Aphelion Issue 250, Volume 24
May 2020
 
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Hello and welcome to the May 2020 issue of Aphelion!

Since so many of us have been spending more time at home that we have in the past, Curtis has added more long fiction than we usually feature. We’ll make more adjustments like that as we go forward. So, enjoy! This is also the 250th issue of Aphelion.

We’re all having to make adjustments as we deal with the virus. Old habits are no longer useful. New habits, changes to routine, are needed to keep everyone as safe and healthy as possible. Let me tell you, wearing a mask into a store sure feels weird. It’s got a real “Billy the Kid” vibe to it, LOL! Now, I’m used to masks and gloves for my job at the factory, but out in public? I know it’s necessary, but I don’t feel at all comfortable with it yet. This virus threat is going to be with us for quite a while longer. So buckle upwe’re in for a bumpy ride.

One of the things my wife and I have been doing is to plant a little garden out back. And I do mean little! Two four by four-foot raised garden beds, a plastic tub the size of a bushel basket, and old wading pool that had holes in it already, and various flower pots. I put out four tomato plants and three pepper plants this morning. We’ve got seeds for leaf-lettuce, spinach, mustard greens, carrots, several herbs, onions, and so on. We’ve also got seeds for various flowers to put out front of the house, too.

Another thing is that we’ve been doing a lot of group-online activities. Her church has online services now, I’ve become part of an online group video-chat with friends from the convention circuit, and there are at least three online conventions on Facebook that I’ve been checking out.  We’ve been doing a lot of grocery shopping online for pick-up at the store too, but we were early adopters for that so it wasn’t really a big change. Our “retail therapy” has declined, howeversince our usual shopping patterns have had to be re-written. One thing we both miss is going to lots of different thrift stores and bargain outlets just to get out of the house. We’re looking forward to being able to do that again once the virus becomes less of a threat. That may take a whilethis thing mutates quickly, so I’m not expecting much success on the medical front any time soon. Yet another thing is that we’ve opted for mail-in ballots for voting in any upcoming elections. That’s been something we felt necessary to do. Voting is important, after all.

There have been adjustments made at the factory where I work, as well. Everyone will be issued washable masks that we’ll be required to wear at all timesexcept when we go on break to eat, of course. We already have to wear safety glasses, steel-toe shoes, hardhats, and many different types of gloves. So one more item of Personal Protective Equipment won’t be all that extra. The factory has long had N95 masks available because of the dust from the insulation we make. But since the virus outbreak, those have been difficult to resupply. It’s hard to believe that for forty years I’ve been in the habit of using one of those and then just throwing it away at the end of the workday. But healthcare workers need them more than we do, so the old normal has given way to the new normal, and everyone is learning new ways of doing the old jobs. Personally, I’m thankful for all the years of OSHA health and safety training I’ve had. The Blood-borne Pathogens training has turned out to be especially useful during the present emergency. The Confined Space training too, but to a lesser extent. I and my co-workers have had an easier time adjusting to the “PPE-in-public” aspect of today’s trying times. As have many, many people who work in an industrial setting.

One thing that I wish I had taken up when I was younger is ASLsign language. My wife has an advantage there because she grew up with hearing-impaired grandparents when she was a child in England. Now, with everyone trying to cope with wearing masks, we’ve all become slightly “communication impaired.” Muffled voices are common now. Perhaps this will become something schoolchildren will be taught in the future. Useful adaptations to difficult circumstances will slowly become more common. At least, that is something to be hoped will happen.

Work from Home may become a bigger part of the New Normal. Home-schooling may as well. We’ll have to adopt and adapt to new social norms for quite a while. What will last and what will fade away has yet to be seen. But that’s what humans do. We adapt. We adapt quite well indeed. That is one of our greatest strengths.

One of our weaknesses is that we are a very social species. That’s one of the biggest reasons this virus is so dangerous. We want to mingleeven a die-hard introvert like myself searches for human contact of one kind or another. There is a basic human need to belong to a “tribe,” for want of a better word. That’s why we group together in church congregations, at conventions, cultivate friends, fall in love, create families both extended and of blood, and create so many different kinds of social activities. This impulse may be stronger or weaker in individualsthat’s just human nature to be so different even while we are so similar. Diversity in social temperament is absolutely normal for us. Diversity is normal for us. Weirdly enough, we also have an impulse for conformity. We’re complicated that way, LOL!

So, let us come together in our individual ways and celebrate the tribe called humans. Our individual strengths and weaknesses, introvert and extrovert, socially distant or socially close, and remember that no matter what our differences may be, our similarities are also there. No one is an island, complete and isolated unto themselves. In one way or another, we are all tribal at heart. Let the tribes of humankind come togethernothing can stand in our way, no matter how dire the threat we face.

Now, in the spirit of our 250th issue, it might be a hoot to look back at the very first issue of Aphelion and see just how far we’ve come since 1997. Without further ado, here is a link to our very first appearance online: January 27th, 1997: Our very first issue!

 






ON THE COVER

Title: Centaurus A

Photo Credit: ESO/WFI (Optical); MPIfR/ESO/APEX/A.Weiss et al. (Submillimetre); NASA/CXC/CfA/R.Kraft et al. (X-ray)