Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Welcome to the Race

Over these past many years I've grown so accustomed to living in Fuckup Nation, it took me far longer than it should've to realize: by world-vaccination-rate standards, we're actually doing something right for a change!

I currently live in Georgia, one of the less-impressive U.S. states where vaccination rates are concerned, but a couple weeks ago they dropped the minimum-age-eligibility requirement from 55 down to 16, so I got my first dose of the Moderna vaccine today, plus an appointment for my second shot in four weeks. For comparison, I have a friend in British Columbia (a male friend, which means I literally, genuinely have a boy friend who is completely real but you've never met him, because he lives in Canada) who does not yet qualify for a shot in his province even though he's 70 -- at his age, if he lived in my neighborhood he'd already have had both of his shots by now.

I've been extra-lucky: not only did I get an appointment relatively soon after qualifying, but mine was scheduled at a Walmart only a couple of miles from my house (I know of people who had to drive up to 200 miles to get a shot). When I got there I only had to wait a minute or two for the pharmacist to return from a brief break and then he saw to me immediately; when he determined I was there for dose #1 he greeted me with the words "Welcome to the race!" (presumably the race to reach herd immunity before the virus inevitably evolves into even-nastier strains).

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Important Cultural Issue: What Do Middle-Aged White People Think of Lil Nas X?

Between my age and my “whiter than mayo on Wonderbread” status, it's a safe bet I'd never have heard of, let alone watched, Lil Nas X's latest video if not for the conservative freakout over it. If you haven't seen it, here's what happens: it starts with Nas in the Garden of Eden, innocently playing a [very catchy] song when suddenly, Satan/the Serpent shows up, leading directly to the first time in human history that a gay man had gay sex. Nas climbs on a stripper pole and does some genuinely impressive routines while riding the pole all the way down to hell.

I don't fully understand why conservatives are so opposed to such a perfect encapsulation of what they call “wholesome family values” – gays are of the devil, they are all damned, and the highway to hell is lined with stripper poles – but honesty compels me to admit: Nas worked that pole far better than I could at his age, and I'm only slightly mollified by the thought “Yeah, well, when I was his age I didn't have a six-figure choreography budget and another six figures' worth of CGI enhancement, either.”

Friday, March 12, 2021


This is the one-year anniversary of the day Covid Changed Everything, where Jeff and I were personally concerned. Or, to put it another way: exactly one year ago was the last time Jeff and I left home for what we thought would be a typical forgettable afternoon running pre-covid errands -- though before we'd finished we knew otherwise. Our plan was: first, go to Target (the nearest one is a bit of a haul, from our place); next, visit a couple of thrift stores in Target's general neighborhood; lastly, go to Kroger for the week's grocery run. 

The visit to Target was exactly normal, except we both noticed and exclaimed over how the paper-products aisle was completely empty. (Luckily, we didn't need anything from that aisle anyway.) Then we stopped at a Goodwill and both walked away empty-handed -- but as we exited the store, Jeff checked something on his phone, then told me "DeKalb [our county] just closed the schools for two weeks."

Because of that announcement, I wasn't too surprised when we got to Kroger (which is also the "anchor store" of a fairly large strip mall) and saw that almost every spot in the strip-mall parking lot was taken -- before that, I'd never seen the lot more than half-full even on the eve of Thanksgiving and other "mega-grocery-shopping" days. 

Now, after a year of living in corona-world, if we saw such a parking lot we would immediately turn around and go home. But on March 12, 2020, what we did instead was find a vacant spot in the Siberia part of the lot and go inside the store, which was so crowded, the checkout lines stretched from the cashier's stands all the way to the back of the store, before doubling up upon themselves. (I know this because Jeff and I entered that densely crowded building and personally inspected the size of the crowd and those lines -- another thing we would never do now even with masks on, let alone bare-faced as we were one year ago tonight.)

When did everything change for you, and what was your personal first indication that "From here on through the indefinite future, things are going to be VERY different?"

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Pandemic Diary Day 363: Vaccine Envy


Hmmph. Harrumph. More and more of my friends are getting their coronavirus vaccine shots, or at least have firm appointments to do so, while I don't have so much as an EMA (estimated month of arrival). 
Fortunately, I found an article mentioning lots of useful new German vocabulary words to describe my situation:
I am currently feeling** a bit of impfneid, especially since I'm still facing a long wait as a resident of Georgia with no conditions and no plans to become an impfdrängler. But I am definitely coronamüde, especially since I am currently only two days away from my one-year anniversary of living in an anderthalbmetergesellschaft.
(Translation: I am currently feeling** a bit of vaccine envy, especially since I'm still facing a long wait as a resident of Georgia with no conditions and no plans to play the system and jump ahead of my government-designated spot in line. But I am definitely tired of dealing with coronavirus-related stuff, especially since I am currently only two days away from my one-year anniversary of living in a 'one and a half meter' society where everybody who goes out in public makes a point of avoiding each other by a social-distancing measure of at least six feet.)
** I would like to have worded that first sentence "Despite my feeling happy for my friends who have gotten their shots, I am currently feeling a bit of...." But I didn't because, if German does have a new compound word to succinctly describe "the feeling of being happy for someone specifically because they got their coronavirus shot, even while you wish you could get one too" none of the articles I've read on the theme "Interesting new German words from the past year" have mentioned it.

Monday, March 08, 2021

If I could run the Seuss estate, I'd do it well! I'd be real great!

The controversy du jour is about the Dr. Seuss estate's decision to pull six books from print because of certain racist caricatures found in some of the illustrations. Despite what certain conservative critics claim, this is not a “First Amendment violation” because it's not the government doing it; the Seuss estate has every legal right to decide what, if anything, it will do with works whose copyright they own.

That said: if I ran the Seuss estate then, instead of pulling those six books from circulation, I'd publish them all together in a single volume, alongside commentary from historians and other experts putting the books into historical context. If that weren't enough, I'd also share the profits of that omnibus edition with reputable anti-racism charities.

How can future generations learn the lessons of our history if we whitewash away all the bad parts of it? People of the future need to know: American racism wasn't just something hidden away in the darker corners of the national psyche -- it was considered wholesome enough for children's books and Disney cartoons (such as "Song of the South," another classic I think should remain in print, alongside modern context-giving commentary).

I have similar qualms about the suggestion to digitally remove Donald Trump from that Home Alone movie he was in -- no, don't do it. Future generations need to know: Trump didn't just come out of nowhere -- one day the U.S. Republican Party was perfectly competent and sane, when suddenly a spray-tanned orange asteroid crashed down from out of nowhere and left a smoking crater where once stood a principled political party -- Trump became president after the media spent literal decades building him up as some business-genius folk hero (and the Republicans spent decades pandering to bigots, but that's for another day). We need to preserve these parts of our history, so future generations will know what to avoid.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Could a Guaranteed basic Income Save America?

Long, long ago (at least, it feels like a long time), in the ancient days of April 2016 when Donald Trump was merely one of several possible Republican presidential candidates and surely not the one Republicans would be dumb enough to pick, amirite? I wrote a post asking “Could a guaranteed basic income save America's free market economy?” 

Now, as our sick and battered country limps through the final hours of Trump's disastrous administration, I'll ask a shorter version of the question: could a guaranteed basic income save America?

Back in that last April of Obama's tenure I still thought much of Trump's popularity was because he appealed to the economically anxious. The Capitol riot on January 6 gave the lie to that – people who can afford to travel across the country during a pandemic obviously aren't having too many money problems – but even so, the economic issues I mentioned almost five years ago have only been exacerbated by the pandemic and the mass unemployment and financial losses stemming from it.

I suggested (and still support) abolishing the current patchwork social safety net of food stamps and housing vouchers and ever-shifting bureaucratic hoops to jump through, and replacing it all with a modest basic income of around $250 per week for all adult citizens regardless of income or net worth (though there would surely have to be some residency requirements), plus another 10 percent for each child under 18. This won't make you rich or even comfortably middle-class anywhere in contemporary America, but it will cover the barest necessities, and can make for a decent living when combined with whatever wages people earn in a free and functional economy (which we can't have until everyone's vaccinated against covid-19, anyway).

I know many who oppose this on the grounds that if people were guaranteed the bare basics of life without having to work for them, so many would be content to settle for that and nothing else, the economy would completely collapse. “I got all the basics plus my Xbox and my Netflix; why work for anything more?”

True; there probably will be a [relatively] few people like that. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see an uptick in young adults who try an updated 21st-century version of the old 1960s-hippie “tune in, turn on, drop out” mentality.

On the other hand, most of those hippies eventually got sick of the dirty-hippie aesthetic, so they got haircuts and jobs and eventually went on to vote for President Reagan. And if you mentioned a basic income guarantee back then, you'd hear many who oppose this on the grounds that if people were guaranteed the bare basics of life without having to work for them, too many will be content to settle for that and nothing else, with the result that the economy would collapse. “I got all the basics plus my Atari and my Betamax player; why work for anything more?”

And yeah, there were people back in 1983 who would have been perfectly content with the bare necessities plus their Atari, Betamax and a selection of tapes and game cartridges. They'd have been perfectly content to do nothing but get buzzed all day, play their Atari games or watch their magnetic-tape videos ... for a couple years, anyway, until newer and better options made those game and video-watching systems obsolete. The Atari/Betamax slackers might never be motivated to work for self-improvement or the betterment of humanity or other noble "Star Trek when Roddenberry still ran the show" ideals ... but there would come a time when they're motivated to work at least enough to upgrade to a Nintendo plus a VHS player and games and videos for both, and later still to a PlayStation or XBox plus a DVD player ... and of course, I haven't even mentioned all the upgrades this guy has made to his home music player and collection, compared to the vinyl records and stereo system to play them he had back in 1983, and the time he finally decided to join the growing number of American cell phone owners, which lasted until he decided to upgrade to a smartphone....

Ad infinitum. My point is, even if you oppose a minimal base income because you view humanity as inherently a bunch of lazy lotus-eaters who require the threat of hunger and homelessness to give them incentive to work – even if we posit that's true, we do not live in a world where “avoiding hunger and homelessness” are the only two possible rewards for holding a job. But we live in a world of amazing luxuries and wonderful things, with new ones being introduced – maybe not every day, but certainly every year or so, to the point where whatever material things made someone content back in 1983, it's a near-certainty that someone today has bought all kinds of cool new things which didn't even exist back then.

And if we did have a basic income ensuring everyone could at least afford the minimum requirements of life, then maybe the incoming Biden administration wouldn't be facing such Democratic criticism over the difference between a $1,400 and $2,000 pandemic relief check.


Saturday, January 09, 2021

Get Off My Lawn ... no, wait, I don't have one

Like many anti-Trump Americans (I suspect), I watched the attempted insurrection at the capital unfold online with an odd combination of "I can't believe this" and "I kind of expected this all along." When I saw the first videos highlighting the less-serious aspects of the event, with people wandering around admiring the sights the way my classmates and I did during our eighth-grade field trip to DC, and for a moment I was tempted to criticize them the way my adult self would criticize actual eighth-graders engaged in something cataclysmically stupid ... until I realized not only was everyone a full-fledged adult, but many were even older than me.

You almost have to admire such firm commitment to principle, though: imagine being so committed to the whole anti-mask-wearing "covid 19 is a hoax" narrative, you refuse to cover your face even when you're engaging in felonious acts on federal property and know you're being recorded.

I would never try storming the capitol or similar things, of course, but if I did I would try to do so in a non-idiotic way where I have at least a hypothetical chance of getting away with it. For starters: wear a damned mask (and be glad this is the first time in literally my entire life where wearing a face-obscuring mask is legal and not even considered weird). Leave my phone, GPS and all other tracking devices at home (or at least in my DC hotel room; if the FBI talked to me later, I'd admit I went to the city but claim I missed the rally because I had another flare-up in my medically documented, "I got scrips for this" chronic-pain condition). Wear mirror sunglasses big enough to cover all of my face not hidden under the mask. Pin up all of my unusual-looking hair and hide every last strand of it under a sung-fitting hat. I'd even buy new-to-me clothes and shoes in styles and colors I usually never wear (including the hat, mask and big mirror sunglasses), and throw them all away as soon as I was done. And likely a couple more things I can't think of right now, but would if I actually took the time to plan a public outing where I'm doing something super-illegal. But I definitely would not run around taking selfies and giving video-recorded interviews to people.

On the other hand, a lot of them probably thought their actions were okay, since the President of the United States supported them. And a lot more clearly didn't think much at all.

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