Pandemic Diary, January 2nd, 2022: A Playlist of Uplifting Music for Pandemic Times

My new playlist for Omicron times

It is now officially 658 days since March 16th, 2020, when I began working from home for my full-time paying job as a science librarian at the University of Manitoba.

Suffering from a wicked case of insomnia, I finally got out of bed around 2:00 a.m. and started working on a playlist of music, using a previous playlist I had created to get me through a five-week strike at my university as my starting point.

I just finished, and I have been listening to these tunes on loop all morning and afternoon, and I am feeling immeasurably better! These are songs about finding strength in the face of adversity, hope, resilience, never giving up, etc. I now share them with you in hopes that they will help you get through this pandemic.

I named this playlist after two of the songs on it: Invincible (by Kelly Clarkson) and Overcomer (an absolute BANGER of a Christian song by Mandisa, with an inspiring video; see below). Yes, I have included a few songs by contemporary Christian artists, which I still listen to even though I now consider myself an atheist (or perhaps agnostic); I hope you don’t mind! You can always skip them if it offends you. 😉

Invincible, by Kelly Clarkson
Overcomer, by Mandisa

Stay safe, and stay healthy in these unprecedented times!

Pandemic Diary, December 15th, 2021: Six Hundred and Forty Days Later

On March 16th, 2020, I began working from home for my full-time paying job as a science librarian at the University of Manitoba. A week later, my library colleagues were all sent home to work and the entire campus was shut down during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

Manitoba was lucky to have been spared the brunt of that first brutal and frightening wave; we were unfortunately not nearly so lucky on successive waves. At one time, in May 2021, Manitoba had the worst outbreak in all of North America (Canada, U.S.A., and Mexico), and had to airlift patients to neighbouring provinces and states as our hospital ICUs were overwhelmed.

The New York Times, May 27th, 2021

Today, December 15th , 2021, a full 640 days after I first started working at home, is officially my first day back on campus, the beginning of what is planned to be my permanent return to the office.

Note that I did come into my office on a few Mondays over the summer and autumn of 2021, but I am now expected to show up in person every day rather than work from home. I am the last of the librarians in my library to return to full-time work in the office; our returns have been staggered over the past few months. I asked to be the last librarian to return, because I have several underlying health conditions (obesity, type II diabetes, hypertension, and asthma) that put me at risk of a severe case of COVID-19 if I were to become infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Ever since news broke about the Omicron variant in southern Africa, I have been scouring the daily headlines, desperate to glean what updates the doctors and scientists could provide. The news is not encouraging. It would appear that cases of people infected by the highly-transmissible Omicron variant are doubling every two to three days in various countries, such as the U.K.

Even more worrisome, fully-vaccinated people are becoming infected; a triple-vaccinated Israeli cardiologist got Omicron at a British conference, and passed it on to another triple-vaccinated doctor! Even though most of the cases reported to date have been relatively mild, the fact that so many people are getting sick means an additional strain on an already overburdened healthcare system.

I will be receiving my third booster COVID vaccination at my local pharmacy next Monday, and this science librarian is profoundly grateful for the researchers whose pioneering work on mRNA vaccine technology made this possible. TIME magazine has named four of those vaccine scientists as its Heroes of the Year for 2021 (and quite frankly, they should have been named People of the Year instead of Elon Musk!).

Kizzmekia Corbett, Barney Graham, Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman

While my university has made plans for a full return to normal, on-campus classes and other activities starting in January 2022, I believe that COVID still has the possibility of upending those carefully-laid plans! Already I am reading news reports of Canadian and American university campuses with outbreaks (for example, over nine hundred cases at Cornell University), leading in some cases for in-person final exams to be abruptly cancelled, and switched to an online, virtual format. Yesterday, I tweeted:

So I am feeling particularly anxious. Between the recently-concluded faculty strike (which lasted a full five weeks and broke the record for the longest strike in the history of the University of Manitoba), and this rising new wave of the pandemic, I must confess that I am utterly exhausted. Stretched to the limit. Burned out.

Thankfully, my Christmas holidays start next Monday—the same day I get my third booster shot—and I am looking forward to two weeks of vacation. I still plan to continue my December vacation from blogging, even though all the metaverse news and announcements are coming fast and furious! Now more than ever, there is no shortage of things to write about. But I need to take a break.

Stay safe and stay healthy in these challenging and stressful times!

Get vaccinated—and if you are fully vaccinated, get your booster shot as soon as you are able!
(Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash)

Pandemic Diary, September 17th, 2021: COVID-19 Worry and NFT Insanity

Well, folks, it’s been a week.

I delivered no less than seven different training sessions (online and remotely, either from my office at the science library or from home) to various classes of agriculture students. I have been fighting with computer hardware and software problems all week, starting on Monday when I couldn’t get my microphone to work, to yesterday when I got unceremoniously booted out of the the online class I was teaching using Cisco WebEx—TWICE. I am exhausted.

To add to my overall bad mood, the most recent data on breakthrough COVID-19 cases here in Manitoba are somewhat worrying. According to this report from CTV News, while fully vaccinated people are not being affected nearly as much as the unvaccinated, breakthrough cases are happening. And even more worrying, 16 fully vaccinated Manitobans have died of COVID-19 so far. That is not good news.

Mark my words: COVID still has the ability to throw some curveballs at us. For the love of God, if you have not already done so, GET VACCINATED! And please do everything you can—handwashing, face masks, social distancing, etc.—to stay safe and healthy. You do not want to catch this virus if you can avoid it!


However, I can still laugh at the continued silliness in the hothouse of the NFT (Non-Fungible Token) market. Everybody seems to be leaping on the get-rich-quick bandwagon.

I am currently blocking and deleting spam direct messages on Discord (people shilling for one blockchain-based scheme after another), at the rate of about one per day now. It would appear everybody and their dog has come up with some sort of harebrained NFT project to try and part you from your hard-earned dollar.

Today, I got the following spam direct message via Discord (blurred to avoid giving you his name and link addresses):

Hi. A new project Mint will begin in 7-9 days. There will be 10000 Covid themed NFT’s in total. Don’t miss your chance to get in on the start of an incredible cool project. FUCK COVID

Clicking through to the website (and no, I am not going to bother to link to it), and behold!

OMG!!! There’s only ten thousand NFT facemasks, supplies are limited so act now and get that rare collectible!

NOT.

Which reminded me of the following message I received recently via the feedback form on my blog:

Hello there, I’m David from Next Earth – we are the only blockchain and Earth map based metaverse 🙂 We’ve launched in the end of July and now only a few hours left until the end of land pack presale.. By now, more than 150.000 Dollars worth of land tiles has been sold and it’s increasing day by day, just like our community, so we are really excited about our future. It would be awesome if you could help us with spreading the word, and since you have quite a lot followers I can easily offer you a referral code with a fair amount of commission.. I’d be extremely interested in what you think and how we could collaborate, so please get back to me and let’s discuss our opportunities! Best regards, David

Image taken from the Next Earth website (no, I am NOT giving you a link)

Dear David:

NOT!!!

I wrote about what I think about Next Earth, Earth 2, and all the other “buy a virtual piece of earth” scams here.

And I swear to God: the next person who tries to get me to buy into their harebrained, lame-ass NFT scheme is gonna get bitchslapped into next Thursday.

Pandemic Diary, September 13th, 2021: Back to School—Welcome to the New Normal

Today, for the first time in several weeks, I am working from my office in the science library. Our library opened September 7th, 2021 to students, faculty, staff, and the public, offering individual study space only (no access to the print collection on the upper floors). Everybody still has to wear a 3-ply facemask and comply with social distancing regulations, although I can take off my facemask when I am in my own office with the door closed.

On August 19th, 2021 the University of Manitoba announced that all faculty, staff, students, and even visitors to campus will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Individuals aged 12 and over are required to have their first dose by September 22nd, 2021 and their second dose by the end of October 2021. It’s not clear what penalties those who refuse to get vaccinated will face; they might be required to undergo weekly testing, or they may be barred from classes (in Manitoba we have implemented a proof of vaccine immunization system, both a cellphone app and a plastic card). Access to restaurants and other public spaces has been restricted to vaccinated people only.

Over the next few weeks, instead of standing in front of a classroom of students to give presentations on how to use the University of Manitoba Libraries effectively and efficiently, I will once again be delivering my slides online and remotely, via Microsoft Teams, Cisco WebEx, or Zoom, either from home or my office. (I am going to have to schlepp my portable webcam and my microphone headset between locations.)

I spent an EXTREMELY frustrating hour and half this morning trying—in vain—to get the microphone on my work computer to work, going through two different webcams (my own and a colleague’s) plus my microphone headset. Nothing worked. Finally in desperation I rebooted my computer, and finally it worked! If it hadn’t, I would have had to drive back home and do today’s training session for some food science students from home instead of the office.

Welcome to the new normal, folks.

The good news is that nearly 80% off Manitobans are fully vaccinated:

The bad news is that there are pockets (mostly within Manitoba’s Mennonite Bible belt) where vaccine uptake remains stubbornly low. Some Low German Mennonites have even moved from Canada back to Mexico and Central America, just to avoid vaccination! (Winnipeg Free Press; the website has a paywall, so here is an archived version of the article).

Even worse, anti-vaccine protestors at hospitals in Winnipeg and across Canada are impeding access to healthcare services. I have completely lost all patience with these people, and I sincerely hope that the Winnipeg Police Service arrests and charges these COVIDiots. ENOUGH ALREADY. I am so angry.

Because I am so busy with training requests this September, my pace of blogging will slow a little bit this month (I will try to blog in the evenings and on weekends, but no promises!). Stay safe, stay healthy, and GET VACCINATED if you have not already done so.

person getting vaccinated
Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com