Status report (early July)

The life in the time of the coronavirus continues… 

This is my fifth status report since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic (the other four were in March, mid-April, the end of April, and in mid-May). It has now been fifteen weeks (or one-hundred and seven days) since it has all begun. It has been forty days since the beginning of the slow re-opening and my return to work (thirteen days since we’ve restart taking the public in the library for a limited offer of service). 

On the domestic side of life, I can say that I feel I have not been doing much in the last month and half… I didn’t do much around the house (it was either too hot or raining). As usual, I probably watch too much television: like rewatching the Ghost in the Shell: Arise series and several movies (also, to fill the time, I started watching again the 2004 series of Battlestar Galactica). However, I have been reading enough to catch up on my tsundoku… (hurray!) and write a little about my readings (dBD #141, La sphère d’Or, Unbeaten tracks in Japan, I’ll never tell, De Gir à Moebius, and several other French comics that I covered in the article “Sherlock Holmes en bande dessinée (2)”).

Weather — The temperature was unusually warm lately (above average) and often quite dry. So much so that the vegetation in the parc often took a yellowish colour. Thankfully, it rained periodically enough to keep everything alive. In the last week or so it has been quite hot and humid. Enough to discourage any sustained outside activities, although we still take our daily walk.

Health — With the confinement (probably because of slightly bigger meal and less activity) I have gained weight. My blood pressure and glucose are also higher (maybe because of an increased stress?). I have also experienced digestive problems, my usual recurring pain at the end of the digestive track as well as some chest and shoulder pain (probably muscular). Overall, I feel in good shape but it could be better. Unfortunately, I know that with age nothing gets better…

Work — All is fine at work. My usual library being still closed for renovation I was assignment to another one. This new place is at a nice location (at walk/bike distance from home) and has a nice team (although, since the people of my library working there are in extra, we perform mostly boring jobs). However, there was one painful incident: a customer refused the answer the covid “questions” and to sanitize his hands upon entrance. As I was insisting (to follow protocol), he became increasingly disagreeable, up to implying that I was doing so because of my ego or because I was racist. I was just trying to do my job. I was putting my health at risk (and the health of my family) in order to give him access to the library and he has shown absolutely no appreciation or gratitude for it. All I ask is some respect. If I was hurt by being called a racist (and I will come back on this subject) what really pissed me off was that my colleagues didn’t show much support when I tried to explain that he refused to follow protocol and insulted me. I don’t know, maybe they just didn’t understand me well: it is hard to express yourself calmly when it’s hot and your are talking through a mask and a face-shield. What happened to “we must absolutely ask ALL the covid questions and not let anyone in that doesn’t answer properly”? And then they told me “you know, we get insulted all the time. You have to get used to it” implying that I was weak to let it get to me. We are supposed to have a policy of not tolerating any disrespect and bullying (no respect, no service) and, yet in the end, that man received the service he came for. If you are tolerating such disrespect OF COURSE people will feel empowered and continue with the same behaviour. It is the wrong attitude. Anyway, that incident bothered me for weeks as I kept thinking about it…

One thing that I spent a lot of time on lately, was shopping for a nice electric bike or scooter. In this epidemic, I want to avoid public transportation (bus & subway) and if my work place for now is at a walking or biking distance, it is quite tiring in the summer heat (and I am closer to sixty than fifty years-old after all). I rented one for a week and I liked it a lot, but when I wanted to purchase one not a single store in the metropolitan area had any in stock. I guess everybody had the same idea at the same time and I was too late. An electric BIKE looks cool (particularly the Banana Boss, the Rad Runner 1, the Maxie Large, or the Paris) but it is quite expensive and a standard bicycle seat is really hard on my backside. Strangely, a scooter is less expensive, as well as being much more confortable and versatile. I’ve been checking several nice models (Écolo, Tao Aquarius, Vienna, Gio Italia, Mignon, UQi Pro, etc.) but now I found a good store and I am just waiting for them to receive some stock later this month…

Many important events happened in the second quarter of 2020 ( the end of May, June and the beginning of July) but I don’t want to spend much time on those current events. However, the world stage was dominated by the three great plagues of the era. First, the coronavirus. So far, the world has suffered over 10 million cases of infection resulting in over half a million deaths! We dealt relatively well with it in Canada, but the U.S. in on the verge of total catastrophe as it reopened too soon and they are now seeing an horrible surge in infection (over fifty-thousand new cases each day!). 

The second plague is Trump. I would think that we would get used to it by now but his mishandling of the coronavirus response (no national coordination, not enough test and PPE, not urging confinement, distanciation, and wearing masks, etc.), his constant lying, and his rhetoric encouraging hate-speech and inciting to violence kept making everything worse. Sometimes, I think he just doing it on purpose. If he is not a Putin agent, he is certainly an agent of chaos. He loves it. I can’t wait until November… 

The final plague is racism. Following the death by police abuse of George Floyd and many other subsequent similar baffling incidents, the American urban areas erupted in spontaneous protests against this pervasive institutional racism that literally plagues the U.S. How did we moved from a pandemic to riots in the streets? (Without much social distancing hence the cases surge) We all hoped that it was getting better but I guess we got negligent — the coronavirus confinement and Trump inducement somehow seem to have put salt on the wound — as it now seems worse than ever. It must be dealt with once and for all. With police reform certainly (defunding, demilitarizing, new structure, call it what you want — I always thought we should have several level of policing: the unarmed street or biking cop, the patrol police answering to theft and hold-up, the inspector, the riot police and now we should have a force of psycho-social worker for domestic violence, teenage trouble, neighbour disputes, etc.), but the disease goes further than that. Social reform and massive investments to reduce inequality (in education, in job opening, in housing, etc.) are necessary. With the recent movements like Me-Too and Black Lifes Matter, I feel that the world is effervescent and on the verge of great changes, just like in ’68. However, we will have to be patient. Real change takes time. But now the seed of change, the idea that it is possible, has been planted in people’s minds. It only remains to take care of it and watch it germinate… But the first step toward that change is for American to go vote in November.

Racism has always bothered me. All my life I tried to treat everybody equally, not letting their opinion, behaviour, the size of their nose, the colour of their eyes, hair or skin (pink, brown, “black”, “red” or “yellow”) distract me from the fact that we were all the same. Human beings. I always tried to be tolerant (sometime failing: for a while I became quite intolerant toward religion, but now the only thing I can’t tolerate is intolerance — and stupidity). When I was a teenager I thought that the best way to solve racism was to intermarry and eventually we would all become of the same skin colour (that’s what I did, unfortunately I never had kids — too much trouble!). However, skin colour is just an excuse for racists: in fact they are just afraid of the difference (people thinking, dressing, talking, etc., differently than they are). There are many culture on this world and, if we just learn about them, we see there is no reason to be afraid. We discover that this difference is beautiful, that it is a wealth. Those people usually are against (or ignorant of) science. Science is telling us that, genetically, we are all the same and that there is only one race: the human race. I always wanted to write about this complex and touchy subject (and someday I will). Unfortunately, whatever you say or write will always receive criticism: you didn’t say this, the way you say that is discriminatory, it is not enough, it is too much, etc., so I am waiting to have the right words. However, if you stay silent,  it is worse because they say that you are complicit, that you are encouraging racism by saying nothing. I prefer to show support by my actions: I won’t protest in the street but I’ll always try to be equitable, unbiased, and just. If I see someone being discriminated (racially or otherwise) I will try to defend them. And I’ll stay silent. If I scold you for doing something wrong (like misbehaving in the library or trying to cut the waiting line to enter the bus) and you answer be accusing me of being racist, I’ll stay silent. But just know that calling me a racist is the worst insult that you could give me…

I feel the end of this year will really be difficult… Take care of yourselves and stay safe !

Also, I found time to stay a little acquainted with the affairs of the world and gathered a few notable news & links — which I now share with you (in both french or english, slightly categorized, but in no particular order — note that, to save on coding time, the links will NOT open in a new window), after the jump.

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Notable News 2019

If you are bored by your confinement, here are links to over five-hundred-fifty news stories for all taste (well, mostly for mine).

Like I said in my latest “notable news” entry (for the beginning of 2020) I completely skipped over 2019 (my last entry before that was in January). I guess I was a little busy. On the domestic front there is not much to say. I don’t want to look back too much on 2019, since it was a bad year — and, now that we know that 2020 is even worst, why bother? I guess I wrote a lot about it (you can check the blog indexes update). I feel the same for what happened on the world stage (refer to Wikipedia for the events of 2019, from January to December).

However, despite everything, I always stay acquainted with the affairs of the world and collect links to the notable news story of the time. I call it scrap-linking: it’s like scrapbooking but instead of collecting old newspaper articles in files or scrapbooks (like my father used to do), I just collect links to news-story on the internet. Therefore, with this blog entry, I would like to make some sort of a review of the year through those links. Be aware that they are in both French or English, slightly categorized, but in no particular order, and of course, because this is old, some links may have become dead or completely irrelevant, sorry about that — also note that, to save on coding time, the links will NOT open in a new window as usual. I am sharing all this with you >> after the jump.

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Notable News (Winter – Spring 2020)

As you know, I periodically reflect on the latest notable news , both in my life and in the world, and gather links to the stories I found the most interesting during that time (as a kind of press review). My latest entry on that subject was in January of last year. I’ve skipped the notable news for 2019 (I was a little busy — but I’ll come back to that later) but here they are for the first third of 2020 — I can’t believe we are already in 2020. This will be another decade of disappointment and unfulfilled promises. Where are the cyberspace and the body implants we were promised?!

There is not much to say about what happened on the domestic front. It has been quite busy (and exhausting) at work but I think I dealt pretty well with it. The library was undertaking renovation works to install a sorting “robot” for the returns and completely redo our working area and the counter. Preparing for those renovations and organizing a temporary set-up in order to stay functional and open to the public during the works was quite an ordeal. However, we did well and survived. And then we closed because of the epidemic…

The winter was relatively mild, and spring was early but cold. On the subject of health, I was plagued by a litany of problems: first, with all the hard work at the library, I literally broke my back (getting a serious sciatica), then got a bad flu/cold and finally was deeply pained by a kidney stone (I get one about every ten years). However, I am much better now as the calculus has recently passed. Funnily, despite doing lots of physical work around the house and regularly walking around the parc, I still managed to gain a couple of kilos. You know you have attained a certain age when idle conversations tend to focus more on your ailments than on the weather!

I have also been doing satisfactorily well in my reading and writing. I find it quite extraordinary when, after finishing a book in the previous night, I wake up in the morning with almost the entire reading comment in my head! Doing both reading and writing on a regular basis is a good training for the mind and it seems to get easier and easier with time.

The news on the world stage were dominated by the American election (mostly the democrats’ primaries and the stupid antics of the president — nothing really new there) and the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. At first, like everybody, I wasn’t too concerned. It was just something happening in China. Then, when it became clear that it was spreading easily with cases in Korea, California and Iran, I voiced my concerns to my boss, asking her what was the plan in such circumstances (it was late February or early March). I was told that they weren’t told of any plan. There was not even a sanitizer distributor in the entrance of the workplace — which should have been mandatory. When the government started telling people to stay home and we closed to the public (March 13th), I started really worrying because we were still working and using public transportation. I was afraid to bring the virus home (since one of my family members is immunosuppressed and I am myself at risk because of hypertension). I was just about to tell my boss that I couldn’t continue to work when they decided to send us home (March 19th). 

Not being sure how long this forced vacation (with pay!) would last, I decided to make the best of it and catch up on my reading/writing. Although, after a few days of this coronavirus self-isolation, I realized I hadn’t done much. I wanted initially to read a book or watch a movie each day but I didn’t (maybe it was too ambitious?). I did a few things around the house and wrote a couple of blog entries about the current situation and offered suggestions of stuff to do. But I should be doing more. If not I was afraid to wake up at the end of this “staycation” having done nothing. And there was so much to do. I am happy to say that, so far, I am doing well.

With the pandemic in full swing it is hard to think back about other events that marked the beginning of 2020. In January, beside the usual fires and floods or the conflicts in the Middle-East, we can find noteworthy the American airstrike on the Baghdad Airport to assassinate Qasem Soleimani, Prince Harry and Meghan leave the British Royal family, as more cases are reported the Chinese authorities start investigating this unknown pneumonia outbreak that will become the coronavirus pandemic, and the impeachment trial of Trump moves into the Senate.

In February, we see the first deaths of coronavirus outside China (first in the Philippines, then in Hong Kong, Japan, France, Iran, South Korea, Italy, USA, etc.), the Iowa Democratic Party caucuses are a disaster, Trump is acquitted on both articles of impeachment by the Senate, Harvey Weinstein is found guilty, the Dow Jones starts dropping, and there’s a first possible case of communal transmission of the coronavirus in California.

In March, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Michael Bloomberg drop their presidential candidacy and endorse Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren also suspends her campaign (without endorsing Biden yet), the coronavirus outbreak is getting bigger and we see the first death in Canada, following an oil-price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia the Dow Jones drop even further, WHO officially declares the Coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic (3/11) prompting some countries or states to follow China’s example in implementing a lockdown (Italy, Spain, California, Canada, New York, India) and several major events (sport, concert, convention, etc) are getting cancelled. WHO announces that there are at least 20 vaccines candidates in development for COVID-19. Meanwhile, Wuhan (capital of the Hubei province) ends its lockdown and starts reopening.

In April, Bernie Sanders suspends his presidential campaign and endorses Biden, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases passes two million worldwide (4/16) as the pandemic keep growing. The mitigation measures are working and so far the hospitals, if very busy and despite the shortage of PPE, are not overwhelmed as it was first feared. Most countries have put financial measures to help their citizens live through the lockdown and are now planning to slowly ease their containment mesures. The main problem remains the insufficient testing and, in the USA, the absence of Federal coordination. Trump, in his self-absorbed usual incompetence, is definitely not up to the task (I just can’t understand why this guy is still in power). If you would rather burn down the country than admit you’re wrong, you’re not only a bad person, you are also pure evil. Anyway, the month is not over yet, so I’ll keep an eye on the current events, however depressing it might be.

Finally, as usual and through all this, I tried to stay acquainted with the affairs of the world and gathered a few notable news & links — which I now share with you (in both french or english, slightly categorized, but in no particular order — note that, to save on coding time, the links will NOT open in a new window), after the jump.

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Retro linking 1

I found a bunch of old notable links (part one from January to March 2015) that I never had the chance to share with you. It’s quite a time-machine! For an historian, it’s fascinating: it’s like a slice of what was happening at that time or, at least, a slice of my interests then. I was reading more news in those days… I am also surprised how so few links went dead after so many years. (To save on coding time, the links will NOT open in a new window as usual).

So, here they are (in both french or english, slightly categorized, but in no particular order and minus the links that are dead or now irrelevant), after the jump…

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