Saturday, March 14, 2020

My Journal of the Plague Quarter, Spring at Metropolitan Community College, Day 6 - Grocery Shopping

I went grocery shopping today. Large swaths of empty shelves were in every aisle. I managed to find most of what I wanted though. I did, however, have to make some substitutions: instead of canned three bean salad, which I could not find, for example, I purchased two cans of artichoke hearts. It seems there was no great rush to purchase artichoke hearts by anyone else. Canned beets were readily available as was Mexican Style canned corn. I almost got the canned beets. Maybe next week.

I was imagining an Iron Chef challenge as grocery supplies become sparse. Chef #1 - you have a can of artichoke hearts, a bag of Cherry Mash candies, two strips of bacon, a jar of pickled watermelon rinds, and Corn Flakes. You have twenty minutes. Or you have a jar of maraschino cherries, two granola bars, spicy mustard, a bag of croutons, and a small jar of vinegar. Go! You have a pack of Necco wafers (I do!), canned asparagus, two tins of kippered herring, strawberry jello, and a small can of bean dip. You have twenty minutes.

I’m fairly sure I have enough fresh and canned or frozen food to last at least a couple of weeks. So I should be fine. I hope you will be too. I plan to make a large pan of lasagna tomorrow, so if anyone needs food, come on over.

I was able to work on two art projects today: my butterfly bench project and my koi fish painting. I am nearly finished with both.
Here’s a joke I just made up: The only test Trump ever passed was the one he took for coronavirus.
Be well.

Friday, March 13, 2020

My Journal of the Plague, Spring Quarter at Metropolitan Community College, Day 5 - Humor

Black humor, gallows humor, dark humor. A few examples: What’s the worst time to have a heart attack? During a game of charades. I want to die peacefully like Grandpa in his sleep not yelling and screaming like the passengers in his car. A man was having a heart attack at a bar when a patron yelled out, "Does anyone know CPR." The place went silent, then a drunk at the back yelled out "I do... I even know the whole alphabet." Everybody laughed. Well except for this one guy. Good news: there is golf in heaven. Bad news: You have a noon tee time tomorrow. Q. What’s the mortality rate around here? A. 100%. Old man goes to the doctor. The doctor says “The test results are back, and I’m sad to say you have cancer and Alzheimer’s.” The old man says “Phew! At least it’s not cancer!” They say Chuck Norris’s tears cure cancer, too bad he doesn’t cry.

Per Wikipedia: “Sigmund Freud, in his 1927 essay Humour (Der Humor), puts forth the following theory of black comedy: "The ego refuses to be distressed by the provocations of reality, to let itself be compelled to suffer. It insists that it cannot be affected by the traumas of the external world; it shows, in fact, that such traumas are no more than occasions for it to gain pleasure." Think Monty Python’s “The Bright Side of Life.”

It didn’t take long for Covid-19 jokes to appear:

John Travolta was hospitalized for suspected Covid-19, but doctors now confirm it was just Saturday Night Fever, and they assure everyone that he is Staying Alive.
Back in my day, there was so much toilet paper, people used to literally string it up in trees of their enemies.
How appropriate that this president may be brought down by a Chinese flu named after a Mexican beer.
The World Health Organization has announced that dogs cannot contract Covid-19. Dogs in quarantine can now be released. To be clear, WHO let the dogs out.
I was at the bank this morning when three masked men walked in.............PANIC............but when they said, “This a robbery,” we all calmed down.
Due to panic-buying, Walmart has opened Register #3.
Some people aren’t shaking hands because of the coronavirus; I’m not shaking hands because you can’t buy toilet paper anymore.
Doc: I’m sorry but you have Covid-19. Me: That can’t be true. I have 200 rolls of toilet paper.
I’ll add more as we go.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

The March Madness of King Donald, My Journal of the Plague Quarter, Spring at Metropolitan Community College, Day 4

This is getting serious folks, folks, as Joe Biden might say. It is no longer about China, or Italy, or nursing homes in Washington State. Or colleges closing. Or shortages of toilet paper, aloe vera, and hand sanitizer. Sports are now involved and people are pissed. The NBA has suspended its season. The NCAA March Madness tournament is canceled. The College World Series is canceled. High schools are cancelling sports events. Professional golf tournaments will be played without spectators. Broadway productions have closed. The number of states which have closed all schools continues to grow. Omaha Public Schools are closed next week. The University of Nebraska Lincoln and Omaha campuses are closing and moving to online formats for the foreseeable future. Same for Creighton. I attended an emergency training session on how to transition my two Metro writing classes from the classroom to online format in the event Metro closes. I fully expect that to happen, perhaps tomorrow. I think I can make it work.

Whenever a person sneezes or coughs, I fight the urge to hit the floor and duck and cover. I was in the same room as a fellow who was carrying around a large container of sanitizer cleaner had a sneeze. My life passed before my eyes.

The man who is our “president” read from a teleprompter to try and calm the financial world last night and appeared as though he was a prisoner of war giving a false videotaped confession, and the White House followed his speech by hours and hours of clarification as to what he really meant. England can’t figure out why it was excepted from a 30-day travel ban. “We’ve got the illness here, too,” it said. The rest of Europe is not happy. I’m sure it is a coincidence that the man who is our president owns golf courses in the UK. Wall Street and the financial markets were not impressed. Whenever the prez speaks about the coronavirus, the Dow Jones goes down. And today it was down more than 2,000 points. He started about a month late on even thinking about the coronavirus and has fallen further and further behind as the juggernaut juggers. For a guy who has apparently come into close contact with a growing number of people known to have contracted the virus, he should get tested right away.......

But I am ready to shift my classes to online. As an introvert, social isolation will not be that big an adjustment for me. I have plenty of toilet paper, soap, coffee, a few frozen dinners, half a dozen cans of soup, and bourbon. I will endeavor to persevere, to quote a favorite line from The Outlaw Josie Wales.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

My Journal of the Plague Quarter, Day 3 - Alarmism

Not to be alarmist.............well, okay, to be completely alarmist, a tidal wave of coronavirus seems to be springing up across the country (I know it’s a mixed metaphor, but I never metaphor I didn’t like). Clusters of case erupt here and there like pimples on a teenager’s face. That’s a simile. A covid-19 wild fire is sweeping the country. That’s another metaphor. Governors are declaring states of emergency, in New York whole communities are being encircled by National Guard units in quarantine, or “containment” as they are calling it, at a nursing home in Washington State dozens of elderly have died of the illness, etc., etc. The entire country of Italy is in quarantine, with more countries likely to follow. Colleges are telling their students to not return after spring break. Campuses are being closed. The US appears to have dithered for several weeks after the virus was discovered while Rome burned (prez what’s his face actually tweeted a photo of himself playing a violin, a Nero-esque reference totally lost on him), refusing testing kits from the World Health Organization. Down-playing the whole epidemic, the prez said it would miraculously disappear and soon cases would be down to zero. Instead, it has proceeded to expand its range and has gone pandemic.

At my level, my own preparations include the unnecessary: I bought a dozen megarolls of toilet paper, made hand sanitizer out of aloe vera gel and rubbing alcohol neither one of which is particularly necessary in that diarrhea is not normally a symptom of the illness, and regular hand washing with soap and water is apparently more effective than the sanitizer. I noted empty shelves in the hand cleanser sections and toilet paper in several stores this week. In addition to those preparations, I watched the official Metropolitan Community College five-minute youtube video from Metro’s consulting doctor about spraying disinfectant on college keyboards, wearing masks and gloves in laboratory settings, and maintaining personal space safety. Tomorrow I will attend a workshop at the college on going digital with my two courses in the event the college suspends campus operations, which at this point seems inevitable if you look again at the tidal wave approaching the city in the above photo!

On the lighter side, a national conservative Christian evangelical conference on Healing through Prayer was canceled due to the covid-19 illness. Another cancellation was of a Coronavirus conference for the same reason. In Nebraska, the Disaster Response Coordinator for the Nebraska Conference of the United Church of Christ said that the annual conference and training for Disaster Response Coordinators has been canceled due to the virus. As a friend of mine noted, that seemed ironic.

I thought of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 when I saw those reports:
“They're trying to kill me," Yossarian told him calmly.
No one's trying to kill you," Clevinger cried.
Then why are they shooting at me?" Yossarian asked.
They're shooting at everyone," Clevinger answered. "They're trying to kill everyone."
And what difference does that make?”
― Joseph Heller, Catch 22

A couple of weeks ago, I asked another friend closely involved with the UNMC’s Ebola program for his analysis of our current federal administration’s response to the then emerging threat: “We’re doomed,” he deadpanned. (That’s a pun). I find myself looking at mortality charts trying to figure my odds. I hear the alarms going off. And you can’t stop a tidal wave with a firetruck, whatever that means. The genii has already left the barn on this one. But for me this morning, it’s now time to go to work.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

My Journal of the Plague Quarter #2 - Pangolins

I just read a humorous article re. coronavirus that suggested we not eat bats or pangolins. That was #7 on the list after such things as sneeze into your elbow, wash your hands, avoid close contact with sick people, avoid large crowds, stay home if you are sick, blah, blah, blah, and I realized that until recently I had no idea what a pangolin was and why anyone would eat one, and then I saw a news video about the "wet markets" in China, large, concentrated areas of cages and cages of live animals of all sorts that we in the western world do not ever, ever, ever, ever eat, such as "Himalayan palm civets, raccoon dogs, wild boars and cobras." Well, maybe wild boars. And pangolins.

Customers pick an animal which is then quickly dispatched and made ready for takeout, folded, most likely, in a day old Chinese newspaper. "One pangolin to go," a Chinese vendor will shout out. In America, we at least have the good taste for the most part to slaughter our animals out of sight, out of mind, to then be found in a well lit, refrigerated display, wrapped in clear non-biodegradable plastic with a Styrofoam bottom that lasts longer than every Chinese dynasty that ever existed stretched end to end. A "wet market" in exotic animals in Wuhan, China is where the novel coronavirus originated, transmitted from bats to pangolins to humans. Pangolins are an armored mammal that looks like an armadillo, an artichoke, and a large rat made whoopee and had an offspring. Pangolins are an endangered species in China and probably taste like chicken which begs the question why not just swing by the local Wuhan Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise on the way home from work?

I also saw a news video which tracked the very complicated history of the post-revolutionary Communist Chinese government's centralized attempt to regulate food markets which led to food shortages and starvation, during which rural populations hunted and ate whatever they could, after which the Communist Party allowed individual farmers to breed and slaughter wild animals in captivity and sell in private markets, which gained political and lobbying power strong enough to expand the "wet market" phenomena which has led to multiple pandemics because of the proximity of disease carrying animals which formerly had not been widely handled and eaten. So like I said, why not just swing by the Wuhan Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise and get some original recipe or extra crispy eight-piece dinner with a choice of sides? Or Popeye's.

My Journal of the Plague Quarter #1

My Journal of the Plague Quarter: Stressful morning. Daylight Savings Time fatigue has set in. Looked at Metropolitan Community College homepage to see if school open today - it is. First day of spring quarter. It will be my job to disinfect keyboards in my classrooms. Stock Market trading suspended to artificially stop massive plunge - down 1884.88. Ted Cruz is self-quarantined. I hope he stays that way. His royal impeachedness, who claimed all of this was a Democrat hoax, is off on a golf weekend at our expense, and is limiting some public activities because he was possibly exposed to the corona virus. Italy has quarantined a quarter of the country. The virus continues to spread. And worst of all, my coffee maker stopped working. Carpe diem!