Grocery shopping

The Safeway store I usually go to has instituted “senior hours” from 7:00 – 9:00 AM Tuesdays and Thursdays, which is certainly more convenient than the 5:00 – 6:00 AM hours some of the other grocery stores have put in place. Since I was unable to find any meat on Monday I decided I’d try Safeway this morning. I got there at about 6:50 AM; only one of its two doors was open (they were monitoring how many people came in, I was told). There wasn’t any hamburger immediately available, but I saw one of the butchers who told me he was grinding it as we spoke. I hung around for five minutes and got 4 packages (I could have gotten more, but I’m not gonna cook anything with ground beef more than once between now and next Tuesday when I’ll have another chance to shop there).

I also got some frozen pizzas, some taquitos (forgot the prepared guacamole, dammit!), some frozen TV dinners, some fruit and some cookies. There were few paper goods available at Safeway: no wipes, no TP, no paper towels. There were some packages of napkins which were on my list. The store was also out of Tylenol, bar soap and hand-soap refills.

The store had taken some precautions: there are now big plexiglass shields between the cashier and the customer, maybe 2 feet by 3 feet. They have also decided customers should bag their own purchases, presumably on the theory that any bagger might have the virus. Now, the cashier has to handle each package and scan it, so I’m not sure the logic is consistent, but whatever. It took me right back to the summer of 1968 when we lived on Guam and I bagged groceries at the Navy Commissary before I left for college in the fall.

I imagine I’ll be back next Tuesday to see if the paper supply has been replenished.

Precautions against coronavirus

Yesterday I had to go to the local Straub Clinic. Those folks are taking serious precautions. Ordinarily there’s an automatic sliding door which opens when you get close to it. Not now. Now there are memos taped to each side of the door listing the coronavirus symptoms. In order to get in you have to speak to the front desk through an intercom box on the wall. The receptionist asks you to read that list and then asks if you have any of those symptoms; then you’re asked whether you’ve traveled recently. Once you answer those questions you’re asked why you’re there — appointment, blood draw, whatever. Only then will they release the automatic door and let it open for you.

If that doesn’t get your attention, I don’t know what will.

Shortages

Day before yesterday I had to go to a local supermarket/pharmacy to pick up a prescription for Mom and picked up some of the items on my list. I was there about 1:00 PM, and the entire stock of paper goods (TP, facial tissues, paper towels) was gone. In the packaged meat section there was no beef or pork or lamb. There was a fair amount of chicken and I grabbed some, but I really wanted some ground beef and couldn’t get it.

The shipping companies have assured us that they plan to keep to their schedules, so I’m not sure whether this is hoarding by customers, a bottleneck between the docks and the distributors, or a glitch (shortage of truck drivers?) between the distributors and the stores.

All the local groceries have initiated “senior hours” for their older customers. The idea is that the most at-risk population can shop then without worrying about mingling with all the younger crowd which might carry the virus. I applaud the goal and plan to take advantage of it, but the times are generally the first hour after store opening, which is often 5:00 – 6:00 AM. I recognize the logic but wish it were more convenient. On the other hand, presumably the stores re-stock overnight; if they’ve got the stuff I need I have to get there before it sells out, so dawn is the best time.

Pandemic!

It was arguably not until March 11 that Americans started to take the coronavirus illness seriously. It first appeared in Wuhan, China in late December of 2019 (hence the 19 in the COVID-19 name), but most Americans (and their politicians; the public health and intelligence people were raising alarms but not getting any traction with elected officials) likely thought of it as something “over there.”

When Rudy Gobert of the NBA’s Utah Jazz tested positive for the virus on that date, everything changed. The NBA immediately suspended all its games. It was followed in short order by Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, and Major League Soccer. That got Americans’ attention.

Unfortunately, it did not get the President of the United States’ attention, except as a hindrance to his re-election campaign. President Trump tried to suppress mass testing of the population for the virus because he didn’t want “the numbers” of sick people to reflect badly on him. That, coupled with a misstep by the CDC which caused its first batch of tests to fail, put the US behind and it has yet to catch up. Even at this late date, due to the shortage of tests, with over 42,000 known cases of COVID-19 and over 600 dead, the US has probably not scratched the surface of the number of Americans who’ve been infected.

In addition, the delay in taking the pandemic seriously meant that hospital and clinic stockpiles of masks, gowns and other gear (PPE — Personal Protective Equipment) are woefully inadequate. President Trump has been dilatory in demanding that factories begin switching their output from widgets to PPE gear and ventilators. He has “invoked” the Defense Production Act which gives him wide latitude to do so, but his Republican ideology requires that he not “tell business” what it should do.

He is now making noises about lifting Presidential guidelines which suggest that Americans “hunker down” and stay home because he’s fearful that a poor economy will hurt his re-election chances. He doesn’t seem to understand that if he proved to be a competent leader through a national disaster that would reflect very well on him.

Here’s a timeline updated through today.

Baseball is a funny game

There are a lot of ways to make an out on the basepaths in a baseball game, but getting hit by a batted ball is one of the rarest. I saw it happen once.

The question: How can a game end on a base hit by player on the team that is trailing without the ball being touched by the defensive team?

Here’s how:

With Brave runners on first and third and two out in the ninth inning, Atlanta’s Ted Simmons hit a line drive off Dodger starter Orel Hershiser that was seemingly headed into right field to easily score Trench Davis with the tying run.

Instead, the ball hit Glenn Hubbard, the runner at first base, squarely on the shoulder and then trickled into shallow right field. Hubbard slumped to the ground, as if shot, and Dodgers players momentarily mulled around the field unaware that the final out had been recorded.

But first base umpire Gerry Davis singled Hubbard out, giving the Dodgers their third straight one-run win.

For those scoring at home, give Simmons a single and also make the game-ending put out by first baseman Franklin Stubbs, who never actually touched the ball.

There’s a cliché that says “Every time you go to a baseball game, you see something you’ve never seen before.” This was certainly true of me that night.

Super Bowl calamity

As a 49er fan since the Montana days of the 1980s, tonight’s game was very disappointing. They outplayed the Chiefs for 3 1/2 quarters and then their defense completely let them down.

San Francisco coughed up a 10-point fourth-quarter lead. Its offense couldn’t stay on the field to prolong drives, the defense couldn’t come up with timely stops, and a final-minute drive came up short as the Kansas City Chiefs emerged with a 31-20 victory at Hard Rock Stadium.

Thanks to last year’s 13 – 3 win by the Patriots over the Rams and this 11-point win by the Chiefs over the 49ers the average point differential between teams in the Super Bowl for its entire history has now dropped below two touchdowns to 13.91 points for the first time in 54 years.

Last of the Star Wars films (for a while)

Last Tuesday (the 21st) I took advantage of a theater gift card I got for Christmas and went out to see the latest “Star Wars” film. I enjoyed it. I wouldn’t say it was the best of the nine episodes in the Jedi/Skywalker story, but it was far from the worst. I might have enjoyed it even more if I hadn’t bumped the popcorn bag and knocked about two inches out of it and onto the theater floor. That was the most buttery part, too.

I knew going in there were going to be some edited bits with Carrie Fisher as General Organa, but I had no idea that Mark Hamill as Luke, Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian and Harrison Ford as Solo were going to reappear, even briefly. That was fun.

I have no idea what Disney is going to do next with the franchise, but I’m sure their accountants are looking at box office receipts as I write this and plotting and planning.

More Christmas tales

(Originally posted 12/25/18)

I have posted two of these nearly every year for the past ten:

“Yes Virginia”, the story of Francis P. Church’s New York Sun newspaper editorial responding to Virginia O’Hanlon’s question about Santa Claus’s existence.

Jo Walton’s wonderfully imaginative story of Joseph, faced with a newly-pregnant girlfriend and a sudden requirement to travel to Bethlehem.

The third story, new this year, is John Scalzi’s interview with Marta Pittman, Santa Claus’s lawyer.

Christmas Eve poems

Alan Mandell reads Clement Moore’s “The Night Before Christmas.” Mandell is a Canadian-born theater actor.

The poem was published in 1823, but Moore didn’t acknowledge his authorship until he published a book of poems in 1844. There’s apparently an ongoing dispute among some literati and academics as to whether he was the actual author. He was quite a character. He got extremely rich subdividing his inherited real estate on Manhattan Island, and in 1827 he donated the land on which the Episcopal General Theological Seminary now sits.

Here’s a musical version performed by Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians. Waring was an interesting character. He was a bandleader, radio and TV personality, and a promoter. He backed the inventor of the Waring blendor to the tune of $25,000, apparently getting the naming rights to the gadget. “…the Waring-owned Miracle Mixer was introduced to the public at the National Restaurant Show in Chicago retailing for $29.75. In 1938, Fred Waring renamed his Miracle Mixer Corporation as the Waring Corporation, and the mixer’s name was changed to the Waring Blendor (the “o” in blendor giving it a slight distinction from “blender”).”