Saturday driving home from the store, listening to a
pleasant family tale on This American Life, rudely interrupted by NPR to take
me urgently to the White House where the presnut had something important to
say. The NPR's common taters blabbed on
a bit about what an important moment
this was, what with the presnut talking about the virus and all. I have an alternate button on my radio for
anytime the NPR bullshit gets too deep.
It interrupts their program in
favor of our local jazz station. Hello Thelonious Monk.
So Sunday I spent a couple of hours working in the yard (it
was beautiful, sunny, 49). In the
kitchen the radio is playing and it's there again, the presnut with another very very important
message. Took me a minute to find an
appropriate CD. Dixie Chicks.
What did we learn from these important interruptions? There is a terrible reporter at NBC who
foolishly tossed the presnut a softball (Mr. presnut what do you say to all the Americans who are sacred?)
to which the presnut responded by charging the mound. Is it finally clear that the presnut is not
in control? Is it clear to the media
that they should just ignore the presnut's pronouncements; report only his actions, not his words? Or
that he has no real intention of being much help?
In the famous press briefing last Friday, the presnut said
he was invoking the Defense Production Act which would allow use of the defense
contracting process to produce needed medical supplies. Well enough.
However, the executive order requires a lot more work from the administration, as it has delegated
broad authority for contracting to
Health and Human Services, Alex
Azar is admittedly one of the more competent cabineteers,
having served as deputy at HHS during the regime of that Moron George W. Busch,
but how much support does he have to get this moving? Not so much, apparently. No
evidence that even Azar is serious. The WaPo reports this morning that the presnut
is concerned that actually ordering manufacturers to focus their efforts on
production of necessary medical supplies will make the USA look like Venezuela.
What we have here is an oligarchs
utopia. They remain safe in their strongholds,
surrounded by armed guards and money.
The poor people die off and the handful of technocrats needed to keep
the oligarchy happy are rewarded by their corporate employers.
Illinois Governor Pritzker and our own Andy Cuomo have been
asking that the presnut take the lead in coordinating the supply process, something
that can only be done from the top. The
problem, Pritzker says, is all states are now forced to compete with each other
for supplies. Cuomo notes he had a
contract for masks only to be later informed that the price had gone up.
Competition from other states. Cost
inflation and shortages. Thanks presnut
"I am not a supply clerk." Of
course, no matter what else happens we are assured by the presnut that he is
I have sworn I am only going shopping twice a week and have
already broken the rule. Harry always
needs something. If you could just stop
by the store to get this, he says, or I just need a couple of things, he says. I'm putting my foot down.
Twice a week, Tuesdays and Saturdays. So I went today to Costco and the liquor store. Very little traffic on the streets. Costco had toilet paper, which I don't need. I bought cat litter and peanut butter and dog
food and coffee. Essentials. They did not have Handiwipes or Clorox wipes
or Lysol etc:
Today I paid with Costco rebate bucks, which you get in one
certificate annually and they give you change in cash. I am old enough to be mostly cash
based...unlike my youngest (Will) who
thinks money is plastic or maybe stored in his phone. A couple weeks ago I
loaded up on money so when I went to put the Costco rebate money in my wallet
it was chock full. I realized I have not
spent any cash in at least two weeks.
Usually it's casual beer money, lunch with by oldest (Aaron), and quick
trip to the store money. No lunch with
Aaron for three weeks? No stops for a beer. The store quit taking money last week. Is it the end of the world as we know
I have to feel for the poor sports writers. The DnC has a total staff of about 8
reporters now. One food writer, one beer
writer, two doing the work of the 28 or so public affairs and business and cop
reporters they used to have... and four sports writers. (OK I may not
have these numbers exactly right, but I'm close.)
The sports page is
minimum six pages and is no problem to fill up in the normal world. There are prep sports and colleges (we have
several, although only Syracuse gets much coverage), and everything from
swimming and golf to fill in all the spaces left after the Bills have been
thoroughly analyzed and dissected and bloviated. Most of that stuff is gone. What to do now?
They write a lot about Bills potential free agent trades to
built the ideal powerhouse team, after draft rebuilding coverage. Lists of possible draft picks free agents is
to be expected. There are always the how
great Syracuse will be someday stories.
Then nothing. So they are
applying the Bills formula to prep
sports. What to expect from returning starters from 11th grade? An interesting stretch. Histories of famous local sports events and
heroes are being written. And recently,
in a moment of editorial desperation, two whole pages of TV shows and movie
favorites from the entire sports writing staff. Gotta fill that news hole. But
they didn't include Porky's or Blues
Brothers, Oh Brother Where Art Thou or A Boy and HIs Dog. And no Birdman?
Some days you get up in the morning and think you are
sick. That little cough? Do you have a fever? I take my temperature twice a day. Are those
sniffles that have been hanging on since January just an early symptom?
Not my annual reaction to leaf mold? Hickory is worried that her cough,
also a seasonal event, is something more.
Paranoid? So is the rest of the
world. So should we all be.
Every day is 14 days from sometime. I ran across a receipt from the last day we
had dinner out.
March 10 at the Winfield
Grill. They had a modest crowd that
night and apparently we ran into no one who was sick. And the next day and the
next? Nothing more threatening than the
grocery store, a doctor's visit for Harry in there someplace and of course
three times weekly to dialysis. The
grocery now has shields between the checker and the customer, Costco enforces
crowd control, keeps the carts six feet apart.
The Vet called with my cat's test results and left the medication on her
We are shutting down
more and more here. Hickory's job is
resettling refugees from Afghanistan who worked with the USA during our
occupation of their homeland. It
requires a lot of dealing with local relief agencies, landlords and volunteers,
not to mention hand-holding with recently arrived refugees. They see her as everyone's mother. She has done a lot of necessary traveling about and visiting in
the last month, but this week brought it to a halt. Too much exposure. She is
I learned how to navigate PFCU's cumbersome money transfer
system so I can move money and pay bills from my desk. I changed my weekly
shopping days to Tuesday and Friday, and
am sticking to it. Hickory has severe allergies and keeps a small supply
of masks gave me one for going out. I
never thought I would wear a surgical mask to the grocery, but it's
comforting. I also carry baby wipes with
me (can't buy anything else) to clean off shopping carts, gas pump handles,
A good thing is we have Will and Swillar with us. They cook a lot and help about the house.
It's a great opportunity to get to know
them together. So far every night is a
dinner party. Food, wine and
conversation, the approved method for surviving a plague. Aaron is sheltering
in place. Wish he could visit us here.
Talked to Aaron yesterday about him coming to visit. We are fairly confident of being safe except
that Hickory's last visit with the Afghans was only a week ago and she is
concerned that they may not be obeying all the separation rules, as she found
them at a large social gathering. So we
wait until at least next weekend.
Beautiful weather yesterday, rainy and cooler today. I'm starting in-door projects, like the long-delayed
organizing of the books. I have about
180 feet of book shelves, most of them full.
Only one set of shelves, the 56 feet in the main hallway (which I built
myself) is reasonably organized and then only in a way that makes sense to
me. It's mostly the history collection,
but includes a selection of miscellaneous
favored novels, books I thought were
interesting once but may not have read, and current politics... stuff that is sort of history, but without the perspective offered by people who
think about history professionally. I
have two book cases, a shelf set of about 30 feet that has mostly detectives,
spies, historical novels organized by
author. Count 44 Bernard Cornwells, 22
Michael Connelly, a complete set of C.S. Lewis' Heratio Hornblower novels and
of Patrick O'Brien's Aubrey-Maturin. Dos Passos. Grisholm and Dick Francis are pretty much in
one place, but Elmore Leonard, Larry
McMurtry and John LeCarre are scattered hither and yon. (Explain to Joyce
Carrol Oates why she doesn't have her own place on the shelves? ) There is a lot of work to be done.
Everyone now seems to have recommendations for reading while
isolated. Have some more:
My top five
favorite novels about war:
James Jones, The Thin Red Line (You may want to start with From Here to
Eternity, also a great book, and no reason not to read the Some Came
Running and Whistle after you have gone that far.)
Norman Mailer, The Naked and the Dead (As gritty and real as Thin Red Line.)
Mark Halprin, A Soldier of the Great War. Had not been for Hemingway we may never have
known there was such a war. Halprin
gives it great depth and polish.
John Dos Passos, Three Soldiers. War is mostly hanging around waiting to be
abused by some asshole noncom. Read all
Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage. Rich, rewarding, thoughtful. Crane writes as though he were there. (He wasn't.)
A good companion to Jones and Mailer.
(Bonus book) Thomas
Keneally, Daughters of Mars.
Keneally, best known for Schindler's List, tells the story of two
sisters who go off to war to work as nurses at Gallipoli. Beautifully told. Like most war stories, it doesn't end well.
19th Century romances:
Literature from the USA in this period is pretty thin. Fennimore Cooper has a couple of favorites, The
Deerslayer and Last of the Mohicans.
For an eye-opener, I recommend Uncle Tom's Cabin. It's the most important book of the century,
so ask yourself why no one ever asked you to read it in school. It's preachy and
packed with heretical Christian theology (Harriett's daddy, a famous preacher
of the day, moved the family to Ohio from Massachusetts in order to save the
new state from the ravages of Catholicism).
It presents a clear picture of
the 19th Century white liberal view of slaves and black people in general. Uncle Tom is Uncle Tom, and there is
the mischievous Topsy, but
there is true romance and adventure (remember those young lovers from King and
I?) and a view of what slavery was like. (Turns out Harriett Beecher Stowe
meticulously documented it.) This is a
picture of life under slavery not again attempted in American writing until
very recently. And of course, as Abraham
Lincoln pointed out, it's the book that started it all.
Read anything by Jane Austin, although I didn't care much
for Northanger Abbey.
Anything by Thomas Hardy.
Be cautious with Jude the
Obscure. It's the first Hardy book
I ever read and I think of it often
still, but doubt that I will read it again.
It's very moving and terribly sad. Favorites include Far from the
Madding Crowd, Tess D'Ubervilles, and The Mayor of
I got interested in George Elliott when I decided I had to
finally read Silas Marner, which I was supposed to read in high school. I looked her up on the Wiki. Mary Ann Evans was well-regarded editor who
started writing fiction late because she wanted to put more reality into
fiction written by women. Then she published under a man's name. The pseudonym also allowed her to avoid the
notoriety that would draw attention to the fact that she was shacked up with a
married man. I read Middlemarch,
supposed to be her finest work. I
recommend Adam Bede.
So I went to
Costco today. I think it's a safe place to shop because
they clean every cart and enforce the crowd rules. They are limiting the number of people in the
store, which means the line this morning was very very very long. Whatever I went for I didn't need that
While cleaning the basement (a worthy task for this season)
I find many boxes and bags of sheebees.
A sheebee, of course, is
something you have when you need it.
The beauty of a sheebee is you may not know when you need it but you
will know when you do. The solution when you find many of them is to find a large box and put them all in it.
Then you have a box of sheebees.
Happy Easter Eggs, eh? I'm never too sure when its Easter so
we had the ham last week. This week we
are back to pot roast.
I think I recently discussed new skills you learn when you
are in plague defense mode. Such as
transferring money using the clunky banking system at the local baby credit
union. So lately I have expanded my
skills and have been manically ordering
shit from the internets.
Usually when I have a home project it takes several trips to
the Man Store to get it done. This is mostly because of lost tools, lost
parts and most importantly, poor organization and planning. Nearly two weeks ago we had a decent weather
day so I went after this project of
cutting back this massive hedge that
every year tries to overwhelm my solar panels.
It's right behind the solar array and about 10 feet tall, which allows
the top branches to grow over the panels.
I usually just cut back the top branches. This year it's coming down to four feet or
so. Serious cutting ahead.
So of course the battery powered sawzall disn't work, and
I'm contemplating an extra trip to Le
Depot des Hommes. No unnecessary
shopping! I choose the internets which
delays the effort nearly a week... but you know, I'm not in a hurry.
I want to get it done before the
new growth comes on, but there are a few weeks before that happens. It took three separate orders. One for the saw, one when I realized It didn't
have any batteries with it, and one for blades.
Fortunately I got all those orders in a single day.
Since then I have ordered camera batteries, ink for my
printer and a massive roll of plain brown paper. I think I had had too much to drink when I did that.