Saturday, July 25, 2020


I went outside and discovered a spider had built an extensive web across the rear entrance of my house, spanning the door, deck, and stairs. This is some sort of arachnoid commentary on human self-quarantine and it struck me as both sticky and humorous. (Zeugma!)

This venture into the horrible humidity was made in order to chip away at emptying my office, which I'm not-really-using, for sabbatical so that someone else can not-really-use it. (Everything is wonderful, the world is totally fine, don't look too closely.) My two most neglected plants stubbornly hang on in what is surely the most arid, frigid, inhospitable summer that southern Pennsylvania can artificially offer to indoor plant life. An enterprising indoor spider, hoping in vain to capture prey in the abandoned, sealed, locked building, had constructed a foolishly hopeful web from the ceiling down to the desk chair, completely blocking off the shelves and they keyboard. This struck me as sticky and a silly emerging theme.

Are spiders everywhere just constantly walling in everything, and only the entropy of weather and large fauna keeps pathways clear?

Given the prevalence of webs, the visible black cloud of mosquitos that chased me from my car back into my house seemed incongruous. YES, I had to pass through a partially-reconstructed deck-spanning web to reenter the house. NO, it did not appear to dissuade the accursed vampiric horrors. Please, can we get some mosquito-eating bats to colonize my block?

This post's theme word is durance (n), "confinement or restraint by force; imprisonment." In this grimdark modern fairytale, the protagonist is self-quarantined at home and entirely encased in cobwebs and loneliness so thick that the quarantine becomes permanent; "Dream Durance" is rated NC-17 for psychic damage inflicted on readers and anyone attempting to engage in concurrent political discourse.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

A hundred days of quarantine

We've passed 100 days of self-isolation but, in the tradition of this blog, I missed it exactly and will just post some half-finished thoughts here to expurgate them from my mind. Welcome to approximately the 112th day of solitude. And unlike grad school, there's no end in sight.

I miss people. It turns out that many of my pastimes actually required people, or at least the passing proximity of others, and are now extremely ill-advised and mostly unavailable. Board games are so great in-person as a way to escape into a shared brain-space with friends; at a distance, board games (and pretty much everything else) take a lot more effort and yield a lot less feeling of shared camaraderie. Ditto rock climbing, but extremely more so. And forget singing along during road trips --- the travel, the singing, the enclosed space, all of it is now verboten to the pandemic-pragmatic.

I miss the full-bandwidth promise of a real-time in-person conversation, one where no one drops out, no one freezes, talking over each other can be moderated by subtle physical and social cues, and my headphones do not leave a grooved imprint of my glasses on my skull.

I miss the fantasy I once held, maybe a decade ago in the midst of my extremely academic studies, that I might be living in a golden age of rationality and scientifically-founded decision-making. I miss the feeling that I might be effective or a positive influence on others, and I'm struggling to see how to "pivot" (eugh) my skills, which are almost 100% cultivated for in-person activities, to be effective and useful in a permanent pandemic world. I miss feeling like I can be effective at all, beyond donating my money and privilege to try to ameliorate the many ravaging horrors of our age. From a distance, of course.

Positively: I've cleaned my house, and it's staying quite clean. (I'm the only one who can enjoy this or pass judgment on inadequately-dusted ledges, anyway.) All houseplants are flourishing. I'm doing yardwork. I'm 2 full weeks ahead on my workout plan. I'm working on a lot of solitary at-home projects that would otherwise have languished. I'm contemplating what I want to do with the rest of my life to try to have a positive impact; I'm answering emails, letters, and postcards, and pumping the snail-mail system full of words, feelings, and time-delayed connections. I've learned to bake cheese in pastry crust. I've reworked my budget to enable more donations. I'm watching performances from artists I would never get to see in-person, as everyone has been forcibly shoved online, so they are effectively closer and more available to me than previously.

I'm waking every morning to shake my fists at the Gods of Bandwidth and propitiate the Lesser Deities of Lag and Latency.

I wonder...
... when was my last hug? I remember one pretty late, but was that truly my last hug?
... when was my last handshake? Will that be the final handshake of my life?
... when was the last time I ate in a restaurant? I don't remember. Maybe that will never happen again.
... when will I next see my family? Paradoxically it will probably not be enjoyable to see them because of the apprehension that the very act of meeting will impose a danger on everyone involved.

I think I could last a long time, a psychologically inadvisable time, in socially distant isolation. Comparing it with the risk of transmitting disease, contributing to transmitting disease, or myself becoming sick, and remaining isolated looks like a moral imperative. Whether by my example or by the incidental impact of self-selecting out of the situations where transmission occurs, this seems like my only acceptable mode of conduct. YMMV.

Don't worry. I'm not a hermit. I have an extremely healthy correspondence; I am an active letter-writer. And of course, now as always, I am a being that consists 80% of Simply Being Online.

Plus ├ža change.

This post's theme word is empanoply (v. tr.), "to enclose in complete armor." We are advised to empanoply ourselves at home, and I have empanoplied this cheese in flaky pastry.