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But hey, I got $1200.

This week I had a small amount of income for the first time since April 8.  That was the day I filed for unemployment.  As a self employed person (I paint houses), I don’t qualify for the pitifully low $240 maximum state payout in Arizona. The last time I applied, in 1989, that amount was $235. The CARES act, however, allows self employed people to collect $600 a week in federal funds. So I applied, and have dutifully filled out my weekly form online every Sunday.  Arizona can’t figure out how to make its antiquated system do anything other than send out denial notices, so I have received nothing.  Interestingly, since the original form asked for an employer’s name and info, I put down myself.  A few days later, I got a form to fill out confirming that I wanted taxes withheld from any payment I got and also an employers packet which essentially said the state would do everything possible to prevent me from getting paid. I received them on a Friday and was given til Monday to get my employee paperwork back to Phoenix. I filled it out and ran down the street to catch the mailman.  The employer was given four extra days. Now the state says it has hired an unidentified outside agency to go through all the pandemic related claims to see if we are eligible.  They aren’t even going to start until the 12th, thirty four days after I originally applied. I am so fortunate I had a large job right before everything shut down. Even so, I have to continue to take whatever work I can get, despite being in the over 60 high risk category.  I am going to bid another job today. Maybe if I’m lucky I’ll get a retroactive payment for the $3000 that the CARES act says I am entitled to sometime next month. Fuck Trump and fuck the Republican party for decimating every humane thing our country has ever done. I can only imagine how it feels to be losing your job, your home, your car, everything, a situation millions of Americans face right now.

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“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

-George Orwell, Animal Farm

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This is sweet.

I think I first heard this song, and Tears For Fears, on a compilation in the early 80’s.  Maybe to benefit Greenpeace?  This was my favorite song on the record, and I followed the band all the way through their breakup.

It can seem like it is a mad world, to be sure, especially if you follow the behavior of large groups of people and those who lead them. Individuals, on the other hand, are usually pretty sane, predictable, and kind, so long as they are separate from the influence of the above mentioned large groups and people who lead them.

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Exoplanet Schmexoplanet

There is a flurry of articles out this morning about the discovery of an “Earth-like” planet in old data from the now dead Kepler Space Telescope. Here is an artist’s rendering of it.

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Some of you may remember that I recently completed a science fiction novel. I am currently sending it to the agencies who represent my favorite authors. I went to a lot of trouble to make the science of the book at least plausible, including trying to find an Earth-like planet. The first thing I did was look for planets in what is called the habitable or “Goldilocks” zone. this is the orbit range within which water is in a liquid state, so presumably life as we know it could flourish.

Unfortunately, all the planets we have discovered to date which reside within this zone also orbit red dwarf stars. So does the one in the articles mentioned above.  This is a problem because red dwarf stars are much cooler than our sun, so the Goldilocks zone is much closer.  This means that any planet within that zone is tidally locked like Mercury.  Tidally locked planets have an orbit and rotation which are in sync so that one side of the planet always faces the sun, and one away from it. Not Earth-like.

One side of a tidally locked planet would be blazing hot, and the other bitter cold.  There would likely be a temperate band around the middle where conditions would somewhat resemble those of Earth, so life could exist, but it would exist in permanent dawn or twilight.

Not a bad thing, and an interesting place to site a science fiction story, but not what I wanted, so I searched instead for a G-Type (sun-like) star. I chose Chara, which is about 27 light years from Earth.  As yet we have detected no planets orbiting Chara, so I put some there. My story takes place on Chara IV.

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An Up Side

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I’ve been doing a lot of phonetography recently, and posting it on Instagram to get a tiny glimmer of interaction from all the people I am not allowed to see or touch in the age of Covid-19. I am often impressed by the capabilities of my several-year-old midrange Android. The above was taken in the horse park where I walk my shared custody dog three days a week.  All the sticks are there to keep people to the path.  Prior to the pandemic, dozens of people were there at any given time, walking willy-nilly through the delicate desert flora.  Nowadays, I am surprised to see more than one or two brave souls. I do, however, see lots more coyotes, rabbits, birds, and insects. It seems the planet and its other inhabitants are taking a welcome break from the trampling horde, sucking large lungsfull of newly clean air, reclaiming lost habitat, and generally relishing our absence.

It will be interesting to see what the near and long term results of this pause in human destruction will be.  Imagine, for example, the trillions of insects which will not be smashed onto grilles and windshields during these months. Then think of the millions of bats, birds, frogs and other creatures who will have that much more food and will thus thrive and breed. Think of the additional pollination which will occur, resulting in a plethora of all sorts of plants.

A few months of clean air and drastically reduced greenhouse emissions might not make a dent in climate change, but it might present a more immediate benefit to those who resist fighting a disaster which is years away.  People in India can see the Himalayas!  New Delhi has blue sky!  So do all the major cities in the world.  This is what we could have now, if we build the cars, trucks, and planes we already know how to build which pollute less.  We can have this kind of clear, beautiful air forever, if we build the clean mass transit networks we already know how to build. We don’t have to give up any kind of economic benefit to do it, we just have to shift gears.  There are trillions to be made by capitalists in transforming the world’s transportation and energy sectors, and millions upon millions of jobs to be had.

We all have a lot of time to think right now. I hope a few of us are doing just that.

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Isolation

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I haven’t touched another human in close to three weeks. Technically, my physical therapist has touched me, but he wears gloves and mostly inflicts pain on my knotted leg muscles and tendons. I have not touched anyone in a way that conveys affection, friendship, or merely shared humanity.

I am, and have been for much of my life, comfortable with being single, solitary, and celibate.  Right now, though, I sure envy couples their intimacy.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m fine.  I’m probably more suited to surviving this weird isolation and physical separation than most.  I’m just saying that I miss the occasional hug, shaking hands when I meet someone or see a friend, huddling together in the cafe over coffee or a laptop, the ordinary, careless contacts which filled our lives until this pesky virus upended the world.

I’ve been reaching out to friends to make sure they are OK.  I now, to my knowledge, have one friend who probably has the virus.  He isn’t sick enough to get tested. Thanks to the travesty of a response from our incompetent leadership, there aren’t enough tests to go around. My fervent hope is that every one of those bastards who have been systematically dismantling our government and health care system will get infected with this virus.  I don’t want them to die, but I want them to be terrified by the prospect that they might.

It is said that one needs 8 hugs a day for maintenance, 12 for growth. Who knows if those numbers are in any way scientific. I wonder, though, how this social distancing and lack of physical contact will work on the psyche of individuals, communities, nations, and the human race. Will it further exacerbate the divides already widening between us. or will it inspire us to find new ways to connect?

I suppose the choice is ours.

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Nothing To Add

There is a plethora of verbiage floating around the blogosphere about the Coronavirus. I have nothing new to contribute, so here is a photo of the archbishop of Cuba visiting Baracoa in 2013. I happened to be right in front of the procession at the time.

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