Twenty percent…

There’s a recent survey that shows 20% of those Americans polled believe the COVID-19 vaccine is being used to imbed a tracking chip in all who receive it. The “good” news is that only 5% said it was “definitely” true while 15% said it was only “probably” true. 

Twenty percent of our fellow Americans believe something that is patently absurd. That’s one in five people – a number that feels like it almost guarantees that we all know someone or possibly many people who are part of the 20%. Some of them may even be reading this blog right now.

I’m never entirely sure what bit of the brain has to be badly wired to convince people to buy into some of the more wild-assed conspiracy theories. What on earth would possess someone to think that the government (or new world order for that matter), would bother with something so pedestrian as implanting a chip… when we’ve pretty much all long ago agreed to carry one of the most advanced tracking devices in history in our pocket all day every day.

This 20% are among us, though. They’re our politicians, our teachers, our religious leaders, our lawyers, our firefighters, and pretty much anyone else you can imagine. That’s the thought that horrifies me far more than the idea of any kind of chip the big, bad virologists might have slipped me. 

7000 degrees…

I just cranked the thermostat down to 65 because it’s approximately 7000 degrees outside and I’ve got a heating pad wrapped around my neck because direct heat is the only thing so far that buys me a few minutes every hour of being able to move my head like a normal person.

So that’s how the week off is going in case anyone was curious.

My neck, my back…

Sometime on Saturday, I did… something. I don’t know what, exactly, but the net result is steady pain in my neck and upper back, with occasional twinges in the shoulders. As long as I keep my head straight forward it look slightly up, it eases considerably. Looking down, say to use your phone or read a book, is somewhere between uncomfortable and agonizing.

Forced to decided between increasing pain or no books over a three day weekend, you can well imagine that I’ve opted for physical pain rather than emotional trauma. It’s probably not been one of my better long term decisions.

Seven or eight years ago I let a local chiropractor work me over after throwing my lower back. If only the placebo effect, it brought at least a little immediate relief. Unless I’m miraculously cured when I wake up tomorrow, I suspect it’s time to give that brand of quackery another shot.

That or I’m going to have to rip out my spine and start over with a new model. Either way.

It’s been two weeks…

So, it’s been two weeks since gleefully getting my second jab in hopes that my body would learn to treat COVID like a mild annoyance rather than a deadly virus. It’s been two weeks since my Saturday of discontent when three layers of wool wasn’t enough to make me feel warm. It’s been two lingering weeks waiting for what the virologists say is the time it takes for a body to build up full immunity.

Not being a virologist myself, I’m in a position of largely just needing to trust what they say is true, which is fine since it’s what I’ve been doing since the beginning of the Great Plague. I mean in a contest between believing politicians and believing people who have spent their entire careers working in a particular, demanding field of study that calls for them to be, by definition, highly educated, I’m not sure why anyone would default to believing politicians.

The number of new infections is now heading back up – utterly predictable when the politicians used the decline following the winter surge to make a few long steps towards “business as usual.” If I had to guess, it looks like the trend will settle somewhere above what we adorably considered the “peak” back during the second wave. Hardly a good news story, but whatever. People, or a large portion of them, seem to have lost interest and are ready to play the odds.

In the absence of a test to confirm that my blood is swimming with antibodies, I suppose I’m playing the odds too, but it feels like I’m doing it with more reasonable justification and likelihood of success than if I were doing it purely “because I want to.”

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a book buying binge of monumental proportions coming on… but there’s no part of me that regrets waiting for it to be legitimately safe for me to take on that project.

On vaccines, people, and general irrationality…

For eight or so hours on Saturday, I felt like absolute shit. There’s no two ways about that. In return, I got the comfort of knowing that in two weeks my chances of being hospitalized or experiencing severe symptoms due to the Great Plague will have plummeted to something negligible. That feels like a deal well worth making.

“But,” some would say, “You don’t know what they’re putting in your body.” That’s a factually correct statement. I don’t know the chemical compounds that make up a bacon cheeseburger, either, but that doesn’t stop me from jamming them into my mouth with abandon. 

I’m neither a chemist, biologist, not medical doctor. I have, however, been well vaccinated over the years – against diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella, polio, flu, and now COVID-19. I was given and took those vaccinations because people who are chemists, biologists, and medical doctors advised that they were beneficial.

After a year of people bitching about businesses being closed, not wanting to wear masks, schools being virtual, and general angst about what they think has been taken away due to the virus, I hope you can forgive me for being perplexed by why the same group is displaying what’s being charitably called “vaccine hesitancy.” It seems that the group loudest about wanting to “open up” and “get back to normal” would also be agitating loudest to get vaccines in their arm faster as that’s the key to getting from where we are to where they want to be.

There will always be a small subset of the population that legitimately can’t take a vaccine for medical reasons. For the others lined up in the “don’t wanna, can’t make me” camp, I honestly have no idea what’s driving you towards generalized irrationality. I can make an educated guess or two, but I’m quite sure I couldn’t do it without being considered unspeakably rude.

Ascension…

In preparation for this historic moment, I feel like I’ve run the gauntlet, secured the Books of Ascension, performed the ritual dedication, devoured the contents of the Box of Gavrok, and made every preparation for the Old One, Olvikan, to return. I even looked around, unsuccessfully, for a meddling volcanologist who might have needed to be knocked off.

So begins the 14 days until my ascension… or until the Moderna vaccination reaches its peak effectiveness. Assuming my plans aren’t foiled by a bomb in the library or other unpleasant side effects. 

I’m not sure what the proper name is for what this moment feels like, but ascension gets awfully close to right.

A full plague year…

A year ago tomorrow the World Health Organization proclaimed COVID-19 a global pandemic. With more rapidity than I would have imagined possible, the global economy ground to a near standstill as those who were able hunkered down amidst the uncertainty of a suddenly unfamiliar world.

As this anniversary approaches, news sites and blogs are filling with posts about the loss, suffering, disruption, and dramatically changed lives of the plague era. Some of the stories are quite dramatic. Many others focus on tales of boredom and isolation.

For as much of a traditionalist as I am, I’m the first to note that many of my life choices lean towards vaguely unconventional. I like the part of the American Dream with the house in the distant exurbs, a stretch of lawn, the dog, and the cat. The wife and 2.4 kids was never a bit I felt particularly dawn to. Where others have spent a year missing social engagement, I’ve barely realized it was missing. I assume it’s this non-standard approach to ordering my life that hasn’t left me feeling as if I missed much of anything over the last 365 days. I’m also aware that my situation is reasonably unique and not likely shared by most people who have been riding out the plague with a spouse and a couple of kids knocking around the house with them. As with most things, individual experiences may vary, subject to personal choices and a bit of pure dumb luck.

Shopping for groceries and other in-person essentials at times when shops are least occupied, having meals packaged for carryout, maximizing Amazon for delivery of a wide range of things I can’t find locally, and spending the lion’s share of my time tinkering about the yard or in the house weren’t concessions to the Great Plague so much as how I’ve conducted business for most of my adult life. Add in the unexpected bonus of working mostly from home and making only periodic forays to an actual office and the whole thing seems almost idyllic… if you don’t let the idea of random death spread through the air bother you too much.

Spending Christmas and other holidays apart and not schlepping through every book store I pass by were the only pronounced changes in how I do things, though in both cases those were conditions I imposed on myself rather than ones imposed by others. Both will likewise be resolved (probably) a week or two after I’ve gotten my second jab. 

We’re a year into the Great Plague of 2020 and with vaccinations ramping up and states slowly (or not so slowly) rolling back their plague restrictions. The new battle cry is becoming “return to normal.” History will decide if we’ve been judicious or if it’s simply a case of people deciding they’ve had enough and wanting to go their own way. Personally, I wouldn’t shed a tear if many aspects of this new normal stuck around well past whatever date we select to string up a banner and declare Mission Accomplished. 

Aspect of the demon…

I’ve been a loud and unrepentant fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer for a long time. Stick with me, though, because this post is only tangentially related.

In the episode titled “Earshot,” Buffy slays a demon. Nothing unusual there. That’s her job after all.

The mouthless demon in question, part of a pair, was able to communicate telepathically – the reason they gave our favorite Slayer such a run for her money. As half the pair is vanquished, Buffy ends up with some of its blood on her hand. It’s absorbed quickly and her hand begins to itch. Concerned, Buffy consults Giles, who warns ominously that it’s possible she could have been infected with “an aspect of the demon.” In this case, Buffy’s “aspect” was being able to read people’s thoughts – a trick that sounds neat at first, but becomes radically less so as the episode progresses.

Through a fluke of timing and availability that really translates to “right place, right time,” I was able to get my first round of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine last Friday. If we all go along with the analogy of COVID being a demon in desperate need of slaying, well, it seems I managed to get my own minor version of its aspect once it worked its way into my bloodstream.

I didn’t get to do any mind reading, but I did develop what I’m affectionately calling a temporary case of narcolepsy. For the better part of Saturday and Sunday, I fell asleep every single time I sat down. Want to watch something on TV? Fall asleep. Want to read a book? Fall asleep. Look something up online? Fall asleep.

As aspects of the demon go, it wasn’t entirely unpleasant, but I’m glad it seems to be over now. Falling asleep repeatedly throughout the day is a real productivity killer. Hopefully the second round results will be as innocuous and not cause me to sprout an ill-placed horn or wake up as a Fyral demon.

Getting Shot…

I was one of the designated red shirts in the office today (and before you ask, yes, I really do wear red shirts on the days I have to schlep over to the office). It’s the Friday before a holiday weekend, so the day is one of those that could easily have gone either way. Aside from a couple of systems I needed to use not working for half the day (which is fairly normal), the day broke towards the better than expected side. Occasionally I’m pleasantly surprised like that.

The big news of the day, though, was the handful of us who got tagged to be “early adopters” of the COVID-19 vaccine. Mostly it went to some of the people who have been here day in and day out since last March. I don’t begrudge them getting to the front of the line in any way. The more of that bunch who roll up their sleeves, the better protected I am on the periodic days I’ve got to spend taking my turn in cubicle hell.

The more subtle undercurrent of the day was the more quiet voices adamantly asserting “No way I’m taking that,” or “it’s unproven,” or “the damned government has injected me with enough stuff already.” I’ve been told we’re not supposed to mock “those with vaccine hesitancy,” so I won’t… not publically, at least. I’m thankful for their hesitancy, too, in a way… because every one of them who turns it down puts me just a little higher on the list.

I threw myself on the waiting list a week or two ago, not really expecting much to come of it. Turns out, either we accidentally ended up with way too much product or way too little interest, because by the end of the day I, too, had some of Moderna’s finest rapidly developed and tested, emergency use approved vaccine racing through my system. Maybe I’ll grow a tail or drop dead from god knows what side effect 30-years from now… but I’m a step closer to getting back to trolling through shops that smell of old paper, and that makes this possibly the best Friday I’ve ever spent in the office.

And to think they say getting shot is a bad thing.

I’m going to get a lecture…

I’ve been successfully avoiding the doctor since this whole COVID-19 dust up started.  Intentionally schlepping into a building designed to cater to sick people didn’t feel to me like a particularly good idea. Sure, my own brand of sickness is killing me slowly and needs attention from time to time, but avoiding the kind of sick that causes swift death from lack of oxygen was more of a priority. 

It’s been a year since my last checkup. I’ve mostly felt fine, or rather anything that’s bothered me pre-dates COVID-19 by a matter of years and been around long enough that it all feels like my version of normal. The doc kept refilling prescriptions on schedule and I was happy enough staying put until the world sorted itself out.  Apparently, though, doc has a philosophical problem with refilling scripts for someone he hasn’t personally seen in a year. That’s fair, I suppose. Inconvenient, but fair. 

I already know most of what he’s going to tell me. I’ve picked up weight during the plague. That’s likely a side effect of working my way through the comfort food cookbook half a dozen times over the last year. My blood sugar is running higher. Again, a result of the carb-heavy cooking and an increased intake of gin and tonic.

I’ve never been a paragon of healthy living. No one knows that more intuitively than I. When you add in my natural predilections and preferences to a world that has steadily condensed into only the pleasures I can find here inside the compound, well, the results shouldn’t be surprising to anyone. Trolling through flea markets, antique malls, old book shops, and secondhand stores have all been wholly replaced with the joy of tasty food and drink. It’s not optimal, but it’s what it is.

I’m going to get a lecture next week. I’m quite certain of that. I’m going to get a lecture, but I’m going to get my prescriptions refilled, so it’s probably a fair trade.