UPDATED! Pandemic Diary: November 18th, 2020

Today is officially Day 248 since I began working from home for my university library system because of the coronavirus pandemic. I am still on holidays this week; I “go back to work” on Monday (while remaining firmly ensconced in my apartment). All my days are blurring together; I thought it was Thursday today until I doubled-checked, and it’s Wednesday! Today I am focusing on cleaning up my apartment, doing the laundry, and putting a mountain of dirty dishes through my dishwasher (and, of course, doing a bit of blogging; this is already my third blogpost of the day, and it’s not even 10:00 a.m. yet!).

The good news is that a tentative agreement has been reached between the University of Manitoba and the faculty association. It still has to be voted on, but if the union membership votes to accept it, it means there will not be a strike by U of M professors, instructors, and librarians this year. And, in the event that the proposal is rejected and there is a strike, I have received assurances from a union negotiator that there is an option to participate in the strike 100% virtually, so I do not have to walk a picket line (which is a huge relief to me, since I am at high risk of a severe case of COVID-19 if I should become infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus).

And the Valve Index VR kit I ordered is scheduled to arrive via FedEx sometime today (and, of course, I will be at home to receive the package)*:

Now begins the formidable task of rearranging everything in my apartment to create the room-scale virtual reality space I have always wanted! This will involve throwing out some furniture and books I no longer want to keep, rearranging my stock of rice, flour, canned goods, face masks, hand sanitizer, and other pandemic preps which are currently scattered all over the place into one compact area, etc. I expect that this will take me quite a while; I am a notoriously lazy, lax housekeeper (“slob” is such an ugly word).

Meanwhile, I am absolutely feasting on the schadenfreude as I read news reports about the infighting among the remaining Trump staffers who have not already been fired via Tweet or jumped the rapidly sinking ship, and chortling over some very funny editorial cartoons, such as this gem by Canadian editorial cartoonist Michael de Adder:

“I see losers…” (a reference to the 1999 Bruce Willis film The Sixth Sense)

And I howled with laughter at these two:

Yesterday, I had my first telephone conversation with the lawyer who will be drawing up my will, plus a financial power of attorney, and a healthcare power of attorney. And I have been in touch with all six key contact people whom I want to know my wishes and requests in the event of any emergency involving me (COVID-19 or otherwise).

Now I just need to sit down and write up detailed instructions to share with all six people. For example, I will be giving one of my trusted contacts, whom I know from Sansar and Second Life, my username and password for the RyanSchultz.com blog, so that in any emergency situation, he will be able to post a message if I cannot do so. Doing all this gives me some sense of relief; I am finally taking care of things that I have been putting off for far too long. At least in that area, my anxiety is starting to subside a bit (but I still keep the Lorazepam handy, just in case).

I am—dare I jinx it by saying it out loud?—feeling happy. Or at least, happier overall than I have felt in a long, long time.

Photo by Alexander Krivitskiy on Unsplash

Well…okay…not that happy. (But you get the picture.)

Stay healthy, stay safe, and stay sane in these trying times!

UPDATE 1:52 p.m.: Well, I just checked the news and my happiness has evaporated. In an update to the anti-mask rally held in the Mennonite Bible Belt town of Steinbach (which I first wrote about on November 14th), CBC News reports:

RCMP confirmed on Saturday that several people, believed to attendees at a rally in the city that day against COVID-19 measures, stormed into Steinbach hospital’s emergency room, creating a scene. Mounties said people have come to the hospital, taking photos and yelling at employees.

“I feel just really upset. I think it undermines the message that we are giving,” said Dr. Glen Drobot, a Winnipeg internal medicine doctor who recently worked on a COVID-19 ward at St. Boniface Hospital.

What the fuck?

What the fuck???

WHAT THE FUCK?!??

And on top of that, Manitoba’s top doctor is upset that stores are advertising Black Friday sales:

With Black Friday coming up, Manitoba’s top doctor is urging Manitobans not to take part in Black Friday sales and shop only for essential items.

Speaking on Tuesday, [Dr. Brent] Roussin noted several businesses have already started advertising their sales for one of the biggest retail days of the year, including in-person sales happening on Nov. 27.

“I think I want to be really clear here; with the numbers, this is irresponsible,” he said after announcing seven more COVID-19 deaths and 270 more cases of the virus in Manitoba.

“We can’t accept this. We’re in code red in Winnipeg right now, we have people dying every day, we have our health-care workers telling us that they’re reaching their limits. This isn’t the time for having a large, in-person sale for non-essential goods or services.”

Yes, this is the actual, honest-to-God news today. I am starting to lose my faith in humanity, folks. If we are only as safe as the stupidest people in our society, then we are in deep, deep trouble here in Manitoba.

And things just keep getting worse and worse by the day:

Manitoba health officials announced 400 new COVID-19 cases and 11 deaths today as the number of patients in hospital continues to climb and strain the health-care system.

There are a record-high 249 people in hospital, with 40 of them in intensive care.

The five-day provincial test positivity rate also reached a new high of 14.2 per cent.

The COVID-19 outbreak in Manitoba is now the top news cluster on Google News:

I might just go back to bed and pull the covers over head. *sigh*

UPDATE 3:20 p.m.: And here’s a chart to show you all just just how quickly things have gotten out of control here in Manitoba (source: National Post newspaper, COVID-19 denial going strong in Manitoba as experts say hospitals near capacity, Nov. 18th, 2020):

*Update: My Valve Index VR kit arrived this afternoon. Hooray!

My Journey from Oculus Rift to Valve Index: Buh-Bye, Facebook!

My journey from Oculus Rift to Valve Index started on August 18th, 2020 when I first placed my order for a complete Valve Index VR kit:

Today, I put my money where my mouth is. I went and placed an online order for the complete Valve Index VR Kit. I am told that it will take eight or more weeks to get to me, because of coronavirus-related delays in production. That’s fine. I can wait. And I’m not going anywhere.

I will be boycotting Facebook hardware and software from this point forward. It’s time for me to kick the Facebook habit, once and for all.

Well, after waiting almost three months (due to manufacturing and shipping delays caused by the pandemic), I was able to confirm the purchase of the Valve Index Kit on my credit card today, and now the shipping process begins! I am so excited!

This is not going to be cheap. The total cost, including import fees, comes to CDN$1,477 (which, according to today’s exchange rates, works out to about US$1,131).

It’s expensive, but I can afford it, and I am leaving Facebook (and Oculus) behind for good. My trusty Oculus Rift has served me well for almost four years now, through many memorable adventures and experiences, and I have certainly gotten my money’s worth from it, but I absolutely refuse to set up a new Facebook account in order to use it. (I won’t sell it, because the headset is so worn; I’ll just box it up and keep it in case anything goes wrong with the Valve Index.)

As for my original version Oculus Quest, I must confess that I haven’t touched it in at least eight months. The empty space I had cleared in my bedroom in order to use it is currently piled high with rice, canned soup and beans, Clorox wipes, toilet paper, face masks, surgical gloves, and various other pandemic preparations. (I have already decided to donate my Quest to my sister-in-law’s workplace, where she is part of a team of people who work with developmentally challenged adults. They can put it to good use. I still need to Google to find out exactly how best to wipe all my personal account information and purchased apps off my Quest before I mail it to her.)

The good news is that I haven’t spent a lot of money on games on the Oculus Store, for either my Rift or my Quest (most of what I do in VR is social VR, almost all of which is free to download), so I won’t lose much money there. And, of course, any purchases I made on social VR platforms like Sansar is tied to my Sansar account, and not to Facebook/Oculus. From now on, I will be dealing either with Steam, or downloading software directly from the company’s website.

Buh-bye, Facebook/Oculus! Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out. I am going to enjoy uninstalling the Oculus software from my personal computer.

I just paid almost $1,500 just to be able to say this: fuck you, Mark Zuckerberg.

And, once my new Valve Index arrives, I have decided to completely redecorate my living room to convert it into a room-scale VR space. This means I have to throw out some furniture, including my ancient, ratty old sofa and busted, cathode-ray-tube TV set (which died on me at the start of the pandemic). I have zero plans to purchase a new television set; I never watch broadcast TV anymore, and I do not miss it. I can get all the video content I need from streaming services like Netflix.

I currently have four large bookshelves in my living room loaded with books I no longer read or want, so I will be taking them to the nearest dumpster (I would have donated them to the Children’s Hospital Book Market, but that event has been cancelled and they are asking people not to drop off books at local fire halls.) As a librarian, I am really rather surprised at just how easily I can part with paper books these days; I used to be a book packrat who scoured used book sales like the Children’s Hospital Book Market. I also practiced a lot of what the Japanese call tsundoku: buying books but never getting around to reading them!

I will be creating a new category on my blog, called Valve Index (this blogpost will be the first one put into that category). Wish me luck as I embark on a new adventure!

The Valve Index kit I ordered