On Becoming a Writer, and Alex Trebek

In a recent Writer’s Bone podcast, I heard Bethanne Patrick, whom I consider my mentor whether she knows it or not, speak about how she discovered she was a writer. It interested me for a few reasons. First, she noted that much of her writing desire came from listening to her mother’s reading to her as a kid. But she didn’t really make a true attempt at writing till late 30s/early 40s, dabbling first in book reviewing and slowly expanding her reach.

Obviously this had a great impact on me. I consider myself having walked a similar path, in many ways. Rather than my mom reading to me to get me started, I grew up listening to my sisters as they practiced reading aloud. I was so moved by the power of words to carry one to other places and paint pictures of things not previously imagined. From that, I’ve always had a little of a writer’s bone, if you will, as I wrote the letter that took some of my classmates and me to Washington DC in the sixth grade. And the year before, I’d tied with one of the teachers’ daughters for first place on an essay I wrote about Martin Luther King.

So while I’ve pondered for years really trying to get into the writing field, if you remember from an earlier post this year, this pandemic has caused me to go all in in a way I had not done before. I was watching Sister Act 2 the other day, and Whoopi Goldberg’s character quoted a Reina Maria Wilke (don’t know if that’s how her name is spelled, but…) quote to the then-angelic voiced Lauryn Hill’s character. She said Wilke had said something to the effect of If you wake up in the morning and the first thing you think of is writing, then you’re a writer. This was to me a revelation. Writing is not something for which I have to be hired to establish legitimacy, though I’d very much love if someone hired me to do it. It’s something I can make up my mind to “be.” Certainly looking up to people like Ms. Patrick helps a lot to spur me on.

My writing, and all of its initials factors, was also brought to life by watching the quiz show Jeopardy! over the years. It’s funny, but I can’t really say when I started watching. I do remember it seemed the categories were a lot harder then. It caused me to pick up National Geographic and other magazines, along with the 1961 World Book Encyclopedia our school had in Braille at the time, badly out of date but still fascinating, to learn an out the world around me. I kept watching with my dad as I got older, and in college when homesickness hit. So it is with a heavy heart that I thank Alex Trebek for all that he brought to my life and so many of our lives. It is no exaggeration to say that I might not have the command of words and the understanding of geography I do if I had not consumed that show so regularly.

So whatever or whomever is your inspiration, I hope you can join me in dreaming big. Especially in this year where, and I’ve probably said this in other entries but it bears repeating, we have nothing but time on our hands. Be well and stay safe.

NaNoWriMo 2: On The Very Real Challenges of Writing a Book

So, my NaNoWriMo novel is well underway. But… I decided pretty quickly that there was no real way I’d get to 50000 words by the end of the month. I’ve got too many other things going on: still reviewing books on Reedsy Discovery (just got my first requested review which is exciting) and of course I still have the day job (not much going on there but I’m showing up every day at least). On the requested review, it’s on a book that is set in 1860s Texas, a type of Western but not like you think. While that’s not my usual fare, I am actually enjoying it. I will post a link to the review on my Review page once it goes live in the beginning of December.

Anyhow back to my NaNo book, I’m now aiming to average 500 words per day, which would put me at that magic 50,000 by February 8. I’m maintaining it with 4,000 committed to digital paper so far. As the story grinds on though, I’m starting to feel that imposter syndrome creeping in. It’s just hard to keep one’s confidence, especially as I’ve not written a book before. I really want this to happen though, so hopefully that determination alone will fuel me.

Here’s what I think the story will be about so far. First, it’s told from three perspectives: Antonio (Tony) Carter, an 18-year-old student at an as-et-unnamed university in an unnamed city. I’m not sure if I will name it, as I’m aware that could present some issues in itself. I know though that naming also gives things more personality, greater character. Perhaps that’ll be a thing to decide with my editors before I drop the bestselling, great American novel that will propel me to fame and fortune. Well ok I’m dreaming, but dreams drive us right?

The second main character, I suppose one might argues the antagonist, is Daniel (Danny) James Carter. He’s two years older than Tony and still living at home, working at the kind of facility that I do. Oh, and both of these characters have Norrie Disease, my disorder. I might be the first to feature such characters. He’s a budding rap star, and has a little issue with Tony’s going onto college and what he might do with that. I want two opposite characters to demonstrate not only the variability in life itself, but also that which exists in our disorder. It’s kind of fun writing very different individuals, but hard too.

The third main character, whom I’m going to start today, is Shayna. I think she will be the one around whom the conflict centered. Tony’s girlfriend, older by 2 years so Danny’s age, and still living in their hometown where Danny stays. And not surprisingly perhaps, she and Danny end up having some sort of fling which upsets Tony. I haven’t worked out exactly how we’re going to get there, but maybe I’ll let the characters tell me. Each of them tells their bit from a first-person point of view, because well that’s easier to write. It also lets the reader get all the way into their head. We shall see if I can pull this thing off!

My 2020 Vote: The Joys of Voting Online

If there has been any silver lining to this pandemic, it would be that technology, which has existed for a good while now, is being used to its fullest potential. We all know this, with unending, some would say tiring Zoom meetings, schools that have been forced to shift online and alter their educational plan, and the like. The outcome for people with disabilities has been mixed, as while there are many instances of it helping us to gain access to events we would otherwise have had to miss, there are also times, and especially in education, when such tech can create significant barriers.

But I’m not really going into all that here. I wanted to note and hopefully have everyone consider the merits of an experiment here in NC that allowed those of us who are blind or low vision to conduct what is often said to be a basic civic task: that of voting. As this virus stretched on and on toward Election Day, I became increasingly concerned with just how I would conduct this activity. I didn’t want to deal with the myriad issues with absentee mail-in ballots, not to mention that I would not be able to complete one accessibly. I certainly trust my wife to fill out my form as I request, but isn’t that beside the point? Aren’t I entitled to an independent, private vote wherein I can select whichever candidates I wish no matter how others might feel about them?

Well of course there’s always in-person early or Election Day voting at your local polling place. I’ve done it six times with the auto mark machines, talking devices into which you feed your ballot and can then navigate with the arrows to make your selections. (Only once on the actual Election Day, and I vow never to do that again as the lines are too long and the people a bit out there!) But I just wasn’t sure if I would be comfortable going in there even for the, hopefully short, time it would take. So my most likely choice was going to be to have my wife fill it out at curbside.

Until I heard via our local news leader WRAL that a different option was available specifically to those who are blind: accessible online ballots. These ballots could be requested (unfortunately the deadline to do so passed yesterday) and completed entirely without the need for paper. So this past weekend, I put my request in, got the email back, and kept getting “Voter Not Found”. And into the bureaucracy we go! I fired an e-ail to the Wake County Board of Elections explaining my difficulty, and an I identified person wrote back that their attempt to enter my information netted a successful find and that I should try a different browser. Turns out though that the culprit was my ID number, which I had not needed to enter on the ballot itself but was for some reason required when I submitted the request. I only needed the last 4 digits of my social security number. I hadn’t thought I would have provided my ID when registering, but keeping all that government stuff straight is complicated.

So last night, I managed to log in and asked my wife to be the witness, as required. Only I had another would-be witness, in the body of a pesky 4-legged friend who always demands pets when I seat myself on the couch. I tried to tell her that daddy needed to work, but she didn’t understand, finally parking herself at my foot in the vain hopes that I might remember her and interact eventually.

That craziness aside, the process went mostly smoothly after that. I did wonder why they used checkboxes instead of radio buttons when we were to vote for only one option? There were 35 selections in total, and once I completed my choices I type-signed it and my wife filled out the witness form. And that was it! I voted in my pajamas from the couch. That’s a winning strategy in my opinion.

Seriously though, it could actually help those who are deafblind, as many who cannot perceive audio are also unable to vote independently. I think the auto mark does have some kind of Braille display, but I’ve never seen it work other than to say “Ready,” or something to that effect. Having the ability to set up one’s equipment how one truly needs it would be a huge benefit not only to us but to those with other things going on as well. I know of course that voting online introduces possible security issues, but really there are security issues no matter how you slice it. As with everything, we just have to put in what safeguards we can and allow the system to truly work for the people it is intended to serve and empower.

Musings on NaNoWriMo and Creativity During COVID

So how are we doing, folks. I think it’s already been over a month since I did the last check-in regarding COVID. And, *sigh* Just when we thought we saw that light at the end of the tunnel, the numbers have skyrocketed to points higher than they were at the so-called peak. Here in North Carolina, for instance, we set two consecutive new case records last week and have just set a record for the most deaths in one day from this virus. Believe me, I know that behind every one of those numbers is a person, family, friend, co-worker or other connected individual who is hurting. I just keep praying that it stops soon enough.

As I continue to look out for my mental health during this time, I strive to at least thrive in the world of creativity. And as was the case when this started, my wife keeps driving me forward in that area. She’s doing her own impressive stuff (shameless plug) with a recently launched Etsy store she calls Carrol Creations. Therein, she makes decorative or inspirational wooden signs that can be hung on doors or walls, customized earrings, t-shirts, and most recently Christmas ornaments and “quarantine reindeer,” each with its accompanying facemask. Of course family and friends have been supportive in stimulating sales, but in this month alone she’s also received three outside orders. Cool stuff. If you’re into that sort of thing, hop on over there and check it out.

Seeing her put in the “elbow grease,” as I often tease, has motivated me to get back off the proverbial snide and attempt to re-launch an idea I initially conceived in 2018, to write a book about two brothers with Norrie Disease who face different variations and thus experience different outcomes. I’m thinking this time that it will be the basis for my NaNoWriMo novel. I’m not exactly sure for how long National Novel Writing Month has been going on, but my first real shot at producing a 50,000-word piece of fiction was back in 2006. I think I got up to approximately 25k words before the whole thing just dissolved into a puddle of goo, and I posted excerpt 1 and 2 in my old blog. I particularly liked the second one.

I made a nod in the direction of trying again in 2017, but that never got off the ground given that I was about to get married and also wrapping up grad school. Now that nearly all travel except that to work and home has stopped, maybe I can make myself sit here with some music on as I am right now and pound these Mantis Braille display keys. I’ll update as November progresses.

And, not a whole lot else. Just working on some cosmetic changes around this my blogging spot, mostly to make it easier for folks to find my book reviews and how they can contact me. I’m not done yet, but all that movement takes so long that it will be mostly reserved for the weekend. As far as I can tell, this viral wave is surging throughout much of the northern hemisphere at the same time, rather than the spikes we saw popping up in varying locations earlier. So wherever you are, I hope you are staying safe and keeping yourself up as best you can. And maybe do some creating of your own. If you have, how so? Has anything worked out?

In Koraalen, Heather Murata Explores Human-Environment Links

(NOTE: The author provided me with a copy of this book to review, but all opinions expressed herein are mine).

Some people commune with nature, and others communicate with it. In her novel “Koraalen: Planetary Symbiosis, Heather Murata constructs a character who revels in doing both.

Nerissa, an up-and-coming star in environmental activism especially as it pertains to saving coral reefs, is asked on her first assignment for the Koraalen Marine Biology Guild to assess what may be causing an illness among this fragile animal. She happens to have a unique ability to “talk to” the coral telepathically, thereby gaining a fuller understanding of their experiences and sensations. Even so, she and her partner Shan find it difficult to get to the root of the problem, as they tackle obstacles that lead them off-planet to consort with others in search of solutions.

Murata has constructed a futuristic “universe” called the United Interstellar Economic Cooperative that most closely mirrors something like the European Union or United Nations. Only this grouping is made up of planets that have been colonized thousands of years after humanity has basically rendered “old Earth” unlivable. A primary goal of the UIEC and its member guilds is to ensure that the same does not happen in these new worlds.

This might sound like heavy science fiction, but in general it is not. The author aims instead to show readers how small changes in our behavior and a willingness to at least attempt to find a way to live in balance with the environment can lead to desirable outcomes. On Koraalen, for example, many residents live in sustainable platform cities just off of the continents and islands, leading to less urban development on land. Nearly all transportation is by air, whether through flitters, which I assume are a sort of flying car; air taxis, or air buses, which resemble long haul commercial airplanes. But everything is powered by means other than fossil fuels.

While there is considerable emphasis on environmental infrastructure and how best to handle it, with some jargon that only true insiders would fully understand, Murata spices things up with the sweet and powerful love that develops between Nerissa and Shan as they power through testing and experimentation. They first encounter each other as he, Shan, monitors Nerissa during a traditional Luau, and the sparks keep flying from there, growing stronger as adversity mounts. In fact, much of the story occurs against a backdrop of primarily Hawaiian-type culture, with lush descriptions of waterfalls, ocean scenery, pineapple fields, and other tantalizing tropical tidbits.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is curious about the work people do in trying to diagnose and save coral reefs here on this planet, work that I know is vital and not very easy. The characters though present the overall optimistic view that if we make the effort, the coral can do the rest and that healing and regeneration are still possible. And if, after reading this, you want a good nonfiction perspective on the plight of coral, check out Ocean Country, by Liz Cunningham. I read that one last year and found it informative. The bottom line, and I would venture to say that both authors would agree with this assertion, is that we must continue to work to save the Earth, even in the face of natural and man-made disaster.

Eight Years of I: My Thoughts On Apple’s Recent Updates

On this day way back in 2012, I posted my first ever iPhone status to Facebook. It was error-riddled, but still I was proud to have mastered use of the touch screen enough to do so. Did auto-correct exist then? I don’t know, but perhaps even if it did I hadn’t learned to use it as I’d only owned the device for a couple of days.

Who could have known in those days that the iPhone, and really all aspects of Apple would take me in as they have. As an aside: what does the letter “i” even stand for as Apple uses it? Internet? Information? In any event, they seem to be deprecating it as time goes on, which makes sense as the company matures.

As I note eight years of Apple products, I thought it would be fun to look at my favorite and least favorite aspects of them. First, there’s my trusty iPhone (now I’m up to the 8 as I have been since this time in 2018). I upgraded it to iOS 14, and it’s still mostly working fine. On-screen typing seems a bit laggy, but I can still do it. This is not a huge deal anyway, since I now have the Mantis Display, which is also working considerably better under 14. So I do most of my typing on this keyboard anyway.

I also notice cosmetic changes, like the fact that it describes Facebook photos better with VoiceOver on, although the 8 does not gain full access to the newest accessibility features like image and text recognition because of its slower processor. I have thus been bouncing back and forth on whether to acquire the iPhone SE 2020, as I suspect that whatever else comes the 8 will be just about unable to handle anyway. But I am glad I have held out now, as rumor has it that the new iPhone 12 might re-introduce some form of Touch ID. If they do, we’ll see how much the phone goes for and consider it.

The biggest, and happiest, change I’ve gotten from the Apple updates Has been to the Apple Watch. My issue with this watch has been the inconsistent vibration to check time that one initiates via a double tap. If your finger didn’t hit the watch quite right, or sometimes if the system just got confused as double tap is an extremely common gesture in VoiceOver anyway, the time would be spoken aloud. This meant that if, say, I opted to check time during a meeting, I was rolling the dice and might end up ruffling feathers, especially at work. So what they seem to have done to fix this, and it took me a while and a whole lot of frustration to figure it out at first, is to make it where you first activate the watch with a single tap, then perform whichever gesture you wish. This, along with speeding up the haptic output, has made the response a lot more consistent and thus has decreased the amount of aggravation I might give my coworkers as I keep needling that clock toward the end of the day. And even more than that, I now have access to Volume Control right from the VoiceOver Rotor, meaning that if I’m in a situation where I really don’t want it to speak I can easily turn the watch down without needing the phone as before.

And that’s about the heart of it, from my perspective. The major Mac update hasn’t launched yet, at least I don’t think it has as I rarely turn on that machine anymore these days other than to edit and post these entries. But I’m satisfied with the fairly small but important improvements I have noticed. The watch vibration thing is especially useful to me, as it even allows me to check the time without reinserting the hearing aids or disturbing my wife. Without knowledge of the time, the night can seem to drag and I feel uncertain as to whether I’ve overshot my wake time, even though she has the alarm there and will let me know.

Anyhow, Apple has continued to enhance the power and usefulness of these products to those with disabilities over these 8 years, and I look forward to however many more they have as a relevant tech company.

Despite Panthers Loss, My Birthday Hits The Spots

As one of my sisters says, happy life day to me! It was yesterday, and despite it, like everything else these days, being in the middle of a pandemic, I had a wonderful time. The fun thing about birthdays is that one gets to feel special, even if you know that millions of others actually share the day with you. My family and friends definitely made me feel special and helped me enjoy exiting what was, by all accounts, the most stressful year I’ve ever experienced.

The day started early for me, shortly after 8 AM. I came in and read a little, taking time periodically to view the Facebook and other posts as they streamed in. Then sleep claimed me around 10:30, and I stayed there for about 45 minutes until my wife announced breakfast time.

Then at 1, I opted to watch my Carolina Panthers (NFL) take on the Las Vegas Raiders. First, as a long-suffering Charlotte Hornets fan I hate the idea of teams moving, as I feel the NBA snatched ours away just as they were becoming respectable and has since given us a poor facsimile as replacement. And the Raiders? They’d already left Oakland once and returned to the city, only to leave it again.

Anyway, the game was interesting. A stadium with no fans presented an unusual listening experience, but truthfully I got used to it after a while and just enjoyed the announcer’s cadence and the game’s momentum. And the Panthers did a pretty good job seizing that momentum down the stretch. With Teddy Bridgewater, our new quarterback, it looked like we would pull off a decent comeback and top the Raiders after all. But after the Raiders popped it into the end zone to retake the lead 34-30, we failed to convert a critical 4th down play (I’d say because we didn’t give it to our all-world running back Christian McCaffrey, but to be fair he may not have gotten the needed half yard either). There was no more magic in the bottle after that, so we went down. I’m not too concerned yet, though the Panthers have started so many seasons this way that one can only guess how things will go moving forward.

That disappointment finished, I scrambled upstairs to have dinner with my wife and two of her sisters. She and I chose Olive Garden, and each of the sisters picked different restaurants. As we enjoyed lively conversation around the table, we rocked out to Michael Jackson’s Bad album, well the B side anyway. Remember the concept of turning records, or for that matter tapes, over to complete listening? Seems antuquated in the era of streaming, but it also kind of makes you really listen to a singer’s artistry more. For this reason and one of just having that older, better sound, we are starting to collect vinyl records. We now have, in addition to Mike, Lauryn Hill and one of Bruno Mars’ albums. It’s a cool throwback.

After my delicious meal of spaghetti with meat sauce and Italian sausage, served with a house salad, they sang Happy Birthday as I turned red. Then we sank our teeth into some chocolate cake from Publix. And later I had one of my true favorites, butter pecan ice cream.

The only other thing I did, a really important thing, is to have a nice phone conversation with my mom. If this year has emphasized nothing else, it has highlighted the need to try and stay connected to those we love and let those who need to know of our love for them. None of us knows just how much longer we’l be here. I need to do a better job of remembering this within the scope of my ever-crazier life.

And that was about all for my celebration of turning 41. I am tremendously thankful to still be here and in relatively good health. I have so much to reflect on, most of it already written in previous entries. Now I look forward to finding my new place, and this might sound crazy to say as a 41-year-old man, as an adult; as I really feel like I am only now finishing growing up. Here’s to many more for me, I hope?

Local Reporter Writes Interesting Novel

Given that today is Labor Day, one that many (though I’m aware not all) of us have off, I thought it would be fun to highlight a book that examines another career: that of news reporting. Few other professions result in us feeling that we “know” a person more than that of one who covers events big and small and brings them into our living rooms via TV and internet-connected screens.

So as it happened, I came across a book by Amanda Lamb, a crime reporter for WRAL News. The story, called Dead Last, follows Maddie Arnette, who had also been a crime reporter but moved into features reporting where she profiles silly animal stories after her husband’s death.

As it opens, Maddie just happens to see a woman collapse onto the ground while running the Oak City Marathon. I should note that the story takes place in the North Carolina Triangle, though the towns are given fictional names. Anyone from this area will enjoy pondering which real towns most closely fit the descriptions given.

Maddie’s story becomes a lot more complicated as she entangles herself with the woman, Suzanne, after visiting her in the hospital. It turns out that Suzanne is afraid for her life as she fears her husband, who is a well-liked doctor but may also have a dark side, is attempting to kill her. Maddie feels that she should not become involved, especially as serious questions arise about the veracity of Suzanne’s story, but her own background with domestic violence (she lost a mother to it) compels er to at least assist Suzanne in discerning the truth.

I liked many elements in this story, but my favorite parts involved what life was like as a news reporter. Maddie makes one statement that floored me, as it hit so specifically close to home. I’m paraphrasing here, as finding the exact quote in the audiobook (narrated by the author as it were) would be difficult: Sometimes I feel like being a reporter is like being an assembly line worker, packing sticks into a box and throwing them onto a conveyor belt. Well anyone who has followed this blog knows that this is exactly what I do, box sticks and throw them onto a belt. So that thought made me chuckle.

I also laughed at the references to 70’s-era detective shows that we see in her inside cop friend, and as previously noted at the names given to the book’s towns. For example, Oak city? Well Raleigh, our state capital, is also known as the city of oaks.

These moments of levity aside, the book tackles serious topics in a way that really makes one think. How do we decide whom and when to believe as potentially dangerous situations unfold. How do we define friendship, and what happens when we feel we and our profession might be used in ways we don’t want.

Lamb has written nine books, mostly about true crime, but this is her first novel. She says, as the subtitle “A Maddie Arnette Novel” indicates, that this will be part of a series with the second book in editing and the third already underway. So we can look forward to more of this deeply introspective and powerful character. The entire story is told from her first-person point of view, lending a depth to it that might not have come otherwise. I would recommend checking it out, and especially Lamb’s audio narration as she of course knows how and why Maddie responds in certain ways. I mean how many other news reporters do you know who have written novels too?
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My Covid Testing Experience

In this year where any kind of disaster imaginable seems possible, one could hardly blame me for being a little jumpy. Over the past couple of weeks, at my job’s temperature checks, I have realized that my core body temperature is almost always below normal. Well especially in the morning, as it often clocks in at 96.7 degrees, and I feel that cold when sitting in my room after dressing for the day.

On top of that, my nostrils have been a bit drippy and my throat congested for some time now. When this happened last year, I simply assumed that it was some kind of allergic reaction that would eventually calm down, as it did. But this year, with the ever-present threat of Covid-19, I was wary.

So all of those things converged this morning, as my temperature bottomed out at 96.1, and I was so cold that my hands shook and teeth rattled. I also felt so congested in my head that it seemed my brain was swimming. I am aware that this is probably not Covid, but on calling out of work to get the sleep I needed I decided I should get myself tested for the benefit of my coworkers, if nothing else.

And on that sleep? Ah, it was glorious. After some Covid-induced dreams, I finally, wonkily emerged around 12:30 and stepped outside for some air. I was relieved to learn that my temperature had increased to 98.4, and I certainly was warmer. But I still felt so yucky that my time outside did not last long.

So, my wife had made the testing appointment at a Cary, N.C. Urgent Care center at 3. After running some other errands, she drove me over to the clinic. This was not a drive-up appointment, but rather we were to enter the room to have the test administered. I was surprised by this, but admired the way they had things working.

First, we called a number and checked in, at which time we were told to wait in the car until contacted. It took about 12 minutes to get the call, with the office having texted a link that would have let me see my spot in line. Their texting was used well and kept the patient abreast on all progress throughout the experience.

Once we entered, with the support nurse holding the door ajar so we needed to touch nothing, she first asked about symptoms and then affixed something to my pinky finger, I think she said to test blood flow. Then another quick temperature. Check, still holding steady at 98. And finally, the real fun started.

Another man, in what capacity I am not entirely sure but I suppose a doctor-type person, came in to do The actual test. “It’s not too bad,” he said even as he offered me a Kleenex. Then, after helping me extract the mask from its entanglement with my hearing aids, he stuck the swab into my nose.

Ok, that’s it right?” I thought. But no! It went back, and back, and back, and surely took some of my whatever lobe when extracted. “Ow ow ow!” I said as I tried to keep myself from separating from the swab. Whew! That may have popped something into place, because much of my congestion has actually stopped, at least temporarily. My nose still hurts a bit, but yeah I guess it’s survivable.

And now I wait for probably three days. He said if it’s positive, then I’ll hear from the health department and that center. If negative, I’ll get a letter in the mail in approximately 2 weeks. We’ll see. If nothing else, it’ll give me a little peace of mind for as long as that lasts. I’m sure there are thousands of other tales of those who have been tested, many less dramatic than mine. But this is my quintessential 2020 story, and let’s hope it’s the last I have! Maybe things will settle down now?

Live! From Hurricane Alley

Welcome to the eighth year of 2020! I’m probably not the first to say that, but I’m the funniest, right? Right? … Ah well.

Jokes aside, this period has seemed and been for many the longest and most difficult ever. Especially here in the good ol’ US of A, it feels like the Covid crisis will never end. Still so many deaths, and even for those who survive they are changed for good in as yet unknown ways. This without mentioning our myriad personal struggles. I will be all too happy to put this 365 days behind us, if that actually makes any difference.

So, I’ve been back at work for just over two months now, and things in that setting are starting to catch up to the times. They have constructed pods of plastic around my primary section, which centers around a conveyor belt onto which boxes of light sticks are flung. With the frontal barrier of the wooden boxes that contain the sticks and the small boxes we must fill, it does make one feel significantly safer and more socially distanced. The only nerve-wracking thing is sometimes we work at open tables where people are sitting relatively close together. Thus far though, I hope, I’m fine.

Outside of slogging continuously through these workdays, I really go to and from that job and spend the rest of my time at home. I miss vacations, but do not yet feel entirely safe taking them either. Our last trip of sorts was to Tampa Florida in January, where it was a lot colder than it should have been. According to my scientific, randomized poll that I administered via Twitter, 28% of you are planning to travel somewhere at least 100 miles by car for a vacation, while the rest will do as we are and indulge in a staycation. Well that will leave a lot of time for some good reading at least, and I am on pace to shatter my record of 60 books consumed in one year.

And oh yeah! To add to the excitement, here in North Carolina we’re about to get a relatively small hurricane. That is actually the most “normal” thing that has happened in the last few months. Isaias, one of the more unusual names I’ve ever heard of for a storm. According to a cursory Internet search, Isaias is something of another name for The biblical prophet Isaiah. Interesting. We’ll probably get some tropical storm-force winds and all oto ain,and. I’ll likely hang here in the crib and, if power holds, get some stuff done. I think our pandemic numbers are finally starting to trend in the right direction, and I just hope that continues amid the storm. And of course that we all stay safe.