The Toll

19 years ago today I was getting up and getting ready for school on a late summer morning in Maryland. Mom was making oatmeal and dad had already left to drive to Baltimore for work.

A friend called and told us to turn on the news. We did. I remember watching the second plane hit the tower and closely following the news of the attack at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania. I remember the surge of anger and the sudden, sharp rise in fear and anxiety.

That day we lost 2,997 people.

19 years later, we are still holding memorials. We are remembering a time of coming together as a nation, of fear. A time of deep hurt for the country.

It was easy. We had The Other to blame. The attackers.

We rapidly pivoted to war. We’ve been fighting a never-ending war for over half of my life at a cost of some $2.4 trillion.


According to the Covid Tracking Project we lost 1,170 Americans yesterday in the US due to COVID-19.

At the time of this writing the US has lost 192,000 people. Write it out like a check: one hundred ninety-two thousand lives.

How do we memorialize these people? We memorialize them by sending kids to college to party. By going to churches and other large gatherings against scientific recommendation. By walking past signs in stores imploring people to wear masks, only to pull the mask down and sneer at other mask wearers.

This country is broken. We can’t come together and do the right thing for our marginalized communities of color. We can’t even properly wear a piece of cloth over our mouth and nose.

War is easy. Change is hard. We fund foreign wars and domestic police brutality, and meanwhile a thousand or more people are dying daily—often in our most vulnerable communities. Meanwhile, the rich get richer (by the way, we don’t need billionaires).

In the midst of this, both political parties refuse to address universal health care while one party actively works against the current healthcare protections.

What’s the point? The point is that the people lost on 9/11 matter. The point is that we are currently experiencing loss at an unprecedented rate for modern times—these hundreds of thousands of people also matter. For those of 9/11 we launched a 19 year war. For those of yesterday, we walk into a Walmart and pull our masks down after sneaking past a greeter.

Act like it matters. Do your part—wear masks, stay apart, wash your hands. Take care of each other in the midst of national and global loss. Be politically active. Educate your friends and families why progressive values matter to the least of those in our communities.


I don’t think I’ll ever forget the morning of 9/11. I also know that I’ll never forget this year. And I’ll never forget the vast disparity in how we’ve responded and the toll it’s had on the country.

Home sweet 192.168.1.1

We thoroughly enjoyed our excursion to the Gulf Coast even though we cut the trip short by one week to avoid the wind and rain expected from the twin tropical storms headed for the region.

After our week of relaxation, I went back to work for the remainder of our time at the beach. It was a great change of scenery for the month of August.

The quality of internet access is always a gamble when booking an extended stay — “Wi-Fi Access” in an AirBnB listing can mean vastly different things. Unfortunately, we had awful DSL coverage at the condo. Speeds ranged from 150 Kbps to 3.5 Mbps. The abysmal speeds and high packet loss made video calls, syncing Dropbox and accessing “modern” JavaScript-heavy websites a painful affair.

I was able to work, but it was difficult. I turned off Dropbox sync, held meetings without my video enabled, downloaded albums of music instead of streaming during the workday, restarted the DSL Wi-Fi box daily and generally exercised extreme patience.

Access to a high quality internet connection is critical in our modern digital age. In the midst of a pandemic when much of work and education is online, it’s now essential. Living and working remotely from Chattanooga, with gigabit municipal fiber connection from by EPB, our local utility company, is absolutely incredible.

While at the beach, I was able to make an unstable connection work. I knew I would be dealing with it for a limited time. However, across our nation and the globe, workers and families are facing bandwidth challenges. We need solutions. We need competition. We need more and more local municipalities doing the hard work that EPB has done—dare I say, treat internet access as a utility. We need a a national government that is actually engaged in fostering access to high quality internet.


EPB receives a lot of national press for being one of the first to move on municipal fiber. Fortunately, during this pandemic, they are offering reduced cost service to those who qualify. This is a great start.

Murphy gets groomed

Before and after a much needed grooming.

Many of us are dealing with hair that is longer than we’d prefer due to ongoing restrictions. For Murphy, it was getting quite out of control and somewhat dangerous to his health. Our groomer has implemented great social distancing policies for her clients so we were finally able to schedule Murphy a session, providing him relief from the hot and humid weather this summer.

We’ve dealt with our veterinarian and now our groomer during these social distancing times. They are both doing curbside drop off and pay by phone. It’s actually a great improvement for both Murphy and I. Murphy gets to hang out in the car and not freak out in a waiting room. I get to sit in the car in my own air conditioning and with my own stereo system while I wait.

If we ever return to “normal” times, can we keep curbside dog services? I think we’d both like that.

Ephemera of Our Modern Dystopia: Groceries

Yesterday, I masked up and ventured out to get groceries after work. I stocked up last time I was out and have managed to wait just over two weeks. We needed more fresh food so it forced my hand.

I knew to expect shortages. I knew that some things we wanted might not be in stock, especially if looking for luxury goods such as toilet paper, Lysol, and Clorox. I wasn’t quite prepared for so many other areas of our local supermarkets to be decimated.

I’ve seen the news. I’ve seen the reports on Twitter. It all feels much more real to experience it in person, breathing through a stuffy mask.

Ephemera of Our Modern Dystopia: A Series

The world is singularly focused on the pandemic. COVID-19 is the primary topic covered by every news outlet. We’ve all been indoors for weeks, working from home if we can. I am not qualified to predict what may happen or to give medical advice (you can read that here). I just know that we must all stay home and should wear a home made mask when we leave the house for essentials.

In the midst of COVID-19, I can’t help but see everything happening around me in a strange new light. Things feel so much the same, yet so incredibly new, different—dystopian.

So, I will be publishing a series of short posts sharing thoughts, photos, and collected media. If you pay attention to what is happening in your community and online much of this will be mundane or repetitive.

I expect to look back in a year, ten years, twenty—and instantly relive the feelings evoked by these scattered bits of ephemera. I just want a record of these strange times. For me. For Finnegan.


I wore a mask in public. A mask that I laboriously sewed the day before. I’m not at the point where I plan to shave my beard so I sewed a mask that I thought would cover and be comfortable. It was just OK.

In these weird times, while wearing a mask to go to a medical appointment, I’m contemplating iterative improvements to a DIY face mask.


Me, in my face mask.