Sunday, July 25, 2021

Pandemic Journal, Part 21: Same Pandemic, Now with Occasional Trips

My pandemic journal series continues with Part 21. When will it end? Who knows? Especially here in the US where a lot of people refuse to get vaccinated. Having been fully vaccinated since April, I've been only masking occasionally and started making some trips (read about them below!), but in recent weeks it looks like things are going back in the wrong direction here in the US due to low vaccination rates and the Delta variant. So, this series may continue awhile longer. Sigh...

But the good news? More memes!

Tues. 18 May 2021


A week from today I’ll be on vacation with my sister and nephew! Exciting!


I’m having a hard time getting motivated today. I have a cat sitting gig I need to get to, and then physical therapy. I’ll have to do those things. But I’m supposed to be revising a book chapter, there are my editing projects, and I just got an email with revisions for something else. I guess I should just shut up and do it, but I’m feeling a late pandemic/mid-career/midlife malaise. It’s not so much that I want to do something else with my life, but that I feel too exhausted to do much of anything right now.




Sun. 23 May 2021


I leave tomorrow for Indiana! I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited to go to Indiana. I’ll be meeting my sister and five-year-old nephew (and their dog) to stay at an Air BnB in Indiana on Lake Michigan. This will be my first time seeing my sister and nephew since March 2020.


I rented a car to drive there, which was way more expensive than it used to be. I guess there’s a car shortage because a lot of the car rental companies sold a lot of their stock of cars last year during the height of the pandemic. I wanted to rent a car for a few other trips, too. Oh, well. I guess this is a chance to spend all that money I’ve been saving by not paying student loans or going anywhere.


Beth and I will be going to Florida in the middle of June (in our own car), and I have at least one trip to Minnesota on the horizon. It’s still super weird to be planning trips.




Tues. 1 June 2021


The trip was a lot of fun! But also exhausting. I’m finding that planning a few more trips in the next several months is also a bit exhausting.


Anyway, I drove straight through (it took about 10 hours), and I saw my sister and nephew and met their new dog, Grogu! It was really great to see them all. My nephew was three last time I saw him and he’s five now. We’ve been seeing each other on video calls throughout the year, but it was great to see him and my sister in person.


We went to some of the local beaches. My nephew and I climbed a dune (we now control the Spice). It was warm the first few days, but the lake was still too cold for swimming. The weather turned nasty the last few days, but we still were able to drive around and see some sights. We spent a lot of time relaxing at the AirBnB, which was a nice house in a semi-rural neighborhood with tons of trees. The house was about a block and a half from the state border, so one time I took the dog on a walk to Michigan.


The first day of the trip, my nephew woke me up at 5:30am to play with Legos. Later we started joking that he (Oliver) and the dog (Grogu) had a wacky morning radio show called “Ollie and the Grogs!”


When we checked out on Saturday, we caravanned to my sister’s favorite Vegan restaurant in Chicago. The traffic wasn’t as bad as I thought, and it was kind of fun to make a brief Chicago tour (although I will be going there for a conference in February 2022). Then we went our separate ways. They stopped in Wisconsin Dells for a night on the way home to Minneapolis, while I stopped in Louisville for a night.


It was a really great time. It was still a pandemic vacation, especially since my nephew is too young to be vaccinated yet. We didn’t eat inside any restaurants, but we got a lot of takeout for the house and/or ate sandwiches on the beach a couple times. Even in Chicago, we got takeout and ate in the parking area next to the restaurant (this was partly for the dog’s sake, who is still a bit too hyper to be around a lot of other people and dogs in say, a public park).


I had a nice little solo vacation in Louisville. I stayed downtown near a lot of the distilleries and bars. The tours were all booked, but I was able to go to the Evan Williams distillery gift shop. It was weird going to bars after all this. There was one bar that was too crowded, and I had to leave. My hotel bar actually had a good bourbon selection, which was nice. 

In the morning I got takeout from a biscuit place and had a nice brunch in my room. It was fun just to walk around a place I’ve never been. But it was also a bit exhausting to do all the little social interactions you have to do with strangers: taking people’s pictures, ordering a drink/food, talking to cashiers/hotel employees, etc. I got a few little bottles of bourbon at a store, drove by the University of Louisville, got lost driving around town, and then found my way home. I stopped at a beautiful rest stop about 20 miles outside of Chattanooga on the way home. I always wanted to do that. I’m glad I finally did.


Beth and I have another pandemic vacation to Panama City Beach in the middle of June. That’s usually a nice, relaxing trip. Since we’re both vaccinated, we might go to some restaurants. We’ll see. It’s weird, because eating at restaurants is normally one of my favorite parts of vacations.


Anyway, I have some actual work to do this week, including a program review for another university. This is one of those things you start getting asked to do when you have tenure, along with other things like writing external review letters for tenure cases (I’ve done a few of those). This is why I make the big bucks, after all.


Fri. 4 June 2021


The program review has been a lot of work. The other reviewer and I are still working on a draft of our report, which will be due June 30.


Something I posted on social media: 

Now that I'm tenured I get asked to do grownup academic things like reviewing tenure cases and academic programs. It's a lot of work, but that's why I make the big bucks.


I may take it a little easier today, although I have a lot of email to catch up on. I might start thinking about some of the revisions due in the next few weeks as well as some of the editing I have to do this summer. Or maybe I won’t do too much of that. I guess I still haven’t seen a movie in a theater. And I have prescriptions to pick up and library books to return, and my daily walk, nap, and PT exercises. Oh, the heady indecision of summer days…

Mon. 7 June 2021


I went to a movie theater today! I saw A Quiet Place, Part II. Like many things in my post-vaccinated experience, the experience was at once giddy and weird. The staff is still all wearing masks, and most of the customers, but nobody is enforcing mask wearing. I wore mine except while seated and eating and drinking. 


I thought the movie was pretty good. I enjoyed the first one, but I didn’t understand why so many people were raving about it. But I saw that at home on my average TV with no sound system. These movies rely a lot on the sound design, which is best experienced in a movie theater. So I guess there really is something to “experience it the way it was meant to be experienced.” (Also, I watch a lot of stuff late, and I turn the sound way down and rely on subtitles even more than usual).


I also had lunch at the pizza place across the parking lot from the theater. It was just like old times, but still weird. In the theater it was sometimes hard to concentrate on the movie because I was distracted by the people around me. They weren’t actually being annoying, but especially when there are people behind me, I still get a little nervous because I can’t tell what they’re doing. But I took a breath and reminded myself that I’m fully vaccinated.


Here's a link to a funny SNL skit making fun of a Vin Diesel “welcome back to the movies” commercial that I kept thinking about while at the theater.


Also, it was funny because when the lights went down, the screen was blank with no sound for about two whole minutes. I assume this was a projector error, but maybe it was some sort of statement about the blank void of our lives without the movies. And then when the first preview finally started, I maybe teared up a little bit—whether it was the preview for the inspiring biopic of Aretha Franklin or just the fact of being at the movies for the first time since February 2020, I can’t quite say.


Tues. 8 June 2021


My physical therapy appointment this afternoon was canceled. I was giddy with possibilities. I decided to take a nap. And then I took a walk. Good choices.


Later: I booked our trip to Minnesota! Beth’s California sister will be in town, so we’re going to hang out with her family and also with mine. Also, I’m arriving about a week earlier, mainly so that I can play D&D in person with my Minnesota friends (that game is Saturday nights). We’ve been playing online during the pandemic. We played online a little bit a few years ago, too. And I played with those guys in person in high school and in my 20’s as well. So we go way back. Should be fun, even if they are all way more hardcore gamers than I am (some of us will be going to GenCon in September in Indianapolis).


I’ll be going back to Minneapolis in early August for CONvergence, which is happening, albeit with COVID restrictions. It will be awesome and weird to go to an in-person con.


And next week we’re going to Florida for our usual beach vacation (a bit earlier than usual).


It’s nice, if weird, to be putting things in my “Travel” email folder again. I’m hoping all this travel isn’t too draining. I needed a few days to recover from my recent trip—I needed a vacation from my vacation, as some silly commercial used to say. There are certainly worse problems I could be having.


Thurs. 10 June 2021


I just had what will probably be my last physical therapy appointment. (at least for this injury… who knows what the future holds?) It’s a relief but a bit sad. That place became part of my life for almost six months, and for a good chunk of that time was my main human contact outside of my household. I never would have imagined I’d still be going there in June when I started going the first week of February.



Sat. 11 June 2021


Leaving tomorrow for our beach vacation in Florida! Very excited. Now to decide which books I will bring (the most important packing decision for any beach trip). 


I just finished Lisey’s Story by Stephen King. Sometime in the last year I decided I’d eventually try to read all of his books (which may be a decade-long undertaking; the dude is seriously prolific), and since there’s a new TV show based on this one, I figured I’d read it before watching the show (King wrote all the scripts himself). It’s a weird Stephen King book in a lot of ways, but I found it as engrossing as most of his other work.


Anyway, I’ve been bringing at least one King book to the beach with me the last few years, so now I need to decide which one to bring. Maybe his short story collection, Nightmares and Dreamscapes… I’m also still reading Jade City by Fonda Lee (I took a break to read Lisey’s Story, but I was enjoying it). And I should get started on my Hugo reading, although the deadline has been pushed back for voting this year so I won’t have my usual July scramble (it will probably be an October or November scramble this year).


I finished up most of the work I had to do (program review, revisions of stuff for publication, etc.), and I even just finally secured a keynote for the TN Phil Association conference at Vanderbilt in person (!) in November. I’ve been the TPA President since 2019. Usually it’s a one year term, but since we had to cancel the conference last year, I agreed to stay on.


Now to get ready for the beach!


Sat. 19 June 2021


Back from the beach!

The cat we met in Florida. We called him Hamlet.



Mon. 21 June 2021


First day back to work. At home today. Checked my email, which took a long time since I didn’t check it all last week.


My favorite email so far: an auto-reply to my out-of-office message saying that I can't reply to that email address. So... basically two automated emails having a conversation about how they can't talk to each other.


I also did an errand I’ve been putting off for months. I called to (hopefully) resolve a billing issue with a lingering doctor bill from my surgery in January. Apparently the anesthesiologist billed me separately rather than through the hospital for unknown reasons and their billing company used my regular insurance instead of workers comp insurance. I vaguely remember signing something from the anesthesiologist bleary-eyed, left-handed, glasses-less, hopped up on pain meds, and wearing nothing but a hospital gown at 5am before my surgery. (What was I going to do, not get anesthesia while they cut open my shoulder?) This bill arrived in March and remained a mystery until I called today. Gotta love the transparency and efficiency of our American private insurance system!




Wed. 23 June 2021


My abstract for Dune and Philosophy was accepted! I have until Sept. 7 to submit my chapter.


I’m unreasonably excited about this. I haven’t been motivated much (okay, like, at all) to start a new philosophy project during the pandemic, which happened to coincide with my post-tenure exhaustion/slump. And honestly the fact that some stuffy academics won’t consider this to be “real scholarship” only makes me more excited to do it.


I was hesitant to take on a new project, but honestly this may be just what I need to start figuring out how I do the research part of my post-tenure, late/post-pandemic job.


First step: I need to re-read God Emperor of Dune!


Thurs. 24 June 2021


I had an appointment with the surgeon today over five months after my shoulder surgery, and I'm ... done. No need to go back or continue PT unless I'm unsatisfied with my range of motion in 3-6 months. There are additional surgeries I can do, including one to remove the metal in my shoulder, but this is optional. I can remain a cyborg until the end of my days if I prefer. Yay!


Those appointments and my PT appointments have opened me up to the possibility of going to the doctor without having a skinny 27-year-old resident lecture me about my weight or portion control or whatnot. It’s been kind of nice, honestly. Unfortunately I have another regular doctor appointment in a few weeks, so the Honeymoon is almost over.


Later: The Chattanooga Film Festival starts today, and like last year’s fantastic event, this one is totally online. I may not be able to watch a lot of the films with my trip coming up on Saturday, but tonight I’m sitting out on the porch at midnight with a full moon watching short films, most of which are horror, and drinking some mead. A delightful evening activity.


Wed. 30 June 2021


I’ve been in the Twin Cities since Saturday. It has been great to see people. Flying was a bit weird, but they are good about enforcing mask wearing at the airport and especially on the plane.


Yesterday I had a little time so I drove by the George Floyd memorial. There’s still a lot going on there and the intersection isn’t completely open. Then I drove several blocks down Chicago Ave. to go by my Grandma’s old house, and then by the hospital where my mom died. All of this is within 10 blocks on the same street. An emotional little drive for me.


I also did a little nostalgia drive around Brooklyn Park (where I spent a lot of formative years of my childhood). I also took a walk around the University of Minnesota campus yesterday. And had a nice walk with my canine niece today. And later I found the Daunte Wright memorial in Brooklyn Center.

I'm not sure about the protocol of sharing photos of memorials, so I decided not to take any pictures.


The nostalgia is weird having lived most of the first half of my life around here and most of the second half elsewhere. It’s almost like going back to another life dimly remembered, but at the same time reliving it vividly. Weird.


But most of the trip has been seeing friends and family. I’m typing this in my sister’s backyard while she and my brother-in-law are working from home inside and my nephew is at daycare. Beth will be here on Saturday, and then we’ll go see her family.



Sat. 10 July 2021


We got home two days ago. It was a really great trip. I got to see a lot of friends and family (although I missed a few, too). I was happy to get home to see the cats and relax. I had a wonderful time, but especially after my pandemic shift toward introversion and general homebodiness, I’m a bit exhausted from being away from home and on the go so much. I was gone almost two weeks.


In other news: today is our anniversary! On our trip we saw all of our nephews and our niece, including our nephew Mason who was a few months old at our wedding and will be starting his senior year of high school this fall. It has been 17 years, I guess.


We don’t really have plans today, but we might do something next week.


Marriage, especially one as long as ours, is a weird relationship, and each one is different. I’m not sure where I’m going with that, but whatever we’re doing has lasted this long. Happy anniversary to us!


Later: I spent a good chunk of the day finishing Stephen King’s novella “1922” in Full Dark, No Stars, and my anniversary seemed like a good day to jump ahead to the novella “A Good Marriage.” My own marriage has involved a lot less murder than either of these stories (ours is confined the fiction I enjoy and the true crime Beth enjoys), but this all seemed somehow appropriate.




Mon. 12 July 2021


After spending a few days relaxing at home with the cats, I figured I should “do some work” today. So I spent a long time going through all the email that piled up while I was on vacation. People like to complain about email, but I have to say I feel like I accomplished something. And now I’m ready to call it a day. Thanks, email!




Thurs. 15 July 2021


Beth has this week off, too, so we took a little midweek overnight trip to Helen, Georgia, which as Beth put it is, “fake Germany.” It’s a little Alpine village in the mountains of northern Georgia. It was pretty fun, although we maybe consumed a bit too much sausage and beer. The cats seemed slightly annoyed we left them for one night, but they’re okay.


Now I’m trying to do some work again today. But while we were in Georgia, Beth saw people floating in intertubes down the river. So we’re going to do that in a river closer to home tomorrow.


I have some editing and revisions to do this week and next. I’m still finding it hard to get too excited about doing new work in philosophy, but I do have the Dune thing to work on (due in September), so maybe that will help. I think getting tenure during the pandemic turned the burnout that would have come anyway into something deeper. I wasn’t exactly enamored of professional academic philosophy before this, but I was trying to carve out my own little niche. But now I’m not sure if have the energy or motivation for that. It would be easier to go along with the flow and do something more popular or mainstream without my weird need to challenge assumptions all the time, but I have even less interest in that. Maybe this is what everyone feels post-tenure?


I’m still excited about teaching, though. I need to start thinking about that soon. Classes start Aug. 16.


Luckily I have several things that came out post-tenure and a few things in the pipeline, so I probably don’t need a whole lot more to go up for full professor in 2026. I might do another book. Or a few articles. I’d love to do a book on Le Guin and Daoism and/or Octavia Butler and Buddhism. I think there might be room for some deeper work on SF and non-Western philosophy—or at least I would like to do that work. I might be able to do another Indian skepticism book, but from a slightly more conventional point of view (fitting closer to what most other philosophers these days mean by skepticism, but still not quite). Anyway, I can afford to take some time off from research, so there’s no need to worry about that now.



Mon. 19 July 2021


Back to work this week. This is one of my few full weeks at home this summer with uninterrupted time to get some stuff done. So of course I’m procrastinating this morning.


In other news, the pandemic is not over. In recent weeks there has been an uptick in cases in the US after several weeks of sharp decline. Almost all of this is due to unvaccinated people, and the more transmissible Delta variant. (I don’t say this online because I don’t want to get into it and I understand why some people are panicky after all this, but I think some people are being a bit too alarmist about the Delta variant, although it does spread quickly among unvaccinated people). Meanwhile, we are still set to “return to normal” on campus this fall despite the fact that the state legislature has decreed we can’t require students to be vaccinated. We are not even allowed to ask them if they are vaccinated. God bless America.


It’s been a while—since May 16 to be precise; here are some numbers. Looks like we added about 28 million cases worldwide since May 16. I thought India would surpass the US in cases, but we’re still #1. There have been a bit over 700,000 more deaths worldwide. Here in the US, where things are for now relatively better, we’ve added a bit over a million cases since May 16, and “only” about 24,000 deaths. That’s still a lot of human beings’ lives lost. Here in Hamilton county, TN, we added about 1,200 new cases since May 16, and 14 deaths.

And of course all of this is the official tabulated numbers. It’s hard to say how much higher the real numbers are.




Deaths: 4,109,091



Cases: 34,964,151

Deaths:  624,746


Hamilton County, TN

Cases:  45,997

Deaths: 510


Maybe I should add some new numbers: vaccination rates.


Worldwide fully vaccinated: 13%

US full vaccinated: 49.1%


Hamilton county at least partially vaccinated: 45.3% (everyone), 52.6% (12 and up… vaccines are unavailable for those under 12)

Hamilton county fully vaccinated: 41.8% (everyone), 48.5% (12 and up)



Later… I was wondering how any academic discipline will continue after all this, but then I remembered that my own lack of motivation is not universal and in fact most academics are obsessive workaholics.


Thurs. 22 July 2021


I just turned something down (an invitation to review a book), and I’m feeling a weird combination of giddy and guilty.



Fri. 23 July 2021


Later today I’m taking my cat Agatha to the vet for a regular checkup. And I just got back from the human vet for a regular checkup.


Work wise, I feel like I’ve spend the whole summer finishing up little things that I started before the pandemic. Which is good, I guess. I need to finish all that stuff. And I do have one new thing to work on: the Dune chapter! I started re-reading God Emperor of Dune to prepare, but I should probably start writing soon as the first draft is due Sept. 7.


I have a busy few weeks ahead of me. Our friend Stephen is coming to visit next week. The week after I’m driving back to Minneapolis for CONvergence, and then I’m driving back home and stopping to visit my sister in the St. Louis area. And the week after that: dun, dun, dun.... school starts! Yikes.


  1. Some truly choice memes for this entry.

    The biggest tragedy with the whole Delta variant thing is that it is hitting kids harder than original COVID and kids still can't be vaxxed. So adults' poor choices are sickening and killing children who have no choices. This makes me angry. If it weren't for this, I would generally be okay with people suffering the effects of their own bad decisions... but as usual, it's not quite as cut and dry as people would like.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the memes!

      I totally get the anger about this (I'm angry, too), but from a practical perspective I think we need to move beyond the internet outrage factory and think about what will actually work. I heard this morning that US vaccination rates have slightly improved in recent days. Maybe it's part of the seriousness of the new variants, or the fact that more high profile Republicans are publicly advocating vaccinations now. Who knows?

      But I think as a society we need to think about what has gone wrong. The usual suspects of social media and political partisanship are big parts of it, but today I was thinking that how we teach science is also part of it. If you teach science as a body of information rather than a process of discovery, and the information and recommendations change (which they have repeatedly during the pandemic), then "science" itself becomes disputed: because it changes, it can't be trusted, or it becomes another partisan ideology or whatever. But if science is a process of discovery, then these changes are simply part of the process. Instead of "I believe in science," maybe we should say, "I trust the best scientific processes."