Coronaversary

Google wished me a happy second coronaversary this morning.

Google Photos notification with 2 years ago, today, March 8, 2020, and a picture of a curving coastline

Well, not in so many words. But I count March 8, 2020 as my last normal day, the day I went out to de-stress by taking pictures of the ocean, seagulls, and a zillion tiny clams, grabbed coffee at Peet’s on the way home, and came down with the flu that afternoon. By the time I recovered a few days later, everything had shut down.

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I never did get back to the office. I’m still at the same company, but they let the lease expire, tossed everything in storage, and set up a new, smaller office for people to come back to when things settled out.

I finally got to see the new office last month. And pick up the stuff I’d left on my desk, like a coffee mug that I would have washed on Monday morning if I hadn’t been sick.

It’s weird how it feels both longer and shorter than 2 years. Everything kind of blurs together. And yet it’s so different now from the start of the pandemic.

We’re not locked down. Just about everything that’s still in business is open, with precautions. Schools and playgrounds and parks are open. COVID tests are little boxes you buy at the pharmacy and use at home instead of driving through an improvised clean room for someone in a hazmat suit to stick a pole through the window.

It’s not “normal,” but it’s a lot closer to the old normal than those first months were.

The virus is still out there, but we understand better how it spreads and how to treat it, and vaccines make it a lot less likely to be severe for those who’ve gotten them.

(If only more people actually trusted the people who know what they’re talking about, rather than the ones telling them what they want to hear.)

On the down side, lots of people are still getting sick and dying, prices are up, the global supply chain hasn’t recovered, cynical politicians have taken advantage of the pandemic to further divide society and cement their hold on people who just want to be told what they want to hear instead of what they need to know, and a large nuclear power has decided now is an excellent time to invade their neighbors and possibly spark a bigger conflagration.

Things are still in flux. Which is probably part of why it’s still blurring together. We’ve still got problems to fix (or mitigate) at every level from home to global. Whatever the new normal is going to be, we haven’t made it yet.

But not having a direction, not having milestones, not having a sense what the landscape is going to be, makes it hard to see accomplishments, hard to be motivated. It’s been a draining two years. And even though a lot of things are better, other things are worse, and it’s still so damn draining. I’m exhausted, my wife’s exhausted, our kid’s switched school situations so many times he barely participates anymore.

I want a new normal. A better normal. But the last few years have also made it abundantly clear that more people than I thought don’t want to make things better, they just want other people to have it worse than them.

And yet I know so many people do have it worse than me. I have a job I can do from home. Even in the lockdown, I was quarantined with my family, not alone. I live in an area with enough open space that even during the heaviest restrictions I could still go out for a walk. My immediate family hasn’t caught COVID, and the extended family members who did recovered from it. (And of course I’m not dodging mortar shells or fleeing a battle zone.)

It makes me wonder what I’m complaining about. By some standards my life is charmed, so what business do I have feeling depressed and anxious?

Brains are weird.

You spend a little time in fight/flight/freeze mode and you’re able to stop or dodge danger

You spend a lot of time in it and your brain just stops classifying input properly.

About as many monarch butterflies in one photo as I’ve seen in the last few years!

From this afternoon’s walk along the greenbelt: About as many monarch butterflies in one photo than I’ve seen in the last few years!

There were a whole bunch of them clustered on a pine branch above the path. I wouldn’t have even seen them, but other people out walking had stopped to check them out.

I was just reading that this year’s overwintering monarch count is up to over 200,000 – a huge improvement over last year’s count of, I kid you not, 1,914. Though still not up to the millions that were regularly seen as recently as the 1990s.

Blog entry at https://hyperborea.org/journal/2022/01/monarchs/ including links to articles about the monarch count and ways to help the iconic species rebound.

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I confused the iNaturalist identification AI with some random snapshots

I confused the identification with some random snapshots from a trip up into the mountains a few years back.

Normally it’s pretty good at narrowing things down to a family or genus. In this case, I was aiming for scenery and family snapshots at the time, so they weren’t exactly ideal for plant IDs even cropped.

It’s on the level of “A flock of sheep on a hill” for an empty landscape. I wanted to ask it how many giraffes were in the picture!

I confused the #iNaturalist identification #ai with some random snapshots from a trip up into ...

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Things to remember with Omicron

Things to remember with Omicron:
1. Science isn’t handed down from on high fully formed. It’s a process of figuring things out based on what you know so far & what you discover. Like trying to determine the picture on a puzzle when the pieces are still scattered around the house.

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2. Tactics change with the terrain. When a tool is in short supply, you save it for those who most need it. When it’s widely available, you can use it more. When a risk is both high and widespread in your area, you take more precautions than when it’s lower and rarer.

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3. News and advice should be looked at through the lens of “Based on what we know so far, under current conditions.” As we learn more, and as conditions change, that will change. That’s how science works, how learning works, and how time works.

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4. Nothing in life is certain. But a 90% reduction in your chances of something awful happening is pretty damn good when you compare it to the baseline instead of that ideal 100%.

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Cross-posted at K2R

covid/travel/cons (news, -)

Why I’m not ready to go back to cons yet:

Of the two #omicron cases found in the US so far, one of them is a breakthrough case in a patient who hadn’t traveled internationally, but had just been to an anime convention in New York. With 53,000 people. That only required attendees to have gotten their first dose of the vaccine. And struggled with crowding.

Chances are pretty good he’s not the only one who caught it there.

#COVID19

https://arstechnica.com/science/2021/12/2nd-us-omicron-case-just-traveled-to-nyc-anime-convention-with-53k-attendees/

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One of the commenters on that article points out that New York Comic Con happened in early October, but required masks, *full* vaccination courses, and a negative test result for anyone not eligible at the time.

I haven’t heard about any outbreak linked to NYCC and it’s been almost 2 months.

Also, I misread one bit on the Anime NYC article: They did apparently require face coverings.

I just realized that if there’s a full outbreak linked to Anime NYC, people are going to call it “Omi-Con”

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This hawk had killed a pigeon(?) and brought it to this tree on the corner of a suburban block to eat it

It turns out the crows *had* been trying to scare off a hawk that had killed a pigeon and settled into the tree to eat it. At first I could only see the occasional feather raining down, until I moved to where I could see through a gap in the branches.

The hawk was huge. It’s probably one of the hawks that I see around regularly, but most of the time they’re up in the sky or perched high enough I don’t have any sense of their scale.

#photo #birds #hawk #nature #BirdOfPrey

A hawk with light brown underside and darker brown wings, perched on a thick tree limb with branches and pine needles behind it, holding the remains of a smaller (dead) bird to the trunk with its claws, leaning over with its hooked beak.

The same hawk from another angle, looking up from its meal in the direction of the camera. Two cables run across the frame, not quite blocking the view.

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This was just on the corner of a block in the suburbs. People were still out watching (and the crows hadn’t returned) when I decided to continue on my walk.

Usually I see the red-tailed hawks out by the nearest school field or the greenbelt by the power transmission lines, and I only see the smaller cooper’s hawks along the residential streets.

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Cross-posted on K2R
Link on Twitter

This hawk had killed a pigeon(?) and brought it to this tree on the corner of a suburban block to eat it. People were standing out in their front yards watching it. Feathers were dropping as it ate.

It’s probably one of the same hawks I see in the area from time to time, but it looked huge. Though that could just be from it being a lot closer to the ground than I usually see them!

On iNaturalist

These crows were making a huge racket

As soon as I stepped out the door for a walk this morning, I heard a lot of crows making a lot of noise down the street. They were perched on a telephone pole, flying up and swooping around like they were trying to scare off a hawk.

Of course I walked toward them to see what was going on.

By the time I reached the end of the block, the crows had given up and flown off. But I noticed people were out in their front yards looking up at a tree…

#photo #crow #TelephonePole #birds #BlackAndWhite

A telephone pole with at least 15 crows perched on the cross piece and wires, seen from below with the wires and crosspiece forming diagonals.

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Cross-posted on K2R

These crows were making a huge racket, some of them taking off, swooping and perching again, trying to scare off a hawk that had caught a pigeon and was eating it in a nearby tree. The hawk didn’t leave. The crows did.

On iNaturalist

A hummingbird at a local park. Most of the time they don’t stay in one place…

A #hummingbird at a local park. Most of the time they don’t stay in one place long enough for me to even focus on them, even when they perch like this one.

#bird #photo

A tiny green-white-and-back hummingbird perched on a twig, blue sky and other twigs in the background.

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Of course, the reason that it was staying in one spot was that it was grooming, so I had quite a few shots that looked…less impressive.

#fotofails #birb

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Cross-posted on K2R
On iNaturalist
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Seriously, though, it’s encouraging to know that, decades after the ban on hunting went into …

Seriously, though, it’s encouraging to know that, decades after the ban on hunting went into effect, the humpback whale population has rebounded so successfully that most populations are no longer threatened by extinction. The world population is an order or magnitude greater than it was in the mid-1980s.

The Plan to Save the Humpback Whales—and How It Succeeded

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Star Trek IV, imagining the whales’ reaction at the end

Wow! We’re in the open sea! And we talked to aliens! And the humans have stopped hunting us! And they’ve stopped polluting the oceans! This is AWESOME!

Well, except for the whole thing with us being the only humpback whales on the planet. But it’s not like we were really able to talk to much of anyone from the aquarium to begin with.

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Star Trek IV, imagining the whales’ conversation with the probe

— Hey! We’re still here! Or, we’re back, anyway!
— Oh, good! What happened to you? We’ve been trying to reach you for ages.
— Apparently the humans killed us all.
— Wait, they did WHAT?
— Well, some of them did. But some of them brought us through time to make up for it. They won’t kill us now.
— They’d BETTER NOT!
— I think we’re OK now.
— *sigh* OK, good to know. We’ll go report back. Keep in touch.
— Thanks!

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