Our Christmas Pyramid

German Christmas Pyramid

Pictured is out Christmas pyramids, a gift from Evelyn from long ago. These decorations have their roots in the Ore Mountain region of Germany and have become popular worldwide. They comprise a decorated pyramidal outer frame that is surrounded by candle holders and a central carousel with a rotor at the top, which is driven by the rising warm air from the lit candles. This carousel’s decorations include a nativity scene, plus other Christmas figures such as angels, shepherds and the wise men. Ours still twirls round-and-around and except for some soot on its propeller blades is as good as new, having survived two boys.

In other Christmas news, Anne is baking Cuccidati cookies. She finished one batch yesterday and will likely make the rest today. It is a good day for baking. It is kind of cold and dreary out. The outdoor Christmas lights are on a photo-sensitive timer, so that they come on at dusk, but this morning I noticed that they had come on again. The rising sun must have shone beneath the clouds, before rising up into them. The weather aside, everything is coming together nicely this year. I don’t feel the least bit rushed by the holidays. The fact that neither of us are working this year, in the first time like forever, might have something to do with that. That and the fact that our social calendar is wide open now helps too.

We had good weather over the weekend and got out both days for walks. We’ll likely do the same today, but we might need a mission to help get us out there. Normally, we’d toss in a luncheon someplace, but that is highly problematic these days. We’ll think of something though. Yesterday, we stopped off at the post office, just to drop some letters in the box. We’ll likely be doing that a lot soon. Anne has engineered a pretty slick scheme for getting in-and-out of the post office quickly and more safely. Using the scale that she bought to weigh her yarn with, she can weigh the packages to be mailed too. That combined with her USPS account allows her to print postage and a mailing label, meaning all she has to do is briefly duck into the lobby and then duck back out again. All in under a minute. No waiting in long Covid lines for us, thank you very much.

Wear the Mask

Wear the Mask

We finally, got our Christmas tree up. First, we tried the VFW/Boy Scout tree lot down the street, but they weren’t open then. Not to be denied, we headed over to Ted Drewes our regular go-to tree lot. It being noon on a work day, they were not mobbed. Snagged were a Scotch pine, an evergreen swag for the front door and concretes for lunch. Hey, it’s the holiday season, plus I didn’t have to make lunch. After lunch, we visited a couple of gift shops in U-city. Anne picked up a present that she had ordered and with permission, I snapped this pic. I found this graphic quite striking.

We were cautious on our errands. We wore masks, as did those we met. Yes, we took risks. Were they necessary? Probably not. Time will tell if we were foolish.

Via Dr. Slaoui, the government official charged with distributing vaccines, has said that the expected number of people who can be vaccinated each month are: Dec 20M, Jan 30M, Feb 50M. That’s almost a third of the US population. Even if they can’t ramp up production any further after February, there should still be enough vaccine for all Americans by summer. In this country, we could put Covid behind us in six months, but the next few months look to be brutal. Despite soaring caseloads, we still have not seen the post-Thanksgiving peak.

But relief is coming. The NY Times has an interactive article that allows one to estimate their spot in line for the vaccine. Inputs include age, location and occupation. Since this article appears in the opinion section there is some wiggle room left. So, don’t start queuing yet, but the prospect of a vaccine does offer a return to a happier time. A time not so far distant that you cannot remember what you were doing at this time last year. Do you remember?

It is also a prospect that allows one to dream and make future plans. While, I’m not ready to start booking flights yet, I have not exactly been idle either. We have a new car that has been sitting in the driveway for a year and we are both roaring to get going. I think that my first destination will be California, which also happened to be the first trip to fall off of this year’s calendar due to Covid. Hopefully by spring we could drive there, see some sights along the way and visit with my dad. It would be just about a year from when we had planned to go. By driving, we could also recreate part of this last summer’s big camping trip, another trip that also fell by the wayside.

These thoughts are intoxicating and I am giddy at the prospects. Closer to home, I am looking forward to going to the store again. Doing my own shopping. Feeling the vegetables before I buy. Seeing all of the new products that have been rolled out in my absence. I would also like to dine in a restaurant. Have the night off from the kitchen, be waited on again and watch other people while I dine. I would like to sip a beer in a bar. All of these things I have missed and hopefully soon, all of these things will soon be returning, but first we have to get through the next few months. Wear the Mask!

Kicked to the Curb

COVID-19 Vaccine Not Yet Available—Walgreens

A sign of the times? You know that someone had to have asked. In fact, more than one someone, because why else the sign? Anyway, more good news today on the vaccine front. Another vaccine was announced—94.5% effective! Making it better than the last, but what if you get one of those 5% or even worse 0.5% shots? Won’t you be disappointed? Still, if everyone else gets theirs you might not even know that you are not protected. Herd immunity being what it is.

Wednesday is our trash day and I have a decision to make. Should I take down my Biden/Harris yard sign or leave it up for another week? Normally, I don’t leave such signs up even this long. If I backed the losing side, I don’t need to be reminded and if as in this case I picked a winner, I don’t want to rub it in too long. That’s being a poor winner. This election took a long time to be called and a certain someone is still unconvinced, but I think that it is high time to move on. Besides, I’ll need the space next week for my outdoor Christmas lights display. So, I pitched the sign. There was a surprise though. An old smoke detector that I had pitch was sounding its alarm. Do I have a toxic waste dump problem?

Tomorrow, it will be two weeks since the election or fourteen days in quarantine time. Anne quibbles that Wednesday will actually be the two week mark, but since we haven’t quarantined from each other since last Tuesday, I think that the question is somewhat moot. To celebrate being Covid free, she went to the salon and got her hair cut (grumble, grumble). Then we went shopping. Curbside that is. I was relieved when I heard that this is what Anne had arranged, because although I don’t want to go into stores, we really can’t let Jeff Bezos have all of our money. I should give the girl more credit. At least that’s what she tells me.

Enemy at the Gates

Monstrosity at City Museum

We are currently on track to exceed the American mortality from the 1918 flu. Then 675,000 died. Today, 245,000 Americans have died from Covid. In the last week, a million new infections have occurred. Within a month these new cases will result in 25,000 new deaths. 25K per week or 100K per month. The start of winter is still a month away. Three months of winter could result in 300K more deaths, but that is only at the current infection rate. Infection rates are now skyrocketing out-of-sight. 100K per month could be rather conservative. With families soon gathering for the holidays, these estimates could soon explode. We all know what to do, wash hands, socially distance and wear a mask. We just don’t want to and so far we didn’t have to, if we didn’t want to. In six months an effective vaccine will be available. I say suck it up people. Do the right thing. If not for yourself, then for those you love. Do you want to be made to do it?

World Chess Hall of Fame, St. Louis, MO

Thank you for enduring the preceding health announcement, as we now resume our regularly scheduled programming. I finished watching The Queen’s Gambit last night. Netflix’s new series on coming of age, addiction, sexism and oh, chess. This seven part series follows fictional female phenom Beth as she storms the chess world, racing to out race her own inner demons. Played by two actresses, we first meet eight-year-old Beth Harmon (Isla Johnson) entering an orphanage. She learns two things within its forbidding walls, a love for chess and downers. Adopted by the second episode, teenage Beth (Anya Taylor-Joy) steps out into a world of male prejudice that she proceeds to topple, one king at a time. At its heart Gambit is a sports movie—Queen’s bishop’s pawn advances down the field for a first-down, to mix sport’s metaphors. Aided by tranquillizer induced hallucinations that feature giant ghostly chessmen, floating on the ceiling, suspended upside-down, she maps out her moves. Set in the Sixties, with mod fashions, rock-and-roll and the Cold War, Beth is propelled pell-mell towards a confrontation with the Russians. As in any sports drama, there is the action on the field and the drama off of it. It is a testament that Gambit has made the drama surrounding Beth so compelling and the chess action so exciting. 


Leftist Foot Crushes Nazi Bootlick

Last night, remaining news networks called Arizona for Biden. Meghan McCain, widow of Senator John McCain, took this occasion to share a meme, a photo of John with the tagline, “I like people who don’t lose Arizona.” Feel the burn? Following these events, China congratulated Biden on his victory. This leaves pretty much just Putin, Trump and the GOP as holdouts. It has been almost a week since last Saturday, when Joe Biden’s victory was announced. In the interim, we’ve witnessed the hilarious Four Seasons Total Landscaping debacle, but more ominous have been a string of recent administration firings. Leading among those fired officials was Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. Combined with rumors of the potential future sackings of both the FBI and CIA directors, these action raise the specter of a coup. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, might have been joking, when he threw fuel on this fire with a promised, “Smooth transition−to a second Trump administration.” It is uncertain if these words and actions are more coup or con, but a little vigilance at this time wouldn’t hurt.

In other news, we had a pleasant Zoom call with Jay and Carl this week. One topic raised was the idea of a joint summer camping trip. They are not willing to go full pup tent like we have and are more inclined towards renting a camper or a trailer. To this end, Anne has found the following possibility via Needless Markup. While it might not be affordable as a second home, if you sold your house you could probably swing it. There would likely be enough money left to buy a truck to pull it too. Get your motor running, head out on the highway…

Finally, I am infuriated with the New York Times. In particular with their Covid coverage. Since the epidemic has begun, they have run a daily graphic that maps the spread of the disease. Each state is color-coded to represent the degree of infection. Additionally, the top offenders are individually listed. Since this summer, Missouri has been in these ranks. Initially, we were number nine out of nine. Later, this list was expanded and although we had relatively improved (i.e. not sunk as fast as our neighbors), we were still on the list at twelve out of twelve. The pandemic has exploded nationwide and it is bad here too. However, not as bad as elsewhere. Lately, we now sit at fifteen out of an even more expanded list of fifteen of the worst offenders. I have gotten so tired of winning.

  1. An autogolpe is a form of putsch or coup d’état where a nation’s leader, despite having come to power through legal means, dissolves or renders powerless the national legislature and unlawfully assumes extraordinary powers not granted under normal circumstances.

The Last Ship

The Last Ship

In the navy, yes, you can sail the seven seas
In the navy, yes, you can put your mind at ease
In the navy, come on people, fall an’ make a stand
In the navy, in the navy, can’t you see we need a hand
—The Village People

All of the beautiful people have enlisted and are serving on the Nathan James. They all have high tech jobs and a beautiful ship to play on. They’ve been at sea, sequestered in radio silence, in the artic. Decoyed on a mission for which no one was briefed. In their absence a pandemic, no the pandemic, has struck with a mortality of 99%. It turns out that their real mission was to help create a vaccine. Now it is all on them, because they are all that is left, they are the last ship.

This Michael Bay production, like all of his work, delivers lots of action. It is well packaged and easy to follow. A 2014 debut put it ahead of its time. If it had waited, it could have been prophetic. Now, it is without a flock after a five year run. First, serialized on TNT, I can now binge it on Hulu. I’ve only just begun to stream it, but I think that I am already hooked. It has a lot to offer. It is relevant with its pandemic. There is of course the action, but I think it is the sea that calls the most. A good sea yarn is hard to resist, especially one with such depth.

The parallels between this series’ fictional plague and the real one that we are now enduring are remarkable, people’s panic, the shortages, the false hope of false cures. It has it all. Even the stop-start, two steps forward, one step back development of a vaccine seems eerily prescient. This week we received some much welcomed news on the vaccine front. Pfizer announced some initial results purporting that their vaccines is 90% effective. This is fantastic news. It is the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Hope has been rejuvenated. Closer to home, it has been a week since Anne worked the polls. Today, she took a rapid Covid test and she is not infected. We have quarantined from each other, but now they are advising us to go another week. What was the point of the test? I really want to get off this boat.