Newsletter

Where Can We Go When It’s Savage Outside?

2020-09-09 View from the window into the fire

COVID had us all isolated from one another, the West Coast fire hellscape has us locked-in — can’t even open a window. Instead of fog, the foghorns sing for the smoke swirling around the Bay Area and around the Golden Gate Bridge. Between the politics, pandemic, and fires, it’s easy to get stuck in negative emotions and thoughts. The other night, I was in full panic mode when I realized that there was nowhere I could turn to get a breath of fresh air…not for hundreds of miles! Below is the view from our window last Wednesday, when the skies turned red-brown and ash fell from the sky like rain. I imagine that lots of people find it difficult to cope. But history teaches us that we are not the first (or the last) to enjoy a little sojourn into hell. History is full of unspeakable horrors, and what we need to remember is that we live in the times when horror is more of an exception than a rule (at least in America, at least for the majority). That’s why we are so freaked by horror, it feels like a novelty. The ancient curse of “may you live in…

We are all immigrants in the land of COVID

A masked American family in 1918

I think human souls are tied to the land that bore them, shaped by it, created to fit the terrain, the weather, the language, the culture of the motherland. When transplanted into a new land, forced or otherwise, souls need to conform. They get broken somehow, edges filed away, bones cracked, empty spaces are hidden or forgotten. That’s why it is easier for kids to abandon their old homelands and immigrate to a new homeland — their souls are still flexible. Adults never truly adapt, they are forever broken, torn away from their motherland. And people who leave their birthplaces when they are somewhere in the middle — not quite adults not really children — become strange misfits. On the outside, they look like they belong, but scratch below the surface and there are surprising gaps and unexpected breaks in their psyche. America is the land of broken souls. “First-generation” or “foreign-born” comprise as much as 13% of all Americans (per 2013 census), more than one in ten! In many ways, immigrants are the most vulnerable population — these are the people who will never quite fit into the fabric of their new homes, they will forever remain tied to…

On the Magician Spectrum

Magic Made Here

There are two extremes on this spectrum: people who are externally motivated and those who only need what’s already inside them to get moving on a project. No one is always internally motivated and no person always needs an outside push to get started, but one thing for sure during this quarantine — those who are mostly internally driven do better. It is the same problem that people who are self-employed or who work from home face — not everyone is suited to that life. And for those who are now forced into it, depression looms. For those who can’t spin gold out of thin air or conjure dreamscapes or invent a new life and a new way of living, life becomes so dull that hours drag and days lay heavy while months and years slip away. Those who are able to make new things — artists and writers, housebuilders and gardeners, twiddlers and toymakers, composers and musicians, leather crafters and basket weavers, computer engineers and software designers, potters and jewelers, mathematicians and scientists, filmmakers and universe builders, gymnasts and mountain climbers…makers of all kinds — are never bored. There is never enough time to do all that’s inside our…

Memories

Supermarket Science Boxes

It’s been a hard month… a few months. I have been working on SupermarketScience.com almost nonstop. I worry about the families with kids — what will they do come September? The choice of sending your children to school (and thus risking COVID exposure not only to the kids but to the whole families) and keeping them home (at the risk of jobs and emotional stability) is stark. I’ve proposed a few solutions, you can find them here. I hope this will help some families. I will continue to post more curriculum (but perhaps not at the breakneck rate I’ve done in the past months). I will also share some ideas and their implementations for families who will make the decision to rethink how they want to approach educating their kids. Everything is on the table now — at times of crisis and chaos, the most change is possible. I have put all writing and editing on hold for the moment but will get back to it this month. I will release my AI novella and start to push my next novel towards the finishing line. Given how everything, including the publishing industry, is in flux, I think I will stick…

On Writing and Reading and Learning and Teaching

Supermarket Science Home Page

Learning and Teaching I will start with learning. One of the tragic things about this pandemic is that our kids are missing out on education. This can’t be helped — schools are hotbeds for viruses. It is common wisdom that a new elementary school teacher needs to survive the first few years of being continuously ill — little ones love to share hugs and kisses and snot, all in equal measure. But after a few years of coming to school every day, teachers develop monster immune systems…parents not so much. So schools had to be closed — the world has no immunity to COVID 19. And the only way things get back to normal is when we ALL get immunity to this virus. We can get it by getting sick or by getting a vaccine. The vaccine is still a year away if we are lucky. Acquiring immunity through illness is like playing Russian Roulette — you might be one of the lucky ones or you might become a physical or cognitive cripple…and that’s forever! So schools will be closed for a very long time. And parents are stuck at home, homeschooling their children — not the job anyone really…

Vaguely Familiar

2020 Corona Heart

The oddness of invisible threat is very unsettling but oddly familiar. If we think back on our lives, we all had periods of time when we were forced into isolation. I can personally think of several. I will list them chronologically. I was five years old when I noticed a bunch of kids playing together in our neighborhood “dvor” — a Russian word of a shared public space created by an apartment building complex that surrounded a little square of green space including a playground. I wasn’t a particularly social kid, but I liked playing jumping rope games and wanted IN. I begged my parents to let me go to a local Kindergarten. Such institutions were set up after WWII all over Russia. The idea was to help single women work and have kids — there were very few men left after the war, “the state was the father.” In my family, we had grandparents living with us, and so it wasn’t necessary to send me away. But I wanted it, got to go…for about two weeks. It was horrible! I had to drink castor oil by a tablespoon and other atrocities. I promptly accused my parents of not loving…

Living with Anxiety

Gigs canceled

We are week two into isolation, living in a social distancing dystopia. Everything is strange. Our eating and sleeping habits, our daily routines, our physical workouts, and our work and school schedules and setups are all completely disrupted. It feels like we are living in wartime, and yet it’s Spring outside. The bombs are not dropping on our heads. The flowers are blooming… This disconnect between what we experienced based on our higher-function reasoning (as presented by newsmedia, social media, crazy conversations with friends and family) and what we sense directly through our eyes and ears is very difficult to reconcile. People are dying (they really are) and yet you can take an evening stroll outside and smell the flowers. Doctors are sharing horrific tales of shortages and insanity in their hospitals, and yet the birds are singing and the sun warms our skin. It feels crazy! This is emotional dissonance. Mammals like us humans are not built for prolonged stress — it destroys our systems. We are “designed” for short bursts of adrenaline as a lion stalks us down the savanna. Worrying day after day is very destructive to our health. For those who would like to read more…