Car, parked.

carOn March 13, I filled the car with gas because we were planning a trip to visit my sweetheart’s mother for her 90th birthday. But the next day we both woke up feeling a little under the weather, so we decided we shouldn’t go.

Four days later, the Bay Area set up a shelter-in-place to slow down the pandemic.

I haven’t put gas in the car since. According to the gauge, there’s about three-quarters of a tank available.

At a rough guess, I’ve driven the car about a hundred miles in the last six and a half months. To put that in perspective, I’ve walked about 850 miles in that same period.

Now it’s not unusual for me to walk more than I drive when I’m not traveling. I live in a very walkable neighborhood. And I’m even driving to run some errands right now; when you buy two weeks worth of groceries at once or are picking up a farm box instead of browsing the booths at the farmer’s market, a car is useful. Continue reading “Car, parked.”

Thinking Generationally

I’m working — slowly — on a book that includes a generation ship. (The way I’m going it may take a few generations to write it.) The other day on social media, a friend observed that the extended lockdown made it clear to him that he wouldn’t be happy on a generation ship.

I think I would be. Being stuck on a space station with just a few other people – which I find more similar to lockdown – wouldn’t make me happy, but a well-set-up generation ship with a thousand or so other people has the potential to provide one of the things I value most in life: community.

I’m talking way more community than we get in our modern lives. I mean, I live in an apartment building with thirteen households, and while we’re mostly friendly and cooperative (except for one asshole), we never have each other over for dinner. We do things for each other in a pinch, pet each other’s dogs, chat in the lobby or in the back yard, but we’re not a community.

When I was at Clarion West all those years back, living in a dorm with sixteen other students up and down the hall, I was happy most of the time, because I was surrounded by people with common purpose. I’ve felt that way in Aikido dojo, though I didn’t live there and have as much community as I would have wanted.

But our modern lives are not well set up for community. Also, since I grew up in a small town where the ways in which I was different would have made me more and more miserable as I got older if I’d been stuck there, I know that communities are not always good.

But the generation ship that I’m developing for my book could be a very happy place for me. Continue reading “Thinking Generationally”

Living in small spaces during big times

Every few months there are five Mondays in a month. Also, I posted last week because … magpies. This means you hear from me three Mondays running, and this is only Monday #2. Brace yourself…

I broke iso on Saturday. There was a medicine I urgently needed and I didn’t want to ask a friend when I also had to post a letter and get some money form the bank. I walked under falling blossom and realised that I’d chosen to go outdoors the first day of the new season. The actual change of season isn’t until 1 September, but Spring arrived on Saturday. The only shop I actually went into was the chemist. There, I could see why I am not supposed to go near people. For every nine people using common sense, there was one who wanted to make the queue move faster by creeping up behind me.

I break iso once every six weeks, on average.

Just sitting in the sunshine reminded me that the outside world is not defined by the internet and Netflix. This got me wondering why I don’t feel the need to break out more often. All kinds of other people cannot stay in their homes even if they have gardens. They have to buy milk or bread every day. I only reach that level of stir crazy every six weeks, despite living in an apartment.

I suspect it’s partly because I’ve worked mostly from home for years. I don’t have to go out at all now, though, and so I have more time to catch up on silly films I missed.

I shall not list the films, for they are all ones I would not have gone to the cinema to see, except Hamilton. Hamilton is not a silly film, even though I ran an inner argument with it the whole time.

That inner argument is the other thing. I’m watching movies with Italian subtitles or Spanish subtitles where I can, for my insufficient knowledge of both languages makes me restless. A few minutes ago I started telling my TV screen that I had not fully considered the effects that the choice of ‘guard’ and ‘watch’ and equivalent words had over the way we think about possessions and people. Then I moved onto ‘save’. Look them up in Spanish and Italian if you don’t already know them. Take your time. Tangents for thought are perfectly allowable when one looks up words.

I was watching the live action Aladdin and had to pause it to do work, for otherwise a whole new plot would have accompanied the film.

Not that I object to whole new plots accompanying films. Earlier today I was thinking that three of the Star Wars films would be massively improved with a dubbed version that turned them into comedy.

I like music, though, and needed to listen to it rather than let my mind play with historical linguistics. I often dance to musicals, mildly, for it hurts. Every time I do this, the next day is less difficult so it is worthy pain. My dancing feet remind me that they are musicals and that I really shouldn’t drift too much.

My time sense has warped beyond all logic since the bushfires and COVID-19, but my mind takes me into some wonderful explorations. I was bored for an hour earlier this year and I tweeted it. It astonished me, that, in over twelve months of things being so seriously challenging, I should only have been bored that one hour.

I rather suspect I made a decision in my childhood that no matter how alone I was, I was not going to be lonely. I know I worked hard in my teens to develop this skill. I’m still working on some elements of it. I wasn’t expecting this work to give me the pandemic experience some of my friends crave. I hope there are classes on this for people who had lives that didn’t push them to develop this skill. I can’t imagine how awful COVID-19 in an apartment would be without my arguments with the TV screen or my dreams while I wash dishes. (I hate washing dishes.)

I am not alone in this drift of time and the richness it embraces. Quite a few writers I know are experiencing something similar. What I wonder is the possible relationship between problematic childhoods, a determination to not be defeated by them and us becoming writers.

My sentences are growing complicated and I’ve been sitting down for too long. Time for more Aladdin.

[political rant] Right Wing Media, Disinformation, and the Pandemic

I don’t often post political stuff. My readers may remember the series of posts, “In Troubled Times,” as I walked/crawled/screamed through my reactions to the unfolding events of the 2016 election. A more current version would be entitled, “In Perilous Times,” and has been on my mind. To get the discussion started, here are some thoughts on how the right-wing media and conspiracy theorists spread disinformation that resulted in a much worse pandemic in the US.

From The New York Times 7/28 morning report:

Why is the U.S. enduring a far more severe virus outbreak than any other rich country?
There are multiple causes, but one of them is the size and strength of right-wing media organizations that frequently broadcast falsehoods. The result is confusion among many Americans about scientific facts that are widely accepted, across the political spectrum, in other countries.
Canada, Japan and much of Europe have no equivalent to Sinclair — whose local newscasts reach about 40 percent of Americans — or Fox News. Germany and France have widely read blogs that promote conspiracy theories. “But none of them have the reach and the funding of Fox or Sinclair,” Monika Pronczuk, a Times reporter based in Europe, told me.
Fox is particularly important, because it has also influenced President Trump’s response to the virus, which has been slower and less consistent than that of many other world leaders. “Trump repeatedly failed to act to tame the spread, even though that would have helped him politically,” The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent has written. The headline on Sargent’s opinion column is: “How Fox News may be destroying Trump’s re-election hopes.”
Another factor creating confusion: The lack of an aggressive response to virus misinformation from Facebook and YouTube. Judd Legum, author of the Popular Information newsletter, has identified some of this misinformation, and the two companies have responded by removing the posts he cited. But Legum told me he had pointed out only a small fraction of the false information, and the companies had done relatively little to remove it proactively.
Twitter took a slightly more aggressive step yesterday, putting temporary limits on the account of Donald Trump Jr. after he shared the false Breitbart video.

Coping Strategies in an Ongoing Pandemic

From time to time, I focus on an article that in my estimation offers valuable information or reflection on the stresses of the times. These last four years have presented one crisis after another. And now a pandemic that threatens not only my life and health, but those of my loved ones and friends. So it’s a good time to review what enhances our resilience and remind ourselves that we are indeed resourceful. We are not always so, and not all of us are at the same time. Not every piece of advice will seem appropriate to each of us. One of the many benefits of community is that we can remind one another of our strength, we can role model sanity and self-care, and those of us who have hope at any given moment can carry those of us who are mired in despair through the dark hours.

We’ll get through this. Together.

On to the article: This is by Craig Polizzi, a PhD Student in Clinical Psychology, and Steven Jay Lynn, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, both at Binghamton University, State University of New York.

Your coping and resilience strategies might need to shift as the COVID-19 crisis continues

The authors highlight three strategies we might use to reduce stress and rebuild our lives, even while the pandemic is still raging. This is going to go on for a while, folks, so let’s see what we can do to make the best of this episode in our lives.

 

Cognitive reappraisal involves reframing the way one interprets an emotional or stressful event or situation to regulate or neutralize its harmful impact. You can think about working from home, for example, as an opportunity to spend more time with family, engage in hobbies or get caught up on projects, rather than as a threat to job security. This strategy tempers the kind of all-or-nothing thinking – such as “the world is unsafe,” “I cannot do anything to help” and “our leaders know nothing” – that can take people down a road of anxiety, worry and mistrust of others. Instead, reappraisal helps you move toward healthy perspectives on stressful situations, dampens negative emotions and boosts positive emotions and keenness to participate fully in life.

 

Problem-focused coping can be another helpful strategy. It frames a stressful situation as a problem to be solved and fuels planning and the search for practical solutions. For example, people who know they feel worried or depressed after consuming news can plan to monitor and control the timing (such as not before sleep), nature and amount of news they consume. Effective problem-solving increases positive emotions, self-confidence and motivation. It also lessens the psychological impact of stressors.
As society opens up, you need to weigh the pros and cons of shopping, eating in restaurants, or seeking medical treatment, informed by the best available evidence. Problem-focused coping can help you make decisions about whether an activity is safe and consistent with your personal values and the needs of others.

Lovingkindness meditation can help you get through trying times. It involves contemplating and generating positive feelings and tolerance towards yourself and others. Combining lovingkindness meditation with empathy for those with different political views, for example, can help heal frayed bonds of friendship when social support is most needed. Pausing each day to embrace love and kindness counteracts self-blame, guilt, feelings of alienation and social isolation.

And anything that increases the amount of compassion and love in the world is surely a good thing.
For the complete article, click on the title link.

Rage. Fear. Center.

Toward the end of April, as people began to plan WisCONline — the virtual WisCon — I got a notice that my academic paper for the con had been accepted and that they wanted a video presentation.

About the same time, I saw that Story Center was offering an online class in using WeVideo. Although I took one of their classes in digital storytelling about four years back and learned the basics of WeVideo, I had a lot of gaps in my knowledge since I hadn’t done any new videos.

I decided to sign up for the class with the goal of making a video for WisCon. That way I could do something besides a talking head of me reading the paper.

There were two problems with this plan. First, the 15-minute presentation would be considerably longer than the usual 2-3 minute videos Story Center works with.

Second, the paper wasn’t written yet. Once WisCon decided to cancel the in-person convention, I hadn’t expected them to want a paper. Also, in my previous academic papers for WisCon, I had still been putting the final touches on the paper the day of the presentation.

But I felt inspired and signed up for the class, even told the teacher my grandiose plan at the first meeting. Continue reading “Rage. Fear. Center.”