Cultureguru's Weblog

Of food, technology, movies, music, and travel—or whatever else strikes my fancy


The Blue Rodeo risk assessment

My Twitter feed is a terrifying place these days.

My timeline is stuffed full of doctors, epidemiologists, public health officials, and health journalists, and they are not an optimistic bunch of late. While Ontario / Canada seemed to have had a reasonable handle on Delta, the two-week’s worth of data on Omicron is not looking promising. Seemingly quite contagious, seemingly fairly evasive of both vaccination and prior infection, it looks poised to spread at exponential rates in the coming weeks and months, once again threatening to swamp Ontario hospitals whose already limited capacity is actually worse now when this happened last year.

Potential impact of Omicron could be substantial
One of the slides from the Ontario Science Advisory Table’s latest update

Meanwhile, I had tickets to my first crowded indoor event of the pandemic: a sold-out Blue Rodeo concert at Centre in the Square.

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Twitter break

We’d boarded, so I set my phone and tablet to airplane mode, and kept myself entertained with a novel. On the drive home from the airport, I decided: No more Twitter.


Going cold turkey

I made no announcements (who would care?), did not delete my account, didn’t even uninstall the app or turn off the notifications. I just… stopped going to Twitter.

What struck me at first was that… I felt like I had so much time. To read other stuff. To get chores done. To talk to people (in person). To arrive places on time. Woah.

What surprised me next was that, I didn’t miss reading Twitter at all. But I did miss tweeting out links to interesting stuff.

A few times, I just broke down and did that, the tweeting. (Alysha Brilla liked one of them. That was cool.) But I stayed away from the reading of the timeline.

The reason was nothing so dramatic as online harassment, thank God. It was just the stress of it, the anxiety.

Twitter was just Freaking Me Out.

Ontario was about to elect an incompetent populist as Premier. Canada was getting into a trade war with the US. Immigrant children were being separated from their parents. And reading about this (and more!) on Twitter, I worried about all of it.

Yet, it’s not like a took a news break here. While not on Twitter, I was still reading and hearing about all of this (and other bad stuff going on). It just seemed so much easier to manage the information in the form of news articles, editorials, and TV reports than in the hot takes, inflammatory opinions, alarming speculation, and emotional responses on Twitter.


Twitter never warns you. (Source: Pearls Before Swine)

Twitter is a social media, and there can be some comfort in knowing that others are worried about the same things you are. But only to a point. The point where you start out seeking validation about one issue only to find yourself, an hour later, in a tizzy about ten other issues, three of which might just be inventions or misunderstandings.

So, I stopped. The generalized anxiety didn’t immediately disappear. Initially, it transferred onto other targets (Inner monologue: “Is the cats’ ear infection back?” “How do you get a skunk out from under the deck?” “Wait, is this just a mosquito bite, or…?”), like the angst needed somewhere else to go now that it didn’t have Twitter to feed it. But with time that diminished also.

On election day, I was able to view the bad (but expected) results without getting overly emotional, and I managed have a decent night’s sleep afterward. Sure, it was mostly an infuriating result, but my candidate won (easily), and she’s a qualified, experienced women. And Ontario did elect its first Green MPP, a just reward for the party that had the best platform on offer.

Today, after about a week off, I dipped a toe back into the Twitter. For all its flaws, it is a good way for me to find out about things that I care about, that simply don’t make the headline news. (Queen and Adam Lambert have done a live version of “Lucy”! Rainbow Rowell is writing a sequel to Carry On!)

And all that G7 crazy-ness was pretty interesting. Until… I found myself getting kind of anxious about it.

And then… I closed the app.


Experiencing pop culture in a time of grief

When someone you love dies, blogging about pop culture, news, travel, and food drops off the priority list.

Doesn’t mean that these trivialities drop our of your life, though. Just that your relationship to them changes, at least for a time.


You know, if you break my heart I’ll go
But I’ll be back again
‘Cause I told you once before good-bye
And I came back again

Music is an emotional mindfield, isn’t it? I don’t think The Beatles “I’ll Be Back” would make anyone’s list of saddest songs ever, but on a day of bad news, I couldn’t handle it. I frantically searched through my playlists for safer havens. I finally settled on “High Energy”, a gathering of uptempo rock and dance numbers, generally with pleasingly dumb lyrics. I stayed locked on that for about a week and a half, ‘til it finally seemed just too incongruous. (Then I switched to Classical.)

Adam Lambert’s excellent album Trespassing was just the sort of uptempo music I needed for a time


I was interested to discover that I still got hungry, still wanted to cook, was still able to eat. Because certain forms of stress and worry make that difficult for me. But not this one, this situation with a known but sad outcome. While  I didn’t eat more, or drink more—I didn’t find comfort in that—I still enjoyed the routine of preparing and eating meals.

I certainly became a distracted cook, though. Leaving the milk out on the counter, putting the vinegar in the wrong pantry, forgetting to start the timer. Like the energy of pushing the sadness away enough to follow a recipe was not leaving enough mental space to remember anything that wasn’t written down.

Things are now improving on that front.

Movies and TV

While actually going out to a movie seemed like too much effort, watching stuff on TV was an appealing distraction. Since I don’t watch much medical stuff anyway, there wasn’t much I felt I had to avoid. Howard’s mother died on Big Bang Theory (as the actress had in real life), but it was handled with a light touch and didn’t set me off. In picking HBO movies, I decided to skip Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow for now, given its premise of the lead character dying over and over. I instead watched and quite appreciated the comedic In a World, one of the more overtly feminist movies I’ve seen in a long time. Recommended.

In a World trailer


The human interest stories—little boys lost in the snow, Oliver Sack’s terminal cancer diagnosis—were best avoided for a while, but I still found the theatre of politics a surprisingly useful distraction. Especially in Twitter form (about the length of my attention span, at times). I couldn’t truly dig up my own personal outrage at some of what was going on, but I could still appreciate and retweet other people’s. #StopC51 and all that.


Cover of Being MortalSo just a few days before all this my book club had selected Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal as our next book. It’s about getting older and end of life care, and how the medical profession has been dealing with it, and how it should.

Of course, there were days I wasn’t up to reading much of anything at all, but when I did feel up to it, I did read this, I seriously doubt I would have selected this particular book if left to my own druthers, but I feel it was in some ways helpful. It’s an excellent book, anyway, and much of it was more abstract and factual, which appealed to my logical side. Stories did become more personal and touching later in the book, but that was later in this whole saga for me too and—I don’t think it made anything worse. It certainly presented a number of scenarios I’m so glad my loved one never went through.

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Twittering through the US election

On the night of the US election, after blogging about dresses, I decided to avoid all forms of news. Though I felt fairly good about the odds, particularly from Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight, I found I was overreacting to speculations of Romney victories. And I knew the results wouldn’t be known, for sure, until kind of late. And I was alone. I just didn’t need the solitary anxiety.

So no web, no TV, no radio for me. I just watched my new DVD of The Who Live in Texas 1975, which was awesome! Then I went to bed, knowing that my alarm, tuned to CBC Radio One, would give me the news upon awakening.

… Though in fact I had to wait, like, 5 minutes while they did traffic and weather and stuff. But then Matt Galloway read the night’s most popular tweet:

Barack Obama ‏@BarackObama

Four more years.

It seems apt that, even though it was through radio, I got the news via tweet, as Twitter as truly been my main source for following this election. The details were in various New York Times, Mother Jones,  etc. articles. Directing me to those were tweets.

So of course, I couldn’t wait to get on and read all the ones I’d missed the night before, when I’d been in avoidance mode. It was kind of like reliving the whole thing in condensed time. Here’s a sampling.

The watching begins

God ‏@TheTweetOfGod

If Romney wins I’m moving to hell.

ThisHourHas22Minutes ‏@22_Minutes

RT @rkgill: Here we go! May the best man or Mitt Romney win! #22USAVotes

Results start to come in

ThisHourHas22Minutes ‏@22_Minutes

RT @markcheck99: RT @roofer_on_fire: Canada secures borders in case Obama wins, anticipates stampede of up to 2 million morons. #22USAvotes

Nate Silver ‏@fivethirtyeight

On The Wall, The Writing.

But Florida remains inconclusive

ThisHourHas22Minutes ‏@22_Minutes

RT @mypolishface: RT @MrBobKerr: Man, remind me not to go out to dinner with Florida. Takes ’em FOREVER to decide. #22USAvotes

Republicans lose some big ones

Alex ‏@AlexCarpenter

“The Rape guy lost” “Which one?” Your party has serious issues if people have to ask “Which one?” #GOP #itstheTwentyFirstCentury

The Daily Show ‏@TheDailyShow

#TDSBreakingNews Detroit votes to let @MittRomney fail. #DailyShowLive

Ricky Gervais ‏@rickygervais

Romney loses Pennsylvania. Apparently The Amish thought he was too behind the times.

And… they call it

God ‏@TheTweetOfGod

You’re welcome.

Jon Schwarz ‏@tinyrevolution

Nate Silver being right brings up the very real and terrifying possibility that climate scientists are too

Gladstone ‏@WGladstone

Your party doesn’t believe in evolution. RT @McCainBlogette Heartbroken. My party has to evolve or it’s going to die.

But Romney seems to dawdle on the conceding

Tabatha Southey ‏@TabathaSouthey

Romney still not conceding. Possibly he’ll build a White House near the real White House & start governing. But his house will be bigger.

ThisHourHas22Minutes ‏@22_Minutes

RT @robbierobtown: Romney, concede. The WORLD wants to go to bed. #22USAvotes#Obama2012#CanadaIsSleepy#TheWorldVotes

ThisHourHas22Minutes ‏@22_Minutes

RT @heyitstva: “Wait…can I just buy more states?” – Romney #election2012#22USAvotes

ThisHourHas22Minutes ‏@22_Minutes

Tell it like it is, bro! #22USAvotes RT @stefquaglia: “The only time we’ve looked forward to a Mitt Romney speech” #markcritch#USvotesCBC

And there is cheer

ThisHourHas22Minutes ‏@22_Minutes

RT @thedarcymichael: America tonight you voted for weed, married gays & a black dude. Basically my sex bucket list. Thanks. #22USAvotes

whedonesque ‏@whedonesque

“Guys, take a moment to deal with this. We survived.”