Captain’s Log, Stardate 74542.5

Earth, The Solar System, Orion Arm, The Milky Way, Virgo Cluster

It has been, in Earth time, 12 years, 4 months, 3 weeks and 5 days since I joined this post. I regret the long gap since my last report.

The humans maintain a primitive airlock between their food preparation area and the exterior of their domicile.

On behalf of the United Federation of Planets, my team and I are observing Earth in anticipation of their eligibility for membership. We await the humans’ development of faster-than-light space travel travel, and, of course, also, quite a bit of progress on the rights of human individuals and global peace. 

Earth is in the throes of a global pandemic, with over 100.5 million recorded cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) worldwide, and at least 2.1 million deaths as of this writing. The virus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), is an airborne virus, the spread of which is easily preventable by social distancing, quarantining, and mask-wearing. Unfortunately, warring Earth factions, primitive thinking on the part of leaders, and unruly citizens have refused to make the changes necessary to contain the spread. Vaccines have been developed, and the humans are tentatively attempting to distribute them. As of this writing, none of my human companions have contracted the disease yet.

In order not to violate Starfleet General Order 1, or SGO1, also known as the prime directive, I have be required to maintain my silence about preventing and treating COVID-19. The mystifying adherence to the principles of capitalism have meant that vaccines have not been produced in sufficient quantity and unfairly distributed. 

Eggi and I participate in typical human religious rituals. Here, we thank the Cabbage Gods.

I continue to work with a small crew, including Grand Champion Suzu and Shannon’s Egészégedre, who serves as my first officer, and chief security officer. There is also my science officer, known here as Schwartz. My previous coworkers, Cherry, Wheatie, and Pluto, who established first contact, stardate 46112.5,  no longer serve in this mission. Wheatie departed early in my tour, and Cherry on stardate 71338.5. Within the next Earth year after Cherry ended her tour of duty, I was joined by my very able first officer, known as Eggi, and about an earth year after that, by Ensign Fellow. 

My crew, making scientific observations

Fellow is currently on an away mission; our Earth hosts have detected that Eggi is entering a reproductive cycle and have separated them. Eggi has lobbied repeatedly to increase the size of our research team, and feels that 8 new members could be put to work after only a year of training. Though I agree with her, my reproductive equipment was altered a decade ago, so I am unable to help her in this project.  

Typically, we busy ourselves with a variety of projects, including daily patrols of the surrounding area, which we carry out on foot, walking in a group, tethered to one of our human hosts. Rations are delivered twice a day, and while adequate nutritionally-speaking, some crew members feel that our hosts feed themselves better than they do us.

Another religious ritual: the Adoration of the Brussel Sprout

While we await humanitarian and scientific progress, we have been conducting long-term studies of plant and animal life on earth, paying particular attention to the dwindling numbers of wild songbirds, and noting with some concern the thriving populations of squirrels (the introduced species Sciurus carolinensis), several species of rats, deer (Odocoileus virginianus), skunks (Mephitis mephitis), and raccoons (Procyon lotor). Ensign Fellow has shown the initiative to embark on his own research regarding moles (Scalopus aquaticus).

I am proud to serve Starfleet

My team has engaged in ongoing debate about the consequences of strictly adhering to SGO1; Eggi feels that now viral mutations are spreading in the area where we are stationed, and we risk losing our hosts. We also note that global warming continues unabated, so the projections our climatologists made a century ago about Earth’s future have proven to be correct.

In closing, I regret to inform Starfleet that I am beginning to experience degenerative symptoms consistent with my age, and will soon be nearing the end of my useful service here. If suitable transport back to headquarters or a Federation planet cannot be arranged, Eggi will take command of the team as my successor when the time comes.

Cat Panic 3: Revenge of the Bureaucrats

Yesterday I made my (almost) daily visit to the local post office.  I found a letter in my box that was intended for the box next door, and stood in line for a while, waiting to hand it to a staff member.  I am always alarmed by mis-delivered mail, viewing it as a sign that things just aren’t as reliable as they should be. The woman ahead of me in line was trying to mail a greeting card in a square envelope. It was carefully addressed in her large, loopy cursive, and she had chosen a decorative stamp and applied it in the corner. Because of its unusual dimensions, it was going to require 20¢ extra postage. The customer produced a plastic bag full of a large number and variety of carefully organized postage stamps from her purse and explained to the clerk that she had 5¢ stamps, but felt there was not enough room for them on the envelope.
The clerk looked in the stamp drawer (which is no longer at the counter but is instead somewhere in the back and off to the side) for a 20¢ stamp to sell her, but they had none. They also had no 10¢ stamps, so four 5¢ stamps was her only choice. Together, the clerk and the customer placed the stamps in the remaining space in the upper left hand corner of the envelope. Then, the clerk hand-cancelled the envelope with two rubber-stamps.
Next, I drove over to the local UPS store to send my youngest son’s clothes to summer camp. I was greeted cheerfully by a staff member as I walked in.  The cheerful clerk took my heavy boxes from me and struck up a conversation with me about the retailers whose boxes I had used and about summer camp and about how long it might take the packages to get there.  Customers are listed within UPS’s database by their phone number, and the process is so quick and confidence-inspiring that it was not until I was driving away that I had time to reflect on the contrast to the post office.
Right before we moved in to the Big Red Barn, I was strong-armed told by the belligerent detail-oriented listing agent to apply for a post office box instead of using the mailbox at the top of our drive way. Her argument was, “Yes, you need to.”
The post office in this community is staffed by grouchy detail-oriented people who send back any mail addressed to our street address rather than the post office box number. In large grease pencil they write: NO RECEPTICLE (or sometimesNO RECEPTACLE). The post office is approximately two miles away from our house, which makes it just far enough away not to be a walking destination. It also has a lot of signage about allowing no dogs except service dogs, about the special penalty for robbing a post office, about their brief hours of operation, and about their rates for various sizes of boxes for their state-of-the-artslow shipping.
The mailbox that is/isn’t at the top of the driveway
If you come to visit the Big Red Barn, you can find our driveway between our trash hutch and our non-existent mailbox. If you open our non-existent mailbox, you will find a single letter to a former tenant and several receipts for filling the propane tanks last December. I look in there all the time, just to see if anything happened. If I had a large rubber spider I might want to put it in there when we move out in September.
Within 24 hours of my cat-bite, I had been contacted by Beth at the Westchester County Health Department, who left me a message saying she wanted me to know that they have a process she wanted to explain to me.  We then played phone tag for about a day. When we did have a conversation, Beth told me that as the pet owner I was going to be receiving a letter from the health department which I needed to fill out and return after a 10 day quarantine. She may have described the letter as “harsh,” or even “threatening,” and she assured me it was for public safety.
 There is really nothing funny about rabies, or the possibility of people getting rabies. Even though my cat is now and has always been an “indoor-only” pet, I have always kept him current on all of the recommended vaccines, including rabies.  I am aware of various educated and otherwise law-abiding people in this country who do not vaccinate their pets and/or children based on some sort of logic that common vaccines cause bad things to happen to them.  I don’t know what to say about that kind of thinking other than to wonder about how science is taught in this country.
I do marvel at Beth’s job: she gets to send out a letter to people that is so threatening that she needs to pre-empt it with a friendly phone call. In my case, the post office never delivered my letter, because it was addressed to our physical address and not our post office box. I had the forms emailed to me.
Here are the three emails I received:

Just print out the attached documents. I will call you on 5/31 to check on Schwartz’s health status. Beth
 
Maggie…was able to print out. I am closing this case..Beth