Old Man Winter Waits for Thee.

The country is divided. This is not a new revelation. Covid19 is spiking across the continent – as it has around the world. Social distancing has resulted in job loss, small business closures, educational difficulties, and the year has been very bad for many. This is without even factoring in many deaths, and health impacts we may not fully understand for a long time. Depression and burnout have also taken a toll. Basically, this year hasn’t been that great. Unfortunately, this challenge could carry over to next year. Look on the bright side – it couldn’t get much worse – could it? One thing we do know however is that for those of us in the northern hemisphere, it will probably get much colder.

I can hear the wind howling as I sit here working in my dimly lit but cozy shop. One light is all I really need most of the time. I can turn more on, but why bother? I can see what I need to see, and if I need more light, I’ll turn more on. I’m out of the wind and rain, and for the most part out of the cold. I have my tools and workbench all straightened up and ready for a long winter of tinkering on whatever project happens to pop up. I try to have enough parts and pieces on hand to fix just about anything I dare to mess with. The usual miscellaneous nuts, bolts, nails, etc etc. My multi-meters are all tested and in good shape with new batteries. I get by, and that’s more important to me these days than lots of things I don’t really need, and probably won’t ever need.

The ongoing election debacle (not great for either side), virus surge, and mandated lock-downs have only set the tone for a long miserable winter for many. Many of us knew this would be a messed up Autumn, and figured we’d better be ready for an even stranger winter. There’s no sense in waiting for the last minute to run around and try to get ready for bad days. I would have expected that the whole world would have figured this out by now. Unfortunately, the whole situation has been politicized and many people are on edge and stressed out. I had imagined that more people would have returned back to their offices and all would start returning to normal, but it looks less and less likely as more reports show another surge across the country.

This is the start of cold and flu season in most of the northern areas. Nobody needs either diagnosis to wreck their week, but I expect the common cold or flu will complicate the daily screenings most companies require just to enter a premise to do any type of work. I expect more layoffs between now and Christmas, and don’t rule out more noise from social unrest.

If next year we start seeing a flurry of tax increases, less money in your paycheck – if any paycheck at all, more small businesses going under added on top of pandemic fatigue, we could be in for even more trouble. Sure things may look bad, but there’s still hope for some positive gains – if not for the general public, at least for your immediate world. Complaining and whining about things that you can’t control just wastes energy and time. Don’t wait for others to do everything for you, get up and do it yourself, or at least help others who are truly in tough shape get rolling. Some people really need a hand, but there are a lot of lazy people who truly don’t need a hand. They might need a little support, but just to get things started. They do tend to be very loud at times. They can drown out the voices of those who really do need some help. This is where filtering out all the noise is good.

Here in my little inner sanctum, I can hear the storm pounding outside, but I turn up the radio and listen to some Christmas tunes and keep working. I’m a big fan of Christian Holidays even if they aren’t always considered politically correct. I like the Holiday music – it helps me relax. A hot cup of tea, my new tuuk (yes I got an early Christmas gift this year), and my handy little Ryobi radio playing Christmas music on the FM dial – already – I’m in no position to complain. A cup of hot tea with a spot of honey really takes the edge off of a cold evening. Instead of worrying about what you don’t have – enjoy what you do. I have hot tea. I’m feeling well.

I’m back to using my old Lenovo laptop with Windows 10 pro, and my Chromebook is still getting a lot of use. I am using an iPad Mini 5 – mostly for reading books after I shut down my computers for the night. It’s a powerful and extremely mobile computer. These are things I have and therefore they are things I can get some productive use out of. I prefer to type on my Samsung Chromebook because it has (IMHO) a very excellent keyboard, and it still starts up faster than any other system I have. I’m back to using Windows OS only because I have a few projects that require applications that only run well on actual Windows. Wine doesn’t quite work for all Windows software – yet. It’s always going to be worthwhile to have a Windows machine on hand for some situations that require the OS. Yes, I was using a loaded Mac book Pro for a short time, but it was overkill and not a good fit at this time. Maybe the new CPUs will be something I would consider testing, but I still lean more to the Chromebook/Linux direction.

If you do find yourself in a situation where a lock-down has you somewhat isolated from real things, I don’t mean social media or “Zoom”/”Teams” audio-video connections, I mean real-world things like a hardware store, groceries, medical attention, or “actual people” you should be at least a little prepared to be self-sufficient enough to deal with daily inconveniences or unexpected disasters. It’s almost winter. Power might be interrupted. Internet might not work in your area. Figure out what you need to do if the unexpected happens – because it often does.

The next few years could be difficult. Take care of yourself and your families. That’s enough for now for most people. Helping others could actually be good for you. It does tend to take your mind off your own problems at least for a little while.

Old man winter could really put a damper on your expectations, but you could look at how beautiful the snow makes the world look. I actually look forward to Winter, for me this is all about Christmas, Hockey, and late nights in front of the fire drinking hot cocoa with lots of whipped cream.

I usually set aside some time to sort out my toolboxes and get my workbench just right. It’s somewhat therapeutic. Over the last few months, my tool boxes tend to get all messed up and I get farther and farther away from traveling lite. Each season and different projects require different toolbox setups. I always try to have the right tool for the job, but sometimes I tend to bring too many in an effort to be ready for anything. That’s why it’s important to know as much about the job you’re going to do as you can.

Now we’re getting to the part of the year where the weather can have a big impact on jobs, and just getting to the job site can be a challenge. One positive thing about being in a lock-down is that you usually don’t have to travel through the bad weather. That might unfortunately mean that you can’t work. Not every job is one you can do remotely. There are and will be a lot of people trying to figure out how they will earn a living during this pandemic. An increase in crimes may be associated with these current economic challenges – especially if there are no remedies or financial relief in the near future. So yes, things aren’t great right now, and may not be for a long time. Yes there may be a vaccine available, and it may work, but nothing is guaranteed. If the vaccine doesn’t work – what’s the plan?

So I continue doing what I can to be prepared to get through more cold dark days. Winter may be long and challenging, but you make the best of it if you can. I try to keep my skill set sharp and expand my knowledge as much as I can. I have a lot of computer books that I need to reread, and some new software I need to learn. I try to keep learning what interests me. It’s much easier that way. If you have time, why not use it to be ready for what the future holds after this pandemic is over. Winter eventually makes way for Spring. Spring has it’s own set of problems with stormy weather – Anyhow, it’s time for another cup of tea and another round of Christmas songs on the radio. I know Thanksgiving will have its own set of challenges with the awkward social distancing mandates, and I see people starting to stock up on certain items in the grocery stores. Last March was unreal, and a little scary. Now it’s just annoying, and tiring. Keep the faith, and make sure you get enough sleep. When it snows – let it, just take some time to watch it snow. It is beautiful sometimes. (Being ready for it has its own level of comfort.)

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