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Hysteria Hits the Hinterlands (and a small Friday ramble)

I hit the library yesterday to do some ‘Net surfing and emailing, only to find it “canceled” like so much else. It was open and minimally staffed, but had the air of a haunted house. Patrons could check out and return books, but the banks of library computers were shut down (“until at least March 31,” said the signs), chairs were removed from all the carrels and upturned on the long reading tables, and the ever-present din of children was absent.

I never thought I’d miss the shrieks of rugrats, but I did. The place was a freakin’ tomb.

They “allowed” me and my laptop in to use their wifi, but “only for 10 or 15 minutes,” according to the only librarian on the floor. Because of you-know-what. The shutdown wasn’t local, but system-wide. Dozens of libraries in multiple counties; every library in a sprawling interlinked system, open, but barely functioning.

I pondered why it was safe for me to be in the building for 10 minutes, but not for 20. I silently questioned which medical or epidemiological standard dictated that while it was unsafe for me to be in the building, it was perfectly safe for the librarians to be there all day with people going in and out. I wondered how the poorest of the poor people in those dozens of communities were supposed to complete their school work, do their legal research, keep in touch with their families, or perform whatever other tasks they usually do on those public computers.

I cynically supposed that laying off librarians due to Covid-19 was more a financial measure than a health measure. (The ‘crats who made the shut-down decision were the same gang who, last year, closed our local library for five months, on zero notice, due to an “emergency” they’d known about for five years. It was part of their dishonest attempt to permanently close several of the smallest town libraries without naming their real intent.)

But of course, sneaky bureaucrats and cost-cutting aside, shutting down for fear is one of those political choices with perverse incentives. There’s no reward for keeping a public facility open (bleeding money), but plenty of incentive to “do the right thing” by limiting services to “protect health.” Never mind that there’s not even a case of the virus in our county.

The actions of a small-town library system are small potatoes compared with so much else that’s going on in the world. But this seems a microcosmic example of how the world has lost its head.

This morning the librarians told me I’m not allowed to be in the building at all except to pick up and self-check-out books. (But there’s a bonus! I can make photocopies for free because they’re not allowed to touch any coins I might try to hand them.)

They also say tomorrow the place will probably be closed “for the duration of the crisis.”

Well, at least that will end the less-than-Solomonic splitting of this particular baby.

I’m sitting outside posting from my car now. It’s cold and spitting snow, so forgive me if I don’t take enough time to find and include most of the links I intended or if my proofreading is less than perfect.


Yesterday afternoon I found the shelves of the town’s one grocery store stripped of all disinfectant wipes. And where shelf after shelf of toilet paper normally sits, there was one lone package. At least customers weren’t fighting over it.

Of course, I’ve got sufficient TP not only to outlast the plague, but to share with neighbors in need. (Take that, Marie Kondo) But it’s funny how TP has become the signature prep item for this particular panic.

There’s plenty of speculation about why that is. But I take it as a secret acknowledgement that this whole business is full of sh*t.


Speaking of political incentives, even the local NPR outlet — not open to the public, not filled with crowds, not packed with aged people at risk — is doing its part in the global emergency by postponing its spring fund-drive.

Why? So (OMG!) it can devote more time to more coverage to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Yes, folks, it’s all-virus-all-the-time. Strictly for the public good, you know. Nothing to do with the glorious opportunity for more Trump-bashing. Nothing to do with the joy and power of scare-mongering. Nothing to do with the fact that NPR’s well-heeled donors might not be feeling their most generous with their stock portfolios plunging off a cliff. Solely for selfless public service.


Again, I find myself feeling sorry for Donald Trump. (I apologize; I know I shouldn’t let that become a habit.) He’s damned as “weak” for his slow, wishy-washy, and off-target response to Covid-19. But the same people would condemn him as a tyrant if he took some of the actions blue-state governors are now enacting (e.g. forbidding all gatherings larger than pick-your-arbitrary-figure from 250 to 1,000).

And of course there is no “good” level of action. Not good for both health and freedom, anyhow. Plenty good for those seeking power and control.


Speaking of selfless public service, what do you think of these sudden, unprecedented calls from various Dems (most notably Biden booster Jim Clyburn) to end all the campaign debates? Is that hilarious or what?

Having decided that a senile mediocrity with a history of plagiarism, corruption, and bizarre tantrums directed at uppity little people is THE man to beat Donald Trump, they are SO desperate to keep Biden out of sight and out of mind. Oh no, he might pop out with another of those remarks. “Lying dog-faced pony soldier.” “AR-14.” “You’re fat.” Or forget what state he’s in or what year it is.


And how about “solving” the Covid crisis with … financial giveaways? Oh my, the proposals! Not merely Trumpian moves like wanting to cancel the payroll tax for the rest of the year, but even wilder schemes. One Atlantic writer suggested sending $1,500 to every adult in the country, with $1,000 extra per child.

Where do these people imagine money comes from?

Someone — don’t ask me who; it’s too damned cold out here to look it up — pointed out that last week’s infamous innumerate journalistic moment regarding Bloomberg’s supposed ability to bestow a million bucks on every American and barely feel it might not have been a mere accident of arithmetic. No, that’s how they really think of money, and those who possess (or can invent) it.

Still, if they’re going for handouts, I’ll not only grab my $1,500 before it turns into even more worthless paper, I’ll do my best to convince the governmental Santa Claus that furbabby Ava is my 14-year-old daughter. (No, not really, but OTOH, since we’re living in a fantasyland, why not enjoy it while it lasts?)

We’re doomed.


But we know that already.

And life goes on.

After a long, dreary winter burdened with pain, sickness, and inertia, spring has sprung. Not astronomical spring, maybe. But the kind of spring that matters — the occasionally sunny day, much more daily daylight, AND the arrival of The Wandering Monk.

He showed up Monday and Tuesday to give me a big start on one of the trickiest and most long-overdue house projects, and ever since then I’ve been on a roll doing the finishing. It feels grand to be moving again, both moving physically and making progress on the house.

Naturally, I forgot to take before pictures. And it’s a bit hard to take afters, since the indoor space in question (the entryway and the small bedroom/office/studio, which together used to be an enclosed porch) is compact and hard to get a good angle on. You’ll just have to trust me when I say we’ve already made a great improvement.

But the biggest improvement is in my mood and my health (for which I owe thanks to PT, SF, WB, and a few other long-time friends).

I’ll try to get pix once the work is done and all the furniture and geegaws are moved back into place.

I can’t give you a picture of my springtime uplift, but if I could it would be a thing of beauty. Light emerging from shadows. Even sitting out here in the KIA with the snow and rain dampening the moment.


  1. free.and.true
    free.and.true March 13, 2020 11:54 am

    Good to see you back in rare form, Claire! =^o^=

  2. Bill T
    Bill T March 13, 2020 1:08 pm

    So far here in Nebraska they are doing a good job identifying who has the Wuhan and then finding out we’re they may have gotten it. So far it’s all due to travel out side the State or contact with said traveler. No out of the wild cases yet. Those I expect them to start showing up this weekend if the numbers from other locals hold true. Then we’ll see how the State does.

  3. Myself
    Myself March 13, 2020 2:05 pm

    Don’t forget the 1.5 trillion the fed quietly slipped to wall street, (that works out to 4500$ per person in the U.S)

    Though if you have the money now is a great time to invest in the stock market, stocks are cheap and they’ll rebound. and while not related to COVID-19 the Russian Saudi fued has dropped the price of crude to below 35$ a barrel, so that’s good

    Trump is also considering banning travel between the states, wonder if this will lead to internal passports, we already have work permits (the I-9 which is government permission to take a job)

    Meanwhile many small businesses are hurting or going under as people stay home, I suspect we’ll see another baby boom in about 9 months if so I call dibs on naming that generation the coronials.

    And while on the subject of generations I hear that some members of the under thirty set have taken to calling COVID-19 “boomer remover” which you gotta admit is pretty funny.

    Hey maybe this national emergency will cause Trump to cancel the November election and he can just stay in power till he dies then Ivanka can take over as your glorious leader.

  4. Those People
    Those People March 13, 2020 4:52 pm

    Two towns over from you……I sent hubby to the library to return a book that I really didn’t want to pay overdue fines on for the duration of the crisis. He reported that uniformed police were working on removing “obstinate” homeless patrons.
    (Good to be reading your posts!)

  5. Thomas L. Knapp
    Thomas L. Knapp March 13, 2020 9:52 pm

    The panic and hysteria will probably kill a hundred times as many Americans as the virus.

    Their deaths won’t be noticed because they’ll be in dribs and drabs and for different reasons.

    The guy who got laid off because of the panic, couldn’t afford to go to the doctor (and couldn’t have gotten in anyway because everyone and their brother thinks they have COVID-19 and is demanding testing), and didn’t get a chest x-ray until it was too late to treat the cancer.

    The small business owner who fell into depression and killed herself after she went bankrupt because her little shop was located next to, and relied on traffic from, one of the major establishments (private and “public”) shut down by the panic.

    The elderly or infirm person whose neighbor usually stops by for coffee, but doesn’t do that for a while and then finds him dead on the floor where he fell and broke his hip days ago.

    And so on, and so forth.

  6. Worm lady
    Worm lady March 14, 2020 6:06 am

    My husband and I were just discussing Biden’s plagiarism the other day and wondering why we have not seen it mentioned in any news we have read or heard. I suppose that is because it wasn’t malevolent.

  7. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 14, 2020 8:35 am

    but the banks of library computers were shut down

    As computers evolved from typewriters, they are susceptible to SmithCorona virus.

    I’m not allowed to be in the building at all except to pick up and self-check-out books

    Imagine the possibilities of unattended retail. A hardware store with the ceiling covered with cameras like a casino, but it’s open 24×7 so you can pick out exactly the right length bolts at 2am. Take over one of the anchor store ends of a failed shopping mall and open an Ace Hardware, Amazon smallparts warehouse, Fry’s, a hackerspace, a microbrewery, and a laundromat for a constant source of non-forced singles interactions for male nerds. Hmm. There’s a failing mall in town. Hey, baby, let’s go buy you an outfit from Forever 21, but I get to watch you try it on…

    He reported that uniformed police were working on removing “obstinate” homeless patrons [from the library]

    Homeless people have terrible hygiene and terrible medical support. How come they aren’t all dead already from this Biblical plague?

  8. ellendra
    ellendra March 14, 2020 10:21 am

    I’ve noticed that, all of a sudden, my relatives stopped making fun of me for buying supplies in bulk.

    And 3 neighbors have asked me for gardening advice this month.

  9. Comrade X
    Comrade X March 14, 2020 10:28 am

    My day has been made knowing that Claire is back with her vigor, all is well at least until next week, maybe that is.

  10. Noah Body
    Noah Body March 14, 2020 11:45 am

    Maybe there will be a benefit from this. Since the schools are closed, maybe people will see that kids can learn without them, maybe this will hasten the end of government schools and the extortion taxes that fund them.

    And, of course Ava is your daughter. I’m sure you think of her as such, right?

  11. just waiting
    just waiting March 14, 2020 8:20 pm

    Back east in suburbia, I don’t recall many people paying much attention to the public libraries. Malls, office buildings, and finally the internets became the meeting places and activity centers, and the library was where you went to get a book.
    Our public libraries out here on the western frontier are much different. Residents agreed years ago to fund their libraries by becoming special tax districts. The maximum rate is set by the state. Most importantly, no other governing body decides their annual budget, the library board decides how their money is spent.
    Our library only has about 3000 people within 20 miles, but had over 150,000 people walk through the doors last year. The computers are by reservation and usually filled. They host multiple non profit meetings every day, have films and talks, lots of kids and afterschool activities (our graduating class year numbered 23). I’ve seen the local symphony there twice, not quite Fiedler and the Boston Pops, but for the edge of civilization not bad. The library is a real gathering spot in a town that doesn’t have a fast food restaurant for 25 miles.
    And for my weekly intellectual challenge, when it gets here on Thursday I can copy the Sunday NY Times crossword puzzle for 10 cents!

  12. Pat
    Pat March 15, 2020 6:36 am

    Glad you’re feeling better, Claire.

    Am eagerly awaiting pictures of your new remodeling.

    Re: the state of the world — it’s as barren as the TP shelves!

  13. John
    John March 16, 2020 1:16 am

    Pretty sure all you will need to do is self identify as Mom of furbabby Ava, your 14-year-old daughter, with a tail. When Biden picks Bernie as his VP so as to not see all those Bernie Bro folks desert the ranks, your self identification could lead the way to free cash for all.

    Covid-19? What happened to climate change? Stale toast?

    (I have TP. $6 a roll)

  14. Joel
    Joel March 16, 2020 7:45 am

    Just tell anyone who asks that Ava identifies as a senior human of color. What are they, canophobic?

    (Caninephobic? Transspeciesphobic? Whatever. I’m sure there’s a phrase for it.)

    Hope you keep feeling better, Claire.

  15. -s
    -s March 16, 2020 10:39 am

    I agree that the panic will kill far more people than the virus. Coronavirus tends to fade in April and May, there’s little reason to think this variant will be any different. But the damage to civil liberties, civil society, and the economy will be more or less permanent.

    This weaponized stupidity is creating delusions of grandeur in the minds of every wannabe tyrant. Mayors and governors targeting small businesses (bars and restaurants), constitution be damned.

    Most small businesses hang by a thread, restaurants especially so. Shutting them down for a few weeks will kill many of them. They won’t re-open. The ones that survive, mostly the big chains, will respond to the altered supply and demand by raising prices. No, it isn’t gouging, it is economics.

    I’m pretty sure now is NOT a good time to buy stocks. They may look cheap compared to a month ago, but asset prices have been pumped up over 20 years of relentless fed money creation. The biggest financial bubble in human history has found its pin, and it will probably be many years before enough rot has been cleared for it to be possible to make wise investment decisions.

  16. coloradohermit
    coloradohermit March 17, 2020 2:01 pm

    It’s a joy to hear from you Claire and to know that you’re doing better. Hugs and more hugs!

  17. larryarnold
    larryarnold March 18, 2020 11:21 am

    I knew the situation was Really Serious the morning I opened email and the first six messages were C-OMG instead of spam.

    e.g. forbidding all gatherings larger than pick-your-arbitrary-figure from 250 to 1,000
    Try 10 (ten).

    The latest casualty is our local Prepper meeting. I have a feeling this time a bit more than the usual 50 or so would have shown up.

    Putting together our weekly newspaper was a b**ch Monday. Every time we got something on a page, it would change.

    This next issue is going to be very short, as they’re nothing going on to cover. Forget the sports section, ads are way down. About the only local attraction still operating is the Nature Center, with outdoor programs. And the senior center is keeping Meals on Wheels and the medical appliance lending programs going.

    Well, and the City Council keeps calling “informational” meetings. (Limit of 50 public chairs in the room, set well apart.) With the same old information.

    According to the Bing Covid Tracker ( the U.S. (particularly the middle states) is doing pretty good.

    I’m wondering how long it will take before people start getting tired of all the precautions. You can’t stay Condition Red forever.

  18. Noah Body
    Noah Body March 18, 2020 12:12 pm

    Too bad Bernie probably won’t be on the ballot in November. I think I would vote for him. Yes, he is a socialist, but at least he’s honest about it. They are all socialists. This government reaction to coronavirus, with orders closing so many businesses and massive bailouts, proves this.

    I am surprised people have been so accepting of all this. I would think the torches and pitchforks would be out by now. Maybe people have become used to the police state, after 9-11, etc. Frog in the pot of water . . .

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