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  • Strange times

    How are y'all doin'?

  • #2
    Nice idea for a forum topic, puffybob. The stories we share here will maybe be good to have, you know, for posterity. I am fine and those close to me are fine - in terms of health and financial stability, pretty much (so far, that is ... of course, who knows what the future holds). I feel extremely fortunate that this is so. Don't get me wrong. Like everybody, there are loved ones whose current situations are a bit concerning (a stepson who lives in NY and is a struggling actor ... hard at any time, especially hard now ... a daughter about to graduate from college who had big dreams of finding some sort of job after that ... hah! ... parents who are healthy, but 80 and so at highish-risk, and yet, kind of resistant to the new limitations being imposed on them ... and who also are currently in FL, where I can't get to them easily if they should come to need me ... and a sister-in-law, who is 72 and lives in a senior center where she must stay in her apartment by herself, now, all the time.)

    I feel especially lucky for my temperament, though, to tell you the truth. My husband and I spend most days home together as we are now spending them (reading [I'm currently reading a great book for the pandemic, in that it's really looooooooong - like 1,000 pages and is also pretty novel [and IS, in fact, a novel] and amusing and also deep, in its way, tackling all kinds of issues - big and small, called Ducks, Newburyport, by Lucy Ellman [anybody else read this one?], taking walks, playing piano [him], doing cryptograms [me], watching the occasional series or movie [we try not to get too carried away and so try not to spend more than an hour or 2 a night watching things on tv ... but ... HBO is showing some teaser things for free this month, and we are binging the first 2 seasons of Barry currently - it's pretty good ... also, I highly recommend for anybody who likes stand-up comedy, the new Marc Maron special streaming on Netflix - called End Times Fun ... very funny and weirdly prescient, since it was made well before the current situation arose], preparing nice foods [me], thinking about nice foods to prepare in the near future [me], eating nice foods, playing Scrabble [both on-line with my daughter and my brother ... and IRL, with my hubby], listening to music), regardless of whether or not a global pandemic is ongoing. So, the imposed pandemic-lifestyle doesn't feel so foreign or jarring to us. But, of course, it's one thing to stay inside because you *like* being inside and another being told you *must* stay inside.

    My success rates are in cryptoland are LOVING this pandemic. I am definitely improving, which is cool to me.

    And a new thing came about for me this week. Apparently, there is a sudden call for tech volunteers in one of the areas I worked in when I worked. I retired 5 years ago ... I'd worked all my post-college life as a computer programmer and started my career writing in COBOL. I did that for 15 years, at which point, I was laid off from my job and couldn't find another in COBOL programming (because that was in 2002 and COBOL was considered dead and buried and antiquated when I got my first job programming in it ... by 2002, nobody was looking for COBOL programmers and so I had to learn a new language - SAS - and I worked in that language for the rest of my career. Anyway, apparently, in NJ and possibly some other states, the software that manages the unemployment services was written in COBOL and ... very weirdly ... was never modernized. And the software apparently wasn't written well enough to accommodate the large number of new unemployment applicants coming in every day. And so the governor of NJ has recently made a public plea asking for volunteers with COBOL programming knowledge to help out. I don't know what this entails, exactly, and don't really know if I even remember how to program in COBOL ... but I formally (electronically) held up my hand on Friday, submitting the form on the government site for tech volunteers and describing my availability (lots, I guess) and qualifications, rusty though they certainly are. I got back an automated thank you from NJ and they said they will get back to me soon ... so I'm waiting to find out what may happen next. I'll post here if it's anything interesting.

    Looking forward to hearing from more of you on this topic and hope everybody here and their loved ones are all doing okay.

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    • #3
      Hello everyone! I am an introvert and homebody by nature, so this stay-at-home stuff has been nice for me. In some ways I've had a break from responsibilies (church things), and in others I've had lots more to do (home schooling my son). I have used Walmart curbside pickup (in an effort to social distance) which I have found to be excellent and will probably continue with it after this is all over. I also have a daughter and son-in-law graduating college this semester who were hoping to get jobs right away. I still think they'll find jobs...just may have to wait a bit. My family and I are doing fine...no illnesses and most have kept their jobs. I sure wish I had lots of extra time to spend here during this, but because the schools are out I actually have less. (sigh) I've very much enjoyed my time here since joining up...it's been 19 months so far! You all are great!!

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      • #4
        Fudi, I am intrigued by this potential new opportunity for you to use your programming skills. Let us know how that goes! My kids joke with me that my life has not changed a bit since this whole situation started, because I also tend to be a homebody. Of course there are some changes. I miss the twice weekly classes I used to take, the visits to parks and restaurants that are now closed, going for coffee with friends, having people over for dinner, and so on. And I am starting to be a bit of a clean freak, so much so that I'm sure my dog is convinced we must be expecting visitors, but nobody ever shows up. I'm also baking nearly every day, which is not good for the waistline, but is something that I've always enjoyed and find relaxing. I worry about people more affected by this than I am: my dad in a high risk group because of his age, who lives on the other side of the country, my kids whose careers are stalled at the moment, my husband who always likes to keep busy and be productive. I worry about people who live alone, and how isolated they must feel. I am grateful that I am still able to go out and walk around my neighborhood, enjoying the beautiful flowers and spring weather. And aren't we lucky that we can still spend time here, solving cryptograms! I wish all of you well and very much look forward to things getting back to normal!

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        • #5
          I will definitely let you guys know what, if anything, falls out of my COBOL situation ... thanks for your interest, Eureka. Puffybob ... you can't just come in here and start a thread like this and not tell us how things are with *you*. I mean, you can, actually ... I guess ... but ... you should share too! (If you wanna, I mean, of course.)

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          • #6
            Deanna48, I have been developing (in my head) a whole curriculum for your son, based completely on cryptograms. Here are some ideas: 1. List all new words that you encounter in cryptograms, write down their definitions and think of ways of using them in conversation with your mother. 2. Choose one author and write a biography about his/her life from at least four online sources. You may not choose Robert Brault. 3. Write an essay on how ancient quotes are still relevant today, using examples from your own life. 4. Make a list of all grammatical rules that are explained by LLapp in the comment section and commit them to memory. 5. Write an essay explaining why you agree or disagree with Abraham Lincoln's view of life. 6. When you get a quote by a musician, google his or her music and listen to at least six songs. Then pick your favorite and learn how to play it on guitar (guitars are available at abra's house, if you ask nicely). 7. When you get to a quote from a political leader, analyze the comments and try to justify all opinions. 8. Choose any comment from Andy451 and paraphrase it in ten words or less.

            Well, you get the idea. The possibilities are limitless!

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            • #7
              Now THAT is awesome, Eureka! Who knew how educational being on here was?!? You just totally justified the enormous amount of time some of us spend doing these. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!! And I would add Jack Handey to #2.

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              • #8
                That *is* fantastic, Eureka!! It makes me want to have another child to rear. I might start working on that. I just might. We should call this new educational program The Eureka Method. The kids trained under it will all be brilliant know-it-all geeks ... they will all be delightful

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                • #9
                  I'm considering this a pre-retirement. It's just postponing the eventual one by however long I'm on a reduced income. Aside from the part that I'm not going on any adventures, it's pretty cool. And there are several projects I haven't even had time to get to because I was scheduled for a staycation during this time anyway. I'll have a different opinion when my vacation hours run out. The house is clean, spring garden is sprouting, and I've almost cleared enough from my to-do list for an epic day of cryptograms.

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                  • #10
                    Not good (details omitted). I live alone. I'm 66 years old, isolated and depressed.

                    My name is legion. No one recognizes the severe mental health costs of quarantine and isolation. Correction. It is recognized, but no one really cares. In a police state, which is what this country has become, will become -- it's in process as we speak -- the costs of compliance are rarely acknowledged. I don't want to live here when the food supply system breaks down, and it is crumbling as I write this. The human devastation will include actual starvation such as we have not seen since the Great Depression. Our country is destroying itself. It's a combination of novel coronavirus and an ongoing civil war in the United States, better known as the culture war. The result? Our federal government cannot govern; we have no effective leadership at all as Democrats and Republicans, "left" and "right," attack and counterattack. The people in power care only about staying there. Anyone remember what happened during our last Civil War? The aftermath of World War I in Germany? Could anyone possibly resurrect Abraham Lincoln, along with Winston Churchill and Malcolm X? (All astute politicians, verbally fluent, courageous and dedicated to a vision beyond themselves)

                    Oh, yes, and $2 trillion funded from a sea of red ink. When will the United States collapse financially? We are teetering on the verge of massive default.

                    Full faith and credit refers to the full borrowing power of a government that pledges to fulfill its payment obligations in a timely manner. [Investopedia]
                    No longer possible. February 2020, the U.S. national debt stood at $23.3 trillion. Any idea how much money that really is? Me neither. Something well beyond Everett Dirksen's well-known quote: "A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money." Note the deficit tracker linked below.

                    https://bipartisanpolicy.org/report/deficit-tracker/

                    Large and sustained federal budget deficits are harmful to the fiscal health of the United States. Yet policymakers struggle with reining in the red ink. Even as the U.S. economy expands, the federal government continues to run large and growing budget deficits that will soon exceed $1 trillion per year. It is an ominous trend. [emphasis added]
                    News flash. The U.S. economy is now contracting, and the money now being printed and distributed, based on no real underlying wealth or capital, may not be worth the paper on which it's printed. This is how nations sicken and die. It happened to the Holy Roman Empire, to Great Britain... it is now happening to the United States of America.

                    Can't stand the sight of it, nor can I remove my eyes from the escalating carnage.

                    End of rant. Properly this belongs in another thread, but I ain't starting one. This party pooper just wants to go home.

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                    • #11
                      When Fudi mentioned COBOL, it was like traveling back in time. I too studied COBOL, with impeccable timing, just as it was being superceded by SAS and object-oriented programming, all that cool stuff. So I did not become a programmer. But Fudi, I know a few things from the end user perspective.

                      Lots of COBOL applications survive to this day, without modification. How can they be modernized when no one learns COBOL anymore -- granted, it's rather simple as programming languages go -- and no one wants to be stuck patching up an old dinosaur from the 1960s or 70s. Safeway, the supermarket chain, runs its programs on a COBOL-based system. How do I know that? Back in the day, I worked for a grocery chain acquired by Safeway, and we could scarcely believe that a DOS-based system from the 1970s was replacing our state-of-the-art POS retail system. So a large state bureaucracy has an out-of-date computer application, now collapsing under the weight of massive unemployment claims.

                      That said, Fudi, I'm thrilled that you have volunteered, and like riding a bicycle, those programming skills will come back to you. Believe it. How many people will you help? As of April 9, 2020, nearly 577,000 people had filed for unemployment in New Jersey over the past three weeks. How will they get their money without volunteers like you? Simple... they won't. What an awesome mitzvah -- you're Jewish, as I recall? -- or to put it another way:

                      You rock, Girlfriend!

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                      • #12
                        This ain't no disco.

                        (At the same time, though, I've been doing dance classes with the Gaga teachers of NYC almost every day, and I highly recommend them (the classes) as a way to get sweaty, and silly, and be more in tune with your body. They're on gofundme for anyone who's interested.)

                        I'm sorry to hear that you're not doing well, munchlet. You may be isolated, but you're not alone.

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                        • #13
                          Good to hear from people (even if it's not all good news). Yes, I guess people who solve large numbers of cryptograms tend to be stay-at-home types to begin with. I'm lucky in that my health is fine and (for now, at least), I'm able to do my job from home. I do have siblings who are much older than I am, though, one of whom works at a hospital, so I do worry about them. I'm here at home with my wife and three teenagers, and let me tell you, no one is worse at social distancing than teenagers. I think we've finally reined them in as much as possible, probably mostly because their friends can't really go out either, but now there's somehow always something they need at the store. It is certainly strange not having any idea how long this will go on or what the end game is.

                          Relatively late in life, I had developed the hobby of going to the gym every night. Now of course all the gyms are closed, and, like Eureka, I find myself cooking and baking more of the time. The belt is starting to feel a bit tighter as a result. I realize I could exercise at home, but somehow it's not the same. In some ways, that's been the biggest disruption to my routine. Can't wait for some kind of "normalcy" to return, though I think things will be different (in some ways) for a very long time.

                          Munchlet, I'm very sorry to hear you're feeling isolated and depressed, though given the situation, it also seems perfectly normal. I agree that it's hard to watch as our government seems to be flailing at dealing with the crisis. I used to spend a lot of time reading Twitter, and lately it's just been too much of a downer, all bad news and people sniping at each other. (Usually it's only 50% bad news and people sniping at each other. ) Facebook is just as bad. That's why I suddenly find myself unable to stop doing cryptograms -- it's a nice way of just tuning out for a bit. The comment threads have really been cheering me up, especially when people are just being goofy and silly.

                          Fudi, I read that about COBOL somewhere else, too. Seems to be the go-to language for unemployment claims, which I guess shows how out-of-date those systems are. Glad you can find some use for those dormant skills!

                          Deanna48 -- I'm surprised to hear you've only been on the site for a year -- you show up so often in those Top 20 charts!

                          LurkerSmurf -- I like the idea of seeing this as practice for retirement. If only my retirement weren't receding indefinitely into the future!

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                          • #14
                            Munchlet ... I am really sorry to hear what you say, especially about your personal situation. It sounds very hard. A lot of people are suffering similarly, I think. It's heartbreaking.

                            I hope you are able to take full advantage of this community here. I totally feel among friends and kindred spirits here ... I hope here is comforting to you in that way too.

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                            • #15
                              Munchlet, I feel for you. We are all struggling these days. I worry about our collective mental health because there is so much uncertainty, and all our vulnerabilities are magnified. It is hard to imagine how we'll get through it, but I am confident that we will. As fragile as we are as individuals, together we are strong. I hope you take comfort in this community of supportive people.

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