365 days

This will be a short post (as opposed to a shitpost), because while I want to mark this day I don’t intend to make a really big deal out of it.

On March 8, 2020, I stopped at The Brass Rail in downtown Port Huron, Michigan, after work. I used to do that once or twice a week, usually having a couple of beers and chatting with the regulars or meeting some friends. Afterwards, I drove home. Just another typical social evening.

I had decided to pass on alcohol for a week or so because the city’s big St. Patrick’s Day pub crawl was coming up the following Saturday. As it happened, that’s about the time concerns about the pandemic started to ramp up in Michigan, so the pub crawl was canceled (though a few people still ventured out since restaurants and bars hadn’t been closed yet).

On the actual St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, everyone was sent home from the college to figure out how to teach, learn, and run a college remotely. Since I was concerned about being out in public at this point, I stopped eating out at restaurants and obviously stopped going to The Brass Rail temporarily. Since I’ve never been one to drink at home – my alcohol consumption more or less requires social interaction – I also “temporarily” started a streak of days without alcohol, which has today reached 365 days.

#drycovidyear

There have definitely been times that a cold beer would have been nice, but once I realized I’d started a streak, I decided that I’d see if I could make it to three months, then six months, and then a full year. Success.

This is not a post about the joys of not drinking, or even a recommendation that anyone else do so. That’s your business, not mine. And I intend to have a beer again, especially now that a year has gone by. Not sure when, though; I sort of have a plan to wait until I can take a trip to Montréal (maybe this summer, maybe this fall?) and have my first one in over a year there. Being able to go to Canada and to travel in general would be a good indication that things are close to normal again, and that beer would be a great reward. But now that a year has passed, I don’t feel like the streak necessarily needs to continue, so we’ll see.

It’s an arbitrary milestone, but a year of doing (or not doing) something seems significant.

Ken Jennings is the obvious choice, even before we see the other guest hosts

As a long-time watcher of Jeopardy! I feel compelled to cast my vote for the next permanent host of the show. After the death of Alex Trebek in November, the producers announced that a series of guest hosts would fill in starting in January before a final announcement was made in May.

The list of guest hosts is intriguing, but the competition is already over as far as I’m concerned. Ken Jennings, the greatest Jeopardy! player of all time, killed it in his six weeks as guest host that ended last Friday. He was engaging, funny, and completely nailed the timing of reading clues and interacting with the contestants. Of course, he got to watch Alex do it more times in person than any other contestants since we won 74 straight games back in 2004. He was my choice long before Alex even announced his cancer diagnosis, and he did nothing to change my mind during his time behind the podium.

The upcoming list of guest hosts includes some interesting names. Only Mike Richards and Katie Couric have definite dates for their hosting gigs. I include my level of interest in seeing each of them as well.

  • Mike Richards, executive producer of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune (February 22 to March 5). Richards has hosted five TV series in addition to being a game show producer, including Beauty and the Geek and Pyramid on Game Show Network. 3 out of 5; always somewhat interesting to watch the boss try to do the day-to-day work.
  • Katie Couric, television journalist formerly with NBC, CBS, ABC, and Yahoo News (March 8 to 19). I’ve always liked Couric, so 4 out of 5 stars.
  • Dr. Mehmet Oz, host of the Doctor Oz Show. This is the only one I’m not interested in; Dr. Oz has promoted some borderline products and remedies on his show and, along with Dr. Phil, questioned some of the COVID protocols issued by the CDC last year, though he later walked those comments back. 1 out of 5.
  • Aaron Rodgers, quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. 5 out of 5, just because quarterbacks on TV can be either naturally gregarious (Tony Romo) or kind of stiff (Phil Simms). I think Rodgers could be good, we’ll see. Rodgers is a former Celebrity Jeopardy! champion, winning in 2015.
  • Anderson Cooper, host of CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360. 4 out of 5. I like Cooper’s work on CNN, though he can be a bit self-important at times. If he avoids any of that, he should be okay.
  • Savannah Guthrie, co-host of NBC’s Today show. Also 4 out of 5. I don’t know Guthrie’s work as well, since I don’t watch morning shows, but she seems to think on her feet well when I’ve seen her in other reporting or hosting situations.
  • Mayim Bialik, actress and neuroscientist. Bialik has hosted other shows in addition to her well-known acting roles on The Big Bang Theory, Blossom in the 1990s, and her current show, Call Me Kat. 3 out of 5.
  • Bill Whitaker, correspondent for CBS’s 60 Minutes. 2 out of 5, only because I don’t watch 60 Minutes and have no idea who he is.
  • Dr. Sanjay Gupta, chief medical correspondent for CNN and associate professor of neurosurgery at Emory University. 3 out of 5. I like Gupta’s work, he always seems like a straight shooter when it comes to personal health issues, and it’ll be interesting to see him try his hand at something like this.

But the Final Jeopardy! answer is: “This former 74-time champion is the obvious choice to be the next host of Jeopardy!” And my response is “Who is Ken Jennings?”

Sunday news scan

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1

I can’t decide if watching Donald Trump try to defend himself in the upcoming impeachment trial would be the best or the worst thing ever. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be anywhere near the middle of that spectrum, though. And I wouldn’t miss a minute of it.

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In the “Anything is possible but very few things are likely” file today, we have this from Los Angeles. I suppose it’s possible that the government has been trying to mind-control us with fluoride in our water and through vaccinations for decades. If so, they’ve done a very poor job of it, or they’re playing the longest-possible long game. Or we’re already mind-controlled and these people are the only ones who’ve avoided it somehow. Occam’s Razor applies here.

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There aren’t many trades in the NFL, and even fewer that can be called “blockbusters.” This is one. Matthew Stafford leaves the Lions to head to L.A. (watch out, Matthew, apparently the “MARK of the BEAST AHEAD” out there) where he might just have a chance to win a playoff game or two. Best wishes to him. The Rams send their erstwhile former #1 overall pick, Jared Goff, who still potentially has some upside (though Detroit isn’t the first place I’d want to go to find out if that was true), plus not one but two first-round draft picks and another third-round pick. The Rams get the solid, top-rated quarterback they’ve needed and the Lions… well, the Lions get to start another rebuild. Maybe this time will be different, but, as noted before, anything is possible but few things are likely.

Have a nice Sunday.

The bizarre “new normal”

I think the most bizarre part of the last year, distorted by political malfeasance and upheavals and a worldwide medical crisis unlike anything we’ve seen in at least a century, is how normal day-to-day life still is.

I’m not just talking about a “new normal,” where we get used to the changes that have been wrought by the pandemic – working from home or working in public and constantly concerned about getting infected with COVID-19, not seeing family and friends except by video chats, social media or phone calls for the better part of a year, missing the social interaction of going to a restaurant or bar or just going window shopping.

Some of us been more active than others, of course. We’ve skirted the restrictions, maybe even refused to follow them, showed how full of freedom and individual rights we were by proudly not wearing masks, putting the health of others – and ourselves – ahead of the potential humiliation of having to wear a mask over our mouth and nose.

I’m still very productive at work. I might even suggest that I get more done in my home office than I would if I drove to work and sat in my office there all day. Nobody comes into my office to chat. I get almost no phone calls (emails are another matter, however, but can be dealt with in a more orderly fashion). There’s no water cooler talk, no walking between our campus buildings to meetings, just a quick jump from one Teams or Zoom or GoToMeeting to the next.

But I hate it. And what was initially a new challenge to be overcome has worn thin. At first I couldn’t understand how – or why – we were acting like nothing had really changed. I mean, I understood that our businesses, our organizations, the college where I work, needed to continue. Routine tasks don’t take care of themselves. Now, though, it just seems bizarre. We’ve gotten to the point where we’re so accustomed to this new reality that we hardly mention it anymore. The hole in our social fabric is there, however.

It’s been 327 days since I had a beer. It’s been 318 days since I ate anything I didn’t cook at home. I know I could have gotten takeout or grabbed a six-pack and had one now and then at home. But I’m not a takeout person, I prefer sitting down in a restaurant. And I’ve never been much of a drinker at home; my alcohol consumption more or less requires social interaction, which isn’t possible right now.

Between our toxic political divisions and our continued isolation, I fear we’ll never return to anything close to what we were before. It wasn’t perfect, but it was manageable, and now it feels like all have left is managing our day-to-day details as we navigate our way through a nightmare.