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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Exile on Corona Street, Day 42

Day 42 of this quasi-documentation, and while I have little hard evidence to support the following point, I'll make it anyway:  It "feels" like things are getting better.  At best, well, maybe I'm right.  At worst?  Well, I'll gladly accept criticism for unwarranted optimism, as the converse is a place I've been to in my past and I have no desire to return.  In the end, we only get so much time here, so it's best to make the very best of it.

The above isn't designed to diminish the craziness that many are experiencing these days.  I was just talking to Ms. Rivers about how much this is wearing on her, being a full-time home-based worker now (considered essential by her employer).  I get that by the way, although my experience as someone in the job market now is certainly different than her experience.  Of course, there is the obvious to that last point, namely that I have more discretion as to how I use my time.  Discretion being a keyword in that last sentence.  Prior to having lost a job, a was under the uneducated opinion that the full-time job of someone who is out of work should be finding new work.  Experience teaches me that this is not entirely true, as (at least for some professions) it's simply not possible to job-search full time unless you are in a very large employment market.  There just isn't that much under your control.  Part of this whole thing of finding a new position is luck, all be it one sufficiently lubricated by hard-work.

As for the specifics of my current situation, well, I'm lucky (there's that word again) in that I have one or two things that might pan out for me.  I take nothing for granted, by the way, and if I do land something over the next two months or so, well, it will be a blessing.

Speaking of blessings, I was thinking yesterday about how these transition times in our lives have a purpose.  They are here to teach us things that can only be fully understood in the past tense.  Sometimes the profundity of a situation would be too much to bear if we even could understand it in real-time.  Best to just try and experience things as they come, and save the analysis for another time.

Being a creature of routine, I enjoy having tasks to perform.  One such temporary tasks came in the form of one the many "Facebook Challenge" whereby you list the 20 albums that have influenced your musical taste the most.  For those not on the Facebooks (i.e. Ms. Rivers, although I'm working on that...), here's my list:
  • Day 1 - John Cougar Mellencamp: Scarecrow 
  • Day 2 - U2: The Unforgettable Fire 
  • Day 3 - Prince and the Revolution:  Purple Rain
  • Day 4 - West Side Story:  Soundtrack
  • Day 5 - Harry Nilsson:  Greatest Hits
  • Day 6 - Genesis:  Duke
  • Day 7 - The Beatles:  The While Album
  • Day 8 - David Gates:  The Goodbye Girl
  • Day 9 - Supertramp:  Breakfast in America
  • Day 10 - Tears for Fears:  Songs from the Big Chair
  • Day 11 - John Lennon:  Shaved Fish
  • Day 12 - ABBA:  The Album
  • Day 13 - The Traveling Wilburys:  Volume 1
  • Day 14 - The Rolling Stones:  Made in the Shade
  • Day 15 - Warren Zevon:  Excitable Boy
  • Day 16 - Squeeze:  Greatest Hits
  • Day 17 - Blondie:  Parallel Lines
  • Day 18 - Paul McCartney and Wings: Band on the Run 
  • Day 19 - The Pretenders: Learning to Crawl  
  • Day 20 - The Beatles:  Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Bank
I know, that's hardly a diverse list, but it has the benefit of being honest.  I could have listed a few more, but as it stands it's a good list, and I enjoyed putting it together.  What's not on the list?  Heavy in I just don't enjoy it.  Classical...there is a lot of some stuff I like, but it's hard to put that into a single album.  Country...outside of Johnny Cash and an occasional dose of Vince Gill, well, it doesn't do much for me.  Rap/Hip-Hop...not my thing (obviously).  Punk...I like *real* punk, as in the Sex Pistols, Iggy and the Stooges, etc.; not what some call punk now, i.e. Green Day.  As a side note, calling Green Day a "Punk" bad is a bit like calling No Doubt a Ska band (it isn't; see The Specials, Madness, etc. for the real thing).  Just my opinion.

On that note, I have a better posting in the works, well as long as you consider more serious to be better.  Time to go.

Oh, and hey, let's be careful out there.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Exile on Corona Street, Day 33

In news of the COVID-19 kind, it appears that we may have misunderstood how many, and how severe, the outbreak has been.  Article links HERE and HERE.  I can, by the way, already hear the anti-science crowd shrieking "See!  So much for your Science!", which in and of itself is a great example of ignorance at its finest.   Science is inherently an iterative process, whereby ideas are continuously tested and theories changed as a result of new information.  As for the absolutes that some folks pedal, well...

This is not to say that this whole thing isn't stressful, and we know that sometimes prolonged stress leads to bad decisions and ideas.  Speaking of stress:

(The ironic part:  I been doing three of these things all along.  Other tips HERE.)

Another way I try to minimize stress in my life:  I keep a "To Do" list, diligently, I might add.  It's right on my desk, directly to the left of my keyboard.  It's important to note that the value of the list, at least for me, isn't in the idea that I get massive amounts of things done, although that's certainly a secondary benefit.  No, the value of the list for me is in the idea that I have a list in the first place.  I have a mind that tends to ramble about here and about, so having a list creates something of an anchor for me, a way to focus a bit more, a way to create order out of what would be some sloth-y chaos.  In essence, the value of the list that it simply exists.  Kind of like a cat 😸.

One thing that I didn't have on my list for the weekend (I tend to have a single list for Saturday and Sunday) was to go through the massive store of old papers I kept in the attic.  It amounted to about three plastic tubs-o-stuff, some of which went back to the mid-'80s.  Since yesterday afternoon was cold, wet and generally not all that Spring-like, I decided to make an ad-hoc addition to my list and tackle the store.  The results?
  • Three tubs of storage stuff reduced to one tub of storage stuff.
  • Three large garbage bags of shredded paper, badly degraded binders and "why did I ever keep this?" paperwork.
  • Three bins of paper to recycle.
  • A shredder that was screaming for relief.
  • A few surprises (see below) in terms of things I found that I'm going to keep.
Some of this stuff may actually be helpful (i.e. samples of past work), others are just simply nice to have, such as the hand-drawn picture of my old, red, Ford Ranger, courtesy of my (now older) daughters.  Still, others are just neat markers, if you will, of days gone past.  The older we get, the more we have a tendency to forget the richness of our lives in the past (that's a fancy way of saying that we/I forget things).

Philosophy noted it's time to get some other things done before calling it a night.  A kind of/sort of Monday awaits tomorrow.  Just remember, let's be careful out there.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Exile on Corona Street, Day 32

I choose the graphic in part because of the reference to Dr. Levine.  Some of the article commentaries I've read about Dr. Levine has been utterly horrible.  Pro-tip:  Anyone who isn't sure as to what pronoun to use in reference to Dr. Levine can simply say "Dr. Levine".  That's not so hard, now is it?  For the record, she has been doing an outstanding job during the pandemic.

The above noted, time to throw some randomness into the blog-o-sphere.

* * * * *

I have no musical abilities.  I can not sing well at all.  I had Band in junior high school but reading music just didn't seem to work for me; I think that the underlying concepts were just so alien to how my mind works that it was doomed from the start.  The prior three points noted, I love music.  As I've noted in other blog postings over the years, I almost always have kind of tune in my head.  In fact, sometimes these songs are basically a kind of soundtrack to what I am going through at any given time in my life.  As I think about now, well, this is the soundtrack song that's in my head.

The sentiment seems somehow fitting.  

Regardless of when the worst of the pandemic is over, the world will be different than what we had before all of this started.
  • Social Distancing - I don't see everyone going back to the pre-social distancing ways of being out in public, at least not for most of this year.  
  • Masks - That American sense of bewilderment at certain Asian countries where folks regularly wear surgical masks in public?  It won't be so bewildering anymore.  
  • Consumption - Having all of this time at home may just change consumption habits.  The notion of going out shopping as a form of leisure activity may give way to viewing it as more of a necessity. 
  • Delivery - Some folks are just going to get firmly addicted to home delivery, be it from restaurants, groceries or other things.  
  • Retail Apocalypse - Sadly, this is going to hasten the demise of Sears/Kmart (what's left of it) and push JC Penny's over the edge as well.  The good news?  This is going to create opportunities for smaller/new companies to fill the void.
  • Healthcare - Nothing like a pandemic to get people to realize that healthcare is not a privilege, it's a right, and it's ridiculous that it is currently rationed in this country*.  As it stands, people are going to grow even more impatient with the current state of American healthcare, which is a good thing.
  • Employment - A few companies will come out of this looking very good, regardless of industry.  What will separate the heroes from the rest will be how leaders viewed on-going employment as an organizational imperative.  
  • Organized Religion - Not going to church is becoming a habit for many that will continue after the doors re-open.  For some, it may be the luxury of sleeping in on a Sunday.  For others, it may be the very idea that "well gee, God did not strike down all those times I didn't go". 

Closer to Home
On my (personal) end, the work related to finding a new job continues.  There are a few opportunities out there, but this is a strange time to be in the job market.  As I may have noted before, I genuinely feel bad for people have lost their jobs on the basic skills end of the employment spectrum.  I'm sure I will eventually get something; worst case I'll end up doing something completely different.

None of the above means that I am immune to the stress of my situation and the pandemic environment.  In fact, I've had trouble sleeping past 5am, since I am not as active as I should be I have more aches than I should at my age, and I'm struggling to keep a productive daily routine**.  As it stands, the days are just kind of melting into each other.  My saving grace here is that Ms. Rivers is keeping a regular work schedule, so at least there is some way for me to differentiate, say, Tuesday from Saturday.

On the good news front, the days are promising to get warmer, which means that I'll have more opportunities to work outside (we're going to plant a small garden this year & I have a few outdoor projects to complete) and get some cycling time under my belt.  I just have to wait for it to stop, for example, snowing.

That's about it for now...and hey...let's be careful out there.

* * * * *

(*) Healthcare is rationed in the United States, based on ability to pay.  The wealthy can afford the best healthcare in the world in this country; the poor?  Not so much.  One of many, many citations HERE.  

(**) Spoken from experience:  One of the worst parts of finding a new job is the waiting between things you need to do as part of the process.  

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Exile on Corona Street, Day 27

Here's the thing about social distancing, at least for me:  Outside of the really horrible issues surrounding it (people dying, inept government responses, people losing their jobs), it isn't actually all that terrible.  That's not exactly a mark of triumph for me, but more so a recognition that I actually don't need a lot of interaction to keep going, at least under the current circumstances.  I have an almost guilty kind of feeling about that fact, by the way.

I may be the minority.

In fact, I know I am in the minority.

I also have some bigger fish to fry at this present time.

I know this whole social distancing this is hard for many.  In fact, I think about how I feel when I have to engage in a lot of social interactions and it's unnerving; for those who like a lot of interaction...and are now not getting it...well it's terrible, and I genuinely feel sorry.  Today is Easter, and as a traditional day for families to get together, the disruption and isolation for some are only, and sadly, amplified.

In addition to the change in social interactions, there are a ton of practical things that have to change during this pandemic.  Easter is a religious holiday for many, but in an environment where "two or three or more of you" is pretty much against the rules...rightfully so, I will add...what do you do?  Well in our case, it was an Easter service via Zoom.  My father-in-law is a retired Episcopal priest and has immediate family members in three different locations (with one of them being the other side of the world at the moment), so this morning it was a virtual Easter service.  The experience was interesting, and while the practicalities of modern video conferencing technology were laid bare in some instances (hymns, for example, don't work well via video conference), overall I'd call it a victory.  It may also be a preview of the future.

Another part of today for me was a trip to my late brother's grave-site.  I don't go all that often, but for some reason, today it just felt like the right thing to do.  I never know what to do when I get there though.  It seems odd to try and talk to Chris when I am there, and as for praying, well, I'm never quite sure what I should be saying.  Mostly I think about how different life is now.  In the later part of his life, holidays were difficult when it came to Chris, as he really wouldn't want to visit anyone else, and visiting him was not always the best of ideas.  Still, I think about how it could have been, with The Albert Boys getting together later in life, finally being able to exhale after the sometimes strange trips that we call our lives.

(In our Easter finest, sometime in the early '70s.)

Tomorrow is another work (but for some not really work) day with the country getting back to it's new normal after a holiday respite.  I claim in extra-sensory powers, but yet part of me feels like we'll be turning the corner, of sorts, on this whole nasty business.  While I don't know exactly when that will happen, one thing is for sure:  What we go back to will be different than where we started.  That may not be such a bad thing.

Lastly, let's be careful out there.


Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Exile on Corona Street, Day 23

(RE:  4th Point, this is why saying "Chinesevirus" is horrible)

I've done my level best to avoid some of the more polarizing things being written and said about Covid-19, but sometimes we all have to point out the obvious.  This includes, by the way, acknowledging two dual truths about the pandemic:
  1. The media has a bias towards the sensational.  That's what they do.
  2. Politicians have a bias towards never accepting responsibility.  That's what they do.
Both of these points feed off of each other.  Like most truths in life, the best advice here is to approach anything you see or hear with a bit of healthy skepticism, asking yourself how much the inherent bias at play is potentially changing the story.  For example, referring to Covid-19 as the
"Chinesevirus" or "Chinavirus" is the outcome of bias #2, above.  Why?  Because by using that/those names, it basically deflects all blame and responsibility away from our leaders and towards "those people".  The truth?  Yes, the virus did originate in China, but how it has spread (and how our leaders have reacted to it) is a function of our political leadership.  It would be like the rest of the world calling nuclear weapons "American Weapons" simply because the first one was created here.  In the final analysis, things like viruses crossing the species barrier have happened before and it will continue to happen in the future.  Deflecting and demonizing won't change that fact.

The above noted, the Chinese government does have some responsibility here, namely when it comes to the regulation of its food supply.  I fully understand the notion that cultural norms about food (and what is considered food) vary geographically, but in this day and age, it is reasonable for the world as a whole...all of us and every adopt some basic standards about food purchasing, preparation, and consumption.  China as a nation is prosperous enough now that it can literally afford to move away from the consumption of what amounts to the Asian equivalent of bushmeat.  

* * * * *

On a more local level, I've been at home for about four and a half weeks now, two and a half of those being in the business of looking for a new job.  I have my good days and my moments of doubt and pain (to paraphrase the Rolling Stones "Sympathy for the Devil").  I do, at a very basic level, realize that this isn't good for me.  It's simply not.  I'm working (ironically used) on all of the things they say are important, including networking, using the time to learn new things, and keeping an eye out for new opportunities.  That noted, under normal, non-pandemic circumstances this would be difficult; I say this with the benefit of prior experiences fully acknowledged.  Under the current circumstances, well, let's just say that if patience were a muscle, by the time this is over, the folks in Gold's Gym will have nothing on me.  

It will all work out in the's just that in my mind, the actual notion of having a job is only a small part of this whole thing.  This speaks to the very nature of who I am.  To quote one of my favorite authors, the late Dr. Gordon Livingston -

"We are not what we think, or what we say, or how we feel. We are what we do."  

Granted that quote actually works two different ways for a basic level what I do is a big part of my identity.  What I do is also descriptive of what I am doing in what I am doing about things in the here and now.  That's a heady thought, but then again these are heady times.

To end this on a more positive note, here are a few photographs I took earlier today.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Exile on Corona Street, Day 20

(It's now recommended that everyone wear a protective Mask.)

It's Sunday, and I'll readily admit that the days are running into each other, at least for me.  Granted that some of this has to do with my employment situation, but I suspect that the new normal of life during a pandemic would be creating some routine disruption regardless.  As a dyed-in-the-wool introvert, the actual "not being able to be around lots of people" part of this all isn't all that horrible; I know that's not the case for others.  In the end, I suspect that all of us will have some long-term adjusting to do, regardless of our style or personality.

This is the part where I think I should be posting something intelligent and inspirational.  I write that reminding myself that a trusted advisor of mine tells me that whenever I use the word "should" I'm simply creating an excuse to add some additional grief into my life.  Well, I am going to try to avoid guilt, but yet keep the "should", if for no other reason it works really well in the sentence.  Back on topic, there isn't anything I can add at the moment that will inspire anyone.  This is grim, next-level terrible stuff that is only going to get worse.  Like most trying times though, it is an opportunity to see the reality of others around us and in the public eye.  The lens for all of this is easy to use:  The heroes boost and support others, oftentimes selflessly.  This includes every ER doctor and nurse, as well as the police and countless other public safety workers.  It also includes the cashiers at supermarkets and other stores that sell stuff we all need to keep our significantly altered lives running.  Yes, this crisis will be resolved by those on the front lines of life, not the politicians, not the CEOs, not the overpaid athletes, and not the famous-for-being-famous crowd.  This is a kind of revolution of the ordinary but essential.  Let's just hope when the dust settles of Covid19 that we re-orient our priorities as a society to reflect the value of these folks.

Speaking of the ordinary, I am mostly done storing my old office stuff, with just a few things left in the back of my truck.  The process wasn't quite as difficult as I thought it was going to be, although I do think that, at some point, there is a book giveaway in my future.  The word "giveaway" used purposefully here, as every book I have means something to me, and trading them for money just seems tawdry in some way.

Funny story:  In 2011 I suddenly had a problem whereby I couldn't stop coughing and I had trouble breathing.  After a trip to the Emergency Room via Ms. Rivers, it was determined that I had suffered an asthma attack.  Prior to this, I didn't think I had asthma.  A few tests later, it was determined that I am highly allergic to a large number of things, including (unfortunately) cats.  Also high on the list was tree pollen.  Guess what is out in full force now?  If you say "tree pollen" you would be absolutely correct.  Among other things, this means that my sinuses are at about a DEFCON 2 in terms of their reaction to the stuff in the air.  This does vary from year to year (some years aren't too bad, others are far worse), but I can't think of a worse time to actually look like I am sick.  Note "look like", as outside of sneezing and a runny nose, I feel basically fine.  Going to the market sniffling and sneezing might be a bad idea though.  We'll see.

In The News
In the news this weekend was mostly nothing for me, as I purposefully decided to avoid the national news entirely.  The way I figure it, my normal obsession about tracking what is happening in the world could use a two-day break, as besides, the news isn't necessarily all that good.  This was hard for me to do, and I'll likely almost immediately start hitting the news sites tomorrow morning.  I do, however, give myself credit for at least trying.  Sometimes it's the little victories.

Finally, and as a side note, in THIS posting I commented on death rates for Covid19.  For the record, I'm not the only one:

Oh, and hey, let's be careful out there.