And Chippy

First: today is a good day to change some passwords, and maybe set up a good password manager to keep them hard and unique.

I dreamt about a surprise union meeting last night, where some fairly high-level union types were talking a lot and showing off their branded tablecloths with pictures of their faces on them. I think for the most part the real ones wouldn't do that.

The chicks are growing and spending more time outside. They have names given by the kids: Black Star, Red Stripe, Red Ribbon and… Chippy. I think they're adding cheer and purpose to life around here.

Ada is going to get a 5th birthday party in conformity with public health guidelines: backyard gathering, 10 people, three households, lawn chairs in clusters far apart. We do what we can!

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Busy week

We have four two-week-old chicks in the upstairs bathroom right now… Elizabeth found an ad in Kijiji for chicks now, as opposed to many offers of getting on a waitlist for chicks, so I drove to Tay Valley to pick up chicks. The kids are super excited. Given that the offer came as a bit of a surprise, we scrambled a bit for bedding and supplies, so they're in deluxe pet store bedding.

Earlier in the week I dreamt of flooding in our area… maybe Michigan got in my unconscious, or maybe it was the high river here a couple of years ago that had me staying home (and working from home a bit… but we lost a lot of time because telework technology and policy were pretty limiting back then). In any case, I dreamt my basement office lair was full of water. I think the risk this year is mostly passed!

Tuesday I took a distanced walk with Heather… first time near her since March, and first time in Ottawa as well. People were out and about in pairs and threes mostly, spaced out and enjoying walking and talking photos on the closed-to-car-traffic Alexandra Bridge (police blockades were down but bridge repairs continue). It felt refreshing, and will probably be a first step to carefully seeing more of other. I'm looking forward to a walk with Andrea and sitting safely far apart around an outdoor hearth with both of them soon!

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Back to school and gazing hopefully out the window

The older two are going back to school next week — school is open to Québec kids for optional classes, especially for kids who need a bit of extra support, and ours are both square pegs in their own ways and are missing school. With Elizabeth and me both being home-based workers at the moment, we can end the experiment pretty quickly if we need to, and we are all pretty robust and not in contact with anyone in an at-risk population, so it seems like an acceptable risk and we can be a dead-end for any contagion coming from the classroom. We got a message from Vivien's teacher and her class will have 10 kids, with rearranged desks and staggered recesses and lunches to avoid big congregations of kids. As a political decision, the Quebec approach might be flavoured by a belief in reopening the economy, but as a project with important health aspects, I think the school is doing pretty well and the kids are starting to get squirelly. We have to come up for air eventually, and this seems like a lower-risk way to do it. I think it's ethical especially if we share that we're doing this with people we might have contact with.

Ada, at four-almost-five, can pronounce “social distancing” pretty well. She was really keen to go to Kaleidoscope (August) with social distancing in place… we’ll see. One can hope (but I trust the organizers will be vigilant and careful)!

Us grown-ups have been thinking a bit of how we’ll proceed when restrictions lift, too — clearly deliberately and with some fulsome conversations, but the bridges will open eventually, and it sounds like some jurisdictions are encouraging people to pair households for mutual aid and companionship. With our relationships, a pair would still leave people out and probably result in some lopsided reconnecting, but with any luck it will be safe for us to rejoin some loved ones outside the house and the rules and good sense will let me see my Vanier loves, Heather and Andrea, soon enough. We'll have talked about it inside our polycule before the rules change, too, so we'll be ready!

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Ada's drawing of the day "started with grass" but went on to draw a castle touching the moon and a temple ("not a mountain") containing the sun.

As for me, I had a dream where I was naked (thinking "I'm often naked in my dreams, I can be cool about this even in reality"). At a party. Trying to social-distance. With a trans guy wearing plastic pony leg pants (kind of a synthetic faun) arriving late à la White Rabbit. And a beautiful sunny room with skylights and pillows just down a hall full of people that I should probably keep my distance from…

Brains are wonderful.

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politics, science

The long game

The kids are getting more cuddly with us — we had five in the bed around 7 AM yesterday — and perhaps a little more fighty with each other. They're also getting more interested in school-type things, including Ada, for whom Elizabeth printed off some alphabet activity sheets so she wouldn't feel left out.

Speaking of not being left out, we're anticipating a big delivery of maple products from a sugarbush in L'Ange-Gardien. Review perhaps to follow! We'll miss our annual trip West of Ottawa but we'll make do.

There's an Andrew Coyne piece on how this doesn't change everything which brings by own thinking into focus. This won't automatically change everything, but we should be paying attention and ready to point to some of the innovations and habits we develop and demand that they become the long-term normal: income support, new notions of who's essential, more support for telework. Don't waste a crisis, as Naomi Klein might say.

In personal finance land, Collapse ) The short of it is… we're lucky to be stable money-wise and I'm trying to be calm and smart about it.

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After nearly three weeks (and three ghouls)

Played D&D with the kids, Elizabeth and (video-linked) Heather today… we're all still getting our sea legs in 5th edition (or in D&D in general) but the party is doing well — offering to help NPCs, working together grumpily, blasting and stabbing undead in the fen…

I'm adapting an ancient second-edition adventure and some of the tropes and gender politics are iffy but I think their drive to fix them will lead to further adventures. I hope they learn to keep the wizard away from the front lines!

After three weeks of hunkering down and working from home, mu managers all managed to agree on an extension of my secondment — with any luck by the time my extension runs out mid-June, we'll be back to the office or at least good enough at telework that bringing me back will go more smoothly than in less than a month. We're still trying to figure out just what we can do and getting upper management to pick some priorities but I think our team is adapting pretty well.

I'm feeling… variable. Finding our feet at work and the new routine here is tiring. Some days I feel like we're rocking it and other days there's a lot of just spinning our wheels. Vivien is a bit cranky and Oscar lets use know they find the whole situation unfair. Their understanding and desire to talk about how various parties can make things fairer about cancelling stuff and travel restrictions makes me think of my kid self. Ada is mostly unflappable but a little clingy and mischievous by turns. I think the heavy-handed orders (checkpoints, now) are something Elizabeth was dreading and I was hoping we'd avoid. The quickly changing rules and uncertain length of the return to normal are wearing on me and us, like everyone.

On the other hand, our neighbourhood is full of rainbow signs saying "ça va aller" and there are little painted rocks with smiley faces scattered in our neighborhood and the early flowers are poking up and it smells like spring and we're not completely bored yet.

So for me, there's a bit of "we're managing pretty well" and a bunch of tired and anxious — real anxiety from uncertainty, from changing rules and from missing people and hoping they stay healthy, plus the anxious that we're all swimming in.

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Rambling on the next new normal

I wonder what the next normal that comes after this normal looks like… one guess is that cash won't bounce back to it's previous popularity. Some hipster sorts of businesses were already trying going cashless; last week our local dépanneur (an unironically retro place) had a no-cash sign. I hope non-cash options become way more accessible to marginalized folks if this happens — I know in many developing countries, cheap feature phones often serve as changepurses. Here, we have half-decent e-wallets in our transit systems — if governments and transit agencies got out of the fare enforcement business (which they're largely doing in a bid to keep drivers distanced now), maybe the technology could be hauled over to cheap touchless payment systems.

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Doing well but still missing people

Going into the third week of distancing… my colleagues have made a big deal out of making it through each week of working from home each Friday so far.

I'm doing pretty well, have the home office set up and everyone close to me is healthy so far. I'm working, getting paid, getting fresh air, eating healthy food — we all are doing pretty well in this house.

But I'm missing people too. We'll probably be doing Easter in place for the first time in many years rather than going back to Ormstown to feast with my relatives. And I'm missing Heather, Andrea and Morgen — the Vanier end of my pod, who are hunkered down over there. Heather is continuing to read Watership Down to the kids remotely, and we try to keep in touch via the Internet. And I'm glad I got to visit them the weekend before we all went to ground, which was Heather's and my fourth anniversary. I've got lots of loved ones here, but also quite a few outside the epidemiologically sensible boundary. Households are a real thing, but they're definitely not the only thing.

Here's to getting through this, to reunions to come, to traditions we've adapted and to ones we'll have to pick up again. Here's to the couch runneth-ing over again.

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This thing is on.

I had a dream Tuesday night set in the Montréal apartment that keeps coming back in my dreams — my dream pied-à-terre in the city I left in 2007. I was packing up to leave, but couldn’t take everything and was worried about leaving stuff for my brother (who sometimes lives in my dream apartment) to sort out what to do with. There were clothes, mattresses, clean stuff, dirty stuff. I think leaving in an orderly way was the main source of anxiety for dream-me.

Life here with social distancing and everyone home was a bit disorienting at first but I’m starting to get the hang of it — I work a bit of a longer day but with longer breaks and have my little office lair in the basement. We’re slowly working out how to move work to all telework all the time, and I’m taking to it pretty well — maybe part novelty, but I’ll run with it. Planning future work is a bit difficult, though. Next week I plan to retireve some more stuff from the office — they’re letting me go in quickly to get a few things I left in my cubicle to make my home office a more productive and ergonomic place. I’ll wash my hands after going in, of course!

I’m not going to try to cover everything — that’s been my downfall in trying to write here lately — but with any luck I’ll manage a few more posts. Adapting to the new normal should provide some fodder at least!

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Grey and purple day miscellany

I'm in a kilt today… my purple one, in honour of Purple Shirt Day, the grassroots work holiday where we make the holiday gathering in the conference room more purple. Fortunately it's +3°C out (but Elizabeth still insisted I bring leggings just in case).

Noisette passed away a few weeks ago… she'd had kidney issues for a while and we'd been keeping her going with special food and medication but eventually she got really thin and pretty rapidly passed. She's in the backyard under the patio stones with Pixel now.

I'm looking forward to my four months on loan to another agency starting in the new year… I'll be able to walk to work, do things I've built up a lot of expertise in over the years, and generally change gears while keeping my current job in the long term.

Last weekend, Oscar and I went out to the countryside to help Heather's dad put firewood under shelter for the winter. I think everyone enjoyed the time — there was a moderately big fire of wood bits that weren't worth moving, lunch, and time together across our larger network of blood relations, in-laws and out-laws. And Heather's dad will have an easier time staying warm this winter.

Domestic life these days involves lots of appointments and holiday prep as well as signing kids up for all their winter 2020 stuff. December always flies by!

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