Normal, but Still Weird

With COVID levels very low in my neck of the woods and the kids semi-back-to-school, sometimes we feel like the world is back to normal, just with face masks. But it’s not. The weirdness is just below the surface all the time, causing extra work and stress.

Our weekend involved mostly normal activities for us — home projects, social events, and a day trip. Ian isn’t participating in marching band this fall, but that’s the fault of epilepsy, not the virus.

I bought some books from a 12,000 square foot mansion. The owners were downsizing and selling a portion of their million dollar art collection. After some bargaining I bought some old books. Hope I can sell them quickly. Because only 30 people were allowed in the house at one time, I waited 3 hours to get inside. It was worth it just to see the full length indoor pool.

Cocktails with friends, involved two separate platters of food in the backyard. We haven’t seen them in months, because we can only manage one social event per weekend these days. They’re thinking about moving to a coastal town in Delaware, since her job will probably stay remote forever.

We checked in on Jonah, because there was a shooting across the street from his old off-campus house. I’m worried that without students and reduced school security that his college town is becoming too dangerous for the remaining kids.

And we went to our first museum in six months. God, that felt good.

Our latest COVID challenge is to create a faux awesome office for Steve’s zoom phone calls. He finally got a camera on his computer, so his co-workers are going to get a peek into the office he shares with me and the guest bed. I’m hoping by angling the desk properly, we can hide all that.

58 thoughts on “Normal, but Still Weird

  1. I like your diagram schedule. Only for weekends? or do you make one regular days, too. I like these reports because they are concrete (and non-influencer, no building a schoolroom in your basement, as in the NYTimes, moving and renovating a second home, . . .) examples of trying to make things work.

    I think adding normality can be an effort, figuring out what you want to do and ways to do it (well, when things are actually available). And, also, doing the thing even if you don’t get to do it exactly how you want (i.e. wearing a mask, or standing in line, or arranging two platters of food).

    Kiddo’s college invited people back, delayed, saying that conditions might be as good as they might be get for an entire year. Going is challenging, but, I think necessary because the alternative is retreating for a year or more.

    We are socked in with smoke, unhealthy to hazardous outside, which is kind of soul destroying at this moment (since as someone posted on FB, “all we had was the outside.”).


  2. If the ruling stands, the governor of Pennsylvania no longer has the authority to shut down businesses (which means bars mostly here) because of Covid. If we wind up with open bars and closed schools (which is what seems likely given how the disease has spread locally), I’m going to be livid. I love bars above pretty much anything but my family, but the gap there is pretty big.


    1. It could also be a logical consequence of economic downturn, racism, and a feeling of despair given both those things.

      Or maybe they’re just really really mad that Amy Wax can’t teach first-year students.


      1. The police are deliberately spending their time attacking or harassing peaceful protesters while ignoring violent crime in an attempt to influence the election. The United States is being pushed towards the kind of strong arm politics you see in the third world by people whose primary political value is maintaining their position in the social strata relative to those of other races.


      2. I guess you’re not a manager. The way you get people to do their jobs is to tell them that their jobs are important and meaningful and that they are valuable members of society. Is that the message the police are getting these days? It never ceases to amaze me, the hypocrisy of people who rant about microagressions and then pour out endless hostility to those we expect to perform difficult and dangerous work.


      3. Someone who can beat someone like me on camera without fear of consequences and with no justification is not doing any job I want to encourage.


      4. You know, I actually spent some time discussing BLS data on workplace injuries/fatalities.

        In 2018, there were 106 fatalities of police officers. There were almost 700,000 police officers in the US in 2018. Of those 106 fatalities, 51 were from accidents.

        “The 51 officers accidentally killed died in a variety of scenarios:

        34 died as a result of motor vehicle crashes
        29 while operating cars, SUVs, trucks, or vans
        5 while operating ATVs or motorcycles
        9 were pedestrian officers struck by vehicles
        3 officers drowned
        2 were killed in firearm-related incidents
        1 officer fell while engaging in a foot pursuit
        2 officers died in an other type of duty-related accident when they were struck by a commuter train.

        Use of seatbelts. Of the 29 officers killed in motor vehicle crashes while operating cars, SUVs, trucks, or vans, 8 were wearing seatbelts, and 15 were not. Data about seatbelt usage was not reported for 6 of the officers.

        Of the 15 officers who were fatally injured in motor vehicle crashes and were not wearing seatbelts, 1 was seated in a parked motor vehicle at the time of the accident.”

        91 people who work retail are killed per year, but I grant that the number of retail workers is much higher than that of police officers.

        The most dangerous jobs are held by logging workers, fishers and related fishing workers, aircraft pilots and flight engineers, and roofers.


      5. But they are not doing their jobs. The police (in NYC, from what I can tell, but also elsewhere) seem to think they don’t work for all the people of their city and instead, either for themselves, or for some subset of the city they deem worthy.

        The tweets of the the NYC police “benevolent association” are horrific and unacceptable. They called one of their constituents (one who is not a convicted prostitute) a whore. They tweeted personal identifying information about the young woman in their city. Where are the managers ensuring they serve the city?

        In my neck of the woods, the police tweeted a laudatory report of a police officer chasing a suspect into a ditch. That police officer was involved in three officer involved shootings and has just been charged with murder in the third, which bear significant resemblance to the other two shootings. We could call him a bad cop, if he wasn’t being publicly congratulated by his peers.


      6. The officer down site is a good source (and, a place to honor those who served; I do that by reading their stories).

        Look at the graph of deaths. Deaths are quite a bit higher this year. Why? COVID. In Texas, which has the highest number of officer deaths, 36/49 officers who died died of COVID.

        The site includes correctional and other officers, and so ones who presumably aren’t members of the “Police Benevolent Unions”.


    2. How do police prevent shootings? They only show up after a shooting.
      Also what kinds of shootings? Are we talking gang related/ organized crime, domestic disputes, robbery? All of these have different causes.


    3. Also, I have yet to see a significant movement within American police against those officers who abuse power. Until that happens, complaining that police are being unfairly demonized is disingenuous.


  3. If Jonah still lived in that house, I would have made him come home for the rest of the year. Thank God, he’s in a proper building with security and locks.


  4. My 10th grader says that the remote kids are nearly all back now, although there are a couple of holdouts. This is the fifth week of the school year for my younger kids.

    Hometown U.’s total active COVID count is now just a whisker more than it was the day before college started. Hometown U. went through a biggish surge in about three weeks, peaking with over 4X the number of active cases that they have today. This is Hometown U.’s fourth week.

    The county has a frustratingly persistent number of new cases, but it’s pretty flat/down, and as far as I can see, the public schools are not blowing up. If I am mathing correctly, the county’s most recent 7-day rolling average is about 12.5 new cases per 100,000 residents.


    1. Sorry!

      I should have written, “Hometown U.’s total active COVID count is now just a whisker more than it was the day before classes started.”


      1. bj said, “Have you seen this group sourced tally of Texas public school cases?”

        No, I haven’t. Our fancy suburb has a really good dashboard showing all schools and all active cases. The city really ought to have one, but doesn’t.

        I feel like schools are hampered by not having the testing regimen that a lot of colleges have, but at the same time, elementary schools lend themselves really well to podding.


  5. Ever since school started, I’ve been venturing out to various non-grocery store type stores. I’ve been to Home Depot with a friend, the new downtown independent bookstore that I want to survive, Barnes and Noble (while waiting for a car repair), World Market, Carter’s, etc. I also went into the public library today and got a big stack of books for the 2nd grader, as curbside delivery has gotten mysteriously sluggish. It’s actually been kind of great–I hadn’t done any non-grocery in-person shopping for 5.5 months. My college freshman and I have gone to Panda Express on campus and eaten outside twice. The weather is suddenly nice, too. The outdoors should be fairly pleasant right up until mid-November.

    Our local positivity is about 10%. My plan is that once we hit 5% for a week, I’d like to get a real haircut, get the 2nd grader a real haircut, go to church in person (husband and the two older kids are already going), and send the 10th grader back to PE (he really wants to get back). I’m not sure when we go back to indoor dining or take the 2nd grader to the children’s museum. The 2nd grader has been terribly bored on the weekend, although I’m going to try to keep her stocked up with books.

    I have a very tentative plan of a spring break trip to San Antonio for spring break if things improve. We wouldn’t have to plan much in advance and we could do just about everything outside, including dining (cause San Antonio).

    I haven’t been further than 20 minutes from home in 6 months, although my husband and the big kids have.


  6. “It’s tough to figure out how to keep our children safe.”–As far as I can see, the leftist answer consists of (a) defunding and demonizing the police and (b) moving ourselves and our children to monochrome suburbs and secure apartment buildings. At least, that is the entire program on offer here. The result is that crime increases, but it doesn’t affect PLUs. What John Kenneth Galbraith described as private affluence and public squalor.


    1. There’s quite a good thread here by Jon Stokes on the fuzziness of the solutions offered by the abolish-the-police crowd:

      He makes the totally fair point that he’s never seen anybody offer a workable non-police response to rape.

      The “funny” (but not haha funny) thing is that polling demonstrates that very few actual black people want policing in their neighborhoods reduced. The number I’ve seen is 81% of black Americans want either the same level of policing or more. They want better policing, not less policing. And yet that large majority is being talked over.

      It’s no accident that the most violent, persistent anti-police protesting has been in super white, super lefty cities like Seattle, Portland and Minneapolis. The belief that one can live safely in a big city without policing is a product of being very, very privileged and/or sheltered.


      1. I’m sorry but “the left” or whatever you mean by activist groups have worked on a variety of projects over the past 30 years dealing with sexual assault and are still involved with them. Pressuring police to process rape kits, providing advocacy for those who have been assaulted, pushing back against police who refuse to take action when sex workers are assaulted are some examples. Working for a more accurate picture of sexual assault that is congruent with the pact that 4/5 times assailants are know to victims.

        Police officers are also notorious for protecting each other when one of their own is accused of domestic violence, and “the left” has also worked on this issue.

        Can we please stop acting like Twitter conversations are a picture of what is happening on the ground?


    2. I should add, I’m not pro-destroy the police. I do think the police, here in Canada as well, need to be funded for *less* money (the Toronto police budget is out of control) and we need to really focus on what we want them to do and how we want them to do it. I do believe putting some of the money saved into alternative programs – mental health supports, etc. – would achieve the same results. Asking the police to be the front line for everything from minor traffic tickets to talking a suicidal person off a ledge, plus enforcement of laws, isn’t working. And there is a culture and a racism problem.


    1. not perfect or necessarily portable or portable, but realistic.

      and rape, in specific, seems like a crime that police do very poorly with.


      1. bj said, “and rape, in specific, seems like a crime that police do very poorly with.”

        Jon Stokes agrees with that. But, as he points out, we’re not being given any sort of clear alternative plan.

        I think you may be underestimating the sheer hand-waving utopianism of a lot of current popular anti-police discourse.


  7. There are plenty of naive views of a police free world, but also plenty of us who think the current system is unacceptably broken in a way that imposes costs on racial minorities, the mentally ill, and the disabled (the story of the child with autism who was shot repeatedly is heartbreaking) and needs to be fixed.

    I believe the job of policing needs to be changed, but more so that the institution of the police is filled with the wrong people with the wrong views. I’m also intrigued by the Camden solution of remaking the police force.


    1. Just having police misconduct investigated by an independent body that doesn’t need to work with that same police force the way the local DA does would solve a lot of the issue. Also firing officers for lying. People like to criticize utopianism, but just ordinary checks and basic morality are being evaded now.


      1. Also, somehow the left fails if some twenty-year-old seems unrealistic but somehow the experienced guy whose job it is to solve the problem don’t have to explain their plan beyond “the kids we shoot tear gas at are too angry”?


      2. Exactly, MH.
        I am also not sure that continuing to work with the same police officers will work. You have no idea (well, maybe you do now) how steeped many of these police are in white supremacy and toxic masculinity (and yes, even Black officers and women officers can demonstrate both). Many of them have fathers and uncles who were police, and the power is the appeal.


    2. Yes, the police offer almost no protection for women against rape right now. And no justice once it happens.

      Only 4.6% of sexual assaults ever lead to an arrest, and only 0.9% are ever referred by police to prosecutors. (According to Rainn, the Rape and Incest National Network.)

      The police are not getting the job done now, I’m completely ready for some new solutions.


  8. Another reminder that because of corruption and a culture of impunity, the Republic of Georgia disbanded its highway patrol and set up a new, smaller, transparent and accountable force. American advisers helped.

    Among police officers who married female friends of mine, the rate of physical abuse is 100% (n=2). These men should not be in a position to wield deadly power over anyone. One’s dead now, so it’s not an issue. The one who’s not dead would routinely drive past my friend’s post-separation home and call in the license tags of any visitors. I made sure to drive my mom’s car any time I visited her.


  9. And, more on management. A Seattle police officer was paid $414,543 for 4,149 hours of work last year. How? No one can really answer, because there appear to be no clear records. These are examples of bad management and an institution unresponsive the the people they serve and the people who pay them.


  10. Also, the idea that communities of color want policing to address crime AND want restructuring of funding (called defunding) of the police is not contradictory. They want a PROTECTIVE law enforcement presence not the aggressive and abusive one many communities have.


    1. If the police aren’t actively protecting people explicitly trying to start a race war while attacking people exercising their first amendment rights, the socialists will have won.


    2. You can’t always get what you want. People want a lot of things. They want a society that distributes from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs. They get gulags. They want a protective but not aggressive police force, they get a dramatic rise in homicides, including a bunch of dead children, and white flight by everyone here (except me, so far). It’s best to live in the real world, not a leftist fantasy.


      1. Where does a protective police force lead to a rise in homicide? I’d like to see a citation for that. Because there are multiple studies linking incidents of police shootings and other aggressive police actions with a reduction in 911 calls and reduced cooperation with law enforcement in regard to investigations.

        Click to access federal_actions_to_engage_communities-in-reducing-gun-violence.pdf

        “publicized cases of police violence not only threaten the legitimacy and reputation of law enforcement; they also—by driving down 911 calls— thwart the suppression of law breaking, obstruct the application of justice, and ultimately make cities as a whole, and the black community in particular, less safe.”

        A simple example is of how the police treated my friends and me when as teenagers we hung out in parks after closing in the summer. We’d get told to go home, that it wasn’t safe to be out. We often had alcohol with us – once they confiscated it but sent us home. Contrast that with the kids at the Oakland school my wife worked at. They were tased for being in a park after closing. Which community, my white middle class one, or the Black and Latino Oakland community, is going to have a productive relationship with law enforcement?


      1. Funnily enough, of the 100 highest paid state employees last year, 90+ worked for our state university system.

        The highest paid (state) policeman (#79) doubled his pay through overtime. Overtime is regulated by union contracts.

        We can all complain about union contracts, but that’s a long term problem. It also lies a the heart of the trouble for some bankrupt states, like Illinois.


      2. The Globe is under paywall, fwiw.

        The top paid state employee in RI is the URI basketball coach. 25% of highest paid state employees in RI are in corrections. I also know COs (in NY state, not RI) and … no comment.


      3. Those Mass. pay numbers are interesting. It’s all university administrators. If the linked numbers below are correct, New York is similar but with a lot more hospital administrators in the top-paid set. Not too many policemen. Unlike many states, I don’t think we have a football coach near the top.


      4. @y81,

        Well, it probably helps that Marty Meehan is the president of U Mass. He was a member of the US House of Representatives for 14 years. Under his leadership, UMass signed a deal to purchase Mount Ida College.

        Hospital administrators who are doctors, for example, the chair of a department, presumably also bill patients for their services. So the “total pay” for the hospital administrators in New York’s figures could include both the pay for the administrative position, and the income from work in the clinics.


  11. Why can’t the police wear their seat belts? Why can’t they wear their masks? Why can’t they drive their police cruisers without texting at the same time? (Yes, car 341, I’m talking about you on Sunday at 2pm.) Do they think their failure to observe our society’s most basic safety laws and regulations goes unnoticed? Once you have to explain to your children why the policeman isn’t wearing his mask and they do, it seems clear that their moral authority has vanished. This is an institution that has rotted from within.


  12. “to create a faux awesome office for Steve’s zoom phone calls. ” I did a zoom with a former County Board member last month and he had a gorgeous shower curtain sized photomural of a nice city scene behind him. Illusion only damaged by the clip holding it up at the far upper right…


  13. bj was wondering how current unrest matches up to previous episodes.

    I don’t know how reputable this source is, but going off of this, the 2020 George Floyd riots have done $1-2 billion dollars in property damage so far, which is on par with the 1992 LA riots ($1.42 billion). And, of course, we’re still experiencing unrest, so there’s the potential for a lot of continuing financial losses. This is to say nothing of injury, health problems, and loss of life. The 2020 riots are on track to be the most expensive civil unrest in the US in at least 55 years.

    On the other hand, as that author points out, major natural disasters are significantly more expensive.


  14. In the weird but normal category, this in The Atlantic

    “There Won’t Be a Clear End to the Pandemic
    The collective sense of closure we’re all longing for may never arrive. Instead, brace for a slow fade into a new normal”

    There’s a mention of how those with generalized anxiety will struggle the most, and I am noting a correlation with risk aversion. Some folks seem to cope by making up their own rules and following them, others by throwing up their hands and saying nothing they do will matter, but others seem stuck waiting for rescue.


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