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We've Reached the "Tom Hanks Eating Raw Fish" Phase of the Pandemic

Last May, as it became apparent the covid-19 pandemic was not going to be a temporary affair, I wrote about the benefits of imagining you were shipwrecked on a deserted island.  Now, a year after we began hearing about the "novel coronovirus," I suspect that many of us have now entered the "Tom Hanks Eating Raw Fish" stage of the pandemic.  We've made the best of things. Rearranged home offices and homeschool desks. Got through the holidays, mustering as much joy as we could. There's a permanent hook or basket at the front door for our masks.  Most of us by now either know someone who died of covid, or are, at most, 2 degrees away. Our co-worker's husband's mother. Our friend's aunt. Or closer. We've grieved.  And now...we're just numb. We keep putting one foot in front of the other, because that's what we have to do. We eat, we drink, we sleep. We get our work done. We nag our kids to do school work.  But our affect is flat. Like Ha
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Pandemic Elf: Holiday Movies

Hello, I am the Pandemic Elf. I am your trail guide through the Holiday Path winding through the Pandemic Forest. My job is to point out detours, sinkholes, and other dangers so they don't catch you unawares.  Today's issue: Holiday Movies! The tradition is our family is that the first holiday show to watch is the How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The original and the best, the 1/2 hour long special voiced by Boris Karloff. It is so much our family tradition that when my son was a senior in high school, and way too cool for family things, I jokingly asked him if he wanted us to wait for him the next year (when he would be away at college.) He sort of smirked and said nothing as we watched it. Then that night, as he headed for bed, he paused at the foot of the stairs. "Wait for me," he said softly.  We settled in, after our Thanksgiving dinner, for this year's viewing. Aforementioned son, now 24, was staying away because he is a very good and ethical citizen, and ta

Pandemic Elf: Holiday music

Hello, I am the Pandemic Elf. I am your trail guide through the Holiday Path winding through the Pandemic Forest. My job is to point out detours, sinkholes, and other dangers so they don't catch you unawares.  First up: MUSIC!  So I was hurtling down TX-130 (literally - the speed is 80, and judging by the vehicles around me, that's a minimum speed) to meet my best friend, the BFF-DRE, in La Grange, which is more or less the middle point between her house in Houston and mine in Austin. I turned on a Spotify playlist of songs from Firestone Christmas albums which some dear soul compiled to kind of jump-start my holiday spirit.  Oh my.  Oh my my my.  This is not 2019. Things are different this year.  As each song came on, I couldn't help but talk back to them, and rather sardonically:  ♪ It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!      Yeah, dude, but this is 2020. Pretty low bar. ♪ Here We Come a Caroling ...      Ack! You're not wearing a mask! And singing in one of

Texans, Stay the Hell Home This 4th of July

As Molly Ivins famously said,"I dearly love the state of Texas, but I consider that a harmless perversion on my part and discuss it only with consenting adults." I am a seventh-generation Texan and do love it. And as the 4th of July edges closer, I am both scared and mad for my state. I'm scad .  Today - Tuesday - it was reported that we hit a new record - almost 7000 new cases in one day. And Saturday is July 4th. Something I've heard, and bless my heart I have probably said myself several weeks ago, is "...and this feels safe." No, no, my friends. There is no "feels safe." This is not something on which we can rely on our instincts. We have to rely on science. Stay home unless you are required by your job or have another required reason. Get curbside groceries or delivery. Wear a mask. And in the name of Molly and all that is holy, please do not gather with friends and family for an Independence Day barbecue. Think ahead. July 4t

900 Days: A White Texan Contemplates Juneteenth

Today is "Juneteenth." Being a Texan, albeit a white one, it is an anniversary I've known about my entire life. I grew up in Houston, where there were special Juneteenth concerts at Miller Outdoor Theater, there would be a celebration at Emancipation Park , there were neighborhood parades, I think I even remember Astroworld doing something. And the full history was known - this was the day when the news finally got to Galveston about the Emancipation Proclamation. As our Black friends celebrate the day, I hope that white Texans will think about how Texas continues to delay justice. I (cynically? Or is it just realistically?) wonder how much the lesson that was absorbed in Texas was that "hey, but the slave owners snuck in one last harvest." It is now common practice for our state legislature to pass laws that they know are unconstitutional . But it buys them time to destroy businesses and lives. It buys them time to disenfranchise voters. How does Te

Balancing data and processing

I'm a fan of sci-fi for its ability to envision different worlds and ways of being. Since coronavirus began, I've been rewatching Star Trek Voyager , a space show about a team stranded a long way from home. There've been some interesting parallels with what's happening in current events. Including a pandemic. Dontcha kinda wish you could shoot coronavirus like this? In an episode titled "The Voyager Conspiracy," there is a character called Seven of Nine who has the ability to download information straight into her brain. She engineers the system to download months of information at a time, but her ability to process the information can't be sped up. In trying to make sense of the data, she begins formulating conspiracy theories. Over and over, she adds 2 + 2 and winds up with 5. Too much data, and not enough time to absorb and process it. So, how are you in this balance right now? It feels to me like new information, new data, is coming at us at l

Moving from Crisis to the New Normal

With coronavirus, most of us have been in crisis mode since the second week of March. We burned the candle at both ends, and relit another from its flame right before it sputtered out. We figured out how to do our jobs from home, help our kids do school from home, and how to take care of ourselves and each other as best we could. I mean, it really is sort of amazing. I know our church was up and online in 7 days. People who had never ordered groceries swiftly learned how to do curbside or delivery. People who hated computers and wanted nothing to do with them took a deep breath, downloaded Zoom, and have been getting on regularly, cheering the spirits of their friends and family members. Bravo, us! Now, we're facing the idea that this is probably going to go on for a while, and we're going to need to find sustainable ways to live in this way. We're experimenting with expanding our protective bubbles,   moving our furniture around, throwing out the sourdough starter if w