Two Weeks of Relative Sanity

President Biden was sworn in just over two weeks ago, and I’m sure millions of Americans feel much like I do: Relief that things are getting better after hellacious four years under racist impeached president Donald Trump.

While Biden has taken a lot of criticism – and plenty of it justified, don’t get me wrong – the difference between the abject incompetent self-interested grifting that Trump and his cronies used in the White House and the quietly competent governance which Biden has brought is just such a huge relief.

I don’t think I’ve seen this more clearly than in the demeanor of epidemiologists on social media. Dr. Anthony Fauci of course has gotten the lion’s share of the press, but the increased optimism that we as a nation will be able to get COVID-19 under control has been palpable. There are still serious shortages of vaccines, and the roll-out of the vaccine supply we have has been haphazard-to-poor, but I think there’s hope that under Biden it can improve. These are problems which a competent administration can help with, whereas under Trump there was no hope: Trump did nothing for a year, and there was only more nothing in the future under him.

Congress has predictably been a shitshow, but then it was always going to be with such slim margins in both houses. I think it’s a sign of the Biden administration’s competence that its cabinet nominees have been getting confirmed with huge majorities (mainly opposed by the Republicans’ most extreme fascist wing). Even most Republicans recognize that having capable people running government is in everyone’s best interest.

It’s not that business-as-usual in the federal government is all that great, but compared to what we’ve had for the last four years it is a massive improvement. And if we didn’t have the sideshow of Republican fascists in Congress making America look like it’s half-governed by lunatics (even though the Republican Party is basically the fascist lunatic party at this point) we could be arguing about whether Biden is really nominating the best people. I mean, I’m sure some people are arguing about that, but Republican lunatics have sucked all the oxygen from the room.

It’s great to have adults back in charge. Adults can be plenty fucked up, sure, but at least they are adults, and many of them are trying to corral the toddlers (cough Marjorie Taylor Greene cough Lauren Boebert cough) to stop them from flinging applesauce and poo around the room. That’s an uphill battle, but it’s encouraging to see them trying.

I feel hope that fewer Americans will die this year than last, that fewer will fall seriously ill, that life is going to get better for many Americans. Especially the ones that won’t die.

Can we do better still? Sure. Despite the Republicans’ best efforts, we can keep trying.

But I feel like there’s hope now.

It’s such a relief.

It’s Been a Week

I’m feeling pretty exhausted by everything today. I’d managed to get through all of the chores I set for myself in time to spend the afternoon lazing around and watching football.

And then this morning we discovered that our freezer was no longer working. The refrigerator seems to be hanging in there, but the freezer’s temperature has now risen to almost the same temperature as the fridge. So, we took everything out and put it in our large cooler with some ice, and we’re hoping to have someone out to look at it tomorrow.

But it pretty much shot my ability to relax this afternoon.

Deets for people who care: Cold air is coming out of the vent in the freezer – just clearly not enough. The door seems to close fine, and the gasket doesn’t see compromised. I pulled it out and dusted under and behind it, and also dusted what I think are the coils, but no luck. The fan for the condenser seems to be running fine. Obviously something is not fine but we’ve been unable to diagnose it. We hope to have someone look at it in the next day or two.

Anyway, the fridge is about 12 years old, so it could just be time to buy a new fridge.

Last weekend I joined that group of people who celebrated their birthday during the pandemic. I didn’t mind so much, though, since I don’t often have parties anymore, although I might have gotten together with friends for dinner if things were normal. I took Friday off to have a 4-day weekend, which was nice. Didn’t do a lot, which was also nice.

As with most normal citizens of the U.S., I was delighted to see Racist Impeached President Donald Trump leave the White House on Wednesday, and glad to see Joe Biden sworn in as the new President. I am not a Biden fan specifically – he’s pretty much the definition of a moderate – but I am glad to have adults running the executive branch again.

And I admit I breathed a sign of relief that there were no assassination attempts during the ceremonies – I was really worried that there would be.

But this was a rough week for me. I think the pandemic and quarantine and the racists and insurrectionists have been slowly grinding me down, and by Thursday I was having a hard time moving forward at work. (The fact that I’m so ready to move on from my current project might have had something to do with it. Fortunately I think I’ve just about got the last issues resolved.) My productivity tend to be cyclical anyway, but the down times have been especially pronounced lately. The time off for the holidays didn’t really help, which suggests it’s not downtime that’s needed.

I’ve also been having some physical problems, which at first I thought was a reoccurrence of the pinched nerve I had back in 2009, but now I suspect it actually something below my shoulder. Massaging it helps, and it’s been gradually getting better, but it’s been frustratingly slow. It mainly affects me when driving or typing – good thing I never do any of those things! – and has therefore probably been a factor in the wall I’ve hit at work. It also bothers me when sleeping sometimes. I suspect its root cause is ultimately stress-related.

Fortunately it hasn’t really impacted my ability to run or walk – there’s actually some good news there, as knee soreness I was having for a while in late 2019 and early 2020 seems to have basically gone away.

I know we’re still incredibly lucky to be where we are compared to many people. But it still feels hard, and getting harder.

Anyway, lots of doom and gloom in this post. For those who have read this far, here’s a pic of my snuggly boi:

The Republican Insurrection

As I’m sure anyone reading this knows, on Wednesday during Congress’ counting of the Electoral College votes for President, racist impeached President Donald Trump wound up a crowd of his supporters, after which a large group of them stormed the Capitol building and broke in. This prompted the evacuation of Vice President Pence and the members of Congress, as the crowd wandered around the building. Eventually they left, although a number of people were injured in struggles with the Capitol Police, and to date five people – including one of those police – have died. At least two unexploded pipe bombs were found at the scene.

Since then, Twitter has permanently banned Trump, authorities are identifying and arresting many of the rioters (hilariously, many of them have either outed themselves or been outed by friends and family). Congress is considering impeaching Trump again. Conservatives are grumpily heading to Parler, resulting in them doxxing themselves and doxxing themselves again, leading people to wonder whether Parler should rename itself Evidence, or if Parler is actually an FBI honeypot. (Spoiler: The answer is that conservatives are the stupidest people alive.)

Schadenfreude aside, make no mistake: What happened Wednesday was an insurrection an an attempted coup. Moreover, it wasn’t just a Trumpist insurrection, it was a Republican insurrection, as the Republican Party has structurally and also tacitly encouraged this assault on our democracy for years. The Republican Party as a whole is culpable, and every person who is a Republican Party member, or who votes for or contributes to Republican candidates shares in the blame. The Republican Party clearly supports domestic terrorism and fascism, and we should be mindful of that whenever we engage with any Republican. We should also normalize characterizing the party and its members in these days. Move the Overton Window. Make it understood that if you are a Republican then you are part of the problem.

We should also continue to press for consequences for everyone who was involved in this insurrection, especially Trump (impeach him even after he’s left office), but also all of the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol, and everyone who supported them. (A local business owner is already facing consequences in the form of public pressure. To which I say: Good.)

Additionally, 147 Republicans objected to the electoral college votes, and while what they did was technically legal, we should consider them to be enemies of democracy and supporters of fascism and insurrection. They should all resign or be ousted, and we should be suspicious of anyone who supports them as another probable enemy of democracy. Leaders should set good examples, and actions by them which destabilize democracy and lie to their followers about the election are not acceptable.

I’ve also been enjoying responding to various prominent Republicans on Twitter who have been whining about Trump being deplatformed. Usually with a comment along the line of “I see you’re another whiny Republican fascist.” Mock these people. Belittle them. They are terrible people and should be treated as such. They only want to “move on” and “heal the country” to avoid consequences for their actions. Don’t let them get away with it.

This has been building for most of my lifetime. The Republican Party might not be beyond redemption, but they have a lot of work to do to be worthy of being treated as equals. They need to evict their white supremacists and deal with their systemic racism. They need to stop evicting citizens from voter rolls. They need to stop lying about the security of U.S. elections.

Some have noted that historically failed coups often lead to successful coups later on. Hopefully we can buck that trend and this is instead the beginning of America starting to wake up to the fascists in our midst, controlling one of our two major parties.

Time will tell. Next stop: Inauguration day. Expect the Republican fascists to be out in force, even if they are short on brains.

Hello, New Yorker

My Christmas gift to myself was to subscribe again to The New Yorker. I think this is my fourth go-round with the magazine.

My parents subscribed to it, and when I was a teenager there were stacks of old issues dating back into the 70s in the attic and in Mom’s magazine rack. At some point my Dad introduced me to Charles Addams, which eventually sent me poring through those old issues for Addams cartoons which hadn’t been collected. (As far as I know there are dozens – maybe hundreds – of Addams cartoons which have never been collected. I’m surprised no one has published a “complete” series of collections of his work, which leads me to think that either there are byzantine challenges in getting the rights, or there are many cartoons which have been lost. Maybe both.)

I first subscribed to the magazine around the end of graduate school. When I left school and got a job I had huge amounts of new free time, and I filled a lot of it with reading. (This was 1994/95, so the Internet was still a fairly small thing, even though I’d been very active on it since about 1989.) The New Yorker was a great source of fascinating reading material, and I clipped quite a few articles during that period which I still have in a file somewhere. (I recall one about Holocaust denial, though I can’t find it in their online archives.) Somewhat embarrassingly, I recall going to a WisCon where I kept referencing articles I’d read because I just had all this neat (to me) stuff in my head and had to get it out.

While there is a fair amount of New York-specific content (which I skip over, having never been to New York City), most of it is national or global in nature.

At the time I also subscribed to the also-weekly Comics Buyer’s Guide, the daily newspaper, and perhaps other things (maybe multiple science fiction magazines, maybe Smithsonian – it’s hard to be sure, 25 years later). The problem with any periodical is that you need to keep up with reading it or you start accumulating a stack of them waiting to be read, and at some point getting through that stack becomes so intimidating that you eventually give up (or go insane). Headline-oriented news is fairly easy to keep up with, since you can read headlines and then decide which articles you want to do a deeper dive into. But with The New Yorker and similar publications, the deep dive is the point. If you’re not reading at least a couple of articles in depth, then what are you subscribing for? Is it worth $20 per month or more just for the cartoons? Not really. (Especially today, where the cartoons are the one thing you can reliably get online for free.) So eventually I stopped.

But it’s still a pretty compelling package, so eventually I started up again. And stopped again. And then when my Mom passed away in 2015, I redirected all of her mail to me, and that included over a year outstanding on her own New Yorker subscription. When it expired, I re-upped for another year I subscribed on my own for another year, and then stopped again.

But now that I’ve dropped Consumer Reports, it felt like it was time to re-up The New Yorker.

Sadly, the cover below was not the first issue I received, which is too bad because it’s a great cover by Harry Bliss, which plays off an old Charles Addams cartoon (also below). An unknown blogger wrote about the cover here.

New Yorker cover Dec 28, 2020 by Harry Bliss
Charles Addams 1952 cartoon

Even worse, apparently it was their annual cartoon issue! Clearly I should have signed up just a little bit sooner.

Rather, my first issue featured an extremely long article about COVID-19 and the United States’ response to it. I’m willing to deep dive on some longer New Yorker articles, but 40+ pages on a subject I’m already fairly familiar with was a bit much for me. Well, better luck next week!

Once upon a time I’d come home from work and have one or more periodicals waiting for me, and I’d plop down on the couch and read through them. That’s not so likely these days since (1) I’m not going to work, and (2) with so many other things competing for my time, it’s more likely I’ll get to it the following weekend. Still, I think it’ll be fun to have it to read for the year or more.