I’m listening to an album that YouTube suggested to me: Love Trip by Takako Mamiya. The music is pleasant and relaxing and in Japanese, which I don’t understand, so it makes for perfect background music for an activity like writing.

[drawing of the CD]

I love that black cat.

Now that our 9-year-old has received the first dose of the COVID vaccine, we’re starting to wonder when his school will relax the mask mandate. The current rule is that everyone—children and grownups, vaccinated or not—must wear a mask from the moment they enter school, even if they’re outdoors on the playground.

Our middle schooler, who has been fully vaccinated since this summer, has to adhere to the same rule: mask on once he’s on school ground.

Do we keep mandating that kids wear masks until COVID is completely eradicated, an eradication doesn’t seem possible at this point? I’m not anti-mask, but it saddens me that my kids have to go to school masked all day. They never see their teachers’ or friends’ faces.

Last week I had dinner with a friend inside a small, cramped restaurant. It was my first time eating inside a restaurant in a year and a half, and I felt very uncomfortable—not because of my worry for COVID, but because of the overwhelming noise from the music and chattering around us. I felt like I had to yell so my friend could hear me.

After a certain point, I stopped asking my friend to repeat himself and I just nodded like I heard him. Our neighbors were shouting and while I know it’s not their fault, I hated them at that moment. I’m sorry.

I don’t mean to complain so much, but the restaurant was so dark that I could barely see my food, and the table was so small that my plate lay precariously half off it.

The meal ended with a slice of olive oil cake that was dry like a biscotti. I left the restaurant sad.

Our middle schooler is required to fill out a health screener online every morning to enter school. It asks him if he’s vaccinated, and everyday he gives the same answer: Yes, I’m considered fully vaccinated. The school has the students’ COVID vaccine records, so why bother asking that same question every morning? I suspect it’s the same reason why the TSA still won’t allow us to carry a bottle of water through the airport security.

Our little one also needs to fill out that same health screener to enter his school, and I answer it for him, with the same answers, every single morning. We can also fill out a paper version of that same screener, which doesn’t ask for a date or even a name. It’s a waste of time and paper, and I’m sure the school knows it, but the Department of Education requires it, and the DOE is the boss.

One morning, while I was walking our little one to school, he said: Dad, did you know that ants have brains?

I: Uhhhh… I’m not sure about that.

He: No, really, Dad, I’m not joking.

I: Where did you hear this from? Ants aren’t even animals.

He: Are you serious dad?

So I asked Google and, well, if you can trust the Internet, ants indeed have brains. Which is remarkable, considering how little they are.

The ants that I come across these days—let’s call them house ants—are tiny, smaller than a pellet of rice. My (educated) guess is that their brains are probably no larger than salt particles. And those little brains allow these house ants to perform complicated actions such as crawl on walls like Spider-Man, sniff out food crumbs, and then carry a piece of rice or candy back to wherever they’re from without getting lost. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that these house ants have more dexterity than the most advanced robots humans can make, and their teeny brains are probably more complex than any computer chips we can dream of.

That is astounding.