Day 30: It Ain’t Over

It’s tiring. I get it. Dealing with the pandemic is exhausting: wondering if any time you touch something that you’re picking up the virus, or if that person is walking by a little to close, or if it’s worth the risk to pick up some fresh vegetables from the store. It’s been months!

And it’s going to be many months more, thanks to the completely inept handing of things by the Republicans in this country. I single them out because they took common-sense safety precautions and politicized them. How is wearing a mask to limit the spreading of the virus a political question?

But thanks to Governor Abbott here in Texas, the number of new cases of COVID-19 infection is climbing rapidly. Here in San Antonio we had the biggest number of new cases (311) on Tuesday, and the most significant increase in the number of people on ventilators. Houston has the world’s largest medical center, but is so overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases that its Children’s Hospital has started admitting adult patients. Back in April Abbott issued an order that forbids localities from enforcing rules requiring face masks, in an effort “open Texas back up”. There was no evidence that the risk of contagion was gone; in fact, everything said the exact opposite. But in keeping with the Republican strategy of pretending it’s gone, he kept lifting the restrictions that had kept the infection rates low. Now the infection rates are spiking, and they’re acting surprised. The same pattern is happening in Florida, where Governor DeSantis is likewise pretending that things are normal.

And this isn’t a case of “how could we have known?”. Every epidemiologist was saying that re-opening was the wrong thing to do. Every medical authority was saying that we needed more testing to understand the extent of the disease, and that we needed stricter precautions: masks that cover the nose and mouth, full social distancing, and banning public gatherings. We have the evidence from the last global pandemic from 100 years ago: relaxing the precautions led to a second wave of infections. This may be the first time any of us have experienced a pandemic, but it isn’t the first time it’s happened, so we have historical data.

But instead the Republicans, following Trump’s lead, ignored that advice in the hope of giving a boost to the economy.


How is this anything but criminal? If I kill someone so that I can get some money, that’s murder. But if I kill someone to boost the economy (and, by extension, help myself get re-elected), that’s just politics?

Nobody could have prevented this pandemic. I’m certainly not blaming Trump, Abbott, DeSantis, or anyone else for it. But it could have been handled in a way to minimize the suffering and death, as we’ve seen in other countries that treat this like the medical issue it is, rather than political football.

Day 26:

I was planning on finishing the post about disc golf today, but I started watching the live stream of The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, and felt as though there were more important things to write about.

If you haven’t heard of this movement, please take a few minutes to go to, and read up on it. And if at all possible, please donate what you can to help.

I watched the live stream for over an hour, and am more convinced than ever that we cannot improve our country by looking at one issue and focusing on that. Instead, it is an over-arching, systemic issue that has not arisen by accident. It is by conscious design. It needs to be addressed as a system: things such as poverty, mass incarceration, abandoned veterans, gerrymandering, unending war, etc., are not individual issues, but all symptoms of the same evil design of the society.

I chose the word “evil” to describe it, as I can think of nothing that better exemplifies what evil means. Imagine not caring about what happens to some people, as long as you profit from it. Imagine not caring about millions of people living in poverty so you can have more. Imagine not caring about people escaping violence and persecution and denying them help just so you can keep your race’s percentage of the population from diminishing even further. Imagine not caring about democracy so that you can prevent people from voting who might not want to sustain the status quo. Anyone as cold an uncaring as that, who would willfully cause millions upon millions to suffer, is the epitome of evil.

Please go to and help in any way you can. Then continue to speak out against this unjust society, and vote for people who will at least keep it from getting worse until we can nurture a new generation of leaders who can lead us to where we need to go.

Day 24: An Open Mind

I pride myself on always keeping an open mind. I like to think of myself as free of prejudice, and always looking for the good in others. I’m sure many of you do, too. It’s tough to see your blindspots sometimes, though.

I was born and raised in the New York city area. I lived for nearly all of my first 40 years either in or within a few minute’s drive from the city proper. So when I moved to Texas in 2008, I was a bit afraid – after all, how is a New York-style liberal elite atheist ever going to fit in there?

I was in San Antonio for all of 2 days before I had my first encounter. I was at a gas station filling up my car (a Civic Hybrid with NY state license plates) when a typical Texas pickup truck pulls up to the pump behind me. The driver’s door opens, and out steps a large man in full cowboy regalia: cowboy boots (of course), jeans, big-ass belt buckle, plaid shirt. He looked like this guy except he didn’t have a cowboy hat on – but I’m sure it was in his truck’s cab:

man wearing green plaid shirt, jeans, tan boots, belt and cowboy hat.

“OK”, I thought nervously, “I’m about to get my first ass-kicking!”. I could see him looking at me and my car with a serious expression on his face. After a little while he calls out to me “Hey – you from New York?”. If you know what a Texas accent sounds like, be sure to read his words with that accent, because he sounded just like that.

Given that my car had NY plates, I answered that yes, I was from New York. He then asks “What brings you around these parts?”. I got a little more nervous, expecting to be met with some sort of “we don’t like your type around here!” aggression. I replied to him that I had gotten a job here in San Antonio, and had just arrived in town.

He then breaks out in a big smile, and says “Well, welcome to Texas!”.

I thanked him, but immediately felt terrible. I had looked at this man, seen his appearance, and assumed that he was some backwards, hate-filled redneck who was looking for any excuse to kick my ass. Instead, he was a very friendly and warm person. I wasn’t as open-minded as I had imagined I was. I had let a stereotype control my perceptions of another person.

I think of this event a lot these days, especially with the news of white people calling the cops on black people because they “didn’t look like they belonged there”. We all have these stereotypes, and need to be mindful of them to keep our irrational reactions in check. Getting rid of those stereotypes is a process, and we all have work to do.

Recognizing that we all are not perfect in no way excuses acting on those perceptions as if they were fact. I do hope that the Karens of the world eventually see themselves and their biases and become a little more aware that some people just look different than you do, and that’s OK. I do admit to being skeptical of this change happening anytime soon, though. Attitudes sometimes take a generation or more to change, and the systemic racism in this country is very deep-rooted. It may take longer.

Day 23: Master

The tech world is reconsidering its use of the term “master”, as it has an association with slavery. Several years ago debate began about renaming the Master/Slave database replication design with something that did not conjure those horrible images from our past. Suggestions like Main/Secondary, or Primary/Replica have gotten traction, and several products have switched to these less offensive terms.

Last week GitHub announced that they working on replacing the name “master” in its service with a more neutral term, such as “main”.

Similar efforts are underway to replace the use of “whitelist/blacklist” with color-neutral terms such as “acceptlist/denylist”. All of this is being done in response to the increased awareness of the systemic racism that underlies so much of our society.

There has been some backlash, of course. While it was difficult to deny the obvious connection with “master/slave” to racism, some people are objecting to these latest proposed changes as being empty gestures. After all, the term “master” for a git branch doesn’t have a corresponding “slave” branch; it simply signifies the main/primary branch for development. Likewise for “blacklist/whitelist” – the term “blacklist” has its origin in 1639 England. “Whitelist” was coined later as the opposite of blacklist. Neither of these choices for color names had anything to do with racial notions of one race being better than another.

They also make the slippery slope argument: if we remove the master branch in git, will we have to also rename the master bedroom in our houses, or re-issue Masters degrees with a new name, or change our padlocks to some brand other than Master?

The thing about these objections is that they ignore the bigger picture: while those terms may have arisen perfectly innocently, they currently raise feelings of racial discrimination. And if you’re white like me, it’s not your call. Listen to what people of color are saying. If they say that it bothers them, that should be sufficient to make that change.

Changing these names to something neutral is not that big a deal*, but fighting those changes shows a real insensitivity to the feelings of others. “It doesn’t bother me; why should it bother you?” is a way of telling others that you really don’t care about them. Why wouldn’t you want to do these very small things in order to demonstrate a bit of empathy?

*git branch -m master main – was that so hard?

Another example along these lines is the word niggardly. It has absolutely nothing to do with race; it simply means “cheap” or “in short supply”. But why use a word that is so close to such an offensive term (you thought of that word when you read “niggardly”, didn’t you?) when there are so many perfectly good synonyms that avoid that association.

Choosing to use terms when you are conscious of its negative association, and have perfectly acceptable alternatives, seems unnecessarily provocative. Of course this won’t “solve” racism, but it is a very tiny step in the right direction.

Day 16: Barefoot People Have the Cleanest Floors

I like to go barefoot whenever I can. Outdoors I wear footwear when I need to, but once I’m home, the shoes come off. I’ve preferred being barefoot for as long as I can remember. And as I’m walking around the house I tend to notice things on the floor, like crumbs from toast in the kitchen, or bits of kitty litter that our cat likes to distribute around his box. I find myself sweeping and vacuuming often, because I get annoyed by the feeling of walking on things that shouldn’t be there.

It got me thinking: if I wore shoes or even slippers around the house, would it bother me as much? Would I feel the need to clean as often? So I posted this on Twitter:

It was a kind of throwaway tweet, but the idea stuck with me. People tend to work to improve the things that affect them the most, especially if it is a pain point. But if that same thing that bothers someone enough for them to get motivated to fix doesn’t bother you, you probably would wonder what the big deal is. It doesn’t bother me; why are those other people so worked up about it?

White people are walking around this country as if they are wearing hiking boots. People of color, though, are barefoot and they feel every bit of the systemic racism that reminds them constantly that they are the “other”. When you’re white those things don’t register in your consciousness, because those thick soles of your hiking boots insulate you from it.

Those boots are a metaphor for white privilege. When black people voice their issues, it’s easy to dismiss them as imagined or overblown, because if they really were that bad, you’d notice it too, right? It takes something like the video of George Floyd being murdered by that cop to finally get through to white people just how bad things are for black people in this country.

It’s good that people, white and black, are getting angry and calling out for reform and improvement. But that’s not enough: we white people need to keep listening. We can’t take off our metaphorical boots, but we can learn that since our experience is not the same as others, the voices from others need to be heard and valued if we are ever going to improve the world for all people.