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Chronicle

Day 80 and Spring Equinox

Seasons seems to have fallen into the same category as “time” in that both have no meaning anymore. The pandemic has loosened our grip on linearity in our perception of time significantly. Which I view as an unabashedly positive thing. Why should we all be forced into living as if life moved in a straight line?

Nature has given the impression of being keen on rhythms like seasonal transitions but the more human life bangs on the planet the less it seems like seasons matter either. I’m less sure if that’s a net benefit like losing a linear sense of time (that was always bullshit) but losing nature’s rhythms is a bit weirder.

It’s the first official day of spring in the northern hemisphere and its snowing in Colorado right now. And we just dug ourselves out of over two feet of snow from a significant blizzard. The only indicator that seasonal change is upon us is day and night reaching equilibrium.

I’m having mixed feelings on the season of rebirth. A kind of shaken manic state has taken hold of our emotions with the possibility that the pandemic could be tamed. With vaccines rolling out quickly giddy conversations about summer reunions and family travel are cropping up. Friends are sounding optimistic about seeing each other again..All while we don’t really know if things will actually be better with a number of unknowns in the ether.

I’m not sure I want to change my lifestyle for a post pandemic world. Much as I’m praying vaccines remain effective and same. The pandemic has revealed many elements of our past lives to be unsustainable. I like being home. I like office life being considered less productive than the freedom to work from where you wish. . And I really like not having to socialize for professional reasons. I hope we keep the best elements. If I felt safe that all the accessibility was going to remain maybe I’d feel ready to celebrate spring. As it is I have some snowy winter worries on what life will look like as we step out of the cold into a new spring.

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Chronicle Internet Culture Preparedness

Day 73 and Trutherism

A significant snowstorm has hit the front range of Colorado. In downtown Boulder it looks like we have about two feet of very dense wet snow accumulated at 4pm Mountain Time.

It however came about 36 hours later than predicted. And this has caused significant consternation. A good chunk of social media in Colorado yesterday turned into “snow truthers” dunking on meteorological work being a scam. Some folks made weed jokes. The National Weather Service even took time to scold the skeptics.

Even a slight miscalculation in timing seemed to break trust as it looked like the hype wouldn’t match the reality for a day. This despite the storm arriving with exactly the quantity predicted and blizzard conditions that closed the major freeways including I-25 and I-70.

I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between the skepticism of meteorology and the current distaste for the epidemiology profession. The tone was distinctly similar to culture warrior angst about how scientists continue to get forecasting wrong. And yes getting it wrong is to the detriment of freedom and business. Except that in both this storms case and with Covid19 it’s been directionally correct. The impacts of policy has been the issue but not the direction of the data.

I’m not the first to worry about people bloc distrust of institutions and their information. I engage in plenty of skepticism on a range of issues from medicine to monetary policy. But no longer trusting basic information on timing, duration and impact no matter what the field because “the powers that be” are always inherently untrustworthy is getting to be exhausting. This is going to cost us lives as we begin to distrust even the banal and easily verifiable.

Public policy isn’t the same thing as public forecasting and we’ve lost sight of that. We should always be updating models and assessing impact. It just seems like a shame that we’ve decided any error in predictive work now negates the entire body of work.

The storm came in Colorado. It was a little late. Covid was a global epidemic. I guess the only upside is that it’s a little harder to dismiss two feet of snow. Truthers eventually got snowed in just like the rest of us. We’ve already seen the consequences of not having the evidence right in your face with covid. Whole portions of the population have split out their realities. The chaos of complete institutional distrust will come to be a defining feature of the next decade. I don’t have a clue how we get it back.

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Chronicle Preparedness

Day 70 and The Joy of Preparing

I’ve found a lot of satisfaction in the feeling of being prepared. And I don’t just mean for the apocalypse. Simple preparation for storms are enjoyable for me. I keep an eye on weather so I don’t find myself at the grocery store among panicked last minute shoppers. I love the run up last minute puttering of battening down the hatches before a snowstorm. I use it as an excuse to do errands or chores I would otherwise find a way to put off.

My usual storm routine is to do all the laundry (including sheets and towels), vacuum, run the dishwasher and take a long shower. This routine comes in quite handy if you lose power as having clean underwear and plenty of dishes is something you will appreciate if you are left without electricity or water.

Storms are a terrific way to force the issue of lingering “to do” lists like go to the hardware for more batteries or run by the pharmacy for more Advil. I personally hate running errands until a hurricane or snowstorm is bearing down on me and then I gleefully tick off chores that have been languish for weeks if not months.

Much of these routines are really about self soothing. The illusion of control calms the mind. I know I have little control about much in life (the pandemic really brought home that point) but by engaging our will we can exert a little pressure on the on the parameters of our world. If we put the intention into our work to prepare, then a few days without power sounds manageable our mind should it come to pass. We’ve already told ourselves this uncomfortable or even dangerous situation is one that we are capable of enduring.

It’s not that I think mind over matter is a plan (it’s not you need a plan for emergencies) it’s that building our capacity for experiencing stress makes actual stress much more manageable. Busting out the generator and the camp stove is fun! I’ve said this so many times to myself I genuinely believe it. A snowstorm is predicted to drop up to two feet in Colorado over the weekend. Lots of breathless coverage is in the local papers and on the weather channels that it could be historic. I’m secretly hoping we lose power for just a little bit. Long enough for me to play with some of my gear.