A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 105

Already obsolete? The newish Hudson Yards project in Manhattan.

Monday, June 29

Having wondered about how our Manhattan building is coping, I began looking for visions of how cities should adapt to a pandemic-heavy future. It turns out there’s some cogitation going on—although much is still at the head-scratching stage.

As you might expect, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is quite involved. The MIT Senseable City Lab and its Alm Lab are busy placing sensors in various world cities—and collecting data from global sewers. “A vast reservoir of information on human health and behavior lives in our sewage,” proclaims one project website. It foresees “a future in which sewage is mined for real-time information. Insights on eating habits, genetic tendencies, drug consumption, contagious diseases and overall health lie in the sewage system.”

So beyond a world peppered with CCTV monitors, there is a future world in which sensors poke through our filth in order to respond to coming crises. One pilot study involved a 24-hour sampling of stuff from a Cambridge, Mass. manhole. There researchers found and sorted more than 4,000 different bacteria.

There’s also a lot of attention being paid to “sustainable cities”—those with plenty of green space, more bike lanes, and less congested transit systems. But we’ve already heard a lot about that in New York City. In my opinion, it’s very much a work in progress, and at the moment it just means more traffic congestion and more accident-prone streets. Trucks double park in bike lanes. Pedestrians run for their lives across bus lanes and one-way thoroughfares. Dog-walkers and bird-watchers arm-wrestle for space in the park. 

Say what you will about Singapore’s “therapeutic gardens,” serene greenery won’t do that much to ward off the next COVID crisis. Shouldn’t social distancing and some disinfecting mechanism be built-in to future development?

Unsurprisingly, most of the world appears to be going in the wrong direction. “In 10 years, an estimated 20% of the world’s population will live in urban environments with a limited access to appropriate water, health, and sanitation infrastructures,” says one Harvard public-health lecturer quoted by the BBC.

Urban farming? Refashioning neighborhoods so that everything one needs, from groceries to health care to exercise, is no more than 20 minutes away? Unless we abandon our current cities and build altogether new ones, that all seems a tad unreal. 

But perhaps not to the Onassis Foundation, which is sponsoring a new Pandemic Architecture competition, soliciting proposals for city design that take account of pandemic dangers. At this point, the effort is more about raising questions than offering potential solutions. But it is a new undertaking—maybe something will come of it.

A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 104

No elevator pitches, please.

Sunday, June 28

Life back in our Manhattan apartment building must seem right out of dystopian science fiction. Two New York Times articles today highlight the issues.

One article says that for two crucial months this past winter, scientists regularly underestimated the impact of symptomless carriers. “Models using data from Hong Kong, Singapore, and China suggest that 30 to 60 percent of spreading occurs when people have no symptoms,” says the Times.

A primary illustration involves a woman from China who traveled to Germany in January, where she attended two days of long meetings. She only began feeling sick on her flight back home, but even then attributed her headaches and chills to jet lag. Back in Munich, eight people were shortly hospitalized with the coronavirus. Ultimately, 16 infected Germans were identified and, thanks to rapid response, all survived. “Aggressive testing and flawless contact-tracing contained the spread,” says the article.

But how do you avoid infected people if they show no symptoms? The only way is to avoid all people, isn’t it?

Another Times piece examines just how elevator traffic should be managed now that many Manhattan businesses are reopening. If an appropriate social distance between individuals is six feet, how many elevators can make that possible? Not many, of course.

New York state standards require most commercial buildings to have elevators measuring at least 4 feet 3 inches by roughly 5 feet 8 inches. That leaves people standing about four feet apart.

But no talking!

Consultants advise a limit of four people per elevator. But lots of buildings and companies will simply place the onus on individuals. “We recommend using your best judgment,” says one real estate operations executive. Sure—you be the judge. Meanwhile, your boss is waiting for you in a meeting upstairs.

In our residential building, it is already common for there to be lines of people waiting in the lobby for an elevator to arrive. Some of these people have dogs with them; others have bags of groceries or stuff; several will be yakking away on their mobile phones. Then the elevator arrives and everyone jockeys to get onboard.

It’s an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm played for real. Imagine numerous aggressive and whining Larry Davids as your neighbors. Arriving at their floors, they push past you to get in or out of the elevator. And we have to make our way up to the 18th floor.

Our building has only two passenger elevators and no freight elevator. So it’s also common for one elevator to be “in service,” with movers bringing furniture in or out of the building or maybe building staff taking big bags of garbage out to the curbside. 

Just waiting around in the lobby, where it’s hard to imagine proper social distancing, will be hazardous. And New Yorkers aren’t the most patient or deferential of people. Oh, you go next—after you, after you. 


There are stairs—two flights will get you from one floor up or down to the next. I negotiated the stairs a lot during Hurricane Sandy back in 2012. Going down ain’t great. As your legs and ankles get tired, it’s easy to stumble. Going up is truly punishing—four floors, and you’re huffing as if you’ve been in a mini-marathon.

You could just stay in your apartment, but what about food and other necessities? Will the doorman allow delivery people to bring stuff upstairs? 

There are people we could telephone to find out just how these things are being handled right now. But it feels awkward to get in touch. Oh, so you want to know exactly what, Mr. East Hampton refugee?

Dinner: chicken salad with apples, walnuts and mayo, plus a sugar snap pea stir fry with scallions and Asian seasonings.

Entertainment: A streaming video from the Film Forum, Jean-Pierre Melville’s When You Read This Letter.

A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 103

Swedish writers Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo.

Saturday, June 27

“ ‘Justifiable homicide,’ ” said Allwright. “How do you say that in Swedish?”
“It’s untranslatable,” said Martin Beck.
“There is no such concept,” Kollberg said.
“You’re wrong about that,” Allwright said, and laughed. “They’ve got it in the States, believe you me. Just let a policeman shoot somebody, and it’s always ‘justifiable homicide.’ Legitimate murder, or whatever we’d call it in Swedish. It happens every day.”

—Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, Polismordaren  (1974)

So some Europeans have been on to us, with our peculiar institutions, for 40-odd years. But who are the Swedes, with their increasingly popular and very bloody “Scandi noir” fiction, to preach?

In cinematic depictions, police activity in Sweden, Denmark, or Norway is often marked by squads of black uniformed, Kevlar-padded, automatic-weaponed cops closing in on suspected evildoers. In such fiction, the contrast between the heavily armed Scandi cops and often unarmed Brits like Inspector Lewis or Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope is very striking. Has Sweden become more violent, and more heavily policed, since the 1970s?

In an article on Sweden from two years back, Politico reported that “Shootings in the country have become so common that they don’t make top headlines anymore, unless they are spectacular or lead to fatalities.” Norwegians disparage their trigger-happy neighbor, commonly using the phrase “Swedish conditions” to describe crime and social unrest. Crime is closely linked to Sweden’s failure to integrate the immigrants it has allowed, more per capita than any other EU country. Immigrants now make up a quarter of the Swedish population.

Denmark, in contrast, has been noticeably unwelcoming to immigrants. It is one of six Schengen-area countries that tightened its borders, contrary to EU protocol, and has deported lots of asylum-seekers and would-be immigrants. In 2018, its government even went so far as to begin moving undesired immigrants to a remote uninhabited island once used for contagious animals.

That country’s admirable social contract seems to rest upon the fact of a less diverse population. What American wouldn’t envy the Danes’ benefits as summarized in The New York Times: “free health care, free education from kindergarten through college, subsidized high-quality preschool, a very strong social safety net and very low levels of poverty, homelessness, crime and inequality”? But must such goodies come at the cost of ethnic diversity?

Denmark has also been much more effective in fighting the pandemic than Sweden. A combination of lots of testing and government subsidies to keep employees on payrolls has meant a COVID-19 death rate that’s less than one-third of Sweden’s. The pandemic continues in Sweden, which never closed its schools or restaurants and has had five times as many deaths as its Scandi neighbors combined. Recently, Denmark, Norway, and Finland all closed their borders to Swedes, as did the Netherlands and Cyprus. Greece requires visiting Swedes to produce a health certificate.

So what’s my point in all this? Sweden, unlike its neighbors, seems to be evolving in the direction of the U.S.: more crime accompanied by fewer restrictions on the population and on the economy—all at the cost of placing people at greater risk.

The authors of the Martin Beck detective novels, Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, were already unhappy with the direction of Sweden in the 1960s and ‘70s. They spoke of their Social Democratic government’s “anti-humanitarian cynicism” partially disguised by its proclaimed goal of A More Compassionate Society. Today, they would likely be even more disenchanted.

Dinner: leftover black beans and rice, a lettuce salad with cucumber, radish, and avocado.

Entertainment: One episode of Netflix’ German series Dark–which we deemed too weird and supernaturally oriented. Then an episode of the Margaret Atwood adaptation Alias Grace, which is terrific. We paid for but were unable to load a streaming video from the Film Forum, Jean-Pierre Melville’s When You Read This Letter. Poor streaming reception has led us to cancel our subscription to Acorn. Both Mhz and Britbox have almost no new shows, so they may be next.

A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 102

Born in the U.S.A.

Thursday, June 25

In Mexico during the 1980s, I encountered other travelers from a variety of places—England, New Orleans, you name it. Among them were two women who seemed a bit withdrawn, prickly, even unfriendly. They spoke English, but with an accent that I couldn’t easily place. After a while it came out: They were South African.

They could have had any number of reasons for staying a bit apart. But I believed that they were embarrassed by their country’s policy of racial oppression, apartheid. Maybe they were secret supporters of the liberation struggle. Maybe Nelson Mandela was a family friend. Who knows? But I think they felt that non-South Africans would regard them as something like neo-Nazis. They probably felt themselves to be pariahs—people who others would shun once their nationality became known.

This could be the fate facing Americans if we ever travel again. 

The European Union is preparing to ban American travelers when it reopens its borders on July 1, lumping the U.S. in with Russia and Brazil in terms of countries that have failed to stop the spread of the coronavirus. First, the U.S. banned EU tourists in mid-March, angering political leaders. Now, Europe has largely contained COVID-19, while new cases in the U.S. are increasing in number. Sweet revenge will prevail, as John Prine once sang.

The EU is considering two draft lists of permissible travelers, and U.S. tourists are included on neither, according to The New York Times.

Moreover, Trump’s disgraceful behavior, and that of his yobbish fans, is sufficient reason for non-Americans to regard us warily. Oh, they may well think: You are the type of people who automatically regard Mexicans as rapists and Central Americans as diseased. Maybe you too hate Angela Merkel and Justin Trudeau while admiring Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un.

We were in Scotland a few years ago, and we rushed to make it clear to our B&B hosts and others that we were non-fans of the Orange man. I think they accepted what we said, and quickly changed the subject to an explanation of Scottish ways and a discussion of places we might like to visit. Oh, are you golfers? We had to make it clear that we weren’t—another reason to find us objectionable.

So, compatriots, steel yourselves for Ugly American status.  Maybe you could wear a Black Lives Matter T-shirt or attach a Bernie Sanders bumper sticker onto your rental car. Or maybe COVID-19 will prevent you from ever again traveling abroad.

Tonight’s dinner: Black beans and rice, lettuce and avocado salad.

Entertainment: Concluding episodes of season two of Broadchurch.

A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 101

“Chinatown dance rock” group “The Slants.”

Wednesday, June 24

Emily has been taking online Continuing Legal Education courses. (All lawyers must accumulate 24 CLE credits per year, and she now has 14.) Most of these are dull, little videoed lectures delivered by lawyers who should, in many cases, avoid all microphones. I ask her if she chooses the lectures based on their potential for humor. No, she says, you generally cannot tell what the tone will be.

A case in point is the course she just took. “Government Regulation of Hate Speech” turns out to be a discussion of cases involving outrageous branding and trademark law. Could a San Francisco girl-biker group trademark its name, “Dykes On Bikes”? What about an Asian rock band, “The Slants”? Are these names invidious and thus undeserving of intellectual-property protection? What protection does trademark afford such groups, anyway?

This course was a bit like a George Carlin routine. There is something inherently funny about discussing an outrageous subject from a bureaucratic or legalistic perspective. That was the nature of Carlin’s classic monologue “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.” The monologue gave him an excuse for saying the words—shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits—again and again, on television.

Carlin was arrested in 1972 for delivering the monologue. In 1978, the U.S. Supreme Court considered whether a radio broadcast of Carlin’s monologue merited an F.C.C. complaint that could have resulted in penalties against the station. 

According to The Atlantic, “The majority decision stated that the FCC was justified in deciding what’s ‘indecent,’ saying the Carlin act was ‘indecent but not obscene.’ The Court ruled that because Carlin’s routine was broadcast on the radio, during the day, it did not have as much First Amendment protection.”

Years later, you still couldn’t say the forbidden words on broadcast TV. But the rise of anything-goes cable TV along with the Internet has made the ruling pretty much moot.

Hate speech is another matter. Defamatory words are not allowed in trademarks, but violations of the First Amendment aren’t allowed either. In the case known as Matal v. Tam, the Supreme Court, in an opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, ruled the Trademark Act’s clause regarding disparaging language was a violation of the First Amendment. Thus the group could register the racist slur “The Slants” as its name. (FYI, the group has a well-regarded album “Slanted Eyes, Slanted Hearts.”)

I’m looking forward to seeing a YouTube video of these musical folks. Dykes On Bikes is inherently funny too. I said to Emily that of course they are based in San Francisco—had they been from Des Moines, they’d have felt compelled to move to the Bay Area.

Dinner: leftover balsamic chicken with mushrooms, couscous, and a lettuce and avocado salad.

Entertainment: Episodes from season two of Broadchurch.

A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 100

Our victory garden.

Monday, June 22

“With remarkable speed, social life revived. People’s ability to forget what they do not want to know, to overlook what is before their eyes, was seldom put to the test better.… The population decided—out of sheer panic at first—to carry on as if nothing had happened.”—W.G. Sebald, On The Natural History of Destruction

That was Germany at the end of World War II, but across history, human responses to catastrophe can be much the same. As the U.S. lockdown restrictions ease—and Phase Three arrives on Wednesday—will Americans behave in a similar fashion, carrying on as if nothing had happened?

So far, near sanity seems to be prevailing. The flopped Trump rally in Oklahoma suggests that the survival instinct is stronger than any American desire for torchlight parades and scapegoating.  “Kung Flu,” as Orange Man dubbed COVID-19, was said to be both a Chinese import and a hoax invented by the liberal media. In a Tulsa stadium that seats 19,000, only 6,200 people were persuaded. Others stayed at home with their Swanson frozen dinners or delivery pizza. 

Phase Three allows restaurants here to reopen with a 50% capacity so long as tables are six feet apart. Personal services such as nail salons and massage joints can reopen, too. But, even though Long Island has been spared the worst of the pandemic, I don’t envision long lines outside of Sam’s or Babette’s on Newtown Lane in East Hampton. Few people are that desperate. 

Here I still struggle with our petty daily tasks, primarily menu planning and cooking. (We don’t do a lot of cleaning, and I pay others to attend to yard duty.) Considerations include using fresh vegetables before they turn bad, and keeping dinners interesting by avoiding repetition and introducing new dishes. Emily has discovered that Peapod will deliver fresh sugar snap peas, so I’ve made sugar snap peas with mushrooms; a sugar snap peas, yogurt, and dill salad (I threw in cucumbers and used goat cheese rather than feta); and I am thinking about a stir-fry with sugar snap peas, water chestnuts, and some kind of Asian sauce.

Tonight we’ll use the fresh mushrooms in an oft-served dish, chicken with mushrooms and balsamic vinegar. One remaining chicken breast from a package of three remains in the freezer. I’ll likely use it in a chicken salad with apples and celery. Maybe the snap pea stir-fry would make a good accompaniment. In between the two chicken dishes, I might make a pasta dish we’ve also had several times, penne with roasted red peppers, goat cheese, and toasted walnuts.

And in-between, there can be more beans and rice or a lentil salad with scallions and walnuts.

Dinner tonight: Along with the balsamic chicken, there will be couscous (we’ve got lots) and a green salad.

Entertainment: more episodes of Broadchurch.

A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 99

Sunday, June 21

Who needs barbers? Twenty-one weeks passed without a haircut. Today, Emily made like Delilah and rid me of my troublesome locks.

A kit including the required scissors, combs, hair clips, spray bottle, and cape came several days ago via Amazon. I impressed a reluctant Emily into service. And after watching numerous YouTube instructional videos, she agreed to give it a go. So, we took a chair and the other stuff into the backyard, and…voila!

Interviewed afterwards, the erstwhile barber said: “I was terrified.” She feared that it would just look awful, and that I’d be very unhappy. Instead, she admitted, “I’m very pleased,”.

The videos gave her a sense of confidence. “The woman on YouTube said ‘just follow the contours of the head and the neck.’ And that seemed to make sense, so that is what I did.”

A Wookiee no more, I am ready for Phase Three of the reopening. But I’ll still be wearing my mask.

Dinner: Caprese salad (mozzarella cheese, celery, Kalamata olives, tomato, basil, and balsamic vinaigrette) and broiled eggplant with parmesan cheese and tomato sauce.

Entertainment: Episodes of Marcella, season two; and two episodes of Broadchurch. Both shows are about terrible crimes against children, but Broadchurch is much more profound about the resulting family suffering.

A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 98

CCTV is everywhere.

Saturday, June 20

There are more news reports regarding the use of aircraft to monitor demonstrations. The Times now says that the Department of Homeland Security employed drones, helicopters, and airplanes to spy on Black Lives Matter protests in 15 cities from Minneapolis to Buffalo.

It’s all part of a Homeland Security digital network called “Big Pipe” that can be accessed by a range of federal and local authorities. Collectively, the aircraft logged at least 270 hours of surveillance.

But what about old-fashioned CCTV? Have we come to accept that as a given—a loss of privacy we have to live with?

In Britain, The Guardian reported back in 2011 that there was one CCTV camera for every 32 citizens. So there must be many more cameras now.

Many of these U.K. cameras were inside private premises, including malls and stores, although police have easy access to such video. But American cities put a lot of cameras right out in the open.

New York City’s “domain awareness system”—a partnership between the police and Microsoft Corp.—utilizes 18,000 video surveillance cameras. The city’s subway system has over 4,000 cameras (although nearly half of them do not work), and two-thirds of large apartment and commercial buildings have video surveillance.

The city’s system links up license-plate readings, court summonses, 911 calls, and police reports. Some $350 million in Homeland Security money got New York’s network started, but today the system is a money-maker for the city. Its approach and software are licensed out everywhere from Washington, D.C. to Brazil and Singapore.

In the Washington D.C.-area, there are more than 30,000 surveillance cameras in schools, and that city’s subway employs nearly 6,000 cameras.

Much has been made of the U.S. Constitution’s “right to privacy,” especially with regard to Supreme Court abortion-rights rulings. But courts have facilitated access to CCTV footage, and the American Civil Liberties Union says there has been very little explicit regulation of video. “There are currently no general, legally enforceable rules to limit privacy invasions and protect against abuse of CCTV systems,” says the ACLU.

I myself have been victimized in a very small way by these cameras. A while back, I received two notices via e-mail and snail-mail of “red light violations.” One of these included a photo of my car (presumably, I was at the wheel) running a Manhattan red light at the corner of 26th St. and Second Avenue. The light did indeed look red in the printed-out version, but it was clearly only yellow in the e-mailed version. In any case, the notice said, the summons was not appealable—pay or die.

My online research revealed that the camera was put there by the city and its partner Xerox Corp. (When was the last time you heard of them?) Both make good moola off this labor-free gotcha gimmick.

The red-light-camera gambit has drawn plenty of public complaints. Apparently, the system has a hair trigger that’s prone to entrapping drivers who are mid-intersection when the light changes. On Long Island, the red-light traps have resulted in lots of rear-end collisions, as wary drivers slam on the brakes when they see a light turn yellow, only to be rear-ended by the driver behind them. 

But the issue of the moment is much larger than red-light entrapment. It concerns surveillance of demonstrators exercising their constitutional rights of freedom of expression and assembly. And as can be easily seen, the “authorities” are openly hostile to such demonstrations. 

Dinner: homemade pizza and a lettuce, cucumber, and radish salad.

Entertainment: More episodes of Marcella, from season two, and one episode of the David Attenborough nature documentary Our Planet.

A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 97

A Florida National Guard RC-26 in action.

Friday, June 19

And the next shortage is…charcoal!

Out of stock, they report at Damark. CVS has none, either, while they do have stuff like cookies, ice cream, milk, lots of bottled beverages, etc.

I had donned my mask and gloves and gone out to get some more Aleve and vitamin D-3, along with a few eats that Peapod failed to deliver. We have enough charcoal to make hamburgers tonight, but that’s likely the end. 

Nor is there any sign of the rabbit this morning, but last evening as the gloaming came on, I could see the little guy sitting near the neighbor’s driveway. There’s new, and likely delicious, sod in their front yard, so that’s probably an attraction.

While I am here blabbing about bunnies, the national security state is taking advantage of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations to refine its surveillance hardware. Both the West Virginia and the Wisconsin national guards have sent state-of-the-art RC-26 airplanes to be eyes-in-the-sky over demos in D.C. and Minneapolis. According to the Times: “Representative Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican who is also an RC-26 pilot in the Wisconsin Air National Guard, said he flew two night missions this month in support of domestic law enforcement officials in Minneapolis, sending real-time video feeds to the authorities on the ground.” These “authorities” can view the real-time feeds on their cellphones, it seems.

However, according to this source, “the plane’s onboard camera was powerful enough to make out the general image of an individual as the three-member crew flew at altitudes between 4,000 and 20,000 feet. But the cameras were not strong enough or sophisticated enough to use for facial recognition or to read license plates on vehicles.” But now that the authorities are aware of that, there could be some tweaks to bring the onboard cameras up to speed.

Why not simply get more CCTV? That’s what they use, to great effect, in all the Brit cop shows. On the cops’ computers, they can zoom in right on a perp’s face or license plate. And if it’s on Netflix, it must be true, right? So, how come the RC-26s?

Well because CCTV wouldn’t add to the bottom line of aircraft makers Fairchild and Lockheed, who no doubt make big campaign contributions to congressional representatives.

And nothing’s too good for our boys in uniform. It’s seems we’ve been handing the planes around to various foreign governments, including Venezuela (!) and Peru.

Tonight’s dinner: hamburgers, baked potatoes with sour cream, and coleslaw.

Entertainment: Two final episodes of the first season of Marcella.

A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 96

Wednesday and Thursday,  June 17 and 18

Emily is suffering from her chronic back pain. On Wednesday, she was sitting in an upholstered chair with her laptop on her knee, then she went to get up and suddenly, whammo. I suspect she twisted her back as she leaned forward while gripping the laptop, in a combination of muscle exertions that isn’t good. She had trouble hobbling over to the bed where she lay with a cold pack on her spine.

But after taking some Aleve and sleeping at night, today she is a little better. She even did a few leg raises as a physical therapist once instructed.

She has had this back problem off and on for several years. Is is sciatica? Spinal stenosis?

Here is another problem with the lockdown: Sure, you’re avoiding the pandemic but what if a different medical issue arises? Emily now has an August appointment to see a specialist back in New York City. Yesterday, she spent some time online looking for alternatives out here, maybe at Southampton Hospital. Then this back trouble comes along. Should she seek out a physical therapist in East Hampton? 

We’re both doing just too much sitting. We try to take walks, and I do a little yoga. But strangely enough, Manhattan is a more physically demanding place. And now that no one wants to take the subway and even more people are biking, exercise is on the daily agenda. Furthermore, taking the stairs in lieu of an elevator means even more exertion.

Another Peapod grocery delivery is slated for today, sometime after 5 p.m. As I have noted several times before, this is a mixed blessing: good prices and no social mingling but just how much of what we have ordered will really arrive? And there are always surprise omissions.  (This time, not so bad: no Bonne Maman apricot preserves, no scallions, no vitamin D-3, no Haagen-Dazs ice cream, no mixed nuts, and no Aleve.)

I know: In the midst of an international health crisis when thousands are suffering and dying, I should be embarrassed to complain about such tiny matters. But such are the times.

Right now, Emily is watching a Lawline video on prisoners’ legal rights. The presenter has this upward rising inflection at the end of every sentence—the phenomenon that was once associated with Valley Girl teenagers. Now it’s just habitual with many people, but it once carried some kind of implied meaning. Like, “do you know what I mean?” Or maybe it was offered to express a cut-me-some-slack uncertainty: “this is what I think, I hope you agree?”

Lawyers are required to undergo this continuing education in order to renew their legal licenses. I could go into the other room so as to avoid listening—but I’m going to take a shower instead.

Oh, yes: the rabbit reappeared in our yard this morning!

Dinner: Penne with asparagus pesto and a green salad.

Entertainment: Fritz Lang’s silent classic Mabuse the Gambler; episodes of the Netflix damaged-detective series Marcella.