Changing how we work

By Christopher Harper

Like more and more Americans, I decided to leave the big city and move to the hinterlands, where I can work via computer and save on taxes and housing costs.

Three years ago, I had proposed to my employer, Temple University, that I teach only online. I have taught online classes since 2005 and was good at it.

Unfortunately, my supervisor fought the plan. I challenged the decision throughout the bureaucracy, including a decision to join the teachers’ union. I finally got to teach one class a semester online after I filed a disability claim because of a bad back.

Fast forward to the pandemic. I was advising my colleagues and my college on how to teach online effectively.

Since I only have a few years left before I retire, my wife and I decided to move from Philadelphia to Muncy, Pennsylvania, a town of about 2,400 people in the north-central part of the state.

That move saves us about $1,000 a month on city taxes. Housing is half the cost for twice the space.

Moreover, research has demonstrated that students learn just as effectively online as they do in person. I’ve found that the discussion is far better online than in person because students don’t feel anxious about talking when they’re outside the classroom setting.

I teach asynchronously, which means there aren’t any silly Zoom meetings. I post prepackaged videos and study materials to a website. Students can work on the material at their own pace and refer back to materials they find challenging.

So far, Temple and other universities have not lowered the price for online classes—a reduction that should happen because virtual learning requires fewer buildings, less maintenance, and only a slightly higher increase in technological assistance.

I’m not alone in my desire to continue working from home. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly a quarter of all Americans worked from home during the pandemic. A new Bucknell University Freeman College of Management survey also found that workers over 40 preferred telework. In contrast, younger workers are more likely to return to in-person work when possible. For more information, see https://www.bucknell.edu/sites/default/files/college_of_management/covid-19_telework_study_report.pdf

The survey of 400 people reported other interesting results:

–67% of those surveyed said telework helped improve the quality of their work. 
 –61% noted a productivity improvement.
 –60% said they performed their jobs better.

Coupled with the savings I and others made, I am more than happy to stay at home and continue teaching online. 

Obviously, some industries cannot be restructured for online-only work. But rethinking how we work has been at least one good effect of the pandemic.

What’s in YOUR wallet?

Most Americans are going to get a small influx of money in the next 60 days, due to two separate events. First, the 1.9 trillion dollar COVID-19 bill that is 90% about bailing out Democrat-supporting regions of the country will include some sort of stimulus checks, likely the $1400 per individual. Also, most people are filing their taxes between now and April, and most Americans will get some sort of refund on their taxes.

The thing is, most of this money gets spent without thinking about future consequences. The local used car dealerships always run “sales” this time of year that mention tax returns, and I’m seeing “stimulus check” sales advertisements popping up now. Yet we’re not going into happy times anytime soon. If you watch the stock market and references by the Fed that indicate inflation is going to come roaring back should give us pause.

If you’re not one to care about the Fed, then look more locally. Wood prices at Lowes and Home Depot are well double what they were a year ago, between the boom in home building due to low interest rates and COVID-19 shutting down the lumber mills for a time. Gas is more expensive now. I’ve had more Amazon packages getting delivered late than ever before. Stores are still running out of basic items, and while this is infrequent now, remember that is essentially never happened in the past.

All this indicates we’re in for a bumpy ride for at least two years, if not four. I’m not going to get caught unprepared for this, and you shouldn’t either. I suggest you prioritize spending this way:

  1. Debt. Get rid of any debt you can. Car almost paid off? Pay it off now. Credit card debts? Pay them off or work a forgiveness plan, an especially good idea now since card companies are also taking advantage of low interest rates.
    I would also refinance your house if you haven’t done so. Most people can’t simply pay off their mortgage, but you can make a principle payment to pay it off earlier, and shifting to bi-weekly payments (if your company allows you to) will cut years off the back end.
  2. Build up supplies. COVID-19 taught us that everything from toilet paper to sweet potatoes will be in short supply. It’s going to happen again. Rather than fight lines at a store, build up a 1-3 month supply of basics that don’t really ever go bad: bottled water, paper products, disposable eating utensils, soap and cleaning supplies. You should also keep about 2 weeks of meals in reserve. I have things like spaghetti and frozen foods that can keep for a long time just hanging out. They occasionally save me when dinner decides to catch on fire, and when the stores were swamped in the initial stages of pandemic, this food let me stretch our groceries further.
  3. Fix what you can. Americans are pretty handy people, but we also can be lazy. Plenty of homes and vehicles have little things that need repair. Get those done now. Don’t wait forever on car maintenance. The pandemic backed our local dealership up by a month for appointments. Same goes for home maintenance, even if you do it yourself, you may not get the supplies when people buy out the stores.
  4. Set your investing on automatic. Unless you’re smart on the stock market, you’re best off making long term investments on mutual funds. Whatever your investing strategy, put it on automatic through automatic funds transfers and investments. Too many people get scared when the market comes down and sell, which is the worst time to do that. Putting it on cruise control helps you take advantage of the down market over time.
  5. Build up your local network. This may not cost much money, but its critical. Do you know your neighbors? Do you know a local electrician, plumber, car mechanic and veterinarian? Remember how even routine house calls for minor issues became a major problem in the pandemic? You avoid this by knowing local people. Now is the time to get to know them and be on good terms, so when you need their help in a pinch, you can get it.

Don’t throw your stimulus to the wind! Set yourself up now to get through the trying times ahead.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

COVID-19 lockdowns must end for the sake of our overall health

Outside a store in Wisconsin earlier this month

By John Ruberry

Who else besides me is fed up wearing a mask when shopping at a supermarket?

Or at work?

Or a restaurant? 

I haven’t eaten inside an Illinois restaurant–or in a tent–since Governor JB Pritzker instituted his first lockdown in March. I’ve picked up take-out meals only.

Who has had enough of lockdowns?

As a person with a strong libertarian bent I don’t like being bossed around, pestered, or nagged. 

But I’ve been coping with all of that for months. 

I know ten people who’ve contracted COVID-19. Only two of them told me they were very ill. Two were asymptomatic. All of them are still with us–in fact, they’ve all returned to their jobs as if nothing happened. 

Last month the Centers for Disease Control released the survival rates for those who have contracted COVID-19.

  • Age 0-19 — 99.997%
  • Age 20-49 — 99.98%
  • Age 50-69 — 99.5%
  • Age 70+ — 94.6%

So if you are over 70, and most people already know that seniors are more prone to death from COVID-19 than everyone else, you have a 94.6 percent of surviving. President Trump is one of those septuagenarians who has recovered. Yes, COVID-19 is serious, because those stats also say those 70 and over have a slightly higher than 5 percent chance of dying from it. 

Here’s another situation where that percentage, 94 percent, comes in to play. Nearly two months ago the CDC said of those deaths from the novel coronavirus, 94 percent had “multiple chronic conditions.” In other words, they were already unhealthy. Every death is tragic. But part of life is getting sick, getting injured, getting old, and yes, passing away. You can fool, perhaps, your neighbors or co-workers about your true age with hair dye and plastic surgery, but never can you hoodwink Father Time. 

Humans are intensely social animals, as are all primates. It’s in our genetic makeup. The most watched television shows and movies are centered on personal interactions. One of the most popular TV programs ever aired is “Friends.” There is not a show entitled “Hermits,” there is no interest in producing such a program because few people would want to watch it. 

The death rate from COVID-19 is very low for the very young. Yet many of our schools are closed except for cold and impersonal Zoom sessions.

Usually our first and most lasting impressions with others of our species is by way of their faces. But the mask requirements in many states, especially blue ones like mine, take those connections away from us.

The lockdowns have led to an increase in drug overdoses and possibly suicides. Among young people, the CDC says, the death rate for young people is higher for overdoses and suicides than for COVID 19.

That wave just might be beginning. For instance, Chicago, which is just south of where I live, just instated another curfew because of an uptick in COVID cases. All businesses deemed non-essential for the next two weeks must close between 10pm and 6am. Bars and restaurants, already reeling from being closed down this spring, will be hit especially hard. Some of these businesses, especially those struck by looting this summer, will never re-open. Which means of course more people will be prone to suicide and drug and alcohol abuse. The workforce in the food and beverage industry is disproportionately young.

Mrs. Marathon Pundit was an early victim of the COVID-19 lockout layoffs. She’s fine–she has a new job in a different field. But her former boss was forced to downsize his business, which I believe his home mortgage was tied into. He sold his home this summer and moved into a much smaller residence.

There are millions of former business owners facing similar situations across America. And not all workers, such as Mrs. Marathon Pundit, will be able to land on their feet. 

One “fix” to the drop in revenue for brick-and-mortar restaurants is to set up plastic tents next to them. Diners instead of eating indoors will be eating, sort of, outdoors in these tents, but still breathing each other’s air. Alongside them in cold weather climates, in the winter, will be space heaters, which are a well-known fire hazard. 

Follow the science. 

Take a deep breath before reading this next paragraph.

Based on my current age, overall health, and family history, I’ll probably live another 25-years. I do not want to spend those years wearing a mask. I don’t want to go running outdoors–and this really happened–as I run 50 yards past a couple who, in horror, hurriedly put their masks over their faces as I move, maskless, down the street that I live on as if I am Typhoid Mary. According to federal government data, there have been 624 positive cases of COVID-19 in the town I live in, Morton Grove, which has a population of 23,000.

Who frightened that Morton Grove couple? Not me, well not initially that is.

Will the mask mandates return–if they ever go away–when a more virulent than usual strain of the flu strikes?

Follow the science. 

This is not a distress from me call but instead a call for action. For the sake of our overall health–while maintaining strict safety controls in places such as senior homes and hospitals–these lockdowns must end. But I suspect many politicians–such as Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago–don’t want the lockdowns to end. They are too in love with power. Lightfoot and Gov. Pritzker told us we needed the lockdowns to “flatten the curve” in the spring so hospitals wouldn’t be overwhelmed. Now they want to prevent all of us getting sick, which as we know is not possible.

The goalposts keep moving.

Years ago I read in a book about marathon training that stated that distance running, all things being equal, does indeed lead to a longer life expectancy. But more importantly, those extra years on this planet for runners usually mean they are enjoyable years. Who is going to sign up for an additional ten years of life if those years will consist of living in a nursing home in need of 24-hour care?

The quality of life for myself and millions of others is diminished because we are ordered to wear masks and to avoid each other.

End the lockdowns.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Frenzy

by baldilocks

What to make of a year in which there has been a worldwide pandemic punctuated by American mass rioting-looting-killing?

It’s only the beginning of June.

A lot of people will have a list of people to blame for the calamities which seem to have engulfed us – and they will probably be mostly correct. But my view is that this is a spiritual issue. Law enforcement personnel, politicians, regular citizens, terrorists and their fund sources, and all the rest of humanity are prone to the spirits they allow to rule them, whether the spirit is good or evil.

And there is only one that is good.

I say repeatedly that mobs are demonic. Here’s how those demons operate: they plant their anger and malevolence into human beings and when such human beings gather together, those emotions feed on each other and rev up the gang into a frenzy of violence and, often, horrific bloodshed. Any target of such violence will be unrecognizable after the mob gets through and this applies to human beings and to property. All rationality is banished – if it ever existed in the first place.

Therefore, we see mobs do mindless things like burn down their own neighborhoods or murder the pillars of their own community or attempt to murder innocent passersby or shoot at houses or gang rapes.  Mobs do things as a corporate body that some individual members of the mob would never do by themselves. And later, after the horrific event is over, individuals will often have no memory of what they were thinking during the mayhem. It’s because something else took over.

I’ve already told you how individuals can protect themselves from the demonic. However, I have a hunch that these spirits know that they are already defeated and decided to have a nationwide party before they are conquered.

That, I contend, is what we are seeing now.

The other emotion which these entities feed on is fear and it’s understandable that many are afraid right now. Heck, we’ve been told since mid-January that leaving the house could result in our deaths. Well, guess what? That is true. But the key to defeating fear is to step out of the house in faith and in wisdom.

Ask me how I know.

This frenzy of demons will end, and we will look back at it and wonder if it was a mass nightmare we all had.

But we will wake up. That’s what I think.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng has been blogging since 2003 as baldilocks. Her older blog is here.  She published her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game in 2012.

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Jackson’s Party Trumps His Faith

Old News

by baldilocks

24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:

25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

— Hebrews 10:24-25

The Reverend [sic] Jesse Jackson has other ideas.

Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. is calling on people, especially religious leaders, not to follow through on President Donald Trump’s demand [sic] for churches and houses of worship to start reopening over Memorial Day weekend.

“To go to church or Sunday mass is an act of defiance, not an act of worship,” Jackson told WTOP’s Ken Duffy.

Trump on Friday asked governors to allow the reopening of places of worship, calling them “essential” and to “open them right now.”

The president also threatened state leaders that if they don’t follow through on his demand, he will “override the governors.”

Jackson, founder of the civil rights nonprofit Rainbow/PUSH coalition, believes that attendees who want to go out and worship should stay home until the threat of COVID-19 is over.

Jackson called on religious leaders and worshippers to “lead the way” and continue to obey coronavirus restrictions and social distancing measures.

“The virus does not have religion,” Jackson said. “It has no regard for your situation.”

First of all, the president isn’t giving orders to houses of worship. He is demanding that governors cease from standing in the way of corporate worship and that they come into alignment with the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

And, as mentioned in the Book of Hebrews, part of the free exercise of Christianity involves the assembling together of the faithful. This is simple.

Some questions I would ask Jackson if I thought he had a brain cell in his head that wasn’t devoted to enriching himself.

Do you believe that the God of the Bible is all powerful?
Do you believe that He is a healer and a protector if we ask it of him?
Do you believe the God rewards obedience to His Word?
Do you believe that God is more powerful than viruses?
What makes defiance and worship mutually exclusive?
If your governor outlawed Christianity, would you stop being a Christian?

I could go on, but my point is that Jackson is not a man of the Christian cloth and hasn’t been for a very long time – if he ever was one.

He’s just following orders dispensed from his Organized Left Puppet Masters.

Me in 2015:

Martin Luther King, Jr. was the prototype for the Black Leader concept, though not an epitome of it; other actual black leaders like Harriet Tubman or Marcus Garvey or Malcolm X were leaders organic to black populations/communities.

MLK certainly had rhetorical and financial support from outside of his community, but he didn’t start out that way.

(snip)

[T]he two nationally most well-known Black LeadersTM in this country are the Reverends [sic] Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and I contend that both are created personae, totally supported and publicized by the Organized Left.

A better label for the two? Community Organizers. You’ve heard of those before, have you not?

Also me a year earlier:

Sharpton has been a hilariously awful commentator for MSNBC for a bit. But even before that, MSNBC, CNN and even Fox News had been sticking microphones under him and other “civil rights leaders” as the go-to guys–and sometimes girls–as if they were the go-betweens for “the black community” and the rest of America.

“Civil rights leaders” almost never just spontaneously come to the fore anymore; they are created. The rise in the fortunes — literally and figuratively — of Sharpton should be proof of this. (And, as it turns out, Sharpton has always hidden backers.)

Even the concept of a civil rights leader is a created one. But, ‘agitator’ is better because it is more descriptive. The word makes me think of that part inside your washing machine — the constant spinning and the noise-making. And that’s where the comparison ends.

No one will be made clean by these men.

There have always been fake pastors, but Jackson is the modern American forerunner — and Sharpton is his “son” — selling fear instead of faith. But he’s old now and irrelevant.

Beware of the fear-pastors who are not so old.

Go to church/synagogue/mosque. Or don’t. But it is not your governor’s place to keep you from it. Don’t forget that.

Get some free exercise.

(Thanks to “Carlos Osweda.”)

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng has been blogging since 2003 as baldilocks. Her older blog is here.  She published her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game in 2012.

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Masks dehumanize us

Discarded medical mask, Miami Woods, Morton Grove, Illinois

By John Ruberry

On my way to work here in Illinois–where Democratic governor JB Pritzker says I have to wear a mask–I was listening to Dennis Prager’s show when he said something along the lines that people connect to each other by way of seeing their faces. Very true. The most obvious example is by way of dating sites, nearly all of the profiles include face pics. Whether you are old or young, thin or heavy, bald or hairy, every expert on creating profiles for LinkedIn recommends using a quality head shot on that employment networking site. 

Faces are how we remember people. When you think of Angelina Jolie her lips come to mind. With Jay Leno it’s his prominent chin. With John Bolton his bushy mustache is his visual trademark. If they are wearing masks you won’t see their distinctive facial features. 

A masked face doesn’t allow you to see smiles.

It’s unclear how effective masks are in preventing the spread of COVID-19, with the exception of the N95 mask, which gets its name because it’s supposed to block 95 percent of small particles.  

What is clear is that the projections of the death total from the novel coronavirus have been alarmist. The most dire one predicted 2.2 million COVID-19 deaths in America–and that prediction likely led to many shelter-in-place orders being put in place, including the one that was extended by Pritzker, most likely illegally, until the end of May. The latter order opened a few more places, such as golf courses, but added a mask requirement for businesses open to the public, such as big box stores. Dine-in restaurants, hair salons, and health clubs remain shuttered. Churches too. 

Humans are primates and primates are social beings. We’re not cats. While there are a few among us who choose the life a hermit, even existences commonly connected with solitude, such as that of a monk or a nun, involve a community where people see each other. Monks typically live in monasteries with other monks. Nuns dwell in convents with other nuns. 

So far COVID-19 is not nearly as deadly as the 1918 Flu Pandemic which killed anywhere from 50-100 million people worldwide–and many of those who died of it were in their twenties and thirties who were otherwise healthy. It is not the Asian Flu of the late 1950s which killed roughly two million. While every death of course is a tragedy, so far 300,000 people have died of COVID-19. In 1918 the world population was about 1.6 billion, in 1958 it was a bit short of 3 billion. Today’s world population is 8 billion. 

A few weeks ago I questioned whether the draconian methods to shut down our economy were worth it, bankruptcies and unemployment are common triggers for substance abuse, depression, spousal and child abuse, and suicide. Since that post we’ve learned nearly all of the coronavirus fatalities suffered from pre-existing conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, cancer, and obesity. 

Now because of masks we are becoming the faceless, like the disturbing images in the “Life of Julia” Obama-Biden campaign video from 2012 that preached to the masses–not to individuals–the inherent power of a government that does everything for you. But remember Barry Goldwater’s warning, “Any government that is big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have.”

Like Prager, I’m not a conspiracy nut. But a couple of weeks ago he wrote that the coronavirus overreaction is a dress rehearsal for a police state. Chicago’s vast expanse of lakefront parks–which is 18 miles long–have been closed for six weeks and counting. Churches and dine-in restaurants are closed statewide, as I mentioned earlier. In regards to the latter, for health reasons will the state or local governments in Illinois retain the power to shutter restaurants that serve, let’s say, too much high-fat food? That possibility is no longer far-fetched. 

The lakefront parks won’t be closed forever. But I can easily see Lori Lightfoot or a future Chicago mayor limiting Lincoln Park or Jackson Park to a few hundred visitors each day–with government workers with internal passports first in line of course–in the name of nature preservation or fighting global warming. It will of course all be done in the name of the faceless masses. 

I’m running low on orange juice. I may need run to the supermarket. Where is my mask?

I’ll be less of a human wearing that mask. Is that the plan?

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

State of Shock (Update)

by baldilocks

I find it almost impossible to write anymore because in the last few months, like nearly everyone in the country – in the world, probably – I live in a state of open-mouthed shock.

The list of reason is long, and I think it would be boring to display them here. Chief among them, however, is this: how many times that conservatives and Christians defend living in a state of fear and discovering how many of them would choose peace and safety over liberty.

And don’t tell them about signs of hope! This will cause them to ridicule you, your intellect, and even your lineage – assuming that the one doing the ridiculing isn’t part of your lineage. Because only the ignorant have hope; only fools are looking for the end of the pestilence.

And only the stupid are willing to hang onto their freedom, by their fingernails if necessary.

Turns out that the embrace of the US Constitution was just talk in many cases. Just a nice theory.

But now that some risk is involved, not only are they not willing to risk peace and safety for theoretical liberty, but these so-called conservatives would shame those who are willing to put it on all on this line for phantom called freedom.

They might even be the ones on the phone to the cops when the real conservatives are outside exercising their liberties by doing things like … taking their children to a babysitter so that they can go to their “essential” job.

So it is that I agree with Dennis Prager.

All my life, I have dismissed paranoids on the right (“America is headed to communism”) and the left (“It can happen here” — referring to fascism). It’s not that I’ve ever believed liberty was guaranteed. Being familiar with history and a pessimist regarding the human condition, I never believed that.

But the ease with which police state tactics have been employed and the equal ease with which most Americans have accepted them have been breathtaking.

People will argue that a temporary police state has been justified because of the allegedly unique threat to life posed by the new coronavirus. I do not believe the data will bear that out. Regardless, let us at least agree that we are closer to a police state than ever in American history.

(SNIP)

[W]e are presently living with all four of the key hallmarks of a police state:

No. 1: Draconian laws depriving citizens of elementary civil rights.

No. 2: A mass media supportive of the state’s messaging and deprivation of rights.

No. 3: Use of police.

No. 4: Snitches.

Prager expounds on each item.

I think there is still hope, but our state and local governments will not relinquish their new powers easily, as Michigan Governor Whitmer has demonstrated through her actions in the face of active resistance.

Strangely enough however, I don’t think that it will be violence that will break the stranglehold, at least not mass violence. [UPDATE 6/3/2020: Holy cow was I ever wrong about this!]

I think that there are enough Americans out there – regardless of party – who will tire of government incarceration and will simply ignore their jailers and take the risk of pestilence, ridicule and arrest. Heck, it’s already happening, even here in California.

And I guarantee that a goodly portion of them will go outside while invoking protection under the wing of the Most High. Without fear, naturally.

Because that’s how you hold onto your freedom. Fortune favors the bold.

UPDATE: Be sure to listen to Da Tech Guy Blog Podcast. Live Monday at 12:35 AM ET.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng has been blogging since 2003 as baldilocks. Her older blog is here.  She published her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game in 2012.

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