Pandemic Diary, November 22nd, 2020: Fuck You, Donald Trump

One of my quality-of-life metrics is the number of really good laugh-until-you-cry moments per year (obviously, they have been in rather short supply this year).

The health benefits of laughter are already well known:

Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.

Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.

Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.

Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

Laughter burns calories. Okay, so it’s no replacement for going to the gym, but one study found that laughing for 10 to 15 minutes a day can burn approximately 40 calories—which could be enough to lose three or four pounds over the course of a year.

Laughter lightens anger’s heavy load. Nothing diffuses anger and conflict faster than a shared laugh. Looking at the funny side can put problems into perspective and enable you to move on from confrontations without holding onto bitterness or resentment.

Laughter may even help you to live longer. A study in Norway found that people with a strong sense of humor outlived those who don’t laugh as much. The difference was particularly notable for those battling cancer.

Yesterday evening, while scrolling through my Twitter feed and clicking on Twitter’s suggestions for trending topics, I chanced upon the following funny tweet by Brian Guest:

I filled out a Trump survey trashing him a week ago, and in the NAME field I put Fuck You as my name. Forgot about it. Then just got this email out of the blue. And I’ve never been more baffled or laughed as hard as I just have. I thought he emailed truly addressing me like this:

Brian followed up with:

For 10 minutess I stared at my phone in awe—thinking this crazy man just tried to connect with supporters by droppin F-bombs in a campaign email! I was shocked. Mad. Sad. It was so unbelievable [yet] believable at the same time. Then the wave of laughs, realizing I just pranked myself so hard.

I then spent the next 20 minutes reading through all the comments which people left on Brian’s post, some of which were also extremely funny:

And the whole time, I was sitting at my computer, reading through all the posts, just absolutely HOWLING, with tears of laughter running down my face! (I’m quite sure the woman who lives upstairs from me in my apartment complex thought I had completely lost it.)

It was the best laugh I have had in months, people, perhaps all year. and let me tell you, in the middle of province-wide, code-red pandemic lockdown, I very much needed that laugh.

Stay healthy and stay sane in these trying times!

Pandemic Diary, November 12th, 2020: Manitoba Lockdown

Shoppers lined up outside the Garden City Walmart on Remembrance Day to purchase goods prior to the enactment of new restrictions in Manitoba. (source: CBC)

The CBC reports:

When you look at the latest pandemic indicators, Manitoba is struggling to contain the spread of COVID-19.

On Wednesday, the province reported a record number of daily COVID deaths (nine), a record number of people in hospital with the disease (218) and a record percentage of tests coming back positive (10.7 per cent).

The total number of COVID-19 deaths in Manitoba has doubled since Oct. 26 — a mere 16 days ago.

Intensive care unit capacity is almost maxed out. Health-care workers are getting infected with COVID-19 and two have died.

Contact tracing is backed up anywhere from days to weeks. Provincial epidemiology can no longer pinpoint how and where COVID-19 is spreading.

Timeline of Manitoba’s COVID-19 cases (source: CBC)
Monthly COVID-19 deaths in Manitoba (source: CBC)

Meanwhile, my employer, the University of Manitoba, has imposed its strongest set of on-campus restrictions yet, including the use of three-layer facemasks and eye protection when unable to practice social distancing (there have been a total of 29 positive COVID-19 cases at the University since the beginning of the academic year):

ON-CAMPUS ACTIVITIES: 

  • The wearing of 3-ply, disposable masks is mandatory on all UM campuses for all academic and research activities. Masks will be distributed in the situations for which they are required; a mask should be worn at all times on UM grounds. Further, unit supervisors will communicate directly with employees regarding the need for these masks to be worn, and will provide these masks if required. 
  • All work that may done remotely must be done remotely.  
  • Employees accessing UM campus(es) must be reduced as much as possible – only essential activities should take place on campus.  
  • Employees accessing UM campus(es) to be reduced to a maximum of 20 per cent. 
  • Individuals are encouraged to limit their time on campus(es) as much as possible. 
  • Cancellation or postponement of all in-person discretionary activities (either being contemplated or previously approved) until at least January 2021. 
  • Closure of all but absolutely essential common spaces and lunch spaces; all other UM spaces will be closed. A reduced number of study spaces will remain open. 
  • Eye-protection (shields or goggles) are recommended for all laboratory work or in situations in which 2-metre physical distancing is not possible. 
  • All UM sport and recreation facilities will be closed. 
  • The University Centre Pharmacy and the Fort Garry Bookstore will be reduced to 25% of normal capacity. 


RESEARCH

  • Suspension of all research involving human participants. 

The University of Manitoba has already announced that the upcoming winter term (January-April 2021) will be conducted almost entirely online and remotely, the same as the current fall term.


While things are certainly bad here in Manitoba, they are still nowhere near as bad, compared to the grim numbers of COVID-19 infected and dead in the United States. The situation in North Dakota and South Dakota, immediately to the south of us, is particularly grave (and yet, neither Republican-governed state has issued a facemask mandate). North Dakota nurses have rejected a recent government decision to allow hospital staff who test positive for COVID-19 to stay on the job.

All the major news media are rebuking Donald Trump for his stunning abdication of leadership as he and his craven team of flunkies fight against a clear election loss to Joe Biden, or assisting in any way in a respectful, orderly transition:

President Donald Trump had predicted in almost every campaign rally that the media would stop talking about the coronavirus pandemic the day after the election. But as it turns out, no one is ignoring the worsening tragedy more than the President himself.

Instead of taking charge as the country plunges deeper into the worst domestic crisis since World War II, Trump has disappeared inside the White House, saying nothing on camera since he baselessly claimed a week ago that the election was being stolen from him by President-elect Joe Biden.

He’s spending time with advisers, not strategizing on how to tame the out-of-control health emergency but seeking a path to win an election already declared lost. He’s also found time to purge the top leadership of the Pentagon, and with few appointments on his public schedule appears to spend his days watching news coverage and tweeting misinformation about voter fraud.

In essence, Trump, his family and his advisers are spending all their energy desperately trying to save a job — the presidency — that he appears to have no intention of doing in any meaningful sense.

History will damn Donald Trump and his administration for their mistakes, misdeeds, and inaction during what will be the worst surge of the coronavirus pandemic crisis yet in the United States, leading to untold suffering, misery, and death among Americans.

I’ve posted this image before, but it bears repeating…

Meanwhile, I am escaping messy, painful reality again today (the first official day of Manitoba’s emergency code-red pandemic lockdown), by spending most of my time in various social VR and virtual worlds (and, of course, writing about them on this blog).

My little hobby provides me with an outlet for socializing while stuck in my apartment during lockdown, when we are all urged to stay home by various levels of government in an effort to flatten the curve and avoid overwhelming our hospitals and healthcare system. Creating and styling new avatar looks as inexpensively as possible puts me in a state of positive mental flow, and it gives me a feeling of pride and accomplishment (no matter how small).

Shopping for fabulous free fashion finds for my small army of Second Life alts also helps me pass the time when I am bored (I often do it before I turn in for the night). I still firmly intend to bequeath as many of them as possible to other people via my will when I pass on, so I figure, why not add to their inventories? 😉

Before the pandemic hit, I used to visit places like Second Life to experience the unusual, the exotic, and the fantastic: those places which could never exist in the real world. Fairyland forests. Space stations. The Old West. Victorian steampunk. Blade Runner-esque urban noir environments, where the rain comes pouring down.

But nowadays, instead of teleporting to impossible worlds, I am using Second Life to visit virtual recreations of mundane places in which I have not set foot since the pandemic started. Places like the inside of supermarkets, for example:

Nostalgic visit to a SL supermarket
The produce section: I haven’t been in one since March!

I have not set foot in any retail establishment since I began working from home in self-isolation in my apartment for my university library system on March 16th, 2020 (except for two trips to my local drug store, one to get my flu shot and a second one to stock up on my favourite brand of shampoo). Today is officially Day 242.

All my grocery shopping is done online through the Walmart website, where are I schedule a date and time for grocery pickup. I drive to my nearest Walmart, I park in one of the designated parking spots for grocery pickup service, and someone wearing a facemask loads my groceries into my car while I stand a fair distance away, wearing a facemask myself. The pharmacy delivers all my prescriptions to my home. And I have no need or desire to visit any shopping malls (in fact, I gave my mother and stepfather, who are both in their eighties, a very stern lecture when I learned that they had gone for a walk through Polo Park Shopping Centre earlier this summer, just to get out of the house).

I am remaining focused on maintaining my mental health, which means that I am doing things that make me happy, like writing for this blog or visiting Sansar, Sinespace, or Second Life (I am spending a lot of time lately at Bray’s Place). Every so often I write up a cranky blogpost when I am a bad mood, like yesterday’s rant about the Futurist Conference taking place “in” Decentraland (for which I have since apologized). I still have lots of books to read (paper and digital), and I still have lots of cleaning to do around my apartment, among other chores.

And I am still spending a lot of time, especially in the evenings, watching Netflix on my iPad, either perched in front of my Windows desktop, sitting at my kitchen table, or lying on my sofa. I have moved on from gorging on the post-apocalyptic, science fiction, and zombie apocalypse fare, and I am now watching a lot of crime dramas.

I just finished binge watching Broadchurch over the past week, and I can recommend the TV series highly. It was some of the best TV I’ve seen this year: a gripping crime drama featuring two bickering detectives, taking place in a seaside U.K. village, with a rich cast of well fleshed-out characters that you genuinely grow to care about over the three seasons of the show’s run (from BBC, on Netflix).

And, having finished Broadchurch, I am now watching another British crime drama, Retribution, about the investigation of a murder of a newlywed couple in Scotland.

I have to say that I am definitely getting my money’s worth from my Netflix subscription! Netflix just has so much more content to choose from than rival services such as Amazon Prime, Crave, and Apple TV.

I had a subscription to Amazon Prime last year, but I cancelled it because I didn’t find the breadth of content I was expecting (although I may renew just so I can catch up on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel). I joined Crave (a Canadian streaming service) just so I could watch the final seasons of Game of Thrones (since G.R.R. is apparently never going to finish the series of novels upon which they are based, and I wanted to know how it all ends). But after that, I didn’t find much else I wanted to watch, so I unsubscribed earlier this year.

And I got a free one-year Apple TV subscription when I bought my iPhone earlier this year. Again, after watching The Morning Show and the alternative-history space drama For All Mankind, there wasn’t a lot of other content I was interested in, so I plan to let my subscription lapse rather than renew it.

For my LGBTQ content, I rely on two relatively inexpensive subscriptions to OUTtvGo (a Canadian service) and Wow Presents Plus (for their RuPaul’s Drag Race shows, including the recently concluded Drag Race Holland). I cannot get enough drag TV! As I have said before, RuPaul’s Drag Race is one of the things keeping me sane in this dumpster-fire year. (And yes, I am still doing digital drag in Second Life.)

Stay healthy and stay sane!

Photo by Tai’s Captures on Unsplash

Pandemic Diary: November 8th, 2020

Insomnia is gonna kill me (Photo by Megan te Boekhorst on Unsplash)

The New York Times absolutely hit the nail on the head with a Nov. 6th article titled Canada Hasn’t Slept Well Since the U.S. Election (archived version). Catherine Porter wrote:

It was Robin Williams, of all people, who coined the phrase that I’ve heard repeatedly in Toronto over the past few weeks [about Canada’s relationship with the United States].

“You are like a really nice apartment over a meth lab,” he said during an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit in 2013.

I’ve read it on Twitter. I’ve heard it while standing in a socially distanced line on the street. And most recently, it kicked off the main editorial in one of Canada’s national newspapers, The Globe and Mail.

It’s been hard to concentrate up here, with all the noise on the other side of the border. First, the coronavirus got way out of control down there. Then there were the Black Lives Matter protests and the counter-protests. Now, do I have to say it?

Tuesday’s election has caused people around the world to fidget.

Canadians have been ripping their cuticles off.

I’ll admit it; when I first heard the news that the news networks had called the U.S. federal election for Biden/Harris (when the state of Georgia first tipped over from red to blue), I felt as if a great weight was being lifted off my shoulders. I actually sang and danced in my apartment. It was the happiest I’d felt in months.

Photo by Evan Vucci, Associated Press (source)

U.S. politics aside, things have pretty much gone from bad to worse here with respect to the coronavirus pandemic here in Manitoba. The city of Winnipeg went into emergency, code-red lockdown this past Monday, a move strongly urged by Winnipeg doctors. The lockdown was extended to the large area of southern Manitoba between Winnipeg and the American border yesterday.

And Manitobans are not very happy with their premier (the Canadian version of a state governor), Conservative party leader Brian Pallister, for his mishandling of the coronavirus crisis here. He has been plummeting in recent opinion polls for his misplaced priorities (such as pouring money into a “Manitoba is reopening” advertising campaign instead of expanding COVID-19 testing centres and providing N95 masks and other PPE for front-line healthcare workers). He recently asked Manitobans to cut down their personal contacts by 75% this month, a request to which I snarkily tweeted in response:

Premier Pallister wants us to associate with 75% fewer people during the pandemic. I’m quite willing to associate with fewer Pallisters, to do my part. MANITOBA IS A CLUSTERFUCK. DO YOUR JOB, MAN.

The most heartbreaking thing about this pandemic is the toll it is taking on seniors personal care homes and hospitals here in Winnipeg, where there have been serious outbreaks and numerous deaths. CTV News reported:

Dr. Brent Roussin, the chief provincial public health officer, said outbreaks have been declared at The Pas Homeless Shelter-Oscar’s Place, Maplewood Manor in Steinbach and at the St. Norbert personal care home in Winnipeg.

Each site has been moved to red or critical on the province’s pandemic response system.

Roussin also provided an update on some of the hardest-hit facilities throughout Manitoba.

Parkview Place has a total of 147 cases, 36 which are staff and 111 residents. There have also been 23 deaths at the care home.

Maples Personal Care Home continues to struggle with cases, with 176 in total being reported. The cases include 55 staff, 121 residents, and nine deaths.

Victoria General Hospital has 67 cases, which is broken down into 34 staff, 33 residents, and five deaths.

There are 141 cases at the Headingley Correctional Centre; 29 are staff and 112 are inmates.

And I have been holed up in my apartment, working away on various projects. Thank God this week and next week are vacation; I’m exhausted and I desperately need to recharge my batteries. I’ve essentially been working nonstop (days, evenings, and weekends) all of September and October at my full-time paying job as an academic librarian at the University of Manitoba. But the worst is over now.


Between the coronavirus pandemic and the U.S. election, this has been a rollercoaster week. I have been sleeping very poorly as a result. I went to bed at midnight last night, slept fitfully for only a couple of hours, and got out of bed again at 2:00 a.m., to do what I do lately when I can’t sleep: clean through my main Second Life avatar’s inventory (I am now down to just over 234,000 items). I’ll go back to bed when I feel tired, and try once again to get some sleep. Insomnia is gonna kill me.

God, what a week. I may yet decide to pull out my Trump Baby avatar for a final “victory” lap of Second Life on January 20th, when Donald Trump officially gets booted out of office, whether he likes it or not (here’s a handy, live countdown clock to that blessed event).

Believe me, I am feasting on the schadenfreude!

Bye, Felicia!
This cartoon by Canadian political cartoonist Michael de Adder pretty much says it all…I still vividly remember Trump having peaceful protesters tear-gassed just so he could strike this photo-op pose with a Bible in front of a church near the White House (blogpost).

Stay sane and stay healthy!

Why I Love Anderson Cooper

(Yes, I know, totally off-topic..my blog, my rules.)

I have always loved CNN news anchor (and my future husband*) Anderson Cooper, that sexy, silver-haired fox who weighs in here on Donald Trump’s dubious claims that he has been cheated out of re-election:

*He just doesn’t know it yet.