What’s the first thing you’ll do when it’s safe again?

I tried hard to find something positive to write about this morning. Several recent posts have been a bit dark. Pessimistic. So I landed on this thought about the future. What are the first things you’ll do when it’s safe to do them again?

My list is simple:

  1. Get on a Southwest flight and go visit the kids, grandkids and my Dad, enjoying the miracle of six hour travel time (8 hours including the drive to the airport and check-in), as opposed to 30 hours of driving.
  2. Take an international trip. Not sure where first, though we do have a South America / Antarctica trip scheduled for January 2022.
  3. Have a dinner party with friends.
  4. Go to any/all of my favorite restaurants, enjoy the meal and be happy that the price keeps someone in business.
  5. Go wine tasting in Napa, Sonoma, Temecula or Paso. Or all of them.
  6. Convince some friends and family to come visit and do some of the things on the list above.

The common elements in the list are (a) do things with people and (b) travel. Pretty basic stuff. How about you – what will you do?

32 days

It’s really hard not to get incensed about the TCF’s (Trump Crime Family) behavior in this transition period. Just lately they have:

  • Lied to the states about how much vaccine the states are getting and when.
  • Stolen $617M (literally stolen) from the Trump re-election campaign.
  • Allowed a DoD minion to unilaterally cease DoD-intelligence briefings to Biden.
  • Allowed the most significant hack of our critical systems, ever. By Russia, of course.
  • Allowed the pandemic to rage unchecked across the nation, with no top-down leadership, no action, no mention of 320K dead Americans.
  • Done their part to keep more COVID-driven financial aid from reaching American families and businesses. (They got theirs, though. $617M and counting).
  • Granted unprecedented, unnecessary new access to energy and mining companies wanted to mine and drill on public lands, including national parks.

And that’s just lately. There are 32 days left until the inauguration of POTUS 46. Question is, will there be a functioning country and economy left by then?

A dry day in December

We’ve had about one half inch of rain in the last nine months. For perspective, Death Valley gets an average of 2.5 inches per year. There’s no rain predicted for Socal in the next 2-3 weeks, when we should be in the “rainy season”. At this rate, we’ll be a pure desert in my lifetime. Not good.

This gift looks dangerous. Awesome, but dangerous. Your very own digital bartender. No flying cars or houses on the Moon yet, but a robot drinkmaker…you betcha. The voice interface is probably just around the corner. I can see it now. I’m in my car in heavy Socal traffic, and I activate Siri. “Siri, tell Alexa to make me a Moscow Mule. Have it ready at 515. And heavy on the bourbon.” Ain’t technology great?

It’s a big day today. We get a shipment of Chip’s Cookies today, direct from Louisville. Best. Cookies. Ever.

Seventeen million cumulative COVID cases in the US today. And I still see numbskulls on social media railing against masks and saying that it’s all a hoax. We are a very stupid country at times.

Recent research from NASA and SETI puts the number of human-habitable planets in our galaxy at 300,000. I like that idea a lot, but it sure brings up the Fermi Paradox – where is everyone? I know we’re a stupid species (see pandemic note above), but are we so bad that we’ve been quarantined from the galaxy? Where do we protest this unlawful sequestration?

Sea change

Yesterday was a pretty big day in history, representing what I hope is a fundamental change in the direction of our country – a sea change.

First, the Electoral College formally affirmed Biden’s win as POTUS #46, so…that’s settled. Except for the millions of Trumpers who still deny reality. They’ll just have to learn to live with it.

Second, the production-version Pfizer vaccine was given to the first US citizens. That really should be the beginning of the end for the pandemic, though I don’t think anything will change soon. In fact, it’s likely that our worst pandemic days are coming post-holidays, in January. It’ll be hard to celebrate the vaccine rollout while 2000-3000 people die around us every day. My personal prediction is that the vaccine will begin to have a noticeable effect around midyear 2021. Hang on tight until then.

(Combining items one and two, could we get an order of COVID vaccine to go for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, please? Stat!)

Third, corrupt US Attorney General Billy Barr resigned and a Republican member of Congress renounced his corrupted party, becoming an Independent. The rats are deserting the sinking USS Trump. That’s nice I suppose, but they’re still rats.

These three things – mostly the first two – give me hope for 2021. And that kind of big-picture hope has been hard to come by lately.

2020 hindsight

I wrote this in Feb 2020. It seems quaint now.

“In other fun news, the coronavirus outbreak just keeps getting worse. 200+ deaths per day now, and tens of thousands reported as infected, primarily in China. Both these figures are likely under-reported, and if infection rates keep progressing as they have the last month…it’s very bad news. My personal fear is that the virus will enter the US in a big way soon and effectively shut down air travel. Trouble with that (aside from the obvious big picture issues) is that I want need to get to KY in May to see my new grandson and family. And yes, I know that’s pathetically self-centered and parochial. But there it is.”

And this, written in May.

“The final US death toll from COVID-19 is very hard to predict, but one thing that isn’t hard to predict is the new minimum number.  We’re at about 70,000 today, and I sure don’t think we’re at a peak. IF we were at peak, we’d see about the same number of deaths coming down the curve as we saw going up. So given that and given that many states are now relaxing restrictions, I’d put the minimum 2020 death toll at 150K-250K. The minimum.”

This is one instance where I would be happy being proven wrong.

Those musings now seem quaint because the US just passed 16M infected and 300,000 people dead of COVID. The reality is much wore than we imagined. Over 200,000 new infections and 2500 deaths reported every day lately. I wrote a lot about COVID during March, April and May, and turns out I had a pretty good handle on what was coming. Even so, I feel COVID fatigue every day. There’s a temptation to say “fuck it” and just get on with life without all the constraints. But that would be a huge mistake.

Six minutes of inspiration

We saw the International Space Station this evening, making its way rapidly across the eastern sky. Six minutes from horizon to horizon. We were able to be in place and see it on schedule due to this cool little website / service, Spot The Station. Sign up for it and you’ll get text messages every time the ISS is visible at your location. I’m always inspired watching that tiny point of light race across the sky, knowing that people from several countries are aboard it doing scientific work. And exploring.

The news tonight was just depressing. Texas suing other states for electing Biden (!?!). Election deniers protesting violently. Mask deniers protesting violently. I have to keep reminding myself, half of all Americans are below the average (median) IQ. And some large percentage of them have been captured by the Faux News bubble. They just live in a different reality, one in which facts and science don’t matter much. I don’t begrudge them their beliefs, but their tendency to act out with violence is just as unacceptable as when hard-core lefties do the same. Get some perspective, people.

I have to say, even with all my activities, COVID is wearing me down. We have nothing to complain about on our hill in Socal – we are safe, healthy, financially OK, able to take long walks and never leave our property. And yet I’m weary of the new normal. I can only imagine how it feels not to have some or any of those advantages and still be weighed down by the pandemic. That’s just 2020.

Thankful

Grandson Jessamine had to go to the hospital today for a scheduled outpatient surgery. We’re EXTREMELY happy that he’s come through it just fine and is on his way home. You can’t take anything for granted in 2020, so this was a little tense for everyone.

The more things change…

Speaking of change, how about a socially distanced Santa (above)? So 2020…

Heather Cox Richardson gave an interesting history lesson in her blog post yesterday. I would have thought that the political situation today was unprecedented, but it turns out that something like Trump and the Republicans has happened before.

“We have been in a spot much like this before. In 1884, Americans turned against the Republican Party because it had abandoned its support for ordinary Americans in favor of the industrial leaders who put money into Republican lawmakers’ political war chests, as well as into their pockets. Voters put Democrat Grover Cleveland into the White House, the first Democrat to hold the presidency since James Buchanan was elected in 1856. 

Horrified, the Republicans flooded the country with stories of how Democrats were socialists who would attack the rich by ending the legislation that protected businesses. If Democrats continued to control the government, Republicans said, they would destroy America. In 1888, they suppressed Democratic votes and created modern political financing as they hit up businessmen for major donations. Despite their best efforts, voters reelected Cleveland by about 100,000 votes, but Republicans managed to eke out a win for their candidate, Benjamin Harrison, in the Electoral College. Harrison promised a “BUSINESSMAN’S ADMINISTRATION,” and indeed, in office, he and his men did all they could to cement the Republican Party into power so it could continue to defend business (among other things, they added six new states to the Union to pack the Electoral College).

But voters still didn’t like the Republicans’ platform, which seemed more and more to funnel money from hardworking Americans upward into the pockets of those men who were increasingly portrayed as robber barons. In 1892, they voted for Cleveland in such numbers they couldn’t be overridden in the Electoral College. Voters also put Democrats in charge of Congress, both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

And that is the moment I cannot help thinking about today. Faced with a legitimately elected Democratic government, Republican leaders deliberately sabotaged the country. They swamped the media with warnings that Democrats would destroy the economy and that men should pull their capital out of stocks and industries. Foreign capital should, they said, go home or face disaster. Money began to flow out of the country and stocks faltered. When financiers begged the Harrison administration to shore up the markets in the face of the growing panic, administration officials told them their job was only to keep the country afloat until the day of Cleveland’s inauguration. 

They didn’t quite make it. The economy collapsed about ten days before Cleveland took the oath of office, saddling the new president with the Panic of 1893 and very few ways to combat it. Republicans had deliberately sabotaged the country in order to discredit Cleveland, then demanded he honor the demands of financiers to stabilize the economy. Caught between a rock and a hard place, Cleveland tried to work with moneyed interests to combat the depression and promptly split his own party. The country roiled as out-of-work Americans despaired, some of them marching on Washington, D.C., to demand the government do something to address their plight. 

The Republicans went into the 1894 midterm elections blaming the Democrats for the crisis in the country. They won the midterms in what remains the largest seat swing in the history of the House of Representatives. Then they claimed that, with Republicans back in power, the economy was now safe. They papered the country with media announcing that the panic was over and people should reinvest. The panic was over, and a Republican president won in 1896, once again insisting the Democrats were socialists, but this time adding that the past four years had proved the Democrats could not run the economy.

There is no excuse for the silence of Republican lawmakers as their president attacks our democracy. But there might be a precedent.”


Quoted passage from Heather Cox Richardson’s “Letters From An American”

We have short memories in this country. It’s good to learn the lessons from the past, lest we repeat our mistakes.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse…

It does. It seems that our uneasy truce with the pandemic is ending. The news is full of dire warnings about hospital capacity and new case and death records every day, both in CA and nationwide. A full lockdown is pretty much in effect starting tomorrow for Socal. More than 200K news cases in the US every day now, and more than 2K deaths each day. It’s grim.

So I may have to rethink the “rules of engagement” that have worked for me so far. For months I’ve managed to keep life mostly normal by mask-wearing in public, using hand sanitizer after shopping, avoiding any prolonged stays indoors (other than where I’m living), and figuring outdoor activities like golf and hiking are safe. But with positivity rates skyrocketing everywhere in the US…it’s time to consider some changes. Maybe it’s as simple as hunkering down even harder from now to Christmas. About the only place I come into contact with friends is on the golf course (outdoors!), so that’s pretty much the activity that would suffer.

I sure wish the US had pulled a Melbourne months ago. Thousands of people would still be alive, and we wouldn’t be in this no-win situation. But as POTUS 45 says, “it is what it is”. He’s a real philosopher, that one.

Happy Friday

Got some good news today. My step-mother’s insurance company has finally agreed to pay for her long term care, as promised in her LTC insurance policy. The 2020 curse starts lifting, little by little.

Grand canyon picture from the October trip above.

Honored

My favorite nonprofit organization, 211 San Diego, gave me a great honor this week. I was elected Chairman of the Board for 2021. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that such a great group of people would select me as their fearless (actually, not so much) leader.

I should have written about 211 more on this blog. In a nutshell, what we do is help San Diegans. We help the people who most need help. We help the homeless, the hungry (I’m not a big fan of the current phrase “food insecure”), those with mental health problems, those who are suffering from abuse, veterans with problems…you name it. One way to explain it is “If your life is in immediate danger, call 911. If you’re having trouble with life, call 211 and we’ll find help.”.

Turns out that the dial code 211 is a national number, set aside by the FCC as a help line. All cities/counties/states answer those calls, but some deliver services better than others. We think 211 San Diego is the finest service organization of its kind in the nation.

We run an organization of 200+ people, including a call center, an outreach team, medical specialists, data and analytics experts, project managers, and so on. When someone calls us for help, we scour the Earth to find community and social services that can help them, then we get them signed up for the same. And we follow up with them. Sometimes over and over, but that’s OK.

My more conservative friends may take umbrage with our organization facilitating the use of social services, many of which are funded through tax revenues (others are funded by private grants and donations). So be it. But I fall squarely on the side of “we’re the wealthiest country in history, and those of us with ability and resources have a moral obligation to help our neighbors who need help.” It’s not socialism, it’s moral and ethical common sense. One way or another we (211 San Diego) assist over half a million people per year with a problem in their lives. And that feels pretty great to me.

Wednesday by the numbers

And…it’s now December. December 2nd to be precise. I present to you some numbers relevant to the day:

  • Only 29 days left in the raging dumpster fire of a year called 2020.
  • 23 days until Christmas, but only about 7 days to get your packages shipped to arrive on time.
  • 49 days until the inauguration of POTUS #46. I. Can’t. Wait!
  • Just over 275K US citizens now officially dead due to COVID. More than 2600 new deaths just yesterday, and more than 182,000 new cases yesterday. (COVID stats from World ‘O Meter.)
  • POTUS 45 just played his 302nd round of golf while in office, at taxpayer expense. He’s on track to play golf a solid year of his 4 in office. The good news – imagine the extra harm he could have done as a 100% at work POTUS, instead of the 75%-ish we got.
  • My beloved UK Wildcats just lost their 2nd game in a row. Gonna be a tough season, but I’m happy to see some UK hoops. Hope the players all stay healthy.
  • I broke the ice and spent 15 minutes on the rowing machine yesterday. It’s not much, but it’s a start.
  • It’s dry as a bone in Socal. We would normally have 3 inches of rain at this time of year, but we’re stuck at 0.5 inches with no rain in sight. Not good.
  • According to Goodreads, I’ve now read 80 books this year. My (conservative) goal was 40, so that’s not bad. I really slowed down during the 2 months I was doing cross-country drives this year, and that’ll keep me from reaching 100. That and my proclivity for books with 500+ pages.