Shelter in Place in Illinois

The maximum size of the gathering of people allowed got smaller and smaller every day last week, both by the state of Illinois and by the Federal government. If quickly went down from one thousand to ten people, and then on Friday around noon, somebody posted in work slack that the governor is going to announce the shelter in place order. In three minutes, almost everybody excused themselves from work and ran out shopping before even listening to the governor’s announcement.

I did not, because I detest the idea of hoarding, and because both my fridges and my pantry were far from being empty. Besides, I didn’t fancy the idea of being in the crowd. So I didn’t. I turned on WBEZ on my phone and listened to the governor’s announcement.

I think it was a very reasonable announcement. I am pasting below the whole video, but only the first 10+ minutes are essential.

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The State of the United States

I don’t understand how officials of all ranks issue their orders without even thinking about the consequences—both for the economy in general and for each person.

I can’t imagine the impact on the entertainment/catering/restaurant business. All so sudden and so abrupt. I talked to Vlad yesterday; he said he would be fine, but he worries about other employees in the bar, people who are paid hourly wages, and who now will get no paid time off, and no tips. That is such a significant portion of the country’s population! They have no safety net, no savings. When I was talking to Vlad, just twenty hours ago, he was saying that the closing will only apply to bars and restaurants, that the fast-food cafes will stay open – not anymore!

I do not understand how people are expected to manage: schools are closed, daycare facilities closed, and you should not ask grandparents to babysit, and you are still supposed to work. And some are not even allowed to work from home.

Last week I was saying that the world is canceled. But I was optimistic – this week, it is even more so now. I could not even imagine how many things could be canceled. Most of my volunteering is canceled, including the youth shelter; they do not reply to my emails, although they sent a generic email about preventive measures. I do not want to think that I was the only person who answered that I could come. The Forest preserve volunteering was canceled last weekend, which made me mad – ten people outside – really? The weather was bad anyway, but I was still upset with the fact itself. The only volunteering which is keeping the schedule is Clinic escorts. I went to escort on Saturday. It was a bad idea because it was cold, and I do not tolerate the cold when I need to stand in one place. But I felt I needed to do at least something good.

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In Connection with School Closing

Yesterday, it happened that I was listening to Mayor Lori’s announcement of the city schools closing. Five minutes into her speech, she said: “We all know that school is not only about education but also about meals.” And it was so appropriate! In the Chicago Public Schools district in many schools, over 90% of students receive free or reduced meals (breakfast and lunch). During the teachers’ strikes, schools remained open from 8 to 12, to distribute reduced and free meals. And now, when schools will be closed, they will continue to serve as food distribution centers. Parents will be able to receive three days’ worth of food at any given time over the next two weeks. And if the parents won’t be able to collect the food, they can request delivery to their homes.

I am not sure why I am writing about this, but it was such a right thing to do!

I Voted!

I voted in the primaries last Sunday, March 8, the first day when I could early-vote.  

The Greater Palatine Area Democrats newsletter stated that in Palatine Township, we are seeing a 64% increase in Early Voting so far, over the first week of Early Voting in the 2016 Primary. And more than three-fourths (1,299) of those ballots are Democratic. And this is great!

It was tough for me to cast my vote after all of my favorite candidates dropped from the race, and I had difficult conversations with my children about the situation. They both decided to vote for Sanders; as for Vlad, he was going to vote for Sanders from the very beginning. When we talked with Vlad, I mentioned that I agree with 95% of what Sanders is saying, but… And Vlad interrupted me: what are the 5% you do not agree with? I stopped to think for a moment and realized that it’s not something on his agenda that I disagree with, but rather I do not like his personality. And when I realized that I thought that I should vote for ideas, not for a personality. 

And one more thing. When we talked with Vlad, he mentioned how many people got out to vote for the first time in their lives because of Sanders. And I thought that if each of us is thinking about “who is electable,” we all won’t vote for the candidate we prefer, because we all think they are not electable. But if we all would vote for the candidate of our choice, then they may become very electable. 

And that’s why I voted the way I voted 🙂

Madeleine Albright. Fascism: A Warning. Book Review

Madeleine Albright was the first Secretary of State I saw in action after I immigrated to the US. From the first time I heard her speaking, I had the deepest admiration of her as a political leader and a person. Somehow I didn’t come across her books earlier, but now I’ve downloaded several, and I am going to listen to all of them.

On the topic of the book “Fascism,” I think Albright has a unique perspective as a person who experienced the fascist’s regimes as a child and later had to interact (or oppose) them as a political leader. Her attitude is personal, and it could not be any other way.

I read a number of good reviews of this book (as always, only after I finished reading), and I am not going to repeat them, just a couple of additional notes. First, I found it very important that Albright speaks of many countries, which demonstrate the signs of fascism in their domestic policies. We often think that the potential threats are the same old North Korea/China/Russia, we might think of Venezuela; we remember the Rwanda genocide, and that’s pretty much it. Albright gives her audience a broader perspective, taking about Chile, Ethiopia, Hungary, and even Poland.

Second, in her definition, “fascism is not an ideology, it’s a method.” And from that perspective, she talks about the governments, which can potentially become fascists, but do not employ any of the fascist’s methods, maybe just yet. This is where I might disagree with her, I think that this approach might open counterproductive arguments.

Overall – I learned a lot of new facts from that book, and it definitely prompted me to think more deeply on the topic.

Postcards to Wisconsin

Half of Illinois (at least half of its Democratic half) is participating in the “Postcards to Wisconsin” events. I was already invited to three, but could not participate because of the times/days of the week. So when I finally got an invite for an event, which took place on Saturday, and in the middle of the day, and not so far from us, I happily RSVP’ed. Also, I decided to take Mom with me, because her penmanship is outstanding, and she could be really useful, and what’s more important – she could feel useful. Also, she has never been to our Democratic office before, and I thought it would be interesting for her to come with me and see how it all works.

It all worked pretty well. Together, we wrote twenty-five postcards, and Mom did at least a third of them. On the way back, she was asking me (one more time) about all the details of how primaries are held, and what will be next, and how the Democratic convention will choose the candidate. And since she never got any negative propaganda about these things, she liked it.

Mom is working our list

How I Started the New Year

After I returned back from Helsinki, I felt that my life started to get back to normal. I know that I will be busy with new things, and I even know what those things are going to be, but still.

I went to the forest preserve workday; I went to the movies. I started to blog more. And also, on the first day of the year, I went to political fundraising – I didn’t do any political activities for several months.

I was thinking with anticipation – how many people will come? Who will come? Do people remember me? The fundraising took place in the house of our old friend, who at some point engaged all of us starting from Anna, into political activism.

There were a lot of people who I knew! And they remembered me! And we had conversations, which I didn’t have for months! Suddenly I remembered why I like to participate in this kind of event so much, even when there is no political urgency.

At gatherings like this, you talk to your kind of people, you get feeling that you are not the lonely warrior, and you are not insane to think what you think and to feel what you feel. Lots of meaningful discussions, new ideas, new opinions – that was such a great way to start the New Year!

“The Guarded Gate” by Daniel Okrent

That’s one more book which I want to rate “six” instead of five, from one of my favorite authors, Daniel Okrent. It describes the darkest pages of American history, I could not imagine, such views were common, acceptable, and even praised. 

We all know quite a bit about slavery; we know something about the prosecution of Americans of Japanese descent. Perhaps, we heard about antisemitism at some stages of American history. 

As for the rest, I do not know about you, but I was clueless about the triumph of eugenics in the US in the good first half of the 20th century. I did not realize that there was an official policy to grade immigrants based on which European country they were coming from. That not only Jews and Eastern Europeans were undesirable, but also Greeks, Italians, and other Southern Europeans. That officials were trying to prove that these people are more inclined to be involved in crimes and other unlawful activities. That’s all is pretty horrible. 

I liked this book review from NY Times, and I hope it will persuade you to read this book if you didn’t do it yet. It starts with the numbers:

Immigrants arriving between 2000 and 2010 constituted approximately 3 percent of the United States population, while those arriving between 1900 and 1910 constituted 8.9 percent of the population

As usual, we should know our history to avoid repeating it. Especially in times like this. 

Attending the University: Math-Mech Days

What else were we doing as students except for the studies? There were not many sports. Actually, among nerds it was not cool to do any sports, it was a strong presumption, that only people who can’t use their brain for anything productive, do sports. And the only sport I remember somebody was doing was our gymnastics team. If there were any other, they wouldn’t have any visibility.


There were obligatory political activities. There ere mathematical clubs in schools, which were called YMSCH – Youth Mathematical Schools. They were clubs, after-school activities, but we called them “schools.” And I will write about them at some point.


One of the highlights of student’s life was the Math-Mech Day. I can’t recall now, what was the way of choosing a date for it, but it was some time in spring, far enough from the finals. Later, it was transformed into the Math-Mech Week with different activities every day. But back then, it was not even a day, but just a performance – a student play, written, staged and performed by students, undergrads, grads and postgrads. That was probably the only one informal gathering I can recall from the Soviet era, definitely the only one in the University.

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