Monday, September 10, 2007

I was only half paying attention, so I don't know who said it, but someone on CNN just used the word "zombie" to refer to the infected. Great. Engineered bioweapons reduced to the level of a 1940s Val Lewton b-movie.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

the talk

Today's New York Times reports that all over the country people are having the talk: what they expect their loved ones to do if they get infected. Tonight, inspired by the article, Christina sat down next to me at the small table in the kitchen. I knew that there was going to be trouble, because she reserves sitting-at-night-at-the-small-kitchen-table for quarrelsome talks. She gives me that much warning, at least.

She said we had to talk about what we should do if the other exhibited signs of the virus. I said that if one of us was infected, it was astronomically unlikely that the other one was clean -- we were both going to be infected or healthy until this infection burned itself out. I hoped against hope that she would accept that flimsy logic and drop the entire subject. She said that I was most likely correct, but it was also likely that the one who was infected first was much further along in the disease than the other one, and so we still needed to talk about it.

She said very clearly that she wanted me to kill her at the first sign of disease. I felt as if the bottom had dropped out of my chair. We've all been exposed to so much violence on tv and the movies (and lately in real life), so many gunshots and killings and dead bodies discovered by morning joggers, that we think we can deal with death they way they do on TV. We see war movies where a soldier grimly but determinedly kills his wounded buddy, and we think "That's not so hard. I can do that." It's not the same when it's in front of you.

It's funny -- I've always been ambivalent about my feelings for Christina. I liked her a lot, but I could never say if I loved her or not. I was inclined to think I didn't. But when she asked me to kill her I was, for the first (for the only?) time filled with such love for her I thought my heart would fly out of my body. Kill her??? Kill the woman I've spent the last two years with? Who laughs when I do my Groucho Marx voice even though she isn't quite certain who Groucho Marx is? Kill the woman who rallies me when I fail, and who yells at me when I leave the sponge in the sink? The woman I agonized over on 6-17? I couldn't do it.

Plus, television bravado aside, if you're middle class, educated, and liberal in the grand scheme of liberal democracy, you're going to have a hell of a time actually getting down and killing someone. Did she expect me to strangle her? To hit her on the head with a candlestick? To SHOOT her? I actually began to grow resentful that she was putting this all on me.

All of this took my brain about a second and a half to process. Then I realized what was going on. I was taking her too literally again. She didn't want me to promise to kill her -- under the rules of female logic she would actually get angry if I promised to do what she asked me to do. No, she was merely looking for reassurance, as always, that I could take care of anything. That was also unfair, but it was a lot more reasonable that expecting me to kill her of she became infected.

I scooted my chair over so that we were sitting 90 degrees apart, and I reached over to wrap her in my arms. I told her in my most reassuring voice that we weren't infected, and that if we were careful we weren't going to become infected. I started to say that it was too early to talk about something like this, but she literally put her hand over my mouth and shut me up. Once again, my insides froze. I've watched so much television that I knew what was happening: she was going to tell me that she was already infected!

She said that she was at a greater risk for infection because she had been out on 6-17, and she needed to know that if she became infected, she could count on me to help her end her life as quickly as possible. I told her frankly that my instinct would be to take care of her, and that I couldn't do violence to her. She said she appreciated that, but this situation was different: she really needed to know that she could count on me not to leave her to become a zombie.

I asked what she had in mind. She said that she was going to hit the stores and buy as much bebedryl and dramamine as she could. Thirty to forty of either pill would be enough to overdose on, according to Google. With alcohol she could probably do with less. She said she would get enough for me as well. There's no fucking way I want to die in the convulsions of a benedryl death. I made a lame joke, saying why can't we just overdose on heroin -- at least it's painless. She said that she had already thought of that, but apparently so has everyone else, and they've started stockpiling: according to friends of hers who know such things the streets are absolutely devoid of heroin.

Isn't that nice: The Epidemic for a Drug-Free America.

Monday, September 03, 2007

is it official?

It seems to be the classic pattern. The disease puts the patient into a coma, as it reproduces into every niche of the body. It then wakes them up and gets them out into the world infecting people. Then it turns the original carriers into brainless berserkers.

Monday, June 25, 2007


Altogether a total of one hundred fifty five people, all of whom were bystanders at The Site, Grand Central, or Penn Station, were hospitalized for coma. Now all of them are awake. Early reports say that they're fine -- no impairment, no known side effects, nothing. They're being screened for all known diseases, and there's talk of quarantining them for at least a week.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

wake up little suzie

Downtown hospital just announced that Nick Sabatini, a Site firefighter who had been in a coma, has just woken up. Preliminary reports indicate that there was no sign of brain damage -its as if he was just asleep for two days.

The real question is, of course, what made him go under, and what brought him out. If other Site victims start coming out of their comas, that might help doctors figure things out.

Friday, June 22, 2007

after the horse has bolted

Went into the office today. First day back in the office after the bombings.

New York is in lockdown. Kelly has decided that the police will be doing random personal searches of everyone entering the subway at certain entrances of certain stations. Since this is entirely meaningless, this is known as "security theater" -- it's as if the police upper echelon said "We have to do something. This is something. Therefore we must do it."

Security guards in the lobby searched our bags with a scrutiny that bordered on belligerence. They have no problems yelling at top level executives to open their soft leather cases, no problem handing the contents and demanding "What is this, what is this?" for anything they can't identify at once. The executives, for their part, just take it. It's now apparently a NEW whole new world, one in which, in certain settings, the low are made high and the high made low.

Everyone is walking on eggshells except of course for Pietro, who seems filled with an enthusiasm -- a joy, even -- I've never seen in him before.

Hardly got a lick of work done, though. Too busy scanning the news feeds.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


One hundred seventeen first responders and bystanders from The Site, Grand Central, and Penn Station are in a coma now. Apparently all these people were fine one minute, then they complained of a headache and swiftly collapsed. The director of the CDC, Dr. Julie Gerberding, claims that these symptoms are NOT a side effect of low-level radiation exposure, which is of course totally true. What is interesting is that they are still not admitting whether or not some people have been exposed to radioactivity, if anyone has.

But a coma? Something very weird is going on.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

oh shit

Bloomberg on TV, reporting that 23 first responders to all three bomb sites -- cops and firemen, with 2 EMS -- have lapsed into a coma. This is bad.

uh oh

FDNY spokesman was just on CNN, reporting that three first responders to The Site are in a coma. No further information. They're not going into any more details, but coma with no other symptoms is not an indication of radiation poisoning. Those poor guys.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

bending the rules

Of course, Chertoff just came on to say that the Site bomb was NOT dirty, there was NO radioactivity and NYC Sanitation crews operating under the guidance of DHS scientists are going to simply wash down the area and everything is going to be all right. Isn't that wonderful.

What he didn't mention is a little known Department of Homeland Security guideline stating that cleaning up after a dirty bomb doesn't have to be like scrubbing up for a surgical operation. The cleanup crews can leave behind radioactive contamination equivalent to ONE THOUSAND times the normal background radiation. That's "clean" enough for government work.

I hate to be so morbid, but I think this is the end of Manhattan as a business/financial center.

Christina is not going in to work, which I heartily agree with. I work from home, so we're golden that way. She's going to try to make it home. We have food and toilet paper, so we're taken care of that way. We can stay indoors for a pretty long time. We're not that close to The Site or The Red Zone, but who wants to take chances?

Day #2: Now where have we seen this before?

A Terrorism Emergency Services Team has been flown in from Las Vegas (Las Vegas???) to examine the area. They have cordoned off a ridiculously tiny swath of Manhattan: All of the lower level of Grand Central Terminal and all of Penn Station is off limits. The Red Zone starts at the Hudson, goes down Vesey-Ann-Fulton streets, up Pearl Street to Chambers, and back to the Hudson along Chambers. Of course, it avoids the World Financial Center and the Mercantile Exchange, but it does include a huge bunch of government buildings.

Yet they're saying that the City Hall bomb was not a radiation bomb.

Earlier this year, a team from Brookhaven National labs suggested establishing a contamination perimeter 500 meters in radius around the site of a radiological dispersion device. This perimeter is a fraction of that recommendation. Nice to know the government is still listening to the experts.

Meanwhile (to minimize the spread of whatever radioactivity there is???), the FDNY spent the night in shifts, spreading foam over the streets around what has come to be known as The Site. [And now there's a topic for some learned paper on media semiotics -- since "Ground Zero" was already taken by the location of the September 11 incident, what were they going to name this location? Especially since "Ground Zero" fit this incident better than the September 11 incident.]

Monday, June 18, 2007


Manhattan is open again, in that people can leave certain parts of the island. The Brookyln Battery Tunnel, and the Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridges all remain closed. The subways are royally fucked up: none of them stop at Penn Station or Grand Central, and nearly all the trains that ran through lower manhattan to Brooklyn are now running in two segments. Only the F is unscathed.

The southbound 1,2,and 3s stop at Houston and then go back uptown or to the Bronx. The 4,5,6 and the B& D also stop at Broadway-Laffyette and then turn around. The southbound N,Q,R, and W stop at 14th street. The A and C run on the F line from West 4th to Hoyt-Schermerhorn. The J, M, and Z from Brooklyn stop at Delancey. In Brooklyn, the 1,2,3,4,5,6, B, D, N, Q, R and Ws all start at Atlantic Avenue and continue to their respective terminals.

Speak of the devil

Just got an SMS from Christina, timestamped 1:34pm. It took an hour and a half to be delivered. She's ok, she's going to stay with a friend who lives in Inwood. That's an unbelievable load off my mind.


Bloomberg at news conference: "The murderous explosions this afternoon in the heart of our city are abomination that all civilized people condemn."

The west wing of City Hall is rubble. The main waiting room of Grand Central is damaged. No word on Penn Station. Victims are reported in Downtown Hospital, St. Vincents, Roosevelt. I need to find Christina right away, but I'm in the lockdown zone and can't go out. And frankly I'm afraid to go outside.

Red Alert

CNN is reporting a suicide bomber in Penn Station as well. Every closet lunatic, every embittered Seventies radical, has taken to calling in bomb threats to every major building in the city. ESB evacuated.

Cheney on the TV saying that the terror alert level has been increased to Red, which means that a terrorist attack is imminent. Duh, thanks.


The entire subway system has been shut down. Trains in transit were pulled into stations and the people were ordered off. No one is allowed back into the system. Station managers and token booth clerks are being ordered to lock the gates.

Bridges and tunnels are being blocked with dump trucks, garbage trucks, and sander trucks.

Manhattan Island is sealed off.

sweet Jesus

There are now reports of a suicide bomber in the West 4th Street subway station.

Tried Christina's, my sister's, and my brother in law's cell phones and got a fast busy signal for all of them. Dave's office number goes directly to his voicemail without even ringing. The network is overloaded as everyone calls everyone else asking what that explosion was.

Christina was heading up to Rockefeller Center, so she should be OK, but David works at the World Financial Center.

more news

CNN is reporting that there was a massive explosion at the corner of Vesey Street and Park Row, right outside of City Hall. There is talk that it was a truck bomb. City Hall is partially damaged and on fire. Deputy Mayor Pat Harris is on the radio telling people south of 14th street to stay (or get indoors) and to keep the windows closed.


Ok, now things are bad

Channel 2 is reporting that about a dozen people in the area around the explosion at City Hall are being brought into Downtown Hospital.


Massive explosion about ten minutes ago. This is the scene out the kitchen window. It looks to have been south of Houston maybe, but its hard to tell exactly where it was.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Smile though your heart is breaking

This story just gets better and better. Today, in some more "getting to know you" chatting in the lunchroom, Alexandr the Czech told us about the time soon after he had arrived in the United States, "wit' no maney in my pawket, unly the chuthes on my back!" Pretty soon, though, he was running a McDonald's in Tonawanda, NY, just outside of Buffalo. There was an Old Order Mennonite community there, and some of the members would, from time to time, visit his McDonalds (Mennonites are apparently somewhat looser than the Amish when it comes to interaction with the outside world) (Also note Alexandr's use of the phrase "my McDonalds". In America you own McDonalds. In Communist Country, McDonald's own you!). McDonald's corporate policy is for the restaurant staff to smile at the customers, and Alex made sure with Moravian thoroughness that his people followed the rule.

The problem is that Old Order Mennonites think that when strangers smile they're making fun of them. Some of the local non-Mennonite kids working at the McDonald's knew this, and informed that he might want to think about modifying the rule so that they would smile at the other customers, but remain unsmiling (though still polite, I guess) with the Mennonites, who could be identified by their distinctive dress. Alex regarded this suggestion as a threat to his authority, and slightly akin to the 1968 Prauge uprising with him in the role of the Soviets. He put his foot down and ordered his crew to smile at all the customers. [He was careful to look at each of us today, as he sat in the lunchroom and told us about how he beat down the insurgents in his McDonald's twenty years ago.]

Well, of course, soon his Mennonite patronage started to drop off. Some of the older Mennonites complained to him that the staff was making fun of them; the younger ones simply stopped coming. Alex had placed himself in a good old-fashioned authoritarian quandry: corporate policy was to smile at the customers, but smiling was hurting his business. Most Americans would modify the smiling rule, but Alexandr was brought up in a dictatorship and couldn't disobey orders. So he came up with a "brilliant" idea.

[Here in the lunchroom his face took on a beatific expression as he basted himself in his own brilliance.] Using discretionary advertising funds, he told us, he had ordered a huge sign to be hung from the ceiling just in front of the entrance. It said "We're smiling because we like you! No one is making fun of you!"

He looked around the lunchroom for our reactions. Pedro, who had been following Alex's story with all the attention he usually reserves for Japanese porn, leaned forward and said "Brilliant, Alex! That was just brilliant!!" Alex basked at Pedro's skillful egolingus, but when no one else was forthcoming he asked "So, whadoya dink of dat?" He was staring at me.

I could only say, "Alex, I can honestly say that I never would have thought of doing that." Alex smiled and nodded, but I'm still worried. If he is a stupid jerk, I'm safe. But if he is a smart jerk (which I'm increasingly tending to believe) I could be royally screwed.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Bouncing Czech

Good times! The corporate headquarters in Boston sent them a new SVP to take Roger's place. The new SVP, Alexandr ("you can call me Al"), is a 55 year old lawyer who escaped from Czechoslovakia back in the days when (1) there was a Czechoslovakia and (2) you had to escape from it. Jerry introduced him to the assembled group as a "mover and a shaper" [sic], a man who could right what was wrong, and get done the things that had to get done. Jerry is the Rip Van Winkle of corporate motivational-speak.

At the getting to know you lunch, to which I tagged along, Alexandr went from table to table telling us tales of how he crawled across a minefield and swam the freezing waters of the Morava River to escape into Austria. He also told us that he had been late for his own wedding because he thought it was more important to take care of a problem at work.

We instantly decided that we are fucked. Specifically, we decided that the permanent employees are fucked -- those of us on contract decided that we're going to be doing a lot more work off-site. If you adhere to the "child is the father to the man" theorem of personality development, the fact that Alexandr was born and raised in a Communist country speaks of nothing but evil. He seems to be the textbook example of a person raised in autocracy -- obsequious to his superiors, overbearing to his inferiors.

Pedro, as is his wont, started following Alexandr around, metaphorically asking for permission to suck his (Alexandr's) dick. Alexandr accepted this as his due. There must be something about the "boss" personality that welcomes such sycophancy -- and when you add a layer of autocratic personality, sycophancy becomes ambrosia.

These are the end times.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I really am not a crook

Spent the entire day at the Big F---ing Client's office. Just before lunch, Jerry called all the employees into the conference room. I tagged along for some reason. Jerry announced that effective immediately, Roger was no longer working for the company. Some people were surprised, some people were nonplussed, some were smug. This effectively leaves them without an SVP, but it's not as if that matters -- Roger has been effectively AWOL for nearly as long as I've been here.

After the meeting, Donna said that she heard that Roger had been embezzling from the company for the better part of a year. Suddenly lots of things make sense: the refusal to ok new expenditures (and the rigamarole around extending my contract), the next-to-nonexistant bonuses, the general squirreliness in the offices...

This looks to be an interesting few months.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

To start with

Will I become the hero of my own life?

I'm going to be going through a lot of changes in the next couple of months. I'm bringing about some changes by myself. I'm being forced to go through other changes.

Let's watch the changes together.