The honor system…

According to the Centers for Disease Control, those who have been fully vaccinated are more or less free to unmask and get on up in each other’s personal space again. It’s a decision that certainly speaks to their growing confidence that the vaccine is very nearly bulletproof. Yes, if you’ve been vaccinated, you can still contract COVID-19, but the research they referenced yesterday seems to conclude that the instance of becoming truly sick from it is negligible. Likewise, the risk of a vaccinated person spreading COVID-19 is next to nil. 

Those who aren’t vaccinated, which by this point is largely a group of people who do not want to be vaccinated, are supposed to keep wearing their masks. There’s a catch, of course… and that’s this is largely the same group of people who have been violently opposed to something as simple as wearing a mask at the height of the Great Plague.

There’s no way of looking at someone and telling whether they’ve been vaccinated or not. Our friends from the CDC basically say we’ll be on our honor as to whether we’ve been vaccinated or not and behave accordingly. Personally, I hear that as a very polite way of saying “We’ve saved as many of you who want saving as possible and from here on out, if you want to go out and catch the bug, you’re on your own.” Put another way, if you’re part of the minority who refuses to acknowledge science, the immortal words of Ivan Drago can be your valedictory: If he dies, he dies. 

It’s not an elegant solution, but at some point it’s important to accept that you simply can’t protect people from themselves. According to the CDC, at least, we’ve arrived at that point. Now all that remains to be seen is how state and local governments and businesses respond. 

My personal prediction is that we’ll make every bit as much of a hash of exiting the Great Plague experience as we did getting into it in the first place. We’ll soon see, I expect, a country that isn’t so much divided between those who are vaccinated and those who are unvaccinated as between those who are vaccinated and those who are infected.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Workforce “recovery.” This week I’ve started hearing the first rumbles that planning is picking up for the inevitable “return to work” phase of the Great Plague experience. It’s part of the workforce recovery plan that’s lain more or less dormant for the last year. The bosses will talk about it in grand terms of “bringing people home” to the office or of the supposed productive benefits of stacking thousands of people into 6×8 foot cubicles. They’ll talk of being “better together,” of having team synergy, or a hundred other phrases that mean, more or less, nothing. That’s the story they’ll tell themselves. Some people, I suppose, will even believe it. Me? Well, I’ll know from fourteen months experience that there’s almost no part of my job that requires being in a specific place during specific hours. I won’t have the audacity to say everything I do could be done from somewhere else… but I will say my time sitting in a cubicle could be limited to, like the old National Guard slogan, two days a month and two weeks a year – and every lick of my work would keep getting done on time and to standard.

2. Intellectual property. In a press release yesterday from the White House, the Biden Administration announced that it supports waiving intellectual property protection for COVID-19 vaccines. Patent protection is among the most important functions we expect from government. It creates a safe and secure environment for innovation. While the federal government, through its expenditures supporting Operation Warp Speed, has a vested interest in vaccine development and distribution, the more rational course of action would seem to be continuing to ramp up domestic production of vaccines for export and cooperation with a few foreign manufacturers as trusted agents rather than handing over the keys to the kingdom without sufficient safeguards protecting the monumental intellectual effort that went into creating these vaccines.

3. Schedule. I had some maintenance scheduled here on the homestead this week. The day before they were to do the work, their office confirmed that “Yep, they’ll be there at 8:00.” Perfect. I like and appreciate early hours. The catch, because there’s always a catch, is the crew didn’t actually roll into my driveway until 9:05. Had the arrival time been given as “between 8 and 10,” I’d have been fine with it. I’d have even give at least partial credit for a call letting me know they were running behind. Yes, I know I’m more a fanatical devotee to staying on schedule than most. I tend to leave so far ahead of my projected arrival time that I’ve been known to tuck in to a nearby shop’s parking lot for a few minutes to avoid arriving obscenely early to appointments. I don’t necessarily expect that from other people… but if you say you’ll be somewhere at 8:00, being there at 9-something tells me you’re not even trying.

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.

The great unmasking…

Thanks to Texas and a bunch of deep red states deciding that government-imposed mask mandates are no longer required as part of the response to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the question “When should we stop masking?” is an apt one. Everyone has an opinion. This happens to be mine…

In general, I’m mostly opposed to broad, sweeping government mandates made under the guise that “we know best.” Then again, I’m also philosophically opposed to assuming I know more than people who have spent a lifetime studying virology. That said, the imposition of masking in public hasn’t felt like a grave threat to my personal liberty. I’d be hard pressed to devise an argument that wearing a bit of cloth in an effort to prevent the transmission of a deadly and previously unknown virus somehow violates any right protected by the Constitution. Most of the positions staked out by people who have made such an assertion, sound more like teenaged whining than well-reasoned logic.

A fair number of people who aren’t part of the small, but loud “I won’t wear a face diaper” contingent, are fairly reasonable. Their response to questions of when does it stop is often “not yet” or when recommended by the CDC or other competent medical authority. There are a few, the true pro-mask outliers, who want to keep their masks on forever. 

When I can’t avoid being indoors in close proximity to others, I’ll keep mine on for now. Yes, even after being fully vaccinated… though in all honestly, I suspect I’ll subconsciously be less vigilant once my relative risk of slow, breathless death is dramatically reduced. I probably shouldn’t admit that in writing, but I’ve always found self-interest to be more motivating than vague notions of “the common good.” 

The real line in the sand for me will be about two or three weeks after we’ve reached the point where everyone who wants a vaccination can get one. That’s the moment, were, in my mind, masks in public places become purely optional and where mine will likely fall away unless there’s compelling evidence to the contrary.

Yes, there are going to be those out there who steadfastly refuse both masks and vaccinations. Frankly, I don’t feel any sense of moral obligation to continue protecting them when they’ve opted not to help themselves when help is readily available. They’ve made their choices, so on their head be it.

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.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Accessories. I’ve been using the same iPhone case manufacturer since sometime around the 3rd generation. It appears that sometime early this year, they’ve gone defunct. That means I have a new phone coming tomorrow and now have to go through the paces of finding someone else who makes as close an approximation as what I use to be able to get, because, let’s face it, I’m not going to be satisfied with the first two or three or dozen I try. They’ll probably all be fine cases in theory, but none of them will be exactly what I wanted.  Sigh. It’s going to be stupid and expensive and I don’t want to do it.

2. Vaccine. Reports this week are there’s a COVID-19 vaccine coming soon from Pfizer. Moderna seems to be hot on their heels with their own version. It looks like a footrace to see who will be first to market and able to make a supply chain work effectively. If your biggest concern is fighting back against the virus, this is all basically good news. My contrarian instinct, though, can’t help but remind me that the arrival of a vaccine is the beginning of the end of the golden age of working from home. Getting “back to normal” will inevitably sign the death knell of being home all day with the animals and give the upper hand back to bosses who value asses in chairs more than measurable productivity… and that’s not so much annoying as it is sad.

3. The Republican Party. Do I really need to even explain this one? As a (mostly) lifelong Republican, I’m embarrassed by the elected members of the party who are too cowed by the ebbing power of the president to say publicly that Donald Trump has not won reelection. The numbers tell the tale. I know that constituents will almost always rather hear sweet lies than hard truths and staying elected means not pissing off your base too badly. Even knowing that, I can’t quite get past the feeling that the Republican Party establishment is, perhaps as soon as the Georgia special election in January, going to be punished for its cowardice in a moment that begs them to tell truth to power.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Negotiating with terrorists. I want to go on the record right now, while I’m thinking clearly and not under physical or emotional stress. Let the record show that if I ever find myself being held hostage by a bunch of terrorist thugs, I don’t want my country or my family negotiating for my release. I don’t want them to pay anyone off and I don’t want to be part of any kind of halfassed prisoner exchange. I don’t want anyone to give the lowlife cave dwellers the satisfaction of a “victory” on my account. With that said, however, what I would like is as many truly badass operators as possible to come get me out. If rescue is impossible, feel free to carpet bomb the entire town, city, or province. If I’m just going to end up dead anyway, lets make it count for something.

2. Lunch. I like lunch. I like lunch to happen some time approximating the midpoint between my arrival and departure times on weekdays. What I don’t like, however, is being over scheduled to the point where lunch doesn’t have a chance to happen until 90 minutes before the end of the day. Sure, I’m damned well sure still going to get my 30 minutes, but it would be nice if lunch and dinner were separated by a little more than the drive home.

3. Vaccinations. I’m the last person on earth who wants Uncle getting in our collective businesses, but can’t we all at least get behind the idea measles is bad. It’s a disease we all but eradicated in this country a generation ago but because a loud and obnoxious subset of people have decided that science is a bunch of elitist bunk, its making a comeback. Good job, guys. Your ignorant asshattery is going cause illnesses and deaths that are nearly 100% preventable. For your next act maybe you could help us bring back smallpox, polio, or the plague. I understand those were a laugh a minute back in the olden days. Let’s just go ahead and forget the upward surge of medical science over the last century and go back to the days of living in fear of every sneeze and infection.