The beginnings of normalcy

It’s been a week of doing things that we haven’t done since March 2020, and stuff is starting to gain some semblance of normalcy again. It’s nice.

Last Thursday, we had a Verizon technician in the house to replace the FIOS box in the basement. It was the first repair person we’ve had in the house since… before last March.

This past weekend, we went on a tour of garden centers with Silja to buy flowers. This included our first time riding in someone else’s car for the first time since last March.

On Sunday, we made our first impromptu “we need one or two things from the store” run to Aldi without planning beforehand or lugging a wagon to cart everything home for the first time since last March.

On Monday, Max came over for Rock Band. It was our first time having someone inside our house unmasked (and first time having someone inside period other than to quickly pee) since last March. It was also our first time eating food with someone inside our house since last March.

On Tuesday, there was voting, which happened (at least for one of us) in person. It’s our first time not voting by mail-in ballot since last March.

Today I went to a scheduled doctor’s appointment (eye doctor, in this case) for the first time since last March. (I’d had a couple other doctor visits during quarantine, but they were all for specific issues that were bothering me.)

Today we also ate at a restaurant for the first time since last March. In this case, it was People’s Indian buffet, and we sat outside, but was also just nice to do this seemingly normal thing and not be freaking out about it.

Here’s hoping variants don’t make the world go to shit again, although I’m still rather bitter about the CDC being so stupid and making things a million times more dangerous again with their new mask guidance.

Life, Cabin, People, and thou

life‘s photo journal and stats have been updated. Given the lack of a trip in the past four months, we are of course the lowest photo count since 2002 with 300 photos, and the fourth lowest count for a four month period ever. It’s also the first period without Keith pictures since since 2009, which also makes sense because we’ve been meeting everyone virtually. We’re still about 400 photos off from the next 25k photos that would trigger another photo stats dump (including May photos so far), but I’m actually hopeful we’ll hit that in the next 4 months, because…

We’ve started the first stages of seeing people again. Rock band is scheduled in just over a week with the fully-vaccinated Max, and we’re looking at hosting a (very) small (and still outdoor) Memorial Day gathering with friends we know are vaccinated. Now that we’re two weeks after the second dose, I’ve also felt a serious sense of relief (or at least lack of anxiety) about going into buildings again — we’ve been to the bakery twice for donuts, I didn’t feel weird being in a fairly crowded car rental building, there was a Costco trip that felt fine to me, and we’re going to start going into the grocery store again. We’ll see if that sense keeps up given the ever-increasing threat of variants, but after a year of worrying, it’s really nice to be able to start letting down my guard a bit.

Speaking of doing things… we went on a trip to a cabin again, booked as a covid-safe vacation before we had any idea of when vaccination would be a thing. Whereas the last trip was to Blue Knob, this time we went to Cook Forest, and stayed at MacBeth’s Cabins right on the Clarion river. (And there are 200 photos from this trip alone, so the next four month period already has 2/3 the photo count of the previous four months.)

I must be getting old and curmudgeonly or something, because the biggest thing I was looking forward to was the lack of internet and cell service, and the cabin absolutely did not disappoint in that regard. I got to spend a week lounging around, reading and relaxing, without any of the modern obligationsdisruptions getting in the way. (Incidentally, the lack of internet might also be why I like cruise ships.)

Compared to the last cabin, this one was much better situated, but also less “nice”: the kitchen was smaller, the bathroom was less nice, and the heating and cooling situation was questionable, with a gas space heater (that said “do not use in bedrooms or bathrooms” on the side) between the beds. Still, it was definitely nice enough to return, especially with how great its location (and the hiking around it) was. Even if normal trips become a thing again later this year (or next year), a cabin feels like it’ll always be a good choice.

April shots bring May plots

It’s April. Where does the time go?

Our personal pandemic is looking like it will have an end date of mid-May, as we get our second dose shortly, and many friends follow suit. I’m looking forward to small gatherings again (maybe a couple vaccinated people over for board games or Rock Band).

What I’m really looking forward to is an outing to Fogo de Chao, which would be my first meal in a restaurant since last March. But such a meal is probably much further out (probably August or September?), since we not only have to all be vaccinated, and the waitstaff have to be vaccinated, but we also have to have gotten local cases down enough where I’d feel comfortable not taking the usual precautions in public.

But we’re so close to the end… and I hate how so many people are prematurely letting their guard down. Vaccination is not a 100% thing… by the latest numbers, it’s approximately 90% effective, which means you still have a 10% chance (multiplied by your regular risk percentage) of getting COVID. Why can’t everyone just hang on that little while longer and bring community numbers down?

We’re continuing to do our part. The riskiest thing we did during the past 13 months was probably getting the first vaccine dose. We walked about 9 miles round trip to the south side vaccination clinic (we don’t allow ourselves public transit), which just seems to be most of the first floor of UPMC Mercy, where we entered a building for longer than a minute for the first time in five months, and remained there for a bit over 30 minutes between waiting for the shot and completing the required 15 minute wait period.

Other than that, the riskiest things I’ve done have been to go to the dentist for a toothache, and go to the doctor earlier this week for some persistent pain, both of which were extremely nerve-wracking at the time, but arguably falling under the bucket of “essential”.

So overall, we’ve been very careful throughout this pandemic, and especially the past ~5 months as cases have started to spike again. I stopped physically going into stores, instead opting for curbside pickup for groceries. And other than the aforementioned doctor trips and quick stops in restaurants to pick up (preordered) food, we’ve been avoiding going inside buildings. I think we’ve been extremely fortunate in that our jobs and lives allow us to have isolated so effectively.

In any case, life goes.


I’m just so tired of being tired. It’s been feeling lately that I have no motivation for anything, work or non-work, so I’m kind of just bumbling along as best I can. Housework and cooking and all of the other life things are being neglected more than they should. ‘Tis how it goes.

A bunch of friends have made (or are looking at soon making) changes to their professional lives, including switching jobs, switching companies, or just outright quitting and reevaluating. I feel like I’m going to have a reckoning soon, myself, that’ll force me to see what kinds of changes I’ll need to make, but because change is hard, I’m trying to postpone that as long as possible. We’ll see how that goes.

Every time I walk somewhere, it feels like I walk past restaurants and gyms and businesses that are just utterly full of people. Even if they’re not technically in violation of the (toothless and overly permissive) restrictions in place, it still feels immensely irresponsible. You don’t need to have dine-in meals at a restaurant, and you don’t need to hit a gym. Your decisions are making this pandemic worse and longer for everyone else.

Meanwhile, the government is getting their shit slightly more together, but are facing endless pressure from people who think they’re not doing enough. It bothers me in the same way that ideological purity bothers me (“Bernie or nothing!” and “M4A or no vote!”) because it’s utterly unrealistic to think that a bare majority in a sharply divided congress will be able to do all the things you want them to.

And of course the same people yelling at them now won’t vote for them in 2022, dooming us to more Republican control and more of Mitch’s graveyard for bills where those things they want won’t get done anyway!

Meanwhile Republicans are going even more on the “Trump is our savior” train, as evidenced by their votes on Liz Cheney vs Marjorie Greene. So that sort of ideological purity is going to cause more and more harm as we proceed.

Society and politics and our government are so fundamentally broken and I don’t know how we even start to fix them.

New Year’s, Life, Expenditures

life’s photo journal and stats have been updated. The 594 photos this four-month period is the lowest for any four-month period since April 2002, my Freshman year of high school (when I wasn’t carrying my camera around regularly), and is lower than the previous four months this year by 9 photos.

None of this should be too surprising, given we’ve basically been at home since March and the extent of our real-life social contact has been either brief tea-and-conversation hangouts on the porch, or walks.

In any case, work starts up again tomorrow, and it was a nice break, all things considered. Christmas featured a group Google Meet call, New Year’s featured online board games and virtual champagne toasting, and I hit all of my (honestly, fairly lofty) personal project goals for the break.

Since it’s January, I also compared 2020’s overall expenses to 2019’s. Thanks to the pandemic, my overall spending is down 22 percent, mostly in food (much more cooking at home; down 34%), travel (we had one vacation which involved a car rental and cabin instead of flying and hotels; down 98%), and entertainment expenses (we didn’t host any games or events and didn’t go anywhere with people; down 72%).

The only thing keeping the overall year-to-year drop from being less extreme was that our mortgage payments and utilities went up a bit, and account for most of my spending (70% of my [lowered] yearly expenditures this year, compared to 49% of last year’s). Like last year, the next biggest expense was food (relatively stable at 15% of yearly expenditures this year, compared to 17% last year).

Anyway. Things are uneventful. Here’s hoping the vaccine distribution really picks up this year and we can start seeing people again in the first half of the year.

Hope everyone’s doing well out there.