Happy Plagueiversary II

Today marks the end of our second year of the Covid pandemic (counting from my own personal starting point, the last in-person Norwescon ConCom meeting, in March of 2020).

Last year on this day I posted a rundown of the last times I’d done something before going into lockdown.

Today, we’re not quite as much in lockdown as we were then, but we’re by no means back to a pre-pandemic concept of normal. Since this time last year:

We still haven’t gone out to any indoor performances. We went to a couple outdoor performances in parks last summer, but we weren’t yet entirely comfortable with that, and it didn’t last long.

We’ve had one brief trip to Portland to visit my mom, during the time when Delta was decreasing and Omicron hadn’t hit yet, a brief unplanned stopover with Prairie’s family in Olympia on the way back from that, and we’ve had one big family gathering for Prairie’s side of the family in Olympia. Other than that, still no travel or family visits.

I still haven’t been back to the Mercury, though it’s been open for a couple months now.

We did one weekend travel of “cabin camping” over the summer.

Neither of us has been in a big crowd.

I went to a small weekend gathering with the Norwescon Executive Team for our annual retreat to plan this year’s convention, but that’s been the extent of my external socializing.

We’re still staying home most of the time. All of our groceries are delivered or curbside pickup. We don’t go to restaurants; any food not cooked here is either drive-through or Door Dash.

Two years down. Mask and vaccine check requirements are being dropped, but it’s not at all clear that we’re “safe” yet, and we’re all still figuring out what the new normal is going to be.

I just hope the more optimistic assessments of where we’re heading are correct. I’m generally a pretty naturally optimistic person, and two years of the pessimists being proved correct at nearly every turn has been rather difficult. We’ll see what happens from here….

We’ve Lost the Ideal of the Common Good

From the New York Times: Vaccine Hesitancy Is About Trust and Class:

…people who reject vaccines are not necessarily less scientifically literate or less well-informed than those who don’t. Instead, hesitancy reflects a transformation of our core beliefs about what we owe one another.

Over the past four decades, governments have slashed budgets and privatized basic services. This has two important consequences for public health. First, people are unlikely to trust institutions that do little for them. And second, public health is no longer viewed as a collective endeavor, based on the principle of social solidarity and mutual obligation. People are conditioned to believe they’re on their own and responsible only for themselves. That means an important source of vaccine hesitancy is the erosion of the idea of a common good.

Americans began thinking about health care decisions this way only recently; during the 1950s polio campaigns, for example, most people saw vaccination as a civic duty. But as the public purse shrunk in the 1980s, politicians insisted that it’s no longer the government’s job to ensure people’s well-being; instead, Americans were to be responsible only for themselves and their own bodies. Entire industries, such as self-help and health foods, have sprung up on the principle that the key to good health lies in individuals making the right choices.

Fast-forward on the Future

Really interesting list from Politico of 17 pandemic innovations that are here to stay:

Amid all the death and heartbreak, Covid-19 also hit fast-forward on the future.

For the past year, POLITICO has been chronicling these changes, from cities to states to the federal government, as part of our Recovery Lab project. One thing we’ve noticed is that many of these pandemic innovations, while birthed in crisis and adopted temporarily, increasingly look like they are here to stay.

Most of these, I think, are pretty good, and any downsides I think can be adapted or worked around as we move forward. The big trick will be holding onto the most beneficial aspects, especially those that benefit marginalized communities but may not be as immediately noticeably beneficial for the majority.

My Norwescon Exec Story Arc

So, when serving on the Norwescon Executive Team, team members can serve in any one position for a maximum of four years before turning the position over to someone else (Norwescon bylaws, Article 3, § 5).

Update: It’s been pointed out to me that I slightly misread the bylaws, and only elected positions are term limited; invited positions do not have that limitation. Even so, I’ll plan to stick to the four year term for this round, and I can come back later if invited. Now, back to the original post….

I’ve been thinking over the past few days that as weird as all of this has been over the past couple years, I’m glad my term of service as Secretary is covering the four years that it is (and this is making a bit of an assumption that I’ll be asked back as Secretary for NWC44; it’s not a given, but I’m hopeful).

  • Year one: NWC42. A normal year.
  • Year two: NWC43 (2020). We had to deal with canceling the convention due to a global pandemic.
  • Year three: NWC43 (2021). We had to figure out how to run an all virtual convention, with everyone involved, from Execs to guests/pros/exhibitors to members, doing all planning and eventual participating from their homes. And we did one heck of a job of it, if I do say so myself.
  • Year four (presumptive): NWC44. We hope and expect to be back in person at the hotel (🤞), and I’m absolutely fascinated by the possibilities and am looking forward to seeing how we adapt what we’ve learned this year into our plans for an in-person convention.

I’m sure there will lots to figure out. We’ll do our best. We won’t completely satisfy everyone, but we’ll come as close as we can, as we always do. But I’m really looking forward to NWC44, not just because of how much will be “like it used to be/should be”, but how much will have changed based on this year’s experiences, learning, and growth.

And in writing terms, that’s a far more satisfying story arc than if my term had ended at another point (so, please, next Exec Team, bring me back!).

Happy Plagueiversary, or, The Last Time I…

A few milestones, unrealized in the moment, from the Before Times:

12/21/19: The last time Prairie and I went out to a performance (Handel’s Messiah, in downtown Seattle).

Prairie and I at Handel's Messiah

12/28/19: The last time Prairie and I traveled to the Portland area to visit family (my mom, her mom, her dad). Neither of us have seen any of our parents in person since this visit.

My mom and I at dinner

2/15/20: The last time I went out to the Mercury. I believe this would also be the last time I hugged anyone other than Prairie.

Me at the Mercury nightclub

2/16-17/20: The last time Prairie and I traveled, for a weekend on Whidbey Island.

Prairie and I at Fort Casey Historical State Park

2/22/20: The last time Prairie and I were in a big crowd, at an Elizabeth Warren rally.

Prairie and I at the Elizabeth Warren rally

3/7/20: The last truly out-of-the-house social activity I did before going into pandemic lockdown was the March 2020 Norwescon ConCom meeting, and I didn’t even think to get a selfie or other picture. Also the last time I had any non-medical physical contact with anyone other than Prairie — a couple “elbow bumps” with friends. My own pandemic Day Zero.

Since then, Prairie and I have been in near-total lockdown. For a while we tried going on walks on trails in the area, until it became clear that too many people refused to wear masks while out on trails and we stopped. We did careful grocery runs for a while, but since November (driven by the expected holiday infection spike) we’ve moved all of our grocery shopping to ordering from Amazon Fresh and Instacart. When we get food from local restaurants, we order through Door Dash or use businesses with drive-through windows. In the past year, we’ve had three socially distanced visits with family in Olympia (twice sitting in their driveway at least six feet away from each other, once meeting to walk the trails at Flaming Geyser State Park), and one equally distanced visit from a friend here at our place. When we need other goods, we order as much as possible from Amazon (or, if books, from Powell’s or Bookshop to support independent booksellers); on the few instances we’ve needed to source something locally, we’ve done everything we can to go during the safest times possible (early mornings during the week rather than weekends or evenings, etc.).

Meanwhile, infection and casualty numbers continued to rise, because too many people wouldn’t follow similar guidelines. We absolutely understand that in many ways we are privileged in how we can afford (both financially and personally) to move so much of our lives online and in that we can both work from home. But there are so many people that could have been doing more than they have been to get this situation under control.

And it is especially frustrating when we see so many people we know, acquaintances and friends alike, who are traveling, visiting family and friends, eating and drinking in bars and restaurants instead of getting take-out, and so on. We watch the cars go by the road outside our windows, for all we can tell at pre-pandemic levels, and wonder how many of them are actually doing necessary errands, and how many are just living life as if it was normal.

We’ve spent so much of this year sad, frustrated, angry, isolated, and all too often, despairing that this will ever actually improve. I try to tell myself that things are getting better, that vaccines are (all too slowly) becoming more widely available, and that we’ll be vaccinated eventually (though we’re not likely to be eligible before general availability) — but some days, it’s really, really difficult to keep that in mind.

Happy plagueiversary.