Sickness in the Time of COVID

I woke up this morning feeling . . . not 100%. Some congestion, tired, and achy. Under normal circumstances, I would have definitely gone to work, however. I mean, I’m probably at like 85%, and it feels wrong somehow to stay home when I’m feeling mostly okay.

But my campus has this handy app you’re supposed to check in with each day. Up until now, I’ve always been able to say I was symptom free, though I wondered what would happen if I were to have any symptoms. Now I know. “Not cleared for campus,” is what came up, and then the app told me to email my supervisor and let them know.

So I’m working from home today. It would have been more inconvenient if I had things I had to do in person today, but I just have 6 hours of Zoom meetings, which I know all too well can be done from home as easily as from my office.

For the foreseeable future at least, I think this needs to be the new norm. America has a tendency (from what I’ve seen) to encourage people to work even if they’re sick. To tough it out. I know it’s my default position much of the time. But maybe some good things that could come out of this pandemic would be the recognition that

  • wearing a mask when you’re sick is a good thing that protects other people
  • coming to work sick is a bad thing that makes everyone else less productive
  • you can do a lot of your work at home, and so that minimizes how often you “need” to be at work sick

Just a thought . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

The Puppy McPupperpants Song

There are many, many things I want to say today. It feels like that pretty much every day now. But I don’t see the use, and so instead, I’m going to share with you the Puppy McPupperpants song I made up. Honestly, the melody has to be from some song I heard somewhere at some point, but I don’t know what it’s from, and I’m not going to sing it for you, so you’re just going to have to imagine what it is. Sort of like a song in Winnie-the-Pooh.

I like making up song lyrics. I like it even more when I can remember what the song lyrics were that I made up. And since I’m sitting with Ferris a fair bit at this point, I have plenty of time to make up song lyrics. We’ve been calling him Puppy McPupperpants when he’s actually behaving, and so this is the song he gets from me when he’s sitting in my lap and not trying to gnaw off my hands.

PUPPY McPUPPERPANTS

Puppy McPupperpants

Lives in the south of France.

Puppy McPupperpupperpants! (Puppy pupperpa-ants)

Puppy McPupperpants

Just give him half a chance.

Puppy McPupperpants!

(Second verse)

Puppy McPupperpants

That dog can really dance!

Puppy McPupperpupperpants! (Puppy pupperpa-ants)

Puppy McPupperpants

I liked him at first glance.

Puppy McPupperpants!

From there, you can the song veers off into unknown territory, in which I explore the true breadth of the words that can rhyme with “pants.” Here are some potentials:

  • “Goes on some Twitter rants.”
  • “Digs up his mother’s plants.”
  • “Puts me into a trance.”
  • “Master of world finance.”

If you’ve got a phrase that ends with a “pants” rhyme and has six syllables, you too can add a verse to the Puppy McPupperpants song! Give it a try!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

The Long Road to Ranked Choice Voting, and What It Might Mean for the Future of American Politics

I was relieved to read yesterday that the Maine Supreme Court finally put an end to the continuing drama of the debate around ranked choice voting in Maine. I know it might seem like a smooth process to those of you outside of the state, since you just hear about it in snippets around the elections, but to those of us inside the state, it’s been a real ordeal getting it passed and (more importantly) actually enacted.

Let’s run down the list of just what went into it.

RCV was first proposed in Maine all the way back in 2001, but it never got the traction it needed until 2016, when 52% of Mainers voted in favor of the Ranked Choice Voting Act. The specific language of the proposal was:

Do you want to allow voters to rank their choices of candidates in elections for U.S. Senate, Congress, Governor, State Senate, and State Representative, and to have ballots counted at the state level in multiple rounds in which last-place candidates are eliminated until a candidate wins by majority?

Due to intricacies of the Maine Constitution (which stipulated that the governor had to be elected by a plurality of votes, which complicated matters), the Maine Supreme Court ended up advising in 2017 that RCV couldn’t be used for voting for Governor and state legislature positions. This didn’t strike down the law: it pointed out an inconsistency with it. To be enacted, either the constitution would have to change or the law would.

The Republican-dominated state legislature ended up voting in 2017 to say that the RCV act would be automatically repealed in 2021 unless the constitution was changed. (I’m simplifying here.) To amend the constitution, you need a supermajority of votes, and good luck getting that in today’s political climate. Thus, this essentially repealed the RCV act.

However, in Maine you can override the state legislature through the use of a People’s Veto. This happened for the RCV act, which suspended the repeal and made it so that RCV could be used for the 2018 primary election. The legislature wasn’t too fond of this veto, and they challenged it in court. The Maine Supreme Court upheld the veto, and the primary election went forward using RCV.

State Republicans still thought the law was bad, however, and so they voted to change their personal primary process to make it so it needed a “plurality” as well, hoping to circumvent the law, claiming the First Amendment to the US Constitution protected their new approach. This didn’t fly in the courts either.

In the June 2018 primary elections, Mainers once again voted to keep RCV for primary elections and federal congressional elections. (54% in favor this time.) RCV was thus used in November, and Poliquin (incumbent Republican representative) lost to Golden (Democrat challenger) in ranked choice vote.

Unsurprisingly, this didn’t sit well with Republicans, who constantly claimed Poliquin was robbed. The vote was challenged by Poliquin in court. The challenge was denied, and Poliquin eventually conceded.

In 2019, the legislature (now controlled by Democrats) voted to expand RCV to presidential and general elections. Republicans (you guessed it) still didn’t like this plan, and so they worked on a people’s veto of their own. Step one of that process is to gather 63,037 signatures by Maine voters indicating they’re in favor of the veto moving forward. Republicans (during the pandemic) gathered 68,000 signatures, give or take, and were ebullient that they’d gotten the job done. (They spent a pretty penny getting it done, too.) However, the Democrat Secretary of State ruled about 7,000 of those signatures were invalid due to being duplicates, being improperly collected, being from non-registered voters, etc. Republicans challenged this action in court, and the courts reinstated enough of those signatures to pass the threshold again, meaning the people’s veto process would move forward, thereby putting RCV for president this year on hold once again.

The Secretary of State countered that some of the reinstated signatures were reinstated incorrectly, because they were collected by people who weren’t registered to vote in the town they were collecting signatures. (Confused yet?) So the courts stopped the veto once again while they reviewed the latest objection. Just yesterday, the courts decided those signatures were, in fact, invalid.

Meaning RCV is back in action for the presidential vote this year. (You can find even more information here and here.)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m very much in favor of RCV. I think the two party system in America has a stranglehold on power, and both Republicans and Democrats do what they can to make sure smaller parties don’t crop up. They paint each other as villains, and then they appeal to the fear of the people that the villainous right/left will be elected, so the only answer is to vote for the virtuous left/right. RCV allows people to vote their conscience without needing to worry that vote will somehow enable someone they definitely do not want to win to win. I’m glad it’s in place in Maine, and I’m glad it’s staying that way. The rhetoric used against it has been misleading at times and downright deceitful at others. I’ll try to assume the best and think those using that rhetoric simply did not fully understand how it operates.

Can or will it catch on elsewhere in the country? I hope so, but seeing how hard it was to be put into play here in Maine, I have no idea how realistic that hope is . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Replacing RBG

A few comments today from me around the debate about replacing Justice Ginsburg. The process isn’t making either party look particularly wonderful, in my opinion. With the Garland nomination a little more than four years ago, it’s easy to find hypocritical statements from both sides. If the politicians really believed what they said they believed four years ago, then the Democrats would be pushing hard to make Trump nominate someone, and the Republicans would be clamoring for the process to happen after the election is over.

But of course that would never happen, because the reasons each side gave for why they were for or against the Garland nomination were just words they used to justify what they wanted to do. (As a side note, studies have shown that having any sort of an excuse for doing what you’re doing is often enough to convince people to let you do it. For example, people generally let you cut in line to make copies if you have fewer copies to make than they’re making, as long as you give some sort of reason. Bigger “favors” require more justification, but in the case of Supreme Court nominations, all the politicians are really doing is what they (and most of their supporters) want them to do anyway.)

And both sides have come up with reasons for why they’ve changed their mind about when Supreme Court nominees should or shouldn’t be considered. The Democrats say the Republicans set the precedent when they did it 4 years ago. The Republicans say all sorts of things, like “the precedent is that the Senate only votes on nominees from their own side in these cases.”

But really, what in the world did people expect would happen? Imagine a game 7 of a series between the Yankees and the Red Sox. Something happens that would make it so the Yankees win on a technicality, and the Red Sox say something to the effect of “If you were really a good baseball team, you’d win the right way, not on this technicality.” Are the Yankees really going to back off and say, “You’re right. Even though we won according to how the rules are written, we’re not going to choose to actually win right now. We’ll wait and try to do it the “real” way.” (Which of course brings up the question of what the “real” way is, if it’s not just using the rules of the game as written.)

In the case of Ginsburg’s replacement, both Democrats and Republicans aren’t there to play nice. They’re there to do what their parties want them to do. Being shocked and appalled that they actually do it is maybe a bit naïve. Trump doesn’t stop being President while we wait for the election to run, and he’ll still be President until January, no matter what. The current Senate doesn’t stop just because a new one will come in.

That said, the Republicans have been showing up to these political faceoffs packing heat, and the Democrats have been pretty much only been bringing their bare knuckles. I’m very concerned that the way this is playing out is only going to exacerbate the problem. Should the Democrats find themselves in a position where they control the House and the Senate and the Presidency, with all of Trump and the Republicans’ shenanigans in recent memory, does anyone really think they’re not going to turn around and start doing whatever they feel like doing? Eliminating the filibuster, adding seats to the Supreme Court, or who knows what else?

If and when that happens, I’m 100% sure the Republicans will holler and scream about how “unjust” it is, and how the Democrats really should follow the spirit of the law, rather than the letter. I wish this wasn’t happening over something as straightforward as a Supreme Court seat. When you look at the conservative/liberal leanings of the justices over the years, you’ll see they aren’t constant. They change. Ginsburg started off as pretty much neutral and ended up fairly liberal, for example. The media would have you think each justice swears an oath when they’re put in that they will always do their best to stay true to the political leanings of whomever appointed them. That’s just not reality.

My personal preference would be that the courts remain pretty balanced, with a variety of viewpoints on there to even things out. So I’m much more worried that this current process will end up breaking the system than I am about which particular judge ends up in the final seat.

I admire Justice Ginsburg for what she did and the example she set. I’m sorry she passed away, not just because she was an asset to the court and the country, but because the particular timing of it has created yet another thing to fight about. But as soon as it happened, I assumed the Republicans would push forward with it, and any Democrat who’s swearing that they wouldn’t do the exact same thing in the same circumstance would also no doubt have a bridge to sell you right after you believed them.

Maybe I’m just getting jaded . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Leveling Up

I turn 42 today, which means (obviously) that I now know all the answers to life, the universe, and everything. Tragically, I’ll forget them when I turn 43, but I suppose that’s the price of old age.

One of the things I’m reflecting on today is how I feel like I’ve grown personally over the years, and the importance of remember other people are going through the same process, although likely in a different order than you.

For example, last week I read an article about how bad plastics have really proven to be for our environment, and how unrealistic it is that recycling them is a longterm solution. This stuck with me, since I’d always just not bothered thinking about what happened to things I threw away. It crossed my mind that it had to go somewhere, but I had too many other things to worry about than to worry about every little thing I was getting rid of. But for some reason, this article clicked with me. It made me wonder what I could do to make things a bit better.

What am I going to do? Well, I started by looking at the things I buy consistently that come in plastic. The nice thing in my case is that since I’m such a creature of habit, it’s fairly easy to identify what I’m doing that might be changed, and then it’s just a matter of coming up with an approach that might lessen that impact. Denisa already does a great job of reducing a lot of our family’s waste, because this has been a much bigger issue to her than it was to me. (She leveled up in it long before I did.) But I still go through a fair bit of plastic packaging from peanut butter jars, milk jugs, and powdered peanut butter. Everything else I eat comes in paper or recyclable bags. (Bread. Bananas (no packaging at all!). Chocolate chips (bought in bulk). Oatmeal.) My daily vitamins do come in plastic, but it’s small, and I go through two containers a year. Nothing heavy. Peanut butter, however, I go through a fair bit of. (No judging my eating habits, please. I haven’t leveled that up yet.)

So what am I going to do? I’m going to look into buy peanuts in bulk bags and then making my own peanut butter. My Blendtec should handle it, and then I can just make it in advance and store it in glass jars. And I can use peanuts in my shakes instead of peanut powder. More calories, but no plastic.

I’m not trying to thump my chest here and say “look at how awesome I am.” Mainly because I don’t think there’s anything awesome that I’m doing. It’s just a small thing that I can do, and so I’m going to try to do it. This comes on top of other decisions I’ve made to try to lessen my impact on the environment. We drive small cars (never bought a minivan), and one is a hybrid. I try to carpool when I can. I vote for people who will do their best to enact laws that will benefit the environment. I don’t eat much meat at all.

But that’s just one area of my life. I’ve also worked on leveling up other areas: my weight and my health, my sleeping habits, my reading habits, my patience, acceptance of other people, faith, family interactions, etc. There are so many different ways we can all become better people.

Of course, this leads to the question of what to do about people who don’t do the same things I do. For that, I try to remember I wasn’t always where I am now, and other people need to have the chance to grow at their own rate. Likewise, there are going to be areas where someone else is leveled up beyond me, and I would like to think they’d extend the same understanding to me.

When we begin to view other people as ignorant or stubborn or lacking because they don’t share our views, that’s a dangerous stance to be taking. I may really loathe our current President, and I may be very disappointed that the entire country doesn’t share that same sentiment, but I don’t think it’s true or helpful to begin assigning labels to those who continue to support Trump. “If you support Trump, you’re a racist” is no more helpful than someone saying “If you support Biden, then you’re a socialist.” (Though that contrast assumes “racist” and “socialist” are equally bad. But I’m not going to go there right now.)

I believe most people are trying to do the right thing, from their understanding. If we try to assume the best of others and their intentions, we have a much better chance of reaching compromises and making progress than we do if we assume the worst. Right now, it feels like too many of us are more concerned with trying to swell our ranks by making the people we disagree with look as villainous as possible. Look at the rhetoric on both sides. Trump would have you believe all of his opponents are planning on blowing up the entire country the moment they reach power. Many of his opponents want to label anyone who votes for Trump as a Nazi. This leaves people who find themselves in the middle feeling like they really don’t know which way to go. Do they vote for the anarchists or the dictator?

I’m not going to unfriend someone based on their politics. I believe there are many, many good people on both sides of the aisle. Yes, I have very clear opinions, and the choice this year seems obvious to me. But I realize it might not be that easy to others, depending on where they’re standing and what areas they’ve leveled up in. (No doubt to my opposites, I simply haven’t leveled up yet in the right categories, either.) There are good, sincere people on both sides who are earnestly trying to do their best. Let’s find each other and work together to make this world better.

Anyway. I don’t know what sort of a conclusion I can make beyond that. I will keep doing what I’ve tried to always do: be a better person, treat people with the kindness and understanding I’d like to be treated with, and do the best I can with the information I have, always trying to become better informed.

Happy Monday.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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