With all of the extra time I’ve been able to search around online for nice channels on YouTube, freebies, and stuff like that. The station above has some really smooth, low key jazz. It’s fantastic as background music in the afternoon while doing other things around the house. Work. Reading. Chores. Laying on the bed with the cats. Whatever.
Another weekend at home. We stayed in, except for my wife going downstairs to feed a stray cat near our building. We look out the window and we see people on the train platform going out, but it just doesn’t make sense to us in the long run. I’d rather pass on a weekend out now and be alive for many years of weekends out in the future.
I introduced my Mom to Corona-chan. She thought it was pretty neat, and especially appreciated this particular image:
The shortages continue online. It’s starting to get annoying because I’m about to run out of all purpose flour. What the hell is going on that flour has been out of stock everywhere for so long? What are people doing with all of that flour? I need flour to make biscuits. My wife needs flour to make banana pudding.
Spent time yesterday while watching “Shtisel” to look for a new wallpaper background for my phone. Finally settled on the image above. It’s clean and elegant looking and it doesn’t interfere with the visibility of the app icons.
So, I’ve reached the point now where I’m not checking the case and death figures as often because the numbers have gotten so high that it’s really hard to think about that in terms of trying to make it real. You know what I mean? You can picture a few hundred people, but when you start talking about tens of thousands sick and thousands of deaths, it gets a little abstract.
The result is that the pandemic is starting to feel a little more unreal to me. I mean, I know it’s real because I can see out my window that there really isn’t much going on. I see the lines and shortages at the grocery stores. I see the notifications from live streams on YouTube with news updates from Cuomo and De Blasio. But it just feels like we’ve hit the new normal. This isn’t weird anymore. This is just how it is.
Cuomo was saying in a news conference that the numbers of new hospitalizations are plateauing and that we have probably “flattened the curve”, but that deaths are going to continue in high numbers every day because these are people that were infected largely before social distancing measures were put in place.
I feel that people should have accurate information, but I also think that making people think things are getting better is going to make stupid people go out and do reckless things, sending the situation spiraling back out of control. Hopefully that doesn’t happen this weekend.
The last time I posted, I mentioned something about wanting to go out. I did, but not to ride my bike. The mayor canceled his open streets project so there’s really nowhere around here to go to ride my bike that feels safe, even with the reduced traffic. It’s still the Bronx. So, oh well. I really need to stop screwing around and figure out an indoor workout routine. I’m starting to really feel the wobbliness in my legs while doing routine things around our apartment and that’s not going to work.
DOE free meals in New York City
What we did do, though, was go check out the city’s DOE free food effort. When this all kicked off, the city was handing out free breakfasts and lunches to school kids, I guess to help make up for the loss of that resource for parents. School food is cheaper to pay for than groceries. So, makes sense. But I’m thinking that not enough people were showing up and they were throwing food away, so they opened up the free food to people of all ages.
I wasn’t expecting a gourmet meal, but I was thinking something along the lines of salisbury steak, instant potatoes, fresh broccoli, maybe greasy burgers, or fried chicken. You know. Food. What we got was an approximation of food that really helped me understand why so many kids have nutrition problems in the US.
We went over to PS 306 on Tuesday around 1:00 PM. We walked in and there was no one there. First red flag. We started to walk beyond the lobby and two employees waved us off and pointed us at some insulated bags sitting on folding tables in the corner of the lobby. Second red flag. Instead of prepared food, the insulated bags were filled with clear plastic grab bags of prepackaged items.
Turns out that some were for lunch and some were for breakfast.
The breakfast bag included:
a cheap muffin that was overly moist, squashed, and had no taste
frozen strawberries and sugar in a cup (basically a big cup of poor quality strawberry jam)
a knock-off of Yoohoo! chocolate drinks
The lunch bag included:
a ham and cheese sandwich
another of the nasty strawberry things that I guess you’re supposed to eat straight since there was nothing to spread it on
a small cup of green beans that were clearly from a can
another of the chocolate drinks
a package of off brand chocolate fudge chip cookies
First off, the only thing that was edible was the sandwich. Second, you should be seeing a pretty clear theme there: sugar, sugar, and some more sugar. And it all tasted bad. These meals have almost no nutritional value. I don’t understand how they can be served in a school.
If I really found myself in a position where I absolutely needed to get free food, I would rather use any other resource. This stuff would probably make a person sick in the long run. No wonder no one was showing up. The only thing it’s fit for is wasting taxpayer money, justifying some people’s jobs, and filling waste bins.
Just yuck. No. Plain rice and canned tuna with salt would be a better option.
Not hoarding, just higher demand
Speaking of groceries, I finally put something together earlier this week when I was at the grocery store and noticed that shelves are still empty. It’s not really that people are hoarding now; it’s just that they’re home. People aren’t at work so they’re not buying lunch at a restaurant. They’re not going out to eat so they’re cooking at home. There’s a much higher demand for groceries and the supply chain is still trying to catch up with that increase, so there are shortages of some items.
That being said, we haven’t run out of anything. Or at least anything that we can’t either do without anyway or replace by going to the grocery store. We’re going out less often though, so we’re using this as an opportunity to actually eat the food in our cabinet and rediscover old favorites, like our Bialetti and Cafe Bustelo espresso:
Some bright points for me this week are:
After finishing “Unorthodox” and getting into “Shtisel”, I’ve rediscovered my interest in Hebrew. Plus they’re both great shows.
I found an app called Coursera with free college-level content
Found a new (to me) app called Lingodeer to help me learn foreign languages
Had some time to play Overwatch and Legend of Zelda: BotW.
One of my goals this year is to actually make significant progress in learning at least Japanese and hopefully Spanish and/or Tagalog as well. I’m a little disappointed that Tagalog isn’t offered as a “premium” language in language learning apps. The course in Memrise is a community course and the kid doing the audio for the words sounds like he’s not really happy about it. I feel like it was probably some project or a thing his parent made him do.
Note: Featured image is a watercolor painting of lovely toilet paper.
I was lying in bed earlier after working remote all day, just watching the sun go down while the room got dark. It’s kind of depressing being inside all the time, even with lots of stuff to do. Not so much because I’m inside, but because of the circumstances. It’s not as much fun when you have to do it. I miss going to Central Park and to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I mean, sure I could still go to Central Park but I’d have to ride the train, which almost guarantees catching the coronavirus, and the park is too full anyway. It’s also not worth the risk.
It’s not just older people dying. It’s young people too. Couples dying together. It really makes me think about what I’m doing with my time. It makes me wonder what would happen if one or both of us passed away. Who would take care of our cats? Our stuff? Our only nearby relative is my mother and she’s essentially trapped in lower Manhattan because of COVID-19.
It makes me wonder if we shouldn’t move and get the hell out of New York City. This place is a death trap right now. Even once this clears up, it’s just going to come back in the Fall. And if it isn’t COVID-19, it’ll be COVID-20, or some other deadly virus that will wreck the city because of the amount of international travel.
One of the ironies of this situation is that it has really hammered home to people how important it is to have a steady source of income that is independent of hourly wages. We can’t all be rich people living off stocks, and even if we could, maybe that wouldn’t be any better considering the stock market tanked too.
UBI isn’t such a bad idea. It works for Saudi Arabia. It works for Alaska. It could work everywhere else in the US too. We’d just have to close a few corporate loopholes. And in the end it would even be better for those companies, because there would be enough cash in the lower and middle classes to keep the companies afloat during hard times.
We’re working our way up to doing UBI already with cash payouts. The lockdown was extended to the end of April, so what happens when May rent comes due? The $1200 wasn’t even enough for April rent after all in major cities.
I think it’s clear now we also need universal healthcare. And that it’s not a bad thing. It would take some serious cognitive dissonance to say it’s ok to make COVID-19 treatment free, but to say it’s ok for people to be left to die from other illnesses.
Anyway, my hours are irregular. I’m basically on call. If I work tomorrow or not, I’ll be alright, but I need to get out and get some fresh air. I’m hoping to squeeze in a bike ride. There’s not much traffic, so it might be alright to ride in the roads around here for a change.
Since this COVID-19 thing started in New York City, people have been panic buying. One dude buying 20 jars of spaghetti sauce, every shelf in the store is now empty, kind of panic buying. Or at least, that’s how it was down in Manhattan near my mom’s place.
At the two grocery stores near our apartment in the Bronx, everything has been pretty regular in terms of availability. For a few days, the grocery stores were out of ginger. The liquid hand soap was gone from one of two grocery stores for a week. The TP was gone for a few days, but then was restocked. Now, one grocery store has TP and the other doesn’t.
It doesn’t seem like a hoarding issue so much as a supply issue at this point. In the last month, people bought three or more months worth the toilet paper instead of what they would normally buy, so there’s just a shortage coming out of the factories. A self-fulfilling TP shortage.
The food shelves were never totally emptied here. I can tell sales are good though, because I haven’t seen a damn thing on sale at Key Foods for two weeks. I’d like to go to Walmart in NJ, but with the way people are talking, I’m not sure there’d be anything there to buy. Or maybe there’s a line? Or maybe it’s going to be full of people passing the virus around to each other?
I get why people hoard now, though. When they first started, I didn’t understand it. It looked like people were just being stupid, but I’ve been thinking about it and I realized that some people must literally have bought enough so they could go in their house and not come out for weeks or months, because they have the money for it and a job that allows them to work from home. And, given that almost 300 people are dying a day in New York City right now, maybe that was the right move after all. The more you limit your exposure, the more likely you are to not die in the next few months.
Not dying due to exposure to the pandemic has become a class privilege. Just like Cuomo freezing mortgages but not rents. Apparently, renters are supposed to magically pull rent out of their butts even if they haven’t been working, but home owners have to be protected. Even though they’re in the minority.
It doesn’t seem like people in this part of the Bronx are as prone to hoarding as people in other neighborhoods. We’ve discussed whether it’s because of culture, not recognizing the seriousness of the pandemic, or because people in this area just can’t afford to buy multiple weeks or months of groceries all at once in advance. Maybe it’s a bit of all three.
Anyway, the shelves are finally starting to look a little bare in the TP section now. Paper towels too. We still bought the same was what we’d normally buy. We have actual towels that we can use instead of paper towels and if we run out of TP, we can wash our butts in the shower.
I’ve heard that there are conspiracy theories floating around that the US created the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. I haven’t bothered to read them, though I know it began with China denying the virus started there, as if their denial can change reality. We all know the first cases of the virus were from people working in a wet market in Wuhan, Hubei Province, and last time I checked, Hubei is part of China.
What’s the point of pushing culpability onto the US? I saw a news headline that mentioned a group of lawyers filing a class action lawsuit against China regarding the coronavirus. Again, didn’t read it, but I imagine it alleges that China tried to cover up the outbreak by silencing/killing doctors who spoke out, and is continuing to downplay the actual numbers of infected and dead. So, I guess China is worried about financial liability and wants to muddy the waters? Are they trying to “save face”? Is it just to maintain some sort of propaganda within China?
Should a country be responsible for a viral outbreak that starts within its territory? I’m inclined to say yes, but only if that outbreak started because the country wasn’t enforcing proper sanitation protocols regarding contact with animals. I don’t even know what that would mean or how you would enforce that, though. What happens if a salmon virus outbreak starts in Japan because people eat sushi, for example? Eating the fish raw is the whole point.
And what kind of sanctions could you impose that wouldn’t cause the offending country to implode? On the one hand, people would like to have a country that caused massive deaths punished, and maybe some would be ok with the country falling to pieces. On the other hand, having a country disintegrate would be dangerous in many other ways, especially if it’s a country like China which supplies so much of the world’s raw materials.
A lot of people have pointed out that this situation shows the dangers of having so much of the world’s production tied up in one country. I agree. I think it’s dangerous for the US to rely so heavily on China for raw materials. It’s obvious why we do, though. The labor there is cheaper so the materials are cheaper. It lets companies price products lower so that companies can also keep wages in the US depressed, allowing for greater wealth concentration.
That’s a pretty dangerous mindset, really. Corporations, with the tacit approval of the US government, have allowed wages in the US to stagnate and fall for decades while allowing an ever greater concentration of wealth into fewer and fewer hands. It’s a danger to the entire country. If people have no spending power, the economy will collapse. And “the people” aren’t just the rich few. It’s everyone. Capitalism relies on a strong middle class to function properly.
I don’t understand how people can be so strongly in favor of undermining the source of their wealth. Do they think that if the US economy tanks they’ll be ok? Aren’t they worried that the value of their wealth will tank as the US dollar tanks? I’m not an expert in stocks and markets and all that, but it just seems bizarre to me that people who have a vested interest in the economy wouldn’t push harder on legislators to even things out a bit. Or I guess much more than a bit now, considering how severe the income inequality in the US is.
Maybe it’s ok that the US is going through this huge crisis. Maybe it’s even ok that on the other end of it we might not be a superpower anymore. At this point, the only thing super about the US is the US military. Everything else is falling apart. We’re not number 1 in anything. It’s embarrassing and it’s something we should address instead of trying to hide it behind false bravado pretending to be patriotism.
Maybe this is the wake-up call that the US needs to reinvest in the American worker and the American Middle Class. Maybe this is the wake-up call that the US needs to hammer home how important it is to have a national healthcare system that provides services to everyone. A national healthcare system that can act as a single entity, devising emergency plans for pandemics and natural disasters, creating warehouses of emergency inventory that is regularly cycled to maintain its freshness and usability.