Going to Work

This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.
I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom. Like art.

Toni Morrison
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Who or What is Worshipped?

On April 1, Governor Abbott issued an Executive Order “requiring all Texans to stay home unless they are participating in an essential service or activity.” Under pressure from some big church pastors, he declared places of worship an essential business, exempting them from earlier requirements for no large public gatherings. He received a lot of criticism for that. He tried to do some damage control, but there was no change in what was allowed.

Thousands of people (the three churches mentioned have over a thousand members each) can gather and then carry out what they received to the neighboring markets where they go after worship, putting at risk efforts to contain or slow the spread of COVID-19.

What kind of pastor would put their congregation at increased risk for COVID-19 infection? The logic escaped me. A day later, the answer came to me. This isn’t about the health of the congregation in any fashion. This is about the pastors. They can lead worship by any number of video conferencing or even phone conferencing. My church is doing this. The first Sunday it was a bit rough, but has improved to the point where it is satisfying. Their churches probably are already broadcasting to satellite churches. This is about the need of the pastor for attention, even worship.

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Youth ministry isn’t about fun

Excellent and moving story in the Christian Century about how a youth group was transformed by moving to a story telling format for people of all ages.

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Austin – Shaggy Nation

With barbers, beauty salons, hair and nail dressers, and dry cleaners all closed, Austin is going to get shaggy looking. Working from home or video conferences with the video off, it won’t matter. Shopping? Maybe nobody cares as long as you keep your distance.

My hair is curly enough to form a natural. Until it gets too long and collapses of its own weight. My wife’s hair is already starting to be too long for her current haircut. Nails need work too.

Lynn Ungar’s wonderful poem, Pandemic, suggests treating the season like Shabbat (Sabbath) a day of rest. Shabbat lasts only a day. The pandemic will last longer. Has already lasted longer. We need a new model.

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We’re Number 1

According to Worldometer‘s Coronavirus numbers, today (March 26), the United States moved from third to first in the number of coronavirus cases (over 17 thousand new cases in one day). We’re number 6 in deaths.

Yesterday I thought the total number of cases might pass a half million Friday or on the weekend. That happened today. I would have been okay to have overestimated how fast the cases was growing.

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Austin – Curbside Service

Last week when we went to the HEB supermarket, they offered curbside service with all fees waived. We’ve now eaten all fresh fruit and vegetables in the house. It’s time to go again. Central Market (HEB’s premium brand) carries several things that we are out of and that no one else carries. Janelle signed up last night for curbside pickup, but there were no pickup slots available. This morning she tried again and the first available slot is April 4, nine days away. Not a plan.

This morning we had lattes, split a blueberry muffin, and drove down to Central Market around 9am. There was a short line outside and no one in the curbside pickup lanes. I grabbed some wipes and a cart, wiped it down front and back, and got in line. Janelle went to ask the line monitor what’s going on? They were letting shoppers in 5 at a time. Also it was the expected high traffic time and they didn’t want it and curbside service interfering with each other.

In five minutes, they let us in. People kept their distance and shopping was orderly with short waits at the meat counter. There were no obvious shortages. In a week we’ll try curbside service again. I expect they will find a better way to keep curbside pickup and in-person shopping from interfering.

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COVID-19 – Show Me the Numbers

For those who believe in salvation by numbers, Worldometer‘s Coronavirus pages are ongoing source of revelation, especially the “Confirmed Cases and Deaths by Country, Territory, or Conveyance” chart partway down the page. You can sort by total cases, total deaths, new cases and deaths, etc. For me the cases per million population and deaths per million are key.

The Weather Underground‘s WunderMap displays weather worldwide with overlays for satellite photos (infrared and visible), radar, rate of precipitation, etc. Today they added coronavirus cases and deaths by county and by state, US only.

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Austin Shelter in Place – How Back Can It Get?

Donald Trump and Dan Patrick (Texas Lt. Governor) are suggesting we roll back the lockdowns, shelter-in-place orders, and other measures to stop the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in order to save the economy.

Spain’s approach to controlling the COVID-19 outbreak is similar to what’s being done in this country, though more uniform across the country and further along. See Spain’s coronavirus death toll jumps 514 in 24 hours for a glimpse of what our future might look like. Do we want a future worse than that? What will the economy look like under that scenario?

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Austin – Lockdown => Shelter in Place

A week ago, the Austin mayor and a Travis County judge issued a lockdown order. Today, a week later, they issued a “shelter in place” order. Usually, a lockdown is more restrictive than a shelter in place order. Here, it’s the other way around. Today’s order has steeper penalties (fines up to $1000 and sentences up to 180 days in jail). It tightens which businesses may remain open and is more explicit what constitutes “essential services”. It doesn’t change much what we do: go grocery shopping, pickup prescriptions at the pharmacy, and go to the park for exercise. All three give us some in-person human interaction. E-mail, text messages, phone calls, and Zoom Meetings are good, but not enough.

If you are curious about the details, see Stay Home, Stay Safe.

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Austin Lockdown – Testing Problems

Why is it so hard to get tested? And why does it take so long? It isn’t a technical problem, so much as a supply problem. FiveThirtyEight, the sports prediction and political polling/prediction Web site has two articles describing the problem. For a text description, see How Coronavirus Tests Actually Work. For video, see Why The U.S. Can’t Process Coronavirus Tests As Fast As South Korea.

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Austin Lockdown – Cabin Fever

My wife, an extrovert, is going nuts during the lockdown. Shopping is our only face to face interaction with other people. Because of our age, various supermarkets will deliver, often for free. We understand the risk and appreciate the offers. Age is our only risk factor. Cabin fever is not a listed risk factor. Websites for seniors warn of the risks of declining social interaction.

Both extroverts and introverts are at risk for cabin fever. The signs are different and the risks are different. Extroverts hit their limits of isolation/solitude/loneliness sooner and more urgently. Introverts like me quietly go about our work that may not require much interaction with people. I can put together submissions to poetry journals all day and feel some sense of accomplishment. My wife, not so much. My previous career, programming, was the same way, though programming teams must communicate and e-mail is not always enough. Her previous careers required much more face to face communication.

This morning she complained she had nothing to do. I have a smartphone full of tasks to do, many at her request. So I said, “Now you have time to write.” She said, “Not alone.” After our walk in the park together, saying hello to the people, dogs, and plants, we will have a writing session together. Just after I get this poetry submission out 😉

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