Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Animal Crossing, that capitalist hellscape

I am not much of a gamer. I play exactly two video games: Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing. I just really like going around picking cherries while peaceful music plays, I guess.

But I've been thinking a lot about how different they are, economically. In SV, you inherit a house from your beloved grandpa, fix it up, and start farming on a small scale. In AC, you purchase a "deserted island getaway package" from Tom Nook, and spend the rest of the game making it as little like the deserted island you came to as possible.

It occurs to me that Stardew Valley is a distributist paradise. Land owned free and clear, small workshops, everything purchased for cash only. The villain is Joja Corp, the awful company that runs the chain grocery store across the river. Everyone has a job and contributes something to the rest of the town. And almost everything you need is available locally.

Animal Crossing, on the other hand, is firmly capitalist. House upgrades are always bought on credit. You're always trying to make the island bigger and more developed. And most of the decorations you can buy are kitchy and commercial: vending machine, port-a-potty, cotton candy stand. Nobody in the town works, because they have purchased the experience of an island getaway.

Distributism, I believe, is more of an ideal than a practical system. Of course having the means of production broadly distributed is a good thing. But I have read a lot of Chesterton and Belloc trying to figure out how they intended to do it, and remains vague. In a way, it's almost an aesthetic: these things are good and fit with the scheme; those are not. That's why I don't identify as a distributist anymore; the ideals are great but I don't trust anybody that's vague on details.

That said, I do think that there are reasons why a place would become a capitalist hellscape rather than a distributist paradise, and vice versa. After all, there's no truly free market. We have regulations and limitations. It seems to me that having easy credit, a stock market (or, in AC, the stalk market, for selling turnips), and millionaires like Tom Nook are going to push an economy into a large-scale, very un-distributed kind of capitalism.

So what am I saying here?

I am saying that the Able Sisters, Blathers the owl, and I are going to rise up and overthrow Tom Nook. Too long have I sold and purchased everything at the same company store! Too long have I paid money for the privilege of giving away some of my precious, unspoilt island for Tom Nook to sell to a stranger! Too long have I picked native weeds to plant hothouse flowers in rows! Too long have I sweated for his meaningless five-star rating and concerts with a mediocre dog guitarist!

Vive la revolution!

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Let's call this individualized education

E-schooling may be the thing that does me in.

The first two weeks we basically did nothing, because the school extended spring break to give themselves a chance to plan something. It was great. We watched a lot of documentaries.

After that we were emailed a giant packet for each kid, with pages to print for each day. The computer fought me about printing everything in the proper format, but I got the pages for them to do. Or, for at least one kid, to scream at and refuse to do any.

Then they had a drive-thru to pick up print copies because obviously not everyone has a printer or can afford to toner to print out 90 pages per kid.

I thought that was just how it was going to be, set up a nice routine to do the work, and eventually got Marko doing most of it. But it turned out that was only enough for two weeks, and at the end of that they rolled out yet another system. Except that it's not so much a system as a giant flood of different stuff.

Each child's teacher has a different system for informing us what work needs to be done, and in Marko's case, uploading the work after. I have had to log into half a dozen sites, and since they all have to log each other out and themselves in, I have to remember all those logins. For extra fun, one of the sites had "first initial and last name" for a login. All three of my school kids have the same first initial and last name!

Miriam has her work in a Google Slides presentation with different categories for subject and week. There are these itty bitty YouTube videos embedded which take a deft hand to pop out so they're viewable.

Michael's teacher is my favorite right now, because all the work for each day is on one page. I can open ONE file and know what his work is for the day. Also, all of the work is independent, which of course means the world when I have the other three all needing attention at every moment. (Not that Michael doesn't still demand attention, but at least it's theoretically possible for him to do it all.) Downside is, all of it is on the computer and we have only two computers. Also a tablet, but not all of the learning websites work on it, and anyway Jackie's got it most of the time we're doing school. Also the second day of school I couldn't find the document because it was posted on the general stream of the Class Dojo app and somehow the app doesn't think I need to see posts from two days ago.

Marko's work is the worst. He has a "choice board," also known as a paralyzing array of options, all of which he hates. Plus twenty minutes of this one app and twenty of another app and 30 minutes of reading. We are supposed to take photos of him doing the work and upload them on yet another confusing app.

It's the turning in that gets me. If the other kids don't finish something, their teachers probably won't know. If Marko doesn't, there are blanks in the app. I don't like leaving blanks in the app. But I also don't want to spend the entire day pressuring him to pick one of several activities, all of which are reviewing skills he already knows.

Normally his special ed teacher has tricks to coax him to do the kind of repetitive work he hates. But she's not here, and we have been informed our IEP has been reduced to a 15 minute group live chat weekly. I'm not sure what good this is expected to do. But I also don't know what else the teacher could do.

The worst part of it all is watching my kids do something awesome and interrupting it. Marko made tickets to Neverland and was getting Miriam to write repeating patterns of shapes to earn one. Michael built a space station out of Legos and we discussed the physics required to keep it in orbit. And I had to stop them from doing that and make them play frustrating, timed math games.

Not that I cave to the pressure entirely. I wrote off Marko's assigned writing activity and let him write a medical text about healing dragons. (Him: can I write it in the original Draconic? Me: uhh how about you write at the top that it's a translation from the original Draconic?) He's sending that to his teacher. That'll be fun.

Miriam was supposed to draw and write about a picnic. Instead she drew an angry stick figure and wrote "I HAYT PIGNIGS." Who cares.

Michael was supposed to write a letter to a classmate. Instead he wrote about how it's Thursday and Thursdays are okay but not as good as Saturdays.

I'm still getting the hang of this new regime, and deciding how much of the stuff they throw at us we're actually going to do.  I get the feeling they sent a lot because they are afraid of not sending enough, and not because they actually expect us to do it all. I'm trying to chart a course between "you do actually have to do some work" and "screw it, we're doing what works for us."

Friday, April 10, 2020

Plague journal #3

Things have been a lot better since I last posted. The kids are doing proper schoolwork now; not a lot, but some. John is doing some amount of work at home--answering the phones, handling library questions by live chat. I'm used to the ongoing drumbeat of tragedy now. It only makes me anxious once in a while. Other times I can go look at the death tally and it's like I'm reading it in a history book from a long time ago. It's so bad I can't quite imagine; my mind just recites the numbers and feels nothing.

It does make me angry seeing people still minimize it. COVID-19 kills more people in the US every day than any other condition. It's killed more than six times as many people as 9/11. And there are still people saying it's overblown. I guess it's hard to change your mind and admit you didn't predict this.

My energy level seems to have dwindled to fit the amount there is to do. I don't have work to do or school to get people ready for, yet I still don't manage to get the chores done. Plus it feels kind of pointless to get the house clean when we're clearly not going to be having any company. The mess got to me a couple days ago and I vacuumed. But it's back to looking medium sloppy.

In general, I like staying home. The yard is blooming; our cul-de-sac is full of pink trees. Most days it's been nice enough to play outside, and I've planted some things. I've had time to do some more crafting than I have in a while. I even bought a huge loom and made a scarf. (My small loom got left at work, with the kids' project on it. I hope we can finish it someday....)

Jackie has been nightweaned at last. Some nights she sleeps through, and it's so wonderful. Other nights, she wakes up at 4 am and goes crazy and punches and screams. Nothing calms her down. I get very tempted to just nurse her, but I would hate to go back now. I lost quite a lot of sleep the first few nights after I quit nursing her. The first night, she woke up at 4 am and didn't go back to sleep at all.

Some days, she's very chill about hanging out with the big kids. It's like Christmas to her to have them around all the time. Other days she just isn't happy and trades off climbing on me and climbing on John. Which is still an improvement from having her climbing on only me all the time!

I've had more time to spend on each kid individually, which is really nice. Marko seems to be flourishing in particular, because I've poured some extra attention on him. He still gets flustered by all the work he has to do, and isn't quite doing it all, but given the reason I put him in school was mainly that I couldn't get him to do any work, I'd say we're doing okay. Michael has learned to spin and sew. He really loves making things. Miriam has done a lot of chores. She's the only kid who really connects chores done with screen time earned and dedicates herself to making it happen.

 I finally got unstuck on my novel and finished the first draft. It was harder to finish than anything I've written in years, but now it's there on the page for me to start perfecting. I think it's pretty good already, but there's a lot that needs to be fixed. I've made myself a firm promise not to query it till my birthday at least. Because I know, from past experience, that some of the corrections that need to be made don't appear till you've left it aside for quite a while.

I went to the store today. I hoped to stock up more so we didn't have to go so often, but the stores can't handle everyone stocking up. At first the shelves were scarily bare. Now everything has limits: 2 loaves of each kind of bread; 1 pack of toilet paper; 6 gallons of milk; 4 cans of tuna; 2 cans of beans. The first time they told me I couldn't buy eight loaves to last us the two weeks, I tried to argue with the poor cashier that I have too many kids to live off two loaves for very long. Then I felt horrible for arguing with the poor guy, who didn't make the rules, and I started to cry. I wanted to cover my face but I couldn't, because of germs. That's probably going to be one of my big memories from all this. This time, I paid closer attention to the limits. The only one I missed was tuna; I accidentally tried to buy six. And when the cashier told me I'd messed up, I chirped, "Oh, sorry!" and moved on with unloading my cart. We're all doing our best here. Him, me, every other person there getting what they need.

Today was my first time wearing a mask, and I was pretty self-conscious. But almost everyone else was wearing them too. I heard a couple of people ask each other, "Do I know you? I can't see enough of you to be sure!" People actually kept six feet apart this time. There was hand sanitizer at the entrance and exit. I feel like everyone is taking it seriously and doing their best, which I didn't feel two weeks ago.

Several friends are out of work or soon going to be. Friends with their own businesses are worried about making payroll or shutting down. It's really hard on people everywhere, and no end in sight. I was distressed to hear that the virus' death rate is disproportionately high among everyone who's already less privileged. It just feels horrible that poverty and racism not only still exist, but that they intensify the awfulness we're already going through.

Lots of other things are horrible right now, too. Domestic violence is worse, of course, where neither wives nor children can escape even for a school or work day. Special needs kids are getting no services. Parents who were barely coping are now not coping. Seniors are lonely and depressed. An autistic girl committed suicide the other day in England, because there's nothing that destroys an autistic person's ability to cope like completely shattering all the routines that work for them.

Some countries are handling this better than others. The US seems to be one of the worst. We're not fighting the virus well, and we're not cushioning the shock to workers either. Online, I see people from other countries worrying about us, pitying us. Those poor Americans. Tomorrow our death toll is expected to pass Italy's for the highest in the world.

The Democratic primary is basically over and the candidate I liked the least has won. So now we've got a race ahead of one sexual predator against another sexual predator. Not the choice I would have liked to have to make. But when do we ever get to choose the greater of two goods? That seems too stupidly optimistic for 2020. I should have guessed. Meanwhile Elizabeth Warren keeps having great ideas and then the people in charge keep not doing any of that.

That stuff is all pretty heavy. And yet, like I said, I feel okay most days. Some days it feels like my chest has gone all hollow, and I want to curl around this world-sorrow and cry. And then later on it's gone, and all I can see is that the sky is blue and my children are laughing. It's as well sometimes that I can't see past the edge of our yard: I can't encompass the world's grief every moment. Sometimes it's the best thing to focus on the fact that I, myself, am all right, that my family is all right, that so far no one I am close to is sick.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Plague journal #2

It has been one week now that we've been isolating at home.  John worked Tuesday, and then they closed the library because too many people were congregating there. Luckily he is on civil leave and is still getting paid. So far I think we have escaped being exposed, though it's hard to say because the incubation period is so long. The kids have played with one neighbor, but I've kept them away from everyone else.

John has gone out to get meds and pick up takeout one night from a Chinese restaurant that is still open. I have not left the yard except for a brief walk Sunday. I should take another one soon. I've never been one to go out if I didn't have to; leaving home exhausts me. But I worry that, having lost the habit of going out, it'll only be harder for me to get back to it later. And probably taking a walk would help my mood.

I'm struggling with anxiety and sadness. It's so hard to deal with knowing the virus is marching on while we hide from it. Reading the daily death tolls. Seeing the posts of doctors and nurses telling what they are dealing with; the masks they don't have and the contagious patients they still have to see. Hearing my friends say they are sick and can't get tested. And worst of all, the people saying it isn't really a big deal, it's a hoax, it's no worse than the flu. I know carelessness will cost lives. So I feel like I should argue, but looking up the data and the symptoms to respond just makes me more anxious and upset.

And there's nothing, nothing at all to distract ourselves with. The kids are doing fine; their imaginations are vast and they aren't worried. After all, they're safe at home, where they can't catch anything. But we adults can't so easily tune it out. We've done a lot of cleaning. I've tried to craft and do puzzles and read. It's hard to focus though. If I could finish my novel, it would be something, but it's hard to keep my mind on it.

I did manage to write a short story. It's about pandemics. I'm pretty sure nobody is going to want to read it anytime soon; and by the time people are over our collective trauma and ready to read about it there will be thousands more jamming up the editors' inboxes. But it made me feel a lot better--both writing it, and later showing it to people and having them say it was good.

At night, I try to fill my head with nice things before bed. I'm rewatching Good Omens and planning craft projects. So I try to think of those things as I go to sleep, but instead I think about the virus and my stomach and chest are caught in a vise. It's hard to make myself relax and rest.

I haven't felt that great for about four years now, since I got pregnant with Jackie. I felt like it was slowly getting better, as she gets older and I get further from the horrific memory of that pregnancy. But this school year has been hard. When it's just me and Jackie at home, she gets even more clingy and demanding. And work on top of that hasn't been so much a break as a source of stress. I was badly needing a break, or I thought I was.

But now that the break is here, and I don't have to work, and John is here to help, and Jackie is playing with her big siblings, I don't feel better at all. I feel a lot worse. I'm not completely sure if it's worry about the world, or just being forced to pay attention to how I feel instead of being numbed with hours of children's nursery rhymes. All I know is I haven't felt this bad in some time.

I think it's time for me to go see a therapist. I don't want to, because it's scary and because it reminds me of spiritual direction. The thought of opening up to a stranger, somebody who isn't anteing up with their own secrets and needing their own comfort, makes me want to puke. But trying to ride this out is not really working. I've been trying so hard to be the emotionally stable one for my whole family, but that extra pressure is only making it harder to manage.

Of course, I picked the worst possible time to decide that I want to make an appointment for anything. Virtual therapy is a thing, but if typing my feelings made me feel better, I'd be fine by now. There's nothing like saying things out loud to a person who's actually there.

There will be weeks more of this at best. The school is hoping mid-April. Others are saying June. And when we do get back--slowly, cautiously, waiting to see if the beast re-emerges--it'll be with a new fear. My dream of spending the summer taking my kids places, now that they're all old enough to be taken most places, has vanished and been replaced with the dream of getting to go anywhere at all.

I am staying very closely in touch with people. I'm on facebook more than ever. I'm chatting in several different bubbles all day. I'm calling family I haven't called in a while. I think this has served to remind me just how important all my loved ones are to me; how irreplaceable they are by any book or TV show or game.

It's too soon to say how much this will change the world. An economic depression is certain. But that won't be all of it. I feel like it's revealing how much of our economy is necessary, how much is optional, and how much is completely fake. We can simply decide to push all mortgage payments back three months, and it's so. Tax day can be pushed back. Rent can be waived, a lot of the time. And yet the truckers must drive, the cleaners must clean, the nurses must work. What will that new realization do? Will we start taking better care of the people who kept us going through this? I certainly hope so.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Plague journal

I should be working on my novel right now. There are a lot of things I could be doing, during this time of social distancing, but I just keep going back to my phone, checking on my friends, checking the headlines, checking on the numbers. I don't want to think about the coronavirus, but I can't seem to think about anything else.

So I figured I'd just write about what it's like. My kids will remember it as a time of fun, lots of screen time, playing in the yard, and no school. But when they're older, I want to be able to tell them what it was like for me.

This certainly is going to go down in the history books; we'll be feeling the cultural and economic effects of it long after it's stopped going around. Maybe, reading the death tolls, people will think, "Well, obviously it was going to be big." But of course, we don't have those death tolls now! We have hints and signs and fears, we have countries beginning to be hit hard and countries with a few cases and people saying it's a huge overreaction.

I first thought it might be a big deal when a friend of mine shared an article to that effect, maybe a month ago. I thought, yeah, okay, that's a little concerning. I picked up an extra package of rice and one of beans, got serious about handwashing, and hoped it would be handled well.

Of course it was not. This country is not being run by adults at the moment. I have ideas for how things could be managed better, but nobody is asking me. If my kids ask if people realized it was being so badly mismanaged--well, I did. But some people even now think that we're lucky to have the leadership we do.

I watched the cases get closer and closer. A few here and there, no worries, they're isolated. Then oh dear, a cluster here and there, community transfer. The sports leagues had cases; they canceled all their games. Broadway went dark. The first cases were reported in our state.

On Thursday I asked my boss if our school would close if the public schools did. She said, oh, that's not going to happen. Just because the schools are closing other places doesn't mean it will happen here. But sure, if that happens, like, next month, no worries, we have spring break soon anyway. We're certainly not going to be the only school open.

So I told my students, if there's no school next week, keep working on this chapter. They were shocked. Surely they won't cancel school, no one is saying that, it's not going to happen. But I thought, with cases already in Virginia, it would happen soon. Sure enough, the governor made the call on Friday. I went shopping before the kids got home, because Friday is my day to, but I wish I had gone earlier. It was very busy. There was plenty of most food, but no toilet paper and little bread.

Our state has had its first death. Most people I know did not go to church on Sunday. A lot of people are still saying it's a massive overreaction; it's one death and people die of flu all the time. I'm watching the news from Iran and Italy and seeing how fast this thing spreads, how high the death rate is, and I am pretty sure it will soon be that way here. I am glad the schools are shut down and I wish people were distancing themselves more than they are. Doesn't do much good to shut things down halfway.

At this point, some people are staying home entirely. Plenty of people are still going out--congregating in restaurants, congregating at bars, getting the kids together for playdates. I'm trying not to. I let the kids play with a neighbor and now I'm second-guessing it. After all, John's work still isn't canceled. I don't want to be a vector between his work and another family.

The stores are still a nightmare. I thought people would have stocked up by now and would be staying out of the stores, but they're not. Everyone wants toilet paper; no one could possibly need that much toilet paper. Somebody bought up thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer so he could resell at a profit. That kind of thing disappoints me. I would like to believe that in a crisis, we'd all choose to be community-spirited and pull together, but unfortunately in a crisis people remain about the same.

Our capitalist economy, so good at handling other kinds of change deftly, is hindering us here. People go to work sick because they don't get paid if they don't. Plenty of companies will fire you for being sick too much. People are scrambling for childcare because they have to work but the schools are closed. A coronavirus test, if you can get one at all (you can't in my town) will cost over a thousand dollars. We're beginning to realize that we are only as safe as the poorest and most vulnerable, but not in time to do very much about it. We desperately need some kind of economic help: a fund to cover sick pay for people in quarantine; eviction freezes; no payments needed on rent or loans. Instead there has been a bailout only for the banks.

Here at home, we continue on. The kids have painted, done puzzles, played with playdoh, watched documentaries, played on the computer, read books. They would like to go somewhere but don't seem too upset yet that we can't. Tomorrow it should be nice and they can play in the yard. Maybe go for a walk.

Facebook is full of selfies and memes and conversations--for me, not many arguments, just checking in. We are a little bored and a lot scared and that makes us need to talk to each other as much as we can. If we can't be together in person, let's text each other fifty times a day.

This is three days in; it's nothing yet. We're going to get a lot more bored yet, and a lot more scared. A few people I know have fevers and can't get tested. That's going to increase. Some people I know may die. I hope not. Both of my surviving grandparents are isolating themselves; everyone sick I know is doing what they can. I'm not afraid for myself; I don't want to be sick, but I am in good health generally. I'm likely to be able to get over it on my own. And I'm not afraid for my kids. They're supposed to be pretty resistant. But I am afraid for the 3% who will die if they get it, people I know and people I don't know. And I'm afraid for the many more who will die if they get it and can't get medical care because the hospitals are overwhelmed. There's a "flatten the curve" thing going around, but there's no scale bar given. And why? Because the peak of the natural curve is so steep that it's many, many times the level we can handle. To flatten it out enough, we have to stop it almost in its tracks. Which I hope--I wish I could believe we will.

I don't feel very hopeful. I feel like I'm watching a car wreck in slow motion; the outcome already determined, my feet glued to the ground. Nothing I can do can make it not unfold this way. All I can do is watch and root for humanity over a virus. I grew up thinking plagues were over; that pretty much everything serious was eradicated or treatable. Now I just worry that after this one has its way with us, there will be another, and another. And humanity too divided, too suspicious, too panicky to do anything but run and hoard and spread it.

This has been a really hard four years for me. I was just recovering from losing my faith in 2016. I thought, you know, it's a shame God doesn't have it all worked out, but we have each other. Humanity's doing pretty well considering. I read The Better Angels of Our Nature and felt like maybe things were just going to get better all the time, as we learned how to do it.

And every damn thing in the past four years has been reality hitting me with a wet smack in the face: NO! IT'S! NOT! GETTING! BETTER! Maybe there's a hard upper limit on how civilized humanity can manage to be. Maybe we're just too broken inside, not from a fruit but because evolution didn't care if we were happy or good, only that some of us were strong enough to live. Maybe we'll wipe ourselves out from our stupidity, sooner or later, with one thing or another. Maybe that's why we've never found any aliens: because nature doesn't create anything that can handle getting this far from barbarism.

I'm sorry about these negative reflections. I know it's not the whole story. I know that people are good and kind and that I'm not the only person sacrificing all the things I might rather do to save the lives of others. My neighbor braved the stores and brought me a pack of toilet paper today. That has to count for something. I want to believe things can be better. I make plans for how we'll handle the next pandemic, how prepared we'll be, what leaders I want handling it. I wait and see what will come. I wash my hands and share funny memes and try not to spiral. That's kind of all I can do right now.

That, and I can make my kids remember this as the fun school break where they played cards and got to watch so much TV.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Utilitarianism is for pandemics

It's hard to make decisions right now. Different sources are saying different things; one minute you read about people hoarding toilet paper and laugh, the next you read about how close the closest case is to you and your chest gets tight with panic.

Or maybe that's just me.

But emotion, of course, isn't a good guide for action. It's almost impossible to choose to be exactly as scared as a situation warrants, instead of falling prey either to panic or to normalcy bias. (That would be the one where you think, whenever I get scared it always ends up being nothing, I'm going to sit tight and not worry while everyone else runs around the room fills with smoke.) And even if you could choose to be the right amount of scared, adrenaline doesn't actually tell you what to do. It just makes you want to do something, and sometimes you pick something wildly unhelpful like stealing masks from a doctor's office.

So we need moral reasoning to get us through. Deontology asks: is there a moral prohibition against ever spreading illness? No, there is not; while it's generally wise to wash your hands often and to stay home if you're sick, none of us is used to cancel whole conferences because of one sick attendee. So deontology would have us carry on as usual, following usual rules. Unless your usual rule is "listen to public health organizations," which is probably a good one unless your government is so corrupt you can't trust it.

Catholic moral reasoning would ask if you intended to infect anyone. Could you know with reasonable certainly that going to work would kill someone? If not then it's probably not a mortal sin, which is all some people care about. (Meanwhile some aren't even worrying about that, because after all death isn't so bad. Which is odd if you're also het up about murder and abortion and so on. Death comes for all, but one doesn't want to be the vehicle delivering it ahead of schedule.)

Honestly, utilitarianism is the most sensible moral philosophy right now. Simply ask whether your behavior will cause or prevent deaths, and what number.

Now some are going to think that means we should never go anywhere or do anything, since there is always a risk of death. But that would ignore the risks of canceling things. School is where a lot of kids get lunch. If stores close, it will be hard to get food to people. In general, economic damage slows down the economy, which means layoffs and poverty. Poverty causes deaths.

This situation, though, may be worth the cost. Between coronavirus' virulence and its death rate, millions may die if it is allowed to spread freely. Already Italy is dealing with another kind of utilitarianism, more immediate and painful: who gets the limited ventilators. If you're very old and sick, you don't get one because they don't have high hopes for you anyway. My grandpa said this morning that, because of his age and cancer, they'd only send him home to die.

That's awful, and yet I'm not going to blame utilitarianism for it. They have to allocate those ventilators somehow, and it beats having people bid cash or something. Instead, I'd say it's utilitarianism coming into the equation too late. It should have been used to shut down towns sooner. It should have been used to stop people from leaving the virus area in China. It should have been used by Patient 31, who had a fever and yet went to church exposing thousands of people.

Use utilitarianism when you're weighing lives against things other than lives. Lives against how bored you are at home, how much you wanted to go to that conference, how much money you'll waste on those vacation tickets. And use it when you're not aware you're weighing lives against lives: do we close the soup kitchen, do we go into work at a hospital today, do we pass a bill to provide sick leave or a bill to bail out businesses for lost profits.

To practice utilitarianism, you need information. Even if it makes you nervous, it's good to read the news and check for up to date recommendations. Try, as much as possible, to think with your head.

Here are a few links I found useful.

Cancel Everything - The Atlantic

Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now - Medium

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Hygiene tips for toddlers

Of course we all have been extra careful about our hygiene lately, because of coronavirus. I'm sure everyone has been washing their hands to their favorite songs for a full twenty seconds, stopping themselves from scratching their noses at the last second, and staying home if their throat is scratchy. That's a given.

But kids, you know, have a harder time. So I thought I'd put together a few helpful tips for my toddler readers (ha!) because if there's one member of our family who needs to work on their hygiene, it's the toddler.

1. Eat a healthy diet. You know how you usually strive to eat as much food off the floor as possible? Try to keep it to 2-3 floor snacks a day. And only one of these should be off the floor of a disgusting gas station.

2. Cover your sneezes and coughs. If you can't get your hands up in time, mommy's eyeball is a great place to sneeze.

3. Wash your hands often. Mom is a horrible tyrant for ever making you stop. Turn both taps on full, splash in them, splash yourself, splash the floor. More splashes = more hygiene! That's just science!

4. If you're planning to lick your palms, rub them together, and apply them to friends and family saying you're "putting sunscreen on them," ask first. For some weird reason, some grownups don't want you to do that! It's like they want to get skin cancer!

5. Get a good night's sleep every night. Of course we all know that's impossible without a parent's presence. Wake every three hours to check that they're there. If not, bellow! You need your shut-eye and it's just inconsiderate of them to keep leaving like that.

6. Avoid contact with strangers, like babysitters, the doctor, and Grandma. I recommend the stink eye and an angry grunt if they try to talk to you. This doesn't count that nice kid at the park who is throwing sand with you. He is your best friend now. Borrow his sippy cup.

7. Bathrooms are unsanitary. Don't potty train. Just say no. Forever.

8. Pets help strengthen your immune system. Share your lollipop with the dog.

9. Stop grocery store hoarding. If your mom stops at the store for extra hand sanitizer to donate to the school, scream. Roll on the floor. Say you want to sit in the cart and then make your body rigid as a board. You know what to do.

10. Stay home if at all possible. And guess what, it's always possible! Explain to mom why she can't go to work. Grab the work clothes out of her hands as she tries to get dressed. Block her path to the shower. Hide her keys. It's for public health.

Toddlers, we are counting on you!
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