A couple of summers ago, I was supposed to read the Scripture for our online church service. My daughter recorded me on her phone, but we were having a difficult time. The reading was only about a minute long. My daughter could only record about 30 seconds at a time. I wouldn’t even try it on my irritating device at that time. Fortunately, Dwight, the tech magician for the church, could piece the snippets together.
Then in the fall, one of my pastors asked me to read Genesis 1:1-2:4 for the Sunday school class that was starting online. It wasn’t a traditional reading, but rather a piece from something called Growing in God’s Love: A Story Bible. The book was edited by Elizabeth F. Caldwell and Carol A. Wehrheim.
Clearly, I needed a different way to record the new video. The reading is nearly three minutes long. Hey, wait! My free ZOOM account allows for recording, doesn’t it? The button along the bottom suggests it does.
I tried a couple of test runs. First, I needed to actually FIND where the video resided. Here’s a YouTube video for that. Ah, the file is an MP4.
Nuts. The sun from behind the blinds kept changing in intensity. On the finished product, my head looks shiny on the top, as it often does. My eye contact with the camera was only so-so. The video, though, was more than adequate for the purpose, I was told.
Hmm. I think I have a YouTube channel, somehow tied to my Google account. Indeed I do. It has links to other people’s videos I would watch if there were 48 hours in a day. I download the file. Voila, I have my first YouTube video.
I suppose you thought I was going to link to it. Nah. I just wanted to share the fact that because of the pandemic, I did a new thing.
Sigh. OK. Here it is. My favorite is the test video because I REALLY didn’t know what I was doing.
In early 2022, I have felt deeply unsettled. The snow/ice event was an amazing time suck. I spent a minimum of 12 hours chopping ice over five days, and it was exhausting.
Returning the unwanted devices made me anxious because I needed to get them within 14 days. Not two weeks from when I got them but a fortnight after their package was sent. I went to one of those FedEx drop boxes, which was very convenient, even though I felt the persons checking me out gave me the vibe that I was some sort of terrorist dropping off an explosive device. And I’m still unclear about whether I’ve been compromised, though Experian seems to think not.
One of those annoying things I, and most retirees, have to deal with is a ton of solicitations from Medicare Supplement providers. And for a time I had two of these insurance policies. This was NOT a good thing. This involved getting reimbursed for the insurance I no longer had, paying for the new insurance, and waiting for reimbursement for that. Plus the hassle of contacting all of my medical providers.
I’ve discussed Paul Weinstein, who I had last seen when his daughter and my daughter were inducted into the honor society in November; I attended his funeral. The choir sang at the funeral of Michael Attwell, with whom I had sung on Christmas Eve.
I had briefly mentioned Kay Olin Johnson, a fellow member of the Olin Family Society, who I last spoke with on 15 January. Subsequently, she commented on my Facebook page how much she enjoyed talking with me. Then she died on 22 January. On 3 February I contacted someone in my old office for Reasons and discovered that Kay had sent mail to my wife and me there.
It was forwarded a week later. Kay had sent her holiday greetings. She wrote of home improvements she did finish in 2021 but promised pictures of the changes in December 2022. She likewise suggested some genealogical news in the coming year. But mostly, her letter was about her far-flung family, who she greatly appreciated, especially since her husband Don had died 31 years earlier.
Betty Curtis, who died 11 Feb was an extremely talented member of my church choir and very generous of spirit. She was the one person who dealt well with a certain cranky soul. She was active in that choir from at least the 1960s to just a few years ago. Her birthday was a couple of days after mine. And she LOVED her Butler Bulldogs men’s basketball team. Her funeral is upcoming.
Health Care in America
It’s always disturbing to me when people are forced to start, or their friends initiate a Go Fund Campaign for someone’s health care. It’s more irritating when it’s someone I know. Ken Screven, a well-known TV reporter in this area “faces mounting medical bills.” His friends started a GoFundMe campaign and raised over $33,000, crushing the goal of $25,000.
But should this be the way we do health in this country?
At my daughter’s high school this past Thursday, two freshmen got into an altercation. Then one cut both the other kid and a hall monitor. The school went into lockdown; my daughter texted me that neither the students nor the adults in her room were quiet, as is recommended. Incidentally, the alleged assailant, 14, was hiding in the cafeteria with the other students until he was found out.
I was most annoyed with the tease for WRGB’s news broadcast. “Violence boils over at Albany High School.” The following day was remote, the third school district that went to distance learning that week for non-COVID reasons.
My daughter had already had experienced a rough week, so this did not help.
I read the news today
A crazy lady was complaining about the gazpacho police. Another GOP MOC says Americans must own enough weapons to overthrow the government if 30-40% agree on “tyranny”.
But I was most distressed by a former president hiding or destroying government docs. This goes beyond mere politics. This is proof – once again – that he doesn’t understand that the Presidency is a trust.
Also, not just the country but much of the world is at war over COVID mandates. I’m not quite to the surrender mode yet, but I’m teetering. Hey, I could say, I’ve got my three shots, and I’d get a fourth if suggested. I’m going to keep wearing my mass indoors, so don’t bother me if you don’t like it. But it seems the fight is tearing the fabric of society apart. It is wearying, as is the possibility of another Greek letter.
There are other things, but these are the big ones. The cumulative effect has left me unsettled.
Shortly before the return to school in early January, we received an email informing us telling about the availability of a COVID-19 home test. Parents were to pick it up at a specific school district location on that Sunday, either by car or by standing in line. Since it was rather cold outside and I was at church in person, my wife drove over.
Though she got there in the car before the designated time of noon, she spent about an hour in the line. From a Facebook list that I’m on, this was the experience of many people.
I started reading the instructions in the package. “Ensure you have an Internet connection and download the App prior to starting the test.” The app is something called On/Go.
“Ensure you have a compatible smartphone. (iOS 13 or newer for Apple iPhone and Android10 or newer for Android phone.)” Do I have iOS 13 on my iPhone 8 Plus? Apparently, I have 15.1. This exercise reminds me that Internet access and a smartphone are not luxuries but necessities in American life.
Studying for the test
The next morning my daughter and I start the process. I wash my hands, unpack the components, and place the test cassette “on a flat, clean surface. My daughter opened the extraction vial, I unwrapped the nasal swab. She decided she would swab her nostrils herself. I put it in the extraction vial, removed the swab, capped it, mixed it, then put drops in the test cassette. Ten minutes later, the test came back negative.
Meanwhile, I tried to scan the QR code on the box. But there is a white stripe that made the reading of the code impossible to scan. Ultimately, it didn’t matter. But I had to go through all of the instructions on the video, including the 10-minute wait before I could take a picture of my daughter’s negative results. It SAYS it’s a 10-minute test, but the whole procedure took closer to a half-hour.
Oh, and there was no imperative to actually go to the site to pick up the package since they would be distributed in the schools on that Tuesday. Incidentally, there are two tests per box, suggesting this testing may be replicated.
Meanwhile, I wanted my daughter to be able to get a booster. She had gotten her second shot in April. Just before the US Thanksgiving, I had gone to the county health website, filled out the form. The system said she was not eligible yet, which I thought was incorrect. I figured she’d have to wait until March.
Still, I tried the CVS page in early January, and I was able to make an appointment. She is now thrice vaxxed. Given the numbers in the schools, worse than the community at large (and those were huge at the time), this makes me quite happy.
I noticed an odd thing amidst the Omicron surge. COVID isn’t breaking me. At least not presently, even though some say it’s the 681st day of March 2020.
I attribute it to being so damn vigilant over the past two years that the normal things felt, well, special. Our church was meeting in person from Father’s Day until Epiphany. And I attended, in person, all of those times when I was in town. The fact that we’re now experiencing a “pause” in in-person worship, while mildly disappointing, is totally understandable.
I hadn’t sung in the church between March 8, 2020, and December 12, 2021. Then I got to sing on Christmas Eve! So I know I won’t go another 21 months again. Right? I’ve been to films in movie theaters, and I saw a musical. Not going again right now. But eventually, yes?
My daughter’s district has gone remote for a week and a half. Yes, being in school is better; we know that. But when 25% of local school infections targeting are teachers and staff, it becomes logistically difficult to sustain. In any case, my daughter can con her loving father into making her lunch.
But I remain mystified by how inadequate the testing continues to be. With at-home kits largely unavailable, I decided to go to the NY State rapid test site at Crossgates. I entered my ZIP Code and the first result was for White Plains, NY, only two hours away. The next suggestion was for somewhere in Texas. Finally, I secured Wednesday, January 5.
The website said that walk-ins would also be accepted, so I got in line when my bus got me to the mall at 9:17 for a 10:10 appointment. The instructions that I should get there 15 minutes early. I’m 30th in line. EVERYONE is wearing a mask outdoors which is both unusual and comforting. For about 10 minutes, the line wasn’t moving. And it’s literally freezing out there – 32F according to my phone.
A few folks actually went to the front of the line, who I assumed had earlier appointments. But I wasn’t really in a hurry until 9:45 when I was still 10th in line. A guy wearing shirt-sleeved scrubs – did I mention it was 0 degrees C? – came out and said there should be TWO lines. That’s one for those who are registered, and another for those who aren’t, but that they need to register too. Note about giving instructions: YOUR left when you are facing us is OUR right. I’m certain that many of the folks in line had TRIED to get into the system earlier, but they wouldn’t have had the location code.
Who’s in charge of logistics?
By now, I’m third in the registered line. The guy in the scrubs, who had a face shield, asked if everyone could hear him. I’m 10 feet away and I can barely make out what he was saying. So I turned and barked the info to the two dozen people behind me.
Finally, I get inside at 10 a.m. The venue was a defunct Ruby Tuesday’s. We’re directed to some restaurant booths, where they take our registration info and give us each a slip of paper with a code. Then we move to the bar and subsequently another set of booths. Lots of jokes by us about the setting; someone asked when the buffet would be ready, e.g. I get my swab and leave at 10:25, instructed not to go into the mall proper until I received a negative test.
And within 30 minutes, I received the negative results, which is positive. My experience was much better than a friend of mine who spent 2.5 hours the day before and never did get tested.
I suppose I didn’t really NEED to get the swab. But the day before the test, I discovered that someone with whom I had contact tested positive, though asymptomatic, only a few days earlier. Then I learned two more people likewise were infected.
What is the definition of close contact? “Close contact through proximity and duration of exposure: Someone who was less than 6 feet away from an infected person [check] for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.” [Well, no, fortunately].
Here’s an odd stream of consciousness piece, I suppose. Back in the mid-1970s, I was in a local production of Godspell in New Paltz. At some point in the dialogue, much of the cast is chanting: “Slowly I turned, step by step, inch by inch, until…” I knew it had to be a reference to something, but I had no idea what. I didn’t bother to search YouTube or Google, since they didn’t exist at the time. So I forgot about it…
…until I was reading Arthur’s recent stories about the COVID protocols in New Zealand, specifically The next steps have been announced. “Critics, as the Prime Minister pointed out today, will complain that the government didn’t move fast enough, or that it’s moving too fast.” And somehow, my mind conflated the “next steps” and “too fast” into “Slowly I turn, step by step…” What IS that a reference to?
As it turns out, it’s a bit by the Three Stooges called Niagara Falls, which you can see here. It’s part of the 1944 short film Gents Without Cents. But the routine has been used for decades, going back to vaudeville. See the variation on I Love Lucy.
I was never a big fan of the Three Stooges. Their comedy seemed mean-spirited when I’d occasionally see them on Saturday afternoons growing up.
Where everybody knows your name
But they are the punchline to one of the most memorable pieces of dialogue on the sitcom Cheers. It’s from the episode entitled What’s Up, Doc? which I have not seen since it aired in March of 1989. A therapist says to Sam Malone (Ted Danson), “You’re an aging lothario who uses sex to cover up massive insecurity, a fear of true intimacy, fear of a relationship…”
Sam believes the diagnosis. “Come on, answer the question. What do I have in my life that isn’t women or sex?” His friend Rebecca notes his job bartending, his car, and sailing, but Sam notes these are all ways to meet women.
Rebecca: What about the Three Stooges? Sam: Oh, yeah, great. I like the Three Stooges. That helps a lot. Rebecca: Wait a minute, Sam. Think about this. Do women like the Three Stooges? Sam: No, they hate them. Rebecca: All right. Are women impressed that you like the Three Stooges? Sam: No, some of them even think they’re stupid. Rebecca: When you’re watching the Three Stooges, do you think they’re sexy? Sam: No, when you watch the Three Stooges, nobody has time to think about sex or women. Hey, wait a minute. That means I do have another interest in my life. I like the Stooges for themselves. Hey, whoa, I’m okay. Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!