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Most call it the Coronavirus. Our repugnant, petulant name-caller in chief likes to call it the Chinese Virus (for which he needs a little cheat sheet and a Sharpie).

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Just more of his undignified, vulgar M.O. Not even gonna go there.

Some, I’ve heard, are calling it either the Trumpvirus or the Trump-Chinese Virus.

Jim, today, called it Covidfefe, which may be my favorite. Nice mashup, Jim!

The virus itself may not be Trump’s fault, but the US’s lack of preparedness and the resulting spread is all on him. He knew it was coming and made a political calculation to downplay it. And here we are. So yeah, this is his virus. Nobody’s ever seen anything like it.

 

 

 

 

UMich

March 20, 2020

Spent a good part of the afternoon wandering around the University of Michigan graduate school of engineering website, checking out the vibe, the professors… sorta getting the lay of the land, because, drumroll.. PETER COMMITTED TO UMICH.

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He called us yesterday morning and said he was having a hard time pulling the trigger. He’d narrowed it down to two choices — University of Colorado, Boulder and University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

He’d had an incredibly fun time in Boulder a few weeks ago, when the graduate engineering department hosted prospective grad students and apparently pulled out all the stops. Peter really enjoyed the grad students and professors he met and was particularly impressed by the campus and its proximity to the Rocky Mountains, which, given his obsession with climbing these days, and his love for hiking and backpacking, was a significant draw.  There was some great bonding that happened over those three days, and he even went on a hike with a bunch of students, which sounded like it was a lot of fun. Plus he’s got a climbing friend — a woman who was part of his Livermore climbing and backpacking cohort last summer (his epic summer) — who’s a grad student at a nearby university.  They met up for a day and I’m sure she had many enticing stories about climbing adventures to be had.

Boulder is a great school and has a strong engineering department, and the culture and outdoor activities made it a very tempting choice. But… UMich has one of the best engineering departments in the country and they’re doing some cutting edge work in the field Peter wants to pursue (turbulence).

He was scheduled to fly to Michigan last week to be wined and dined and I have no doubt he would have had a great time. But the coronavirus pandemic shut everything down and they had to cancel their prospective grad student event at the very last minute. So he didn’t get the benefit of meeting anybody face to face, nor seeing the campus and community. He already knows it has no Rocky Mountains!

He did his best to talk with as many current grad students as he could, and got favorable input, and he’d already formed a nice relationship with his main professor (whatever that person is called), Aaron, over the course of a few months. Peter was Aaron’s top pick, and Aaron’s research is very mathy and computational.. So Peter’s wheelhouse.

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So I get it. It’s a hard choice … the excellence and cachet of Michigan, versus the quality of life that Boulder offers. He’d been accepted at UCSD and UCLA as well, and declined both of those. He was also accepted at USC and attended their prospective grad student program, and liked it, but it just didn’t excite him the same way as Michigan and Boulder did.

He called us again in the afternoon to let us know his decision. He sounded a bit ambivalent, as though he was still tossing both options around in his head.. but he’d let Aaron know and that was that. It’s hard to imagine what the next 5-6 years of your life will be like in one place v. another, harder still when you haven’t even seen one of those places. It feels like a huge leap of faith.

Everyone says Ann Arbor is a great city, a college town a lot like Davis, with a vibrant campus life and, actually, a thriving climbing community (they say). It will be cold and slushy, and the winters will be long, and then the summers will be hot and muggy and maybe mosquitoey. But… in choosing academic excellence, and the opportunity to be a part of a small lab where he’ll have a significant role in its research, I think he made the best choice.

 

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Stay-at-Home State

March 19, 2020

For the record, late this afternoon, Governor Newsom declared the entire state of California a “stay-at-home” state. This means we’re allowed out of our homes for essential purposes only — grocery store, doctor, gas station, take out food. It also includes, fortunately, taking one’s self for a good long walk… in this case, around the arboretum.

#WalksWithoutVicki (Who was home sick, but not with the coronavirus!).

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First off… a nice picture of a flower bed on B Street — at the University Lodge. They always do a nice job of planting flowers.

Nice to see a cheery photo, I’m thinking.

The rest.. not so cheery.  It is just plain surreal to be quarantined.. or sequestered.. or self-isolated as the whole entire world outside unravels. I was reading my favorite historian person, Heather Cox Richardson, whose nightly summaries are the best reads around, and whose summary tonight said, among other things:

A report on the possible future of the pandemic, written by UK epidemiologists, has predicted 18 months of illness that will overwhelm hospitals and cause more than a million U.S. deaths.

She went on to say there are lots of reports and projections and, really, we just don’t know yet what’ll happen, so don’t get too hung up on any of them. Still. It’s a bit startling to read a line like that as I sit comfortably in my home, feeling, I think, healthy (even though I’m on the cuspy cusp of that vulnerable population they keep talking and worrying about).

I hung out today with me. We got lots of little things done.. wrote a condolence card, a birthday card and a hope-you’re-not-too-stressed-out card. Wrote a difficult little email to the City staff person who manages the new homeless respite center about why I’m not returning as a volunteer; sent off a few more emails and texts that had backed up and felt good to get out; took care of a teeny bit of business; worked out (yay me); listened to a pathetic news conference; did a little whining on FB about said pathetic news conference; read a bunch of articles I was behind on; attended an online yoga class offered by my friend Lisa; made two yummy au laits and steeped about four mugsful of chai tea; and prolly ate about twelve times. Oh! And watched a fantastic video presentation that Peter and his lab partner Tobias put together about their robotic car that parallel parks. Peter did all the coding, Tobias did the car assembly. Their presentation opens with that scene from Bananas where Woody Allen “helps” a guy parallel park a station wagon. So funny. It also shows their little robotic car lurching through its parking maneuvers, while cutting away to Peter doing the same maneuvers, lurchingly so, in his [my old] Honda CRV. So well done and so amusing. My god I love that kid.

And.. that was sorta my whole day. Will have to get a bit more creative as the days wear on.

And so.. we hunker in isolation… waiting for a shoe to drop.

Twilight Zone

March 17, 2020

I’m probably dating myself; maybe the more modern term is Zombie Apocalypse. In any case, here are a few shots on the day… from this morning’s #walkwithVicki.

The campus is practically empty. No classes. It IS finals week, but this quarter all finals are online, so it’s extra quiet. The UCD Library was open, surprisingly, but they’ve added hand washing stations at the entrance.

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Mishka’s is allowing people to sit inside. Starbucks and Phill’s are both “grab and go.” Not sure about Peet’s right now, nor Temple. Both were open yesterday for sit down business, but that could be changing. Here’s a near-empty Mishka’s:

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Ordinarily, during finals week, it’d be packed and the wifi extra frustratingly terrible.  We sat outside anyway.

It may happen that in the days and weeks to come, the restrictions will tighten and we won’t be allowed to be in public at all. We’re not there yet.

We’re all finding ways to adjust to this shelter at home situation. So far, there are numerous interpretations of what that actually means. For some it means staying home (imagine that). For some it means “snow day” — time off to go have fun. For most, it’s something in between, though skewing toward the more restrictive. The people in charge are going to have to be more explicit, I think.

I’ll leave you with this funny. It’s from Jim’s sister Teresa, who got it from the ever meme-rich interwebs, no doubt.  We’ll call it Shelter in Place Bingo. 

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Temporarily Closed

March 16, 2020

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My lord, but I hope I’m not writing about coronavirus every day for the next who knows how long.

Honest to god, though, the news is nothing but. I mean, NOTHING BUT. For good reason, okay, but my goodness. It’s every news story in every medium. It’s a constant stream of emails from every imaginable business — my massage therapist, my bank, countless restaurants and performance venues, local government, even a shoe company.

They say it’s one of those tipping points. It’s exhausting, because these days, news is so hysterical and super-hyped all the time, and with my little cable news addiction the past few years, the hysteria on any given news item seems even more intense. And then a couple news cycles later we’re on to the next thing. Cue hype and frenzy. So it’s hard to trust that anything is as big as they always say it is.

But I think this is real, and may be lasting, and may very well be game changing. It may actually be a tipping point. For what, I’m not entirely sure, but it may be one of those events we all look back on with our own set of stories forever etched, and maybe we will remember it as the point when everything changed. I hope the most profound effect is the awakening of our country out of a sickening nightmare, and I really hope that this is what finally does our stupid conman freakshow of a president in.

Sorry.

Not sorry. Have you noticed that he’s become just sort of irrelevant in the last few days? He has a major oval office address and it’s so stunningly, numbingly frightening people just ignore it. He stands up at these press conferences and has not one intelligent thing to say, and says it badly on top of that. He can’t answer a question with any convincing authority and when asked a solid question he obviously can’t answer, he searches his assembled cadre of experts (thank goodness) for the right person to answer because he is in so far over his head.  He’s so irrelevant, the governors, the doctors, the scientists are taking over and running the show (again, thank goodness). Gavin Newsom and Andrew Cuomo and a few others are leading us through this mess, with Trump completely sidelined. (Though 80% of republicans still think he’s doing a bang up job… we’ll see what happens as this society-stoppage continues and the deaths mount.)

One other stunning statistic: I read that 60% of democrats are adhering to the CDC guidelines for social distancing, self-isolation, etc, while only 30-something % of republicans are. Republicans are still crowding into bars and Nunes was encouraging people to go out and have fun just yesterday. What the hell does that say about the power of Trump over common sense… classic acting-against-your-own-interest to spite those evil, elite democrats. Man, we’ve got problems.

Anyway. Sorry.

What I meant to write about is the sad closing of our just opened Volunteer Center and the suspension of all activities this morning. At least for a week while our leadership team regroups and figures out which activities we can continue, and how. It was a good meeting, if a bit tearful, with lots of good perspectives on the subject. Impressive, really. I work with good, smart people.

It was a really hard decision.

It’s just that no sooner do you go in one direction, then the guidelines change, and with each change, the restrictions get more restrictive. Understandably. Just makes it hard to roll anything out and expect it’s going to work for any length of time.

And the elections that we’re working on, themselves, keep changing. For example, in one election our phone bank team was working on, the campaign had to change its script four times in one day.

My favorite reason for closing down the center and suspending our activities was to model good organizational behavior, and demonstrate a commitment to be a community team player, focused on the greater good. We are a social justice organization, after all. Walking the talk.

So seems prudent to let things settle just a little so we can find a rhythm, so we can truly get down to business. Until then, we’re temporarily closed.

But is it temporary?

… but it was pretty damn great for a rare Sunday breakfast at home. Sequestered as we are, we couldn’t have brunch downtown, so Jim made some lemon zesty waffles (using whipped egg whites for extra fluff).

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They were exceptional.

Our waffle iron makes waffles in the shape of barnyard animals, yes it does.

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He put them in the oven to crisp them up a bit. Yum.

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This will be us for the next 8 weeks (the CDC came out with new guidelines today that require folks to pretty much stay put for the next 8 weeks, restaurants and bars may now shut down — they are in NYC — we can’t gather in groups now larger than 50, and people 65 and older are effectively on lock down).

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This part will be okay though.

And remember…

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There will be tragedies, losses, deaths.  There will be plans that are canceled which will seriously mess people up.  Most people’s lives will be turned upside down, like all over the world.

We can deal with a few weeks (or couple months) aways from Crepeville, Bernardo’s and Pub Quiz.