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Towel Day 2022

Another pandemic year, another Towel Day. I finally read Don't Panic: The Official Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Companion by Neil Gaiman earlier this year, and it was everything and more that I hoped it would be. It has a hard-to-fathom amount of detail about the life of Douglas Adams and the production of the series. I brought the towel I got as part of Vancouver Public Library's One Book One Vancouver out of storage again, along with Archie the Humpback Whale (whom I would nave named Noel after Douglas's middle name). I'll walk around with towel and hopefully I'll see some other hoopy froods who know where their towel is. I brought them to the co-working space, so I know where mine is.

A white towel with a blue whale and blue text that reads DON'T PANIC along with a plushy whale in a co-working space with plants.

Douglas Adams is tied with Zadie Smith as my favourite writer of all time. He, along with Steve Martin, are the heroes that aren't my dad, because they all taught me it was OK to strive to be intelligent and have a silly streak. (Monty Python, which I'm a fan of as well, taught me that but I could never fully get into them. The comedy troupe figure prominently in Neil Gaiman's book and Douglas Adams's life, as one would expect.) The heart aches when considering all of the deadlines that would have gone whooshing by had DNA lived longer.

Previously: There's a Frood Who Really Knows Where His Towel Is

A Month of Going to Blue Jays Games

I'm nominally a Blue Jays fan, enjoying watching baseball and them being Canada's only major league team. In the late 2010s, however, I realized (for the second time1) being a fan of a single team wasn't as enjoyable as being a fan of the sport. I also didn't watch much sports during 2020 and 2021, because the dread around the pandemic overshadowed the product on the field, and the quiet of the stadium coupled with the fake crowd noise only served as a reminder of the lengths we were going to in order to ignore the despair. I watched the playoffs when fans were allowed back, however, and it was fun watching the last day of 2021 where 4 games had implications for the playoffs.

When the Blue Jays announced the Leadoff ticket package, I was initially not interested. The more I thought of it, though, the more I liked the premise: It was a ticket to each home game, randomly assigned, in the truly cheap seats. There was almost zero chance of a foul ball or home run reaching that area.2 That took the decision of where to sit out of the equation, and got me in the stadium, where I could walk around wherever I wanted and watch at the standing-room areas anywhere in the stadium. So I bought the package, and went to most of the games, making it worth the price. Plus, I live a 15-minute walk away from the stadium.

The downsides were that every seat had an obstructed view. Opening night, I couldn't see most right field, and every other night, the corners were not visible. I was there for Bo Bichette's first grand slam of his major league career, but I couldn't see it go over the fence. I also have very few physical mementos of the games. There was a booth outside the stadium on Opening Day selling programs, so I bought one, but for other games, I couldn't find them at all on the 500 level. While one can bring their own food into Rogers Centre, it's a rarity, since I don't think people know that you're allowed to. One day I'll bring in a bánh mì sandwich and maybe someone will ask me which booth I got it at.

I ultimately waited too long to get the ticket package for May. I attended one of the April games with a friend, not part of the ticket package, but still in the cheap seats, and this time with unobstructed views of the field. So I think I'll try to sit in that same section when I do go to a game by myself.

Some other thoughts:

  • I was struck about how there was basically zero messaging about the COVID-19 pandemic. Nothing on the JumboTron, nothing in the PA announcements, and almost no signs of a new respiratory disease other than the employees all wearing masks (along with a certain percentage of attendees).
  • The Blue Jays put on a good show. I did catch myself wondering if there was ever, or ever will be, a Quiet Night at the Ballpark. That is, turning down the volume on the PA announcements, and no music between pitches, and no exhortations to "GET LOUD!!!" When attending with a friend, it was hard sometimes to hear him, and we can both be soft-spoken, and I'd rather try to speak over other people than walk-up songs and whatnot.

The games I did not watch: Sunday games, and the Thursday afternoon game during a weekday. It was a bit exhausting, especially after I had memorized the answers to the between-innings quizzes which didn't differentiate much, so I don't know how people who attend all 81 games can do it. I plan on going to one or two games a month from here on out.

See also:


  1. The first time was in the last 2000s, with the Vancouver Canucks. ↩︎

  2. During a game in which I was not in that section, Vladimir Guererro Jr. threw two baseballs into a section I might have been in. How did he know I wouldn't be there? ↩︎

Two Years of Sheltering In Place (More Or Less)

Over the last two months, we've seen the Omicron variant rip through the worldwide population and cause the Ontario government to close indoor dining yet again. That shutdown lasted about a month, rose tensions around the province, further elevated by the convoy of trucks that took over downtown Ottawa. Members of the convoy did attempt rolling through Toronto, but police had learned the lessons of our nation's capital and closed access to the downtown core, limiting traffic to those using muscle power and those who lived in the area. It was very eerie, and while some cheered, I was left with mixed feelings, since it felt like that was the goal all along. The federal government invoked the Emergencies Act for the first time, and I admit to being struck by how well it worked, and how quickly and easily the trucks and protesters were dislodged. I had heard all kinds of talk that they weren't leaving without a fight, that they outnumbered the police, that the police wouldn't have the guts to do it, but all that proved false after 48 hours of orderly removal of people and towing of vehicles.

Since then, I participated in a world record 14-level Ingress field, an operation which brought me back to my days in Vancouver when I would play the game more regularly. I'm currently at a 70-day streak of playing, so I guess you could say I'm serious about it again, and meeting new people as a result.

In early March, the Ontario government announced the removal of the requirement of restaurants and to ask for a vaccine passport, something I had done a few times (and noted which restaurants didn't check), and on March 21st, only a few indoor places will require people wearing masks. I will be carrying mine around with me for a while, since some places will still require them, notably events where people bought their events with the understanding that they would be sitting with vaccinated and masked people. Whenever I'm asked in a survey what a company should do about their mask policy, I say that they should honour what their customers expected when they decided to go. After that, if they want people to wear a mask, they should account for the people who didn't bring one not knowing what the policy was. The advantage of the government regulating it is you knew what to expect, and we'll soon go through a period of people, like me, being ready for whatever's asked of me. Since late February, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has sucked out the oxygen of the COVID-19 news story, and it has been rare since then that it has made front-page headlines, at least on the newspaper I subscribe to.

I did find myself surprised to feel that the government's announcement of lifting the masks requirement made it much easier for me to think about the future. I have a trip to British Columbia that I'd like to make in the late spring, and my pre-pandemic mega-trip plan (Kansas City, Las Vegas, Portland, OR and Vancouver, B.C.) seems a lot more realistic now.


The March 12th, 2022 issue of the Toronto Star, with the front page showing the following: 731 DAYS five waves THE LONGEST LOCKDOWNS IN TIE WORLD 37,261 dead 3.3M CASES DON'T WEAR A MASK. WEAR A MASK. Wash your hands. Wash your groceries. five variants of concern GET JABBED TWICE. GET A BOOSTER. Dine outside. Dine inside. Drop the mask. You are here WELCOME TO YEAR THREE How we will remember the pandemic? How do we move forward, now that the dream of COVID-zero is dead?

What did I learn in the last two years? Not as much as I thought I would. We found out about a lot of companies who relaxed their rates and policies in an emergency, which led to people wondering why they wouldn't do it in the first place. Beyond practicing mindfulness meditation every day for most of it, I didn't improve much as a person, not having taken on any new hobbies or restarted any old ones.

If I stopped blogging in 2019, the pandemic got me started again. I don't think I would have read Moby Dick or even read a chapter for the New Bedford Whaling Museum's Moby-Dick marathon if it weren't for the pandemic. I likely wouldn't have organized a travel show for the Icelandic Canadian Club of Toronto (and subsequently swore off organizing events). In recent months I finally decided to try cooking something outside of the usual Chef's Plate meal kits, trying my hand at two personal favourites, Singaporean curry chicken noodle (somewhat of a success) and Macau-Style Portuguese chicken on rice (so far failed). The pandemic isn't over, and if this year taught is anything, it's that we have some fits and starts left. I haven't been more optimistic that we can do things in a much safer state than we've ever been since it started, at least.

Three More Months of Not Sheltering In Place

The COVID-19 pandemic continues, and since I last checked in, I travelled back to British Columbia twice, once in late October to say goodbye to my dying mother, and another for the Christmas holidays. The first trip was a no-brainer, as she only had days to live, and after her passing I spent some time in Vancouver seeing people I didn't think I'd ever see again.

I returned to Toronto, and attended 3 performances by Caribou, a concert sponsored by the Icelandic tourism industry before hunkering down again. (I would later learn that I'm related to one of the participants of the junket that travelled to promote the Land of Fire and Ice.)

Caribou at the Danforth Music Hall

The Christmas holidays trip felt a lot more optional. The Omicron variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 was starting to assert itself, and the holidays were very much centered around Mom. The family kept some traditions alive (like Pizza Hut on Christmas Eve) and retired others (like the gift exchange). I saw family friends, stomped in the snow from the rare snowstorms B.C. experienced in the lead-up to my arrival, and otherwise relaxed at the family home for a week and a half.


Toronto, as of early January, is currently in a state of lockdown where indoor dining is not permitted and many venues on their own have decided to cancel events. It still doesn't feel as bad as the early days of the pandemic, but the city is noticeably quieter than the days in November and December 2021. January has been a month of more or less sheltering in place, in part because the outside temperatures are minus something Celsius, but also because there's nothing to do again. We just got word that that may be the case until the end of the month.

Three Months of Not Sheltering in Place

Since July of this year, I've been to Hamilton twice, went to an Ontario cottage for the first time while living in Toronto, and have gone to a co-working space every couple of weeks or so. While I've mostly been working from home, I haven't exactly been sheltering in place like I did for the previous 16 months.

The two trips to Hamilton were to see the Honey Badgers of the Canadian Elite Basketball League. The second trip was my first overnight trip there, to see a playoffs game, that they would ultimately lose to the 4-10 Ottawa BlackJacks. (Yes, a team with 4 wins and 10 losses made the playoffs.) On my second trip, I stayed at a downtown hotel so that I could do a couple of things in the morning before returning home, which were to see the HMCS Haida and the Hamilton Art Gallery, getting around by bike share. On that second trip, I took advantage of the hourly GO Train to Hamilton West Harbour Station.

The cottage trip was to Kawartha Lakes, made possible by the invitation from colleagues on the board of the Icelandic Canadian Club of Toronto. Near the cottage is Kinmount, Ontario, the location of a failed Icelandic settlement, and the site of a monument commemorating the losses suffered by that community. The Club sells a book, Icelanders of Kinmount by Don E. Gislason, as a fundraiser for upkeep of the monument. It was a treat to sit on the side of a lake, read a book, swim, and relax in the sun at the end of summer.

The co-working space near my place has been open for the whole pandemic. I had gone once or twice pre-vaccination, but felt uncomfortable enough not to do it very often last year. I have a plan that gets me two days per-month, and back when I regularly worked at an office, it would be my "undisclosed location" every now and then just to get a break from having a(n admittedly short) commute. In the months of not going, I continued to pay, mainly to keep my membership alive, but also in hopes that it would continue operating. To my surprise, I had been banking up days this whole time, so that has made the decision to go in easier.

Restaurants aren't at full capacity, but sports venues are (I went to a Blue Jays game at reduced capacity and watched them lose to the Yankees), but you can do things if you wear a mask and follow directions. That's a lot better than I can say than 18 months ago.

The Minister (Icelandic TV Series): A Short Review

My review of The Minister, an Icelandic TV drama, appeared in the September 2021 newsletter of the Icelandic Canadian Club of Toronto (of which I am currently the secretary). I am reprinting it here with permission.


Poster for the Icelandic TV series The Minister

The newly elected prime minister of Iceland has a secret that could topple his carefully crafted coalition government. On the heels of promising to only take power if the electorate meets a high turnout threshold, Benedikt Ríkardsson takes his case to the people via Twitter to get ideas on how to fix the constitution. Add to the mix a scorned party loyalist and others angling for the top job, sexual tension, the conflict (and alignment) between politicians and the press, shadowy backroom figures and a mental illness that threatens to spin out of control. While the ultimate outcome seems inevitable, everything in between has the viewer on the edge of their seat wondering how the players will stay alive both politically and literally.

The TV show, broadcast on TVO twice in the last 12 months, makes reference to Icelandic history and current events and international relations, and spans 8 hour-long episodes. Starring Ólafur Darri Ólafsson (Trapped, True Detective) as the prime minister, Þuríður Blær Jóhannsdóttir (The Swan) as his aide, Anita Briem (The Swan, The Tudors) as his wife, and Thor Kristjansson (The Swan, Yes-People) as the speaker of the parliament and, of course, long sweeping shots of Icelandic landscapes. TVO has even made the show available on its website to Canadian residents.

Hamilton, July 2021

My first trip outside of Toronto's city boundaries since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic was this Friday, to Hamilton. The closest CEBL basketball team to Toronto, the Hamilton Honey Badgers 1, opened up their stadium to fans in the past week, so I took advantage by buying a ticket to Friday evening's game. I had a dentist's appointment in the morning, work after that, and a surprisingly busy afternoon, so I just barely made the 4:30 PM GO Train out of Union Station. My trips in previous years to Hamilton were by bus, and this was the first time by rail. I have a longtime preference of taking rail transportation when the option presents itself (I can't believe I live in Toronto, the downtown core of which is served by streetcars), so I was glad I took the opportunity this time. I wouldn't say it's the most scenic train ride in the world, but the entry into Hamilton is pretty epic, with great views on both the left and right as it winds its way into Steeltown.

I didn't have much time before the game to have dinner, so I was glad I knew my way around a bit from previous visits. I had the presence of mind to avoid a dive bar and land at Merit Brewery, which I knew had a good macaroni and cheese, though I'd forgotten just how good it was. And it's on the snacks menu! The only regret was that I didn't have time for a second beer there, as I had hoped to try their key lime sour beer.2

Macaroni and cheese at Merit Brewery in Hamilton, Ontario.

The game was fun! You had to wear a mask at all times except while eating, and seating was limited and spaced out, but the atmosphere was terrific. It was my second time seeing a Honey Badgers game at Copps ColiseumFirstOntario Centre, and it was a back-and-forth affair. My type of basketball. It concluded with an Elam Ending, where if a game is close near the end of the 4th quarter, an algorithm determines the target score, and the first team to that score wins the game. The game clock is turned off, and the ending eliminates the situation where the team that's behind in the score tries to foul to get the ball back. It's a common complaint about NBA games that, combined with the timeouts, 2 minutes of basketball can take a half an hour to play. The Elam Ending gives the team that's closely behind the team with the lead a chance to win, with an advantage to the team that is already leading. The risk is that a game ends on a free throw, but the easy solution to that is to not foul and send anybody to the free throw line in the first place. And if it does happen, the incentive is to stock a team's roster with good free throw shooters.

The Honey Badgers-Bandits game, it turned out, ended on a free throw, but in quite spectactular fashion. And controversial! (Or at least as controversial as a Canadian professional basketball game can get.) The defending Bandits player, on the free throw that would have won the game for the Honey Badgers, was blocked before it got to the rim. Initially the referees called it goaltending, but since no player seemed to have been in a game where that particular event happened, there was confusion on the court. The referees conferred, and the call stood. The Honey Badgers won!

To get back to Toronto, my plan was to take the bus, but I seemed to have forgotten that the Hamilton GO Station locks its front doors after hours. After a moment of wondering whether I'd be trying to find a hotel room, I confirmed that indeed busses were still running, and boarded the 16 bus back to Union Station. While it took the freeway initially, I was surprised (as I was on each of my other bus trips to and from Hamilton) that it took detours, driving through Oakville and on roads running parallel to the 403 and the QEW. Road signs I saw along the way: Dorval Rd., Cornwall Rd., Trafalgar Rd., Sheridan Way. I was 100% sure we were going to Toronto, with just no strong sense about what roads we'd take to get there.

Arriving in Toronto, I got my first taste of the new Union Bus Terminal. I wasn't taking the subway home (I had already decided to walk), but I would definitely have asked the attendent directing passengers on how to get there if I had.

It was a pleasant evening trip. I'm hoping to spend more time Hamilton, including an overnight stay, since it's a place in the GTHA (along with Etobicoke) where I feel like I can breathe.

See also:


  1. How can you not be charmed by a basketball team with the name Honey Badgers and such a fierce logo? ↩︎

  2. I try the key lime pie, or the key lime-flavoured version of something, at a restaurant if they have it as an homage to the TV series Dexter↩︎

Reflections on a Year of Studying Mandarin Chinese with Duolingo

The impetus for my interest in all things China came from a woman in my high school that I admired, who thought I was a communist. She was part of a conservative family, my being part of a social democratic family was a source of debate between me and her, and as a graduation gift, she gave me the controversial book The Private Life of Chairman Mao: The Memoirs of Mao's Personal Physician by Li Zhisui. Little did she know that I would devour it, and it would propel me into studying Chinese history, politics, and language in university, and stay in the country for two months (and visit for work a few years later).

When studying Chinese in my twenties, I found that the cue cards available at the time a) didn't match the textbook created by our teacher and b) didn't match my learning style. I would go on to create 4-sided cue cards (folded in half with the simplified character (which we were learning), translation, pronunciation and traditional character (which is more prevalent in North American Chinese communities) to help me memorize. I did well in those classes, and wanted to purse it post-university, but I found my interest waned as other events like starting my career and shacking up with someone taking over my time. (Also as a result, I don't have a strong sense of the history of the country from 2008 or so on, so I'm on the lookout for a book-length treatment of the Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping eras.) I had intelligent things to say about China thanks to that part of my education, though.

Years later, as a way to pass the time in the COVID-19 pandemic era, I started practicing through Duolingo. It is definitely not the same as in-class participation with homework, writing exercises and practice partners, that's for sure. It's definitely fun, but Duolingo is not a strong way to learn a language. Having someone to speak with and continuously practicing writing (memorization being especially important for a language with so many characters) is essential in learning a language. I found some classes at the continuing studies department at Canada's largest and therefore best university, though I'm waiting for them to have an in-person component1, and Clubhouse (and their clones) seem to offer an interesting way to deliver lessons over voice-only medium. While I don't think I learned much beyond a few grammar points (I now know how to ask "Where in [city name] do you live?"), it did help bring what I learned in university back to me.

Today I'm celebrating a year of daily lessons, making it all the way to Diamond League. Maintaining a streak of its own sake can be motivating, and this is no different. It got me thinking of taking French lessons again (not through Duolingo) and while I don't think I'll ever return to China, I'm going to continue my long-held interest in the country and its people.


  1. I'm not holding my breath. ↩︎

Sixteen Months of Sheltering in Place

Checking out Toronto Vaccine Day

I knew Toronto was trying to set a record for most COVID-19 vaccinations in one day at a single venue, but signups were so popular that I couldn’t get an appointment. I had managed to get on the waiting list for a pharmacy beforehand, and on the actual day, Toronto Vaccine Day, I walked by Scotiabank Arena mainly just to see the crowd. By the time I got there, the line had dwindled, but it wasn't obvious that I could waltz right in, so I walked back home and felt happy about the exercise I got. About 15 minutes after I got home, I saw a tweet1 that said they were taking walk-ins. So I biked back down, and bada bing bada boom, I now have the Moderna shot as my second shot. I couldn't believe how efficient and fast the whole process was. The only thing that seemed to have gone wrong was the music outside the stadium, in order to make it feel like a party atmosphere, made it hard to hear the attendants. This wasn’t the venue I most wanted to get a vaccine at (Rogers SkyDome was), but this’ll do just fine.

Relating the story to my America co-workers later, they thought it was awfully Canadian of me to get a vaccine in a hockey arena.

I've always liked the British expressions for things, and "the jab" as the term for the vaccines always gave me a smile to my face. As a result of that, and influenced by the UK bot that preceded it, I created the Twitter bot Fully Jabbed Canada as to track second shot uptake as they started to become available to Canadians.

It's been two weeks since that second shot, meaning Canada considers me fully vaccinated. As a result, my morale has improved significantly. Ontario had already started allowing dining on patios (which have been taking advantage of at the diner next to my place) and in-person shopping since my last report, and as of this coming Friday, the provincial government is lifting more restrictions a few days early than planned, like they did the last time. The plan had been well-received (somewhat shocking for how it had handled the locking down in the first place), and I get the sense that they are learning to underpromise and overdeliver. The pandemic doesn't feel over for me. I'm making plans to go hiking and meeting up with local friends again, and visiting art galleries and museums and planning day trips with more confidence.


  1. Actually I got notified by Nextdoor, which linked to that tweet in a post, so it seems a bit lucky that I saw it in time. ↩︎

Toronto Islands July 2021

Planning ahead for the July 1st long weekend, I took the 2nd, a Friday off (which it sounds like a lot of people did), as well as today, a Monday, with tomorrow off as well so that today isn't my Sunday. It was the perfect opportunity to go to Toronto Islands.

Toronto

In my previous two visits, I was able to have a hot dog at the Riviera Pub, but this time I was denied on the grounds that it was on the kids menu. (Which was true.) The burger, which did take a half an hour to arrive, was delicious, at least.

The trip was a bit hastily arranged, as I do have something that will keep my iPhone on my person when I go swimming, but I didn't bring that nor did I have a beach towel. No dunk in the lake this time, but maybe next time, as I have a weekday vacation day coming up in August.

Boardwalk

Bike rentals were available today, and that would have saved me some of the money I plowed into a Toronto Bike Share bike. As I thought would happen, someone asked me where to get them, and I told them it was "from the mainland" but also pointed out that there were feedback QR codes all over the island for them to make that request. I still think it would be way more convenient to have bike share on the Islands. (I've already made my voice heard.) I noted that I wasn't the only one who had taken a bike share bike on the ferry today.

I played the usual location-based games while there, gaining some newly capture portals to my stats, as well as cleared some fog from Fog of World and checked in via Foursquare's Swarm to each of the places I stayed at for more than a few minutes. I couldn't get close to any new microconfluences, though, since the ones I had wanted to document were more than 100 metres into the water on the south side of the islands.

There were a lot of people on the ferry today, including a kids camp group. I would later find out that there were quite a few kids camp groups there. All told I biked for about 2 hours, and I'm looking forward to doing it again this summer.

Spring Stations 2021

I've taken in every Winter Stations since 2017. It's an art exhibit usually held on Woodbine Beach during the colder months at the start of the year in Toronto. Generally, the art pieces are large, often inviting people to interact with the art directly by going inside it or using the controls to make something happen. I attended last year's event just as the COVID-19 pandemic started, keeping the streak alive. This year, the exhibition was scaled down in number (but thankfully not in size!) and held in Toronto's Historic Distillery District during May through July, and dubbed Spring Stations for the occasion. I love art you can touch or site on or walk inside, and did so with all of the art exhibits this year.

"Throbber" at Spring Stations 2021

"From Small Beginnings" at Spring Stations 2021

"Arc de Blob" at Spring Stations 2021

"The Epitonium" at Spring Stations 2021

I posted more photos of the exhibition on a set at Flickr, and see also 2018 and 2019.

Fifteen Months of Sheltering in Place

Toronto feels like a city gain.

On Friday, Ontario opened up retail businesses to limited capacity and allowed outside dining on patios, and while I managed to avoid the lineups and had breakfast by my lonesome outside my favourite diner, it felt like a breath of fresh air had swept through and that we could breathe again. There was also the late-breaking news that a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine would be offered to those a part of Generation AstraZeneca (which includes yours truly) 8 weeks after the first dose instead of the customary 12 weeks, and that we could pick our brand. There are several (thankfully short) articles on the tradeoffs involved, though it must be said that the necessity of what really amounts to flow charts is the result of public policy and messaging. How hung up am I on it? I wasn't going to vote for the political party in power the next time an election rolls around anyway, and I don't know anybody who is, so I'll take it as a win that I have some agency in the decision.

The better weather means eating outside on my balcony more, and I aim to eat all three meals there as many days as possible.

I've been listening in on Clubhouse, the drop-in audio voice chat mouthful application, and heard one person says "we've spent fifteen months inside," and until then it didn't sink in how long it has been since I've attended an in-person event. My American colleagues are returning to the office as to weeks ago, and we're treated to scenes of fans at sports games while all events in Toronto have been cancelled until at least after Labour Day.

I did get to see illegal fireworks on the May Two-Four long weekend, which made me feel like a real Torontonian. That weekend also featured a one-day-only edition of the Lakeshore Boulevard Activeway, which I caught the very end of. No more for the rest of the summer, so I've been taking an hour-long walk on weekend days. It has been impossible to plan more than two weeks ahead, but with vaccine uptake what it is, I now expect that time horizon to expand for the rest of the year. I have vacation coming up, making day trips a lot more feasible. I expect to spend most of my waking hours at home still, but this feels a lot better than the previous 14 months.

There's a Frood Who Really Knows Where His Towel Is

The earliest memory I have of reading Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was actually through the text-based computer game. My dad got it for the ASCII-only computer we had at the time, and it came with a "Don't Panic" button and a piece of fluff, which I would much later learn was called a "feelie" inserted into Infocom games of that era. I didn't get far in the game, but I would subsequently read all 5 of Douglas Adam's increasingly inaccurately named trilogy, plus the Dirk Gently books, plus Starship Titanic, plus Last Chance to See, including the later TV series where Stephen Fry plays the role opposite Mark Carwardine that Adams played in the book and radio series. I was only really a few years into being "very online" when Douglas died. (I was just starting to recover when Aaliyah, my favourite R&B singer of all time, died as well.) In the passing years, I accepted that he might have ceased writing had he not died then, because he had notorious bouts of writers' block, but it still hit hard because he was someone, as a person who could be intelligent and silly at the same time, I admired greatly.

In 2010, somewhat controversially, the Vancouver Public Library chose Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy as the book to read in a city-wide book club. (It was unclear to many why a Vancouver author was not chosen.) For me, it was not only a chance to read the book again, but to get cool swag in the form of a white towel with the whale from the novel and "DON'T PANIC" in big letters. Every May 25th, a celebration of Adams' work takes place online, marking two weeks after the anniversary of his passing. On that day, I take my towel with me, hoping to see someone else on the street with a towel on their shoulder. The last couple of years have been mired in the COVID-19 pandemic, so I've only been able to celebrate at home and send out a tweet.

This time, the day before, I had a mild panic because I didn't know where I had stored it. After searching through every box in my storage area, and rustling through every nook and cranny in my apartment (with a pleasant side effect of tidying up as I went), I went back into storage and did a closer inspection of the boxes and found it in the "Whale Stuff" box. So, going forward, that is its spot. That means I'm now a frood who really knows where his towel is.

Fourteen Months of Sheltering in Place

This month was uneventful except for one day. Up until then I had spent a month wondering when I'd get a vaccine. I had registered with UHN when they offered appointments to 18+ in my postal code, and quickyly shut it down after getting too many registrations. I also registered with my local Shoppers Drug Mart and with Rexall, thinking that while it didn't cover all the bases, at least it covered some.

That was in late March. Hoping for the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, but willing to accept the AstraZeneca vaccine, I waited another month, with the messaging from health authorities being "Get the first vaccine you can." In the meantime, I made sure my email filters didn't sent the drug stores' emails to my spam folder, and started accepting every call that rang my phone. On Sunday, April 25th, intending to sleep in that day, I heard my phone's text message and email notifications chime almost simultaneously. That could only mean one thing, so I leapt to my computer and filled out the appointmnet form. It being 10 AM and the next available appointments being available at 10:45 AM and noon, I decided I wasn't so anxious for it that I couldn't have a relaxing breakfast and watch an episode of the Icelandic political drama The Minister before making my way a couple of blocks.

They pharmacy asked me to be there no more than 10 minutes early, but since I'm early for everything, that was too much to ask. I arrived 20 minutes before my appointment, and 10 minutes later I had a shot in my arm. I took a vaccine selfie, but only posted it to Facebook, thinking by then it was a widespread enough phenomenon that nobody needed the inspiration anymore. (I do regret that I didn't post to Twitter, since I would have enjoyed the wave of likes there.)

The late-breaking news is that the Ontario government paused the distribution of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and that came on the heels of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization making a preferred vaccine recommendation, which gave a lot of people the feeling that there was mixed messaging around the "Get the first vaccine you can" messaging. I don't know exactly what to expect for my second dose, but I do feel a lot more protected than I did two and a half weeks ago.

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