Pandemic Diary: April 2nd, 2020

Quarantine is the cultural appropriation of depressed people.

—Comment from a recent Reddit post on r/Coronavirus

Today has been one of those days where, as the day wore on, the more anxious, depressed, and angry at turns that I got. It didn’t help that I swore I would stay off Twitter and Reddit today (I was up till 1:00 a.m. last night reading through my Twitter feed, which at this point is 80% coronavirus-related experts.) You can imagine how well that resolution went.

It didn’t help that this morning I posted a musing to the r/Winnipeg subReddit community, about how the coronavirus pandemic was like a 6-to-18-month blizzard that we all had to get through, all isolated in our homes at the same time, venturing out from time to time in the storm to clear the spaces around our doors, but basically hunkered down at home. Everybody stuck at home, but going through the blizzard together, pulling together and helping each other get through this.

I got a bunch of ignorant comments and I finally yanked my post this evening, angry at the world, and angry at myself for letting some social media trolls get to me. I should know better by now at my age.

And fucking Jared Kushner dispensing pandemic advice at today’s White House press conference shit-show (which of course I heard about through my Twitter feed) just about finished me off. I’m not sure my blood pressure can take any more of this. And we are only at the first million cases of COVID-19; what is the rest of April gonna look like? May? June? July?!??

I am so completely and utterly done with this day. I am popping a couple of Lorazepam with my chamomile tea this evening.

Please, stay home. As I have already said, with my underlying health conditions, if I get COVID-19 I am a sitting duck. Flatten the curve.

Advertisements

CoinFest 2020 Runs March 30th to April 5th in Decentraland

CoinFest 2020, a virtual cryptocurrency conference, is taking place from March 30th to April 5th, 2020 within the blockchain-based virtual world Decentraland.

But, before we get to that, I have a bone to pick with one of the crypto news organizations that is covering this event. Let me rant.

The CoinTelegraph cryptocurrency news website actually used the following image to illustrate an article titled Crypto Conference Defies COVID-19 Lockdown by Hosting in Virtual Realm:

What the in name of sweet minty Jesus is this?!?? Somebody needs to inform the folks at CoinTelegraph that this is a pandemic, and not some goddamned mix-and-mingle cocktail party with face masks added as the latest trendy fashion accessory. The tone-deafness of this is absolutely astounding, and frankly I find it offensive.

The accompanying article states:

The COVID-19 crisis may have put a stop to millions of sports events, work conferences and meet-ups across the world, but it has not halted those in the cryptocurrency space.

The Coinfest Conference, which runs until April 4, has found a way to defy the coronavirus lockdown by setting up shop in the digital blockchain realm of Decentraland. 

The first day of the virtual conference kicked off on March 30th, beginning with a round of games that offered users the chance to win MANA tokens — one of Decentraland’s native currencies.


All right, now that I have gotten that off my chest, let’s get back to the actual conference itself.

You can get free tickets for Coinfest here, as well as see a complete schedule of events taking place.

All events take place at the Meeting Center at the Decentraland Conference Center (that last link should take you directly there, although you might have to set up an avatar first if you’ve never visited before). The owner and operator of the Conference Center, Carl Fravel, has provided a guide to getting started in Decentraland.

Carl himself will be giving a presentation at Coinfest at 6:30 p.m. UTC (11:30 a.m. Pacific Time) in Saturday, April 4th, on the topic Decentraland – A Virtual World on the Blockchain. And, if you like, you can join in the party which starts at 5:00 p.m. UTC at this location.

See you there!

Super Bad Transmittable Contagious Awful Virus! A Selection of My Favourite Pandemic Parody Videos (So Far)

My television died today.

Good-bye, old TV set…
(photo by Gaspar Uhas on Unsplash)

I should hasten to add that it was an ancient, 20-inch, cathode-ray-tube TV set which I inherited from my grandmother when she passed away back in 2004, so this was hardly an unexpected development. Late this afternoon, it started giving off quite a hideous buzzing noise while I was watching various 24/7 news channels, and after turning it off, I discovered later this evening that I could no longer turn it back on. It’s gone.

I should also hasten to add that I pretty much gave up watching any sort of broadcast television years ago. I much prefer consuming TV and movies on my iPad, using various apps such as CBC Gem, Netflix, and YouTube. So really, this is not such a big loss. And it’s a sharp reminder to me, to cut back on the relentless onslaught of coronavirus news coverage.

And, speaking of YouTube, a minor cottage industry appears to have sprung up overnight: coronavirus parody videos of popular songs. I blogged about one parody video a while ago, but the trend has definitely continued, with more creators jumping on the bandwagon! So I thought I would share with you a few sterling examples of this strange but entertaining recent phenomenon.

First up is this straightforward, simple message from Robert Emmett Kelly:

Next up is singer Chris Mann, who has released a similar message to Robert, but in a much more stylish fashion! (He’s got a number of coronavirus parodies on his YouTube channel, including a cover of Adele’s Hello which is also quite funny.)

Next up is another favourite of mine, courtesy of the very talented Daniel Matarazzo:

But I have saved the very best YouTube parody video for last: a British family that has released an updated version of a very well-known song from Les Misérables, which is absolutely genius, in spite of a few flat notes near the end!

Honestly, the level of creativity all of these people have is truly inspiring!

Pandemic Diary: April 1st, 2020

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.

—T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

Actually, here in Winnipeg, we aren’t going to see any lilacs until late May at the earliest. People living in more southerly regions often don’t realize that winter in Winnipeg runs six months of the year, pretty much from the beginning of November until the end of April. In fact, the weather forecasters are telling us to expect 10-20 centimetres (4 to 8 inches) of wet, heavy snow today.

Yesterday I took a sick day from work, even though I am already working from home: I was struggling with depression and needed a mental health day badly. In the morning, I had my biweekly phone call with my psychiatrist, a reassuring, stoic Russian woman who always dispenses good, sensible advice. (As someone who has struggled all his life with chronic clinical depression, I have been extremely lucky to have had good, empathetic psychiatrists throughout. It makes a big difference, as do the antidepressant and anti-anxiety prescription medications I take, although I try very hard not to rely on the latter to deal with my anxieties.)

I have been thinking a lot about the mental health impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, and I suspect that we are going to see a wave of psychological and psychiatric problems after all this is over (and frankly, even before it is finished). One of the ways I deal with the stress is, of course, writing this blog: to inform, to exhort, to editorialize, and sometimes just to vent. I am still maintaining and updating my list of mental health resources during the pandemic, adding good resources as I encounter them. (I think I am doing this for myself, for future reference, more than for anybody else. I just want to have this information handy when I really do need it.)

I have tried—Lord knows, I have tried—to limit my news consumption. As I wrote in the COVID-19_support subReddit:

I wake up every morning feeling depressed, and I know I should stay away from the newsfeeds and news media, but it is so hard. I plunge into the news and I get depressed, I get outraged at Trump’s latest antics, and it’s not helping me. At the same time, I want to know what is going on.

The COVID-19_support community is one of many that has sprung up online to provide a space for people to talk about their feelings and support each other. I honestly cannot imagine going through all this without the internet. I have an active coronavirus-chat channel on the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, where my blog readers from around the world (who normally discuss social VR, virtual worlds, and various aspects of the evolving metaverse) can talk to each other about the pandemic.

I have been struggling to focus on work while working from home, but I have made a commitment to set an alarm, get up every morning, have a shower, get dressed, brew a pot of coffee, and sit in front of my personal computer, to face the day as best I can. A coworker shared this video of how she was feeling about this unprecedented situation, getting up day after day, like in the 1993 Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day:

I feel fortunate that I work with such a wonderful group of people at my university library system. We are pulling together during this crisis, and I do feel that I am a valued part of the team. Among other assigned projects, I am serving as a sort of floating back-up to our library’s virtual reference service, Ask Us, helping faculty, staff, and students connect with and navigate the wealth of digital information resources in our libraries. In cases where people need information which is located in a physical, paper book (currently unavailable since our physical library collections were locked down with our university’s shutdown), we are making arrangements to purchase (or, more accurately, lease) access to electronic editions of those books when possible.

At home, I am slowly working my way through all the pandemic food supplies I had stocked up on: pasta, potatoes, rice, cheese, yogurt, bags of mandarin oranges, canned stews and soups. I have stepped outside my apartment exactly twice since I began working from home on March 16th, and I have run out of bread and almost out of milk. However, I have three large bags of instant skim milk powder, I have discovered that I like the taste of powdered milk, and can live with that as a backup. No need to go grocery shopping, yet! I plan to hold off as long as possible, and perhaps turn to online grocery delivery as an alternative to going outside.

And I have started baking. One of the 10-kilogram bags of flour I had stocked up on several years ago developed a rip in the bag, and went bad, but the other bag is just fine, and I have been teaching myself how to make basic biscuits. I am starting to get good at it! My ambitious plan is to eventually work my way up to baking my own bread.

Photo by Nadya Spetnitskaya on Unsplash

And apparently, a lot of people are baking during the pandemic:

As more Canadians work from home and practice self-isolation due to COVID-19, there’s been an increasing interest in turning on the oven and baking.

Baking-related search terms are up on Google, grocery stores have experienced an increase in flour purchases and sugar and flour manufacturers are working overtime to keep up with a spike in demand.

If you are looking for my last-updated list of good, credible, information resources about the coronavirus pandemic, click here.

I leave you with an inspirational video, which was put out by the very talented people at Travel Manitoba (who, obviously, aren’t being called upon to promote much travel at the moment):

Stay home, stay healthy!