future either. The orange shit goblin currently occupying the White House has more or less lived up to all the my worst fears after his election. In the midst of all this, it’s frighteningly likely it is he will take full advantage of both of the current situation and of the ridiculous amount of leeway and latitude that the GOP has provided him — as evidenced by their near unanimous capitulation to trump during the impeachment hearings. Who would have ever thought back in 2012 that Mitch Romney would someday be the last GOP senator to show something of a shred of morality and conscience?

The situation seem all the more dire now that the courts have now been thoroughly stacked with right wing idealogues, and the Federal Election Commission is completely powerless. Mitch McConnell and Der Katzengröpenfürher have acted in concert to ensure that there are no longer enough members of the FEC to have the necessary quorum to actually do anything. They couldn’t even be bothered to fill the current vacancies with right wing sycophant, like they did with the FCC and Ajit Pai.

No, there is quite literally nothing to get in the way of Trump should he decide, and he absolutely will, to break every federal law that is in his way while attempting to get reelected. With the pandemic and the massive weakening of the governmental structures designed to constrain someone like Trump (see just about every single statement issued by Attorney General Barr since he was appointed to the post), the coming election is perfectly situated for a Reichstag fire incident — the scale of which could actually bring down the American republic in much the same way the Roman Republic turned it’s back on representative rule.

Should that happen, and the chances are scarily real, who knows what kind of right-wing nationalist monstrosity the government will turn into. I read Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here during the 2016 elections. As eerily prescient as it was, it did end on a hopeful note. Maybe Lewis wanted to be optimistic, that he wanted to believe in the overall goodness of American citizens in particular and humankind in general. I don’t have such a worldview. There’s a reason behind my preferred trivia team name, Misanthropic Secular Humanists, for the past few years. We are our own best hope for progress, salvation, and survival in the face of so many daunting issues. However, as a species we still exhibit an unhealthy level of selfishness, greed, nearsightedness, tribalism, sexism, and racism (by no means an exhaustive list of our worst qualities.) These shortcomings are so profound that my comment to David about potential for a collapse of human civilization does not in any way seem overly pessimistic.

(Aside: yes, humankind is capable of amazing artistic and technological creativity and beauty. People regularly engage in awe-inspiring acts of kindness and generosity. Our best qualities can be breathtaking when on full display. Unfortunately, this is clearly a period in history where all worst instincts and qualities are on full display.)

I truly hope my worries are misplaced and that they are ultimately proven wrong. I don’t ever expect us, either as a nation or as a species, to coelesce around a truly progressive vision of how to reshape the economy, the way we live, and the way we treat each other and our world — even though it is abundantly clear that the old normal needs to be jettisoned the same way feudalism withered away after the Black Death.

I wish I possessed something optimistic and uplifting to end this end this on, but I just don’t have it in me.

Notes From the Pandemic, Day 47

I miss going to the gym. No, not really. I miss having the options that going to the gym provided. Mind you, sustained periods of eating and exercising properly have been exceedingly rare over the past few years — but now isn’t the time to go into that. Nonetheless, I have managed to avoid a sloth-like existence, and trips to the gym were frequent enough to mostly justify the monthly expense.

One of the rare positives of the pandemic is that with all gyms closed by state order, that particular outlay is currently off the books. My credit card, which is billed automatically each month, didn’t show a gym charge for April. Unfortunately, no gym fees also means no trips to use the elliptical motion machine — my preferred method of exercise. Now, our house does have a treadmill, which Sally has owned since before we met, and going out for walks is a viable option as well. However, neither of them is zero impact the way a Precor system is, and walking fast enough to truly get aerobic exercise wrecks havoc with my ankles, shins, and knees.

So, for the time being, the act of forcing myself to the gym to get needed exercise is now weirdly something that’s missed. Thanks, COVID-19 pandemic.

Other, specific things I sorely miss (aside from physically interacting with friends and family). I’m sure that everybody is missing just about every one of these, with maybe one notable exception:

  • Listening to music while driving in the car. I actually don’t like driving very much, but my car has a nice sound system, and it’s one of the best places for me to listen to music. With the notable exception of couple weekends ago, which will be discussed in a future post, I’ve averaged about 20 minutes of driving time per week — hardly enough to properly experience Ghost, for example.
  • Going to the grocery store, or any store for that matter, without worrying about whether this trip is going to cause me to get sick, or, worse, get everyone else in my house sick.
  • Planning and then anticipating trips to Philly. It’s going to be a long time before there’s another visit to the place that truly feels like home.
  • Weekly trivia nights at O’Faolain’s. Admittedly, there had been stretches of not going for a few months at a time, but the option to go was always there, even if it wasn’t taken.
  • Deciding on a whim to eat out, decide on the restaurant, and then enjoy the meal there. Figuring out what to prepare for every meal on a much more regular basis (not to mention the cleanup) is getting exhausting.

Finally, earlier today Vice President Pence visited the Mayo Clinic and didn’t wear a mask while interacting with staff and patients. Normally, I would never wish death or illness on someone, but if anyone ever deserved to get sick and experience some karmic comeuppance, it’s that man. Well, his boss as well. Maybe Pence will spread the germs and we can get a two-for-one deal out of this.

 

My Pandemic Playlist (NFtP, Day 45)

Around the time the shelter at home and nonessential business closure orders started to go into effect,  pandemic music playlists seemed to appear nearly everywhere on online. After looking over a few of the lists, I decided to stop perusing them because of the need to create one totally to my taste, with as little outside influence as possible. It also didn’t help that certain songs — most notably R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” — just seemed way too ubiquitous and obvious.

So, my list started with Warren Zevon’s “Life’ll Kill Ya,” because… Well, how could you not start with a song by an artist who wrote so much about death? From there, I added another every day or so until the list reached 10 songs, and then progress stalled for a couple weeks. Then, a couple evenings ago, while throwing dinner together in the kitchen with Sally, we were listening to a playlist of adult contemporary songs when two additional songs caught our attention and seemed to be good fits for the list.

Work on my pandemic playlist still isn’t complete. It seems like whatever the final list is, it shouldn’t take more time than the length of a standard CD. Once it contains enough songs, we’ll figure the best possible play order as well. In the meantime, the following songs will be included:

“Life’ll Kill Ya,” Warren Zevon
“Rats,” Ghost
“99.9F°,” Suzanne Vega
“(Nothing but) Flowers,” Talking Heads
“Someone to Love,” Fountains of Wayne
“Everything Is Awful,” The Decemberists
“Germs”, “Weird Al” Yankovic
“No One Lives Forever,” Oingo Boingo
“High Hopes,” Bruce Springsteen
“Burn the Castle,” New Model Army
“Stuck in the Middle,” Stealers Wheel
“A Life of Illusion,” Joe Walsh

When it’s completed, I’ll revisit this post and provide some additional commentary. In the meantime, there may actually be a post that’s not part of the Notes From the Pandemic series.

Notes From the Pandemic, Day 41

A couple days ago, I posted the following to Facebook. First, as a comment on a friend’s post, then again, as a post on my own page:

The fact that introverts are by nature more comfortable with social distancing does not mean we can handle social distancing indefinitely. We too enjoy being able to spend time with friends and loved ones — we just don’t recharge our batteries that way. Over time, we also start missing that level of human contact. It’s a mistake to assume that introverts aren’t feeling many of the same emotions as a result of all this.

We are all in the same boat; we just boarded it in different ways.

Because it was originally a comment to someone else’s post, some important context/additional information is needed. Sheltering at home presents new difficulties for an introvert when doing so with a family. There are four of us sheltering together: Sally, Brandon, Charlie (my step-daughter), and myself. Finding true solitary time is rather difficult under these circumstances. Furthermore, even though I’ve worked from home for 10 years, doing so with three other people in the house is very different from when you are literally alone for hours on end. Getting outside to take walks helps alleviate some of the need for alone time, but it’s not the same as truly being alone in your own home, recharging without the possibility of interruption.

However, walks are different these days as well. Before the pandemic, going out for walk and getting lost in your thoughts, an audiobook, or music was a simple thing to do. Now, one needs to be aware of the surroundings and others at all times. The outside is safer than being in a crowded place of business, but it’s still an excellent idea to keep your distance from everyone else who is out walking, running, riding their bikes. In fact, I’ve stopped using the various exer-cise trails that wind through the community because they just don’t feel safe. There are people who still aren’t being fully mindful of others, and many of those paths don’t have sufficient clearance to step off and make some distance. Furthermore, at certain times during the day, there can quite a few people on them. It’s far safer and easier to stick to the sidewalks, where you can actually step out into the street to circumvent others as needed. Still, you always need to be aware, and sometimes need to anticipate and plan a few steps ahead (pun intended) where you need to turn or take a slightly circuitous route. It’s like playing a real-life, real-time strategy game.

No, these days taking a walk is definitely not an efficient way for an introvert to recharge their batteries.

A few shorter items to close today’s post:

  • Yesterday’s post left out that I didn’t go out for my birthday bacon cheeseburger this year. While Five Guys, my preferred burger joint, is open for takeout and delivery, it’s not the same as actually eating the burger immediately, right there on the premises. In case you read yesterday’s post and are wondering why there wasn’t a burger on Sally’s and my date night, I try to avoid eating meat in her presence, out of respect for her vegetarianism, which is strict and absolute. (Unlike mine, which has a quarterly bacon cheeseburger exemption — birthday, Father’s Day, Brandon’s birthday, and the holiday season — because I just love the things too damn much.
  • My Lego Mini-Me is getting an update. Thanks to my hair growing out, the current hair piece on the minifigure really doesn’t properly represent me anymore. Lego doesn’t have a piece that’s a great match for how my hair looks now, but there are a couple parts that might be in the realm of close enough. Yesterday, I ordered them from a seller on BrinkLink.com. Before and after photos will be posted.
  • According to The Washington Post, as of 7:44 AM EDT, at least 44,673 have died from the coronavirus, with 2,574 reported deaths yesterday. Amazingly, a number of GOP governors in the south and midwest have either not enacted any restrictions to slow the virus’s spread or are now relaxing any they put in place. The GOP values money over human lives. They are not pro-life. They are death cult with a fetus fetish.

Notes From the Pandemic, Day 40

It’s rather unsettling to properly contemplate the long list of things that are getting postponed or canceled. Concerts, sporting events, weddings, senior proms, family gatherings, high school reunions… In the giant list of things, my 48th birthday isn’t necessarily the kind of event that should be a big deal. Yet, it was casualty of the pandemic, and canceling it was nonetheless disappointing.

When Loudoun County Public Schools abruptly shut down at 5:00 AM on March 12, Sally and I immediately knew that the birthday plans were in jeopardy. They actually weren’t anything elaborate. We were going to celebrate a few days early by grabbing dinner and drinks in downtown Winchester on the evening of March 19, spend the night at the George Washington Hotel, which is just a couple blocks away from there, and then spend the next day visiting favorite shops and restaurants in the Winchester area. It was something we have done numerous times over the years, so it wasn’t in of itself anything special. However, in addition to being my birthday celebration, it was going to be our first night out of the year, which we eagerly anticipated for weeks.

Initially, there didn’t seem to be any pressing reason to not go through with the plans. However, that quickly changed less than 12 hours after LCPS announced the school closings, when Governor Northam issued a State of Emergency. Over the following days, as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths increased — both locally and nationally — and authorities enacted various additional measures to prevent its spread, we modified the plans in a manner that would still let us at least spend some away from the house. For a few days, the revised overnight getaway involved spending the evening at the hotel, ordering takeout from the nearby restaurants, and getting drinks from the hotel bar and/or bring our own alcohol to the room.

Those plans collapsed completely on St. Patrick’s Day when Northam issued a public health emergency order that barred more than 10 patrons at businesses. Although that is what ultimately necessitated canceling the hotel reservation, we had started leaning towards that decision the day before when O’Faolain’s announced that they were temporarily closing as a result of the increased danger to public health. In the end, our big getaway turned into taking Friday, March 20 and the following Tuesday (my actual birthday) off from work, and the two of us simply spending those days together. The closest we got to eating out was over the weekend, when we went to Five Guys, got a large order of fries as takeout, and then proceeded to eat them in the minivan in the parking lot.

We called that a date night.

Chances are good that many of the guidelines and restrictions currently in place will still be there when each of our next birthdays come around. With any luck, we’ll be able to properly celebrate my 50th in 2022. It will be even better if Sally and I can properly enjoy our 10th wedding anniversary at the end of 2021.

A couple other tidbits to close this post out on:

  • I actually made the decision months ago, before COVID-19 turned our lives upside, but Albert Camus’s The Plague is my classic novel for the year. I’m now about a third of the way through it.
  • Along those same lines, it feels like a rewatch of 12 Monkeys is in order. Either the movie or the television series will do nicely. There’s really no reason why it can’t be both.

Notes From the Pandemic, Day 36

In my first Notes From the Pandemic post, I stated that my life hasn’t changed a whole lot since all the various social distancing recommendations, quarantines, stay-at-home orders, and non-essential business closures first started. Yet, it is actually rather difficult to go about the daily routines without always being aware that the surrounding and some of the daily routines are radically different.

Case in point: Brandon being at home with me. He has now been here for over three weeks straight. This is the longest stretch of time we’ve been under the same roof since his mother and I finally moved into new places after our separation. I’m enjoying the having him around — even if as a teenager most of his time is spent in his room playing games, doing his distance learning, and socializing online with friends. The only slight drawback is that his room is right next to my home office. Frequently, he will open his door and start excitedly talking about whatever it is he wants to share. I am working on getting him to wait until I can properly disengage from work, but it’s likely this effort will take a while.

On the plus side, Sally is home all the time as well. It’s rather nice to be walk away from the office, go up the stairs, and then spend a few minutes with her. Happily, this happens at least a few times a day.

The other most notable change in routine is my actual work schedule. During the school year, I make use of the flex time scheduling benefit in order to be able to visit Brandon one during the middle of the week. This results in two 9½-hour days, a five-hour day, and two eight-hour days. His staying here means a traditional work week — not to mention significantly less time in the car. No more weekly 80-mile round-trips or the two trips each weekend to exchange him with his mom. Actually, there’s almost no time driving at all. The gym is closed, and we’re trying to minimize our visits to the grocery store — which is just a little over a mile away — as much as possible. As someone else on Facebook put it, we’re getting three weeks (or more) to the gallon.

Having all that time back, as well as a more regular schedule, is greatly appreciated. However, there’s lots of driving that I miss. Driving to O’Faolain’s to simply unwind and have some fries with a couple pints of cider… Driving to favorite shops to simply browse… Occasionally driving to the town center at lunchtime just to grab something different to eat… Making a one-day road trip with Sally to visit the nearby places we love… These were not regular parts of the daily or weekly routine, but even though the inability to do so is not always in my thoughts, it seems to unpleasantly linger like an barely perceptible smog.

A few other thoughts before closing this out:

  • The Washington Post is reporting that a number of meat processing plants are shutting down due to COVID-19 outbreaks. There will certainly be shortages of various meat products coming. It looks like a lot of people will start needing to be vegetarians, whether they want to or not. On a related note, it may be a good time to stock up on some of my favorite meat substitute products — especially Impossible Burger.
  • Although I need a car less than at any time since living in New York City over 20 years ago, it still needs to be properly maintained. It needs to go into for an inspection, oil change, and a small array of maintenance repairs. Normally, picking a day to drop the car off for such things requires careful planning to make sure we can survive with just one vehicle until it’s ready. Not anymore. Pretty certain that having just one car for a couple days won’t create any hardships at all this time around.
  • As of 6:29 AM EDT today, The Washington Post reports there are 33,286 confirmed deaths in this country due to COVID-19. This saddens me greatly. At the same time, it’s infuriating that we have a President who did nothing to prepare our country for this when he had the chance back January and February. If there really is a hell in the afterlife, there should be a special, uniquely tailored punishment both for him and all the sycophants who enabled this travesty of governance. The Orange Shitgoblin has blood on his hands.

Notes From the Pandemic, Day 34

Some odds and ends from the past 34 days. Some of it has already been posted to Facebook, but that platform is nearly Orwellian when it comes to being able to search for and reread old posts, so the plan is to work harder to make sure anything of note gets properly placed here.

  • We have been exceedingly fortunate thus far. As mentioned in the previous Notes from the Pandemic post, I’ve been working from home for over 10 years, so my job and, more importantly, my income remains unchanged. For the time being, thanks to working for the county government, Sally has been staying home on full paid leave since this all started. So, we’re not worrying about any of our bills. In fact, once the government stimulus check clears in our bank account, our plan is to move the money to our savings account and let it be an emergency cushion should her job status change.
  • Just before the stay-at-home orders started, I was already overdue for a haircut. This was in part due to contemplating a change of look: growing the hair out longer and combing it straight back. However, the decision wasn’t made until the governor issued his order that only essential businesses were to remain open. As a result, I’m well on my way to looking like a pudgy, middle-aged version of Ash from Star Trek: Discovery. Should probably post a new picture online sometime soon.
  • Four days into all this, my favorite local restaurant, O’Faolain’s, temporarily closed. I assume that because it’s more of a traditional pub, it really wasn’t well-situated to stay open for take out and delivery only. How long can businesses like that can survive a business environment such as this? It seems almost certain that when this is over, many of our places to shop and eat will be gone forever. The mere thought is rather depressing.
  • As a stress eater, keeping the caloric intake somewhere near healthy levels over the past five weeks has been a struggle. However, the good news is that I’m doing a decent job of getting out for walks or using the treadmill on a regular basis. Even if the gym wasn’t closed by the order regarding essential businesses, going there wouldn’t be an option anyway. No matter how hard the staff would attempt to keep everything clean, it’s still essentially a germ incubator. Note to self: contact the membership support desk to see what they are doing about monthly fees during this period.
  • Seeing as I’m going to need to simultaneously live through the worst pandemic in over 100 years and a second Great Depression, there isn’t a proper adjective to describe how thankful I am to have Sally as my wife.

Still have plenty more to write down. Will try to get more of it typed out soon.

Notes From the Pandemic, Day 31

For Sally and me, our world literally started to change exactly one month ago today. At around 5:00 AM in the morning, she got a text from the Loudoun County Public School system stating that schools were closing immediately. Unlike other school systems – such as Brandon’s, the Montgomery County Public School system – there was no notice a day or two in advance of the shutdown. Usually, when schools close for days at a time, it’s somehow weather related, and we parents can anticipate and prepare in advance. Although the news about the spread of COVID-19 was already becoming a little alarming, the suddenness felt like something of an overreaction.

In retrospect, it absolutely wasn’t. If anything, more schools across the country should have been making similar decisions with the same kind of speed.

For the most part, my life hasn’t changed appreciably. I’ve been working from home for over 10 years, most of my socialization has been online for much longer than that, and I’m an extreme introvert with a number of hobbies I can easily lose myself in for days. The biggest, most notable change is that Brandon has been with me for all but one week since the morning of March 14, and that he will be for the foreseeable future. As Cheryl, his mother, is a nurse, we all decided that he was better off staying with me until the time comes in which the chances of her bringing the virus home are much lower.

There’s much more I can write about, and I have every intention of doing so over the coming days and weeks. Given my track record of actually following through with other writing projects over the past decade, take that intention with the appropriate large grains of salt.

According to The Washington Post, as of 7:09 PM EDT this evening, at least 21,994 people in the United States have died since Feb. 29, when a 58-year-old man near Seattle became the first announced U.S. death.

I’m in a really foul mood at this moment.