DOOMSDAY BOOK BY CONNIE WILLIS – Marilyn Armstrong

I read this for the first time when it was first published in 2008. It wasn’t available as an audible book yet, though it would be soon. So my first reading was words on paper.

It’s the story of the plague, the Bubonic Plague in England. In addition to the many light-hearted stores Ms. Willis has written, she has written a four book series about Time Travel and this was the first of the series. She’s not very technical. Her idea of time travel is to take a modern person and move them in time back to a part of history when something unusual was happening and then watch this “modern” human interact with the real inhabitants of that period.

This is either the best or worst time in history to read about Bubonic Plague. On one level, it makes COVID-19 sound like a walk in the park. Bubonic Plague is a powerful disease, borne of a bacteria rather than a virus. Which means you can’t create a vaccine against it and in all these years while Plague has been coming and going around the world, there is no vaccine. These days, it usually can be beaten back with heavy doses of antibiotics, but not always. It still kills people and it pops up all over the world, including in the United States.

In 1348 when the plague hit England and killed at least half the entire population and in some areas, killed everybody leaving towns deserted, everyone knew what we know:


WEAR A MASK. DON’T GET CLOSE TO OTHER PEOPLE.
AVOID “THE HOT SPOTS.” 


The wealthy who had homes far out in the country went there and locked the gates. Those who had no recourse — peasants and merchants — did the best they could. Everyone wore masks until people started to get crazy and say “I’m going to die anyway, so I might as well have fun in the meantime.”

Just like now.

Basically, the Black Death rampaged through England, Europe, and Asia for a few hundred years The 14th century was the biggest hit, but not the only hit. It lurked, so when a new generation was growing up, it struck again. Which is why you see remnants of the plague hitting in the Gobi Desert in prehistoric times, the Justinian Plague in Roman times, then the big one that came in with infected rats to Italian ports and ultimately, everywhere in Europe and England..

This book deals exclusively with 1348 to 1349, the years that the Plague arrived and did its best to kill everyone. It did a pretty good job. No one really knows what proportion of the human population was killed during the plague years, but it was no less than 50% and might have been as high as 75% — and in some areas, as I said, It involved the complete elimination of the entire human population and entire towns and regions. Areas that are regarded as having not been hit by plague were indeed hit, but they only lost 15 to 20% of the population — not enough deaths to even put them on the map.

Ponder that.

Today, we have a problem with freight and moving goods in the world as the Pandemic wreaks havoc. They didn’t have freight or shipping. They barely had roads. Instead, they lost so many peasants there was no one left to grow crops. So in addition to dying of plague, many died of starvation.

I found it more relaxing to read than watching the numbers of new COVID cases on the news every night. This is history. It happened. It’s over. COVID is right now. We are not free from it and we do not know when or if we will be free of it. Although it isn’t as fast a killer as Bubonic Plague, it’s still killing a lot of people and beginning to take a toll on younger people who were supposedly “immune” to it.

Even though, way back in 1348, everyone knew there was no immunity unless you just got lucky, they were as stupid about caring for themselves and each other as we are today. Supposedly they were so much less knowledgeable … but in the end, the answer was exactly the same then as now.


Social distancing and masks.


People were stupid in 1348. They are equally stupid in 2020. Times change. People don’t.

THE TWO PANDEMICS – RICH PASCHALL

From the battleground, by Rich Paschall

COVID-19

All of us are acutely aware of the novel COronaVIrus Disease (COVID-19) that has swept the nation. It has devastated businesses, overwhelmed hospitals, and inundated social services. In comparison to the last great recession (December 2007 to June 2009), things are much worse. According to the Pew Research Center, “The rise in the number of unemployed workers due to COVID-19 is substantially greater than the increase due to the Great Recession when the number unemployed increased by 8.8 million from the end of 2007 to the beginning of 2010.”  The Great Recession happened over a couple of years, not a few months.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics pegged the number of unemployed at the end of May at around 21 million. That was actually a slight improvement as some temporarily laid-off workers were called back to work. The rise in employment came in ” leisure and hospitality, construction, education and health services, and retail trade.” This may be in anticipation of things opening back up. Some of these businesses are in for a shock.

The head of the World Health Organization has issued a dire warning. “Although many countries have made some progress, globally the pandemic is actually speeding up,” he said. This might seem contrary to what an orange politician has to say. He might lead us to believe that the numbers are improving in the US. They are not. While numbers here are averaging 53,000 new cases per day (as of July 4th), Dr. Anthony Faucci, Director of the National Institute of  Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has told a Senate committee that numbers could reach 100,000 per day. “Clearly we are not in total control right now.”

The orange one wants to fool you into thinking that increased testing is the cause of more positive cases. If that is not a lie than it is the statement of an incredibly uninformed individual. His job is to be informed. ProPublica looked at a seven day average from Memorial Day to the following Tuesday. In states like Illinois, New York, and Indiana where testing increased, the number of positive cases fell.  This rewarded their early and strong lockdown measures. In Florida, Arizona, and Texas, along with other red states who were too eager to reopen their economies, the number of positive cases exploded.

Stupidity

If you are reading or listening to the real news, not the Faux News the orange one watches, then you know there are plenty of examples of people who scoffed at the virus, and then died from it. We went down that road with you when we pointed out how “Stupidity Rears Its Ugly Head.” Then we mentioned a Virginia pastor, a Texas priest,  a Texas mom, and an evangelical pastor who all took the virus lightly, then died from it.

There have been more examples since that article ran. A lot more examples. And yet there are still people who want to believe that this is all a hoax or at least exaggerated. A death toll of 132,000 is not an exaggeration. It is a fact.

A leader of the ReOpen Maryland protests got so sick he had to go to an Emergency Room. I guess I do not have to tell you what he has. Now he refuses to help contact tracers. “I will not share anybody’s information with the government. I will not do it.” The governor is encouraging people who came in contact with him to get tested and to stay away from vulnerable populations. This is how grandma gets sick and dies.

In Michigan, where the so-called POTUS was encouraging anarchy by suggesting gun-toting right-wingers liberate the state, karma has struck. In East Lansing, they may have been able to enjoy a cold beer or two, but many won’t be doing that this week. One hundred fifty-two (yes, 152) cases of coronavirus were linked to Harper’s Restaurant and Brew Pub. The number keeps rising. Contact tracers show this moving into 13 counties. Those infected at the bar range from 18 to 28 years old, but there are nineteen secondary cases with ages ranged 16 to 63. That’s how grandpa gets sick and dies.

A student has returned to New York from Florida for a graduation ceremony for Horace Greeley High School. She got sick and since 4 others from the graduation are sick. She had returned from a Florida COVID-19 hotspot and contact tracers are now on the case. Hopefully, grandma and grandpa stayed away.

Eight Trump campaign workers were reported to have the virus after the rally in Tulsa. Two Secret Service agents tested positive and dozens of agents are in quarantine. Oklahoma Watch reporter, Paul Monies, tested positive. Former Republican candidate Hermain Cain also has it. He’s 74 and hospitalized. As for other attendees, time will tell us soon. Hopefully, grandma and grandpa did not attend.

Photo: Washington Post

You probably know I could go on and on. New cases show up every day as certain red states find the situation out of control. And despite all of the news and all of the examples and all of the numbers, some people still prefer the words of a self-centered orange politician over that of medical professionals. Stupid.

Unlike an orange politician, I do not make up my facts. Therefore, here are my Sources: “U.S. could see 100,000 new Covid-19 cases per day, Fauci says,” by Helen Branswell, STAT, statnews.com, June 30, 2020.
Unemployment rose higher in three months of COVID-19 than it did in two years of the Great Recession,” by RAKESH KOCHHAR, Fact Tank, Pew Research Center, pewresearch.org, June 11, 2020.
THE EMPLOYMENT SITUATION — MAY 2020,” Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, bls.gov, June 5, 2020.
WHO Chief On COVID-19 Pandemic: ‘The Worst Is Yet To Come’,” by Scott Neuman, NPR, nopr.org, June 29. 2020.
No, President Trump, Testing Is Not Causing Case Counts to Rise. The Virus Is Just Spreading Faster,” by Charles Ornstein and Ask Ngu, ProPublica, propublica.org, June 25, 2020.
A leader of protests to reopen Maryland says he is ill with COVID-19,” by Minyvonne Burke, NBC News, nbrnews.com, June 27, 2020.
Re-OpenMaryland co-founder catches coronavirus, won’t help contact tracers,” by Lee Brown, New York Post, nypost.com, June 28, 2020.
Coronavirus cases traced to East Lansing Harper’s Brew Pub rise to 152,” by Andrew Mullin, M Live, mlive.com, July 3, 2020.
NY student sparks COVID-19 cluster after returning from Florida,” by Melissa Klein, New York Post, nypost.com, June 27, 2020.
Eight Trump Campaign Staffers Test Positive for Coronavirus After Tulsa Rally,” by Jamilah King, Mother Jones, motherjones.com
Secret Service agents quarantine after Tulsa Trump rally,” by David Aaro, FOX News, New York Post, nypost.com, June 25, 2020.
Reporter at Trump’s Tulsa rally tests positive for COVID-19,” Associated Press, apnews.com, June 26, 2020.
Former Presidential Candidate Herman Cain Hospitalized with COVID-19,” by Adam Carlson, People, people.com, July 2, 2020.

The orange one doesn’t read but if you have gotten this far we know you can. There is plenty to read above. Stay educated, stay home, stay safe.

See also: “Stupidity Rears Its Ugly Head,” SERENDIPITY, teepee12.com, May 24, 2020.

A THANK YOU NOTE TO AMERICA FROM THE CORONA VIRUS – BY TOM CURLEY

Hi America. This is the coronavirus. I’m writing you this letter to say thank you for all you have done for me.  I know I’m just a microscopic organism, literally the simplest life form on Earth.

I’m just a single strand of RNA enclosed in a protein sheath. Whatever the hell that is. But even so, you all have seemed to have gone way out of your way to make sure I survive. I and my billions and billions of copies want you to know we really appreciate it.

You may not know it, but it’s not easy being a pathogen. We have a hard time doing what we have to do, which is to make more copies of ourselves. Sadly, the only way we can do this is by finding our way into a “host.” Usually it’s an animal, like a bat or a rat. We’re also popular with certain insects, like fleas and mosquitoes.

But every so often we get to live in you humans. When we get inside you we burrow into one of your cells that is particularly tasty and we replace that cell’s DNA with our own. Then we make the cell stop doing what it was supposed to do and instead start making hundreds and hundreds of copies of us!  Pretty cool, right?

Then those hundreds and hundreds of copies invade other cells and before you know it, there’s millions of us inside you!

The only problem is, we tend to kill all the cells we invade. After a while we run out of host cells.

That sucks.

On top of that, all you hosts have an “immune system.” It’s a bunch of asshole cells that attack us and kill us.

Fuck you T-cells!

Fortunately, a lot of you are old or sick and your immune cells either can’t do a very good job, or they are busy attacking other cells, like cancer cells.

Sadly, no matter how good or bad your immune systems are, you either force us out, or you die. That sucks for all of us.

So, in order for me and my billions of buds to survive,  we need to find new homes.  New “hosts.” And for us pathogens, that can be a problem. Most of us can only survive for short periods of time outside our “hosts.” Some of us can survive in water and you can drink us. Some of us can live in fleas and mosquitoes. If they bite you, we get a new home! Let’s go Team Fleas and Mosquitoes!

But the best way we get to find new homes is when you find “hosts , breathe us out and new “hosts” breathe us in. That’s the way we get around.

I don’t want to brag, but right now I’m the envy of all my fellow pathogens. Yeah, that’s right, we talk.  Ebola, Smallpox, the Bubonic Plague, the Spanish Flu, Pink Eye.  We’re all still around.

They all had great runs. But right now, it’s my time to shine.

And they’re all jealous.

I can’t blame them. I got it just right, for a pathogen. I don’t kill most people I infect. Like Ebola. I mean, yeah, Ebola is a serious badass.  But when you burn through all your “hosts” really fast, before you know it, you got no place to live. Bad ass, but stupid. I, on the other hand, only kill about 20% of the “hosts” that I live in.

The bad “side effects” of my living in you don’t even show up for at least two weeks. That means I get to live in more and more and more and more of you before you even realize I’m living in more and more and more of you!

The only thing that fucks up my traveling to newer and better “hosts” is when you all start doing things like wearing masks and staying far enough from each other that I can’t get into your nose or eyes. You do that, and one moment I’m spreading like crazy and the next moment I’m homeless.

Fuck that!

The other thing you do is “quarantine “hosts” who have me! Not fair!

And that brings me to why I’m writing you this thank you note. An amazing number of you are refusing to do anything to stop me from finding newer and newer homes! Around the world most of you are a bunch of dicks doing every thing to make me go away . But not in something called “America.” You guys are awesome! You started out as real dicks, but then you realized how much that was hurting me and you stopped.  You were wearing masks and staying away from each other. Until you weren’t!

Irony is on speed dial

All of a sudden you went back to going to weddings and funerals and churches and bars and clubs! You sit real close to each other and you sing and scream and shout and sneeze and cough! AWESOME!

That’s exactly what I need! I’ve heard that about 19,000 of you are all going to pack yourselves into an enclosed space to hear one of you tell the rest of you that I’m just a hoax and I’m just going to go away!

I love you guys!!

So, that’s basically it. Thank you America. It’s hard being a global pathogen but you have all really gone the extra mile to help me out.

USA!

USA!

PS: I know a lot of my “hosts” are wondering how I can be writing this blog. Or how I even know what a blog is. My answer is

How the hell should I know??!! I’m a fucking virus!

GIVING UP, NOT IN – Marilyn Armstrong

I almost quit any number of times. I didn’t smoke a lot. Less than a pack a day and eventually I got it down to five or six a day and sometimes less. The problem with cigarettes is that one day, for no special reason, you realize you smoked an entire pack. You just sort of forgot you had quit.

In my long and checkered professional career, I had many bosses. One of them had, in a former life, been addicted to heroin. It wasn’t a secret. We all knew because he told us. I had the feeling he was proud of having kicked drugs and was now the owner of a software development company. I asked him how he did it, how he got free of his addiction.

“You know,” he said, “It really wasn’t as hard as you might think. Mostly, I had to get away from the people, from other junkies, and the world of drugs. After I stopped hanging out with those people, getting off drugs was relatively easy. It’s the culture that pulls you in even more than the drugs.”

“I wish,” he continued, a touch of wistfulness in his voice, “It was as easy to kick cigarettes. When you hang out with junkies, you know it’s illegal. You sneak around. You are careful. But cigarettes? No problem. They’re legal. Grab a buddy and go for a smoke. It’s a social thing.

“You don’t hear heroin addicts saying to each other ‘Hey, anyone want to go out back and shoot up?’ but you can stop by another smoker’s desk and say … ‘Hey, want to go have a butt?’

“I’ve had a much harder time quitting smoking than I had quitting heroin. Much harder,” he said and reached for the pack of cigarettes in his pocket. He did soon thereafter, quit. He decided having kicked narcotics, he could kick cigarettes too. So he did.

I was a smoker myself, then. I had been trying to quit for years. I’d quit, then I’d be somewhere where other smokers worked. I’d get sucked into it. It wasn’t the physical addiction that lured me. I understood how bad it was for my health, disastrous to my budget and getting more costly each day. It made my clothing and hair smell like a dirty ashtray. It was the social connection that got me. Hanging out with other smokers. The rhythm of smoking. I’d write, then take a break, grab a smoke. It was part of my process.

I was never as heavy a smoker other people I knew. I lit many more cigarettes than I smoked. But I enjoyed smoking. I liked the smell of fresh tobacco. I liked standing outside on a crisp night, watching my smoke curl up and away into the sky.

I did a lot of my thinking on cigarette breaks. When I was writing, if I was stuck, I’d have a smoke. By the time I was halfway through it, I’d know what I was going to do and how I would do it.

Smoking-Burning-CigaretteIt took me years of quitting, backsliding, and quitting again before it finally “stuck.” Years before the smell of tobacco brought back memories without triggering a desire to smoke.

I am sure today, after more than ten years if I were to smoke one cigarette, I’d be a smoker. Again. It’s not unlike being an alcoholic. One drink and you’re a drunk again.

It’s not because I’m physically addicted. After all these years of not smoking, I’m obviously not addicted to nicotine, if I ever was. Yet on some level, I will always be addicted to cigarettes.

It would probably be easier to quit now since most offices are smoke-free. That being said, it’s not that I don’t want a cigarette. I just don’t smoke.

STUPIDITY REARS ITS UGLY HEAD – RICH PASCHALL

The View From Here, by Rich Paschall

Living Fearlessly

You have probably seen plenty of examples of this. There are those who need a haircut no matter what the risk. Some must have a party, no matter what stay at home orders have been issued. Others absolutely have to go to the beach, even if it is crowded. Those dying to get out and about don’t believe that they will be dying because they went out and about.

This week I saw two grade-school kids riding their bike down the street. They had no masks on. I did not recognize them as living nearby so perhaps they were just riding around the neighborhood. A day later I saw two different kids riding up and down the alley behind the house. They had masks but were not wearing them across their faces, just hooked around their ears and across their necks. They were probably told not to leave the house without them, so they didn’t. The two boys in the alley stopped to talk to an older girl. She did not have a mask on either. Recently I have been to two different convenience stores. As I went into one, a man was coming out sipping his coffee. He did not have a mask. A postal worker was buying a batch of Lotto tickets. She had no mask. As I was checking out, I mentioned to the checker that every single customer in that store did not have a mask. She and I were the only ones. A guy without a mask behind me in line got a piece of my mind. He did not say anything but he did back up a few steps. At another convenience store two young guys behind the counter were not wearing masks or gloves. I walked out.

I have seen the same sort of thing at the supermarket and the pharmacy. I tried to go to them in the first hour on a Tuesday or Thursday when it is Seniors only. Despite the signs on the doors, people enter who are not wearing masks. Some are not even Seniors.

You may have seen on the news, if you have the stomach to watch the news these days, that there are plenty of people out protesting for their right to congregate any way they wish. They even intimidate lawmakers by showing up at the state capital with automatic weapons. Many do not seem to think that any of their fellow protestors might have the coronavirus.

On our local Chicago news, we saw that business in neighboring Wisconsin had reopened. Despite bars and restaurants being encouraged to maintain social distancing, scenes from a crowded bar were broadcast. One of the people interviewed was a nurse from down here in hard-hit Cook County, Illinois. She has seen plenty of COVID-19 patients. Now she’s sorry she was interviewed at a bar.

Instant Karma

Instant Karma’s gonna get you
Gonna knock you right on the head
You better get yourself together
Pretty soon you’re gonna be dead – John Lennon.

Perhaps you heard of the Virginia pastor who vowed to keep his church open unless he was in jail or in the hospital. He’s in the cemetery. He preached to a crowded church on March 22 and died on Easter of the virus. Parishioners and preachers have died of the virus because they thought they would be safe in a crowded church. An elderly priest died in Texas recently, but they seemed to dismiss this because he was old anyway. Some of his parishioners tested positive.

A Texas mom of two boys who declared the virus a “media hoax” died from it. So did an evangelical pastor who went to Mardi Gras. There are plenty of such cases. Some who contracted it have recovered after attending Mardi Gras, or a crowded party. Some didn’t.

Survivors of near-death experiences think we are moving too quickly to reopen businesses. “People don’t really understand how serious this is until they know somebody who’s going through it,” one survivor’s girlfriend claimed. I have seen enough of this type of interview on the news. In general, the survivor is very sorry for attending____________ (insert crowded event here).

In red counties that had strongly supported Trump, and have pushed to reopen businesses, the virus is on the rise. Four days after the Republican governor of Maryland started opening up businesses in the state, they had the largest number of positive tests for one day so far. Coincidence or karma?

Living In Fear

The sort of thing you see above in “Living Fearlessly” are the reasons that so many of us who are older or have suppressed immune systems live in fear. We can not count on going to the store and have all the patrons follow the rules. Some of us qualify to go to the store during the Senior hour, but that means nothing if the store is afraid to enforce the rules. I shop at stores that have large signs posted to wear masks, and certain hours are Seniors only, but it doesn’t matter.  If people are so willing to violate these rules about the store, we can probably guess that they are willing to break other rules too. Do we want to be in the store with them?

The lieutenant governor of Texas may believe that Seniors are willing to lay down their lives for the economy, but I have news for him. He can go out and take risks, but we don’t feel that way. We want to be around long enough to vote that sort of politician out of the political office or keep them from getting in.

I live in a two-flat house. My much younger neighbor upstairs had been very careful, wearing a mask and gloves to the stores. He was always cleaning and sanitizing. He gave me a special mask around Christmas time that not only covers nose and mouth but ears too. We had some bad winters in the past. I use it a lot now.

He has contracted the virus. He’s had girlfriends over to spend the night. There is more than one, I think. He probably trusted they were just as safe as he was otherwise. He was obviously wrong. Now he is sick. We have a common front hall and front door, common basement area with a common washer and dryer. We could touch a lot of the same surfaces in a day. He is not intentionally trying to kill off his older neighbors. Sometimes people just don’t think about it until it is too late.

Instant Karma Sources: “VIRGINIA PASTOR DIES FROM COVID-19… 3 Weeks After Holding Packed Service,” TMZ, tmz.com April 13, 2020.
Parishioner of Louisiana Church That Defied Virus Lockdown Dies From COVID-19, But Pastor Claims It’s a Lie,” by Rachel Olding, Daily Best, thedailybeast.com April 17, 2020.
Texas church cancels masses following the death of priest possibly from coronavirus,” by Meredith Deliso, ABC News, abcnews.go.com May 18, 2020.
Family Of COVID-19 Victim Who Criticized ‘Hysteria’ Around Virus Faces Online Attacks,” by Kelly McEvers, WBEZ 91.5, npr.com May 15, 2020.
Texas woman claimed COVID-19 is a media hoax & can be stopped by “faith.” Days later she died.” by Bil Browning, LGBTQNation, lgbtqnation.com April 7, 2020.
After enduring ventilators, body aches, fever, coronavirus survivors say states shouldn’t be reopening.” by Rick Jervis and Kameel Stanley, USA Today, usatoday.com May 18, 2020.
COVID-19 continues spreading into counties with strong Trump support,” by William H. Frey, Brookings, brookings.edu May 20, 2020.
Maryland Reports Largest Rise Yet In Coronavirus Cases 4 Days After Reopening,” by Bill Chappell, WBEZ 91.5, npr.com May 19, 2020.
See also: “Absolutely No Absolute Rights,” SERENDIPITY, teepee12.com April 8, 2020.

MY DAY AT THE HOSPITAL – Marilyn Armstrong

After a day during which we got up early because I had a hospital appointment, the day after Bonnie quite literally barked all night, it made this into a very long day. Garry hadn’t driven in so long, we missed the turn into the hospital.

When we finally backtracked, they had the entire parking lot roped off and there are a lot of places you can’t go. Like the front door to the buildings. Since they won’t let the caretakers of people in, Garry had to wait in the car. It turned out he could have waited in the lobby, but when we asked, no one knew anything about anything.

One building was all COVID-19 cases — it used to be an extension of the daycare/heart unit and presumably will be again. I fell on my way in, really because those shoes have a ribbed sole that has a tendency to catch on cement. I scraped my knee, which was only a very small part of the problem. The rest of it was getting up from the ground. I can do it myself, but I need something to grab.

And suddenly, there were nurses and doctors and lawyers everywhere. “She fell on hospital grounds!” they said. I guess they assumed I was ready to call a lawyer.

I said, “If this is the most serious problem I have this week, it’ll be a great week.” They still had to check me out, realized when I said it was no big deal, I meant it really was no big deal. They cleaned it, didn’t bother to bandage it. Tomorrow everything will hurt, but in the meantime, they checked my battery (I sometimes sound like one of my electronic devices) and unlike the last time they checked it when I had maybe two years of battery left, this time I had 6-1/2 years left. I guess quarantine got me fully charged.

There wasn’t much traffic but there was more than I expected. A lot more.

The nurse explained that they aren’t worried about people who need help because basically, everything is closed. I pointed out that I didn’t hurry for this exam. They called me because it had been more than a year since I was checked. Which is a long time for someone following heart surgery, especially with so many implants.

She looked at my records and said, “Oh. yes. I can see.” She then pointed out that the mess they’d made at the hospital was way above her pay grade. And she reminded me that they have a building full of tests for Coronavirus, but they aren’t using the tests because they are saving them.

I didn’t even bother asking what they were saving them for because I already knew that was  WAY above her paygrade and maybe the head of the hospital’s paygrade.

Outbound road

They sent me the test results and I have to say I have no idea what they mean. None. The only thing I could say for sure is that there were no “flags” indicating a specific problem. So that battery works and there’s nothing terrible going on.

As we turned into the driveway, I asked Garry to stop so I could take pictures of the garden which has gone from a dead, muddy pile to something resembling a garden. Amazing what sunshine can do. I’m supposed to get a box soon, when our very backed up post office manages to hire a few more deliverers who can find their way around the Valley. It will — via Bluetooth — continuously interrogate my Pacemaker and send the information electronically. I may not have to go to the doctor more than once a year, but it is a bit creepy.

HOW COME THERE AREN’T ENOUGH TAKERS FOR TESTS? – Marilyn Armstrong

WHY DOESN’T EVERYONE GET TESTED?

Have any of you tried to get tested and been told you can’t get tested if you don’t have a heavy cough and a high fever … and because you are over 70, you know this information is not true? Apparently, you are more knowledgeable than the medical people to whom you are talking.

I had that kind of a day today.

From The Washington Post:

He was talking about this story on the front page of The Washington Post this week that found at least a dozen states have more tests than patients taking them. Health officials aren’t sure why — maybe people don’t realize there are more tests now after months of scarcity, or that you can get a test now in some states even if you only have mild symptoms. African Americans, who are being hit hard by the coronavirus, tend to be wary of medical professionals, one expert said.


If any of you have tried to be tested, you’ve run into the same barriers. If you don’t have a specific set of symptoms, you can’t get tested. Never mind that they have plenty of tests, they are hoarding them from the people who need to be tested. The point of getting all these tests was to track the disease. See who has it, had it, where are the hotspots, and are you living in one of them. Where is the virus going and are you wearing a target?

Or are you one of the people who have had it, but had different symptoms? If they are going to trace, they are supposed to be testing everyone, not just those people that happen to have the specific initial symptoms that were typical of the disease.

All the children hospitals are finding who have had heart attacks after having had the disease. Which isn’t supposed to kill children, but its after-effects are killing children. Of the people who instead of coughs and fevers get gastrointestinal problems. Diarrhea, vomiting. Or instead of coughing got severe aches and pains that go on for weeks.

Garry and I that problem in January and no one knew what was wrong with us. We went to the doctor. We didn’t have anything anyone could figure out and we went home. Some weeks later, we were better. I wrote about it at the time, but officially, there was no Coronavirus in the U.S. The virus wasn’t supposed to be here but I’m sure it was. Now, researchers at hospitals are discovering people who had it in December.

So when did it arrive? November? December? Definitely by January. How long was it lurking in China and how many people traveled back and forth to China on business, vacation or to visit family?

The symptoms for people over 70 are not the same as symptoms for younger victims or older victims. This virus is not well understood. The high fevers and coughs are less common, especially high fevers. People our age rarely run high fevers for any reason. Since I passed 65, I don’t think — even when I had pneumonia and was recovering from heart surgery. By the time I hit 99, that’s a serious fever for me because my normal body temperature is around 96-point-something-or-other. By the time it hits 99, it is a fever.

The virus shows up in with a boatload of symptoms that may or may not be the officially listed symptoms. If they actually want to get everyone tested, get the vans ready. Go into neighborhoods — rich, poor, and otherwise — and TEST people. My son has been trying to get tested for months and has yet to be tested.

In Massachusetts, we only test people who are near death. We miss the rest.

In Australia, they sent vans around to give tests to everyone they could find. I was on the telephone with a woman at our hospital and she wasn’t sure how you got a test unless you had a heavy cough and a high fever and thought maybe you would die.

So why aren’t there more people who want testing? Everyone wants to get tested, but they refuse to give tests to people who don’t meet their very specific criteria. What a waste! They aren’t even trying to track the disease and I’m pretty sure they are guaranteed an autumnal jump in cases that will be worse than the first round. Because they aren’t doing what they promised to do.

Sometimes, if you want the answer to a question, ask regular, frustrated, pissed-off citizens who have been trying to get tested but no one will order the tests, even though our insurance (Medicare) covers those tests 100%.

MEDICAL APPOINTMENTS? DONE! – Marilyn Armstrong

Having written about it, I realized I had to actually DO something about getting all these medical things set up. I am convinced if I breathe “regular out-of-house air” I’m going to die. That’s not necessarily true, but that’s how I feel.

I still haven’t heard from the ear department for Garry, but this morning I got a call from the Heart Interrogation Unit. Heart interrogation you ask? They talk to my heart and it answers them?

Well, yes, basically that IS what they do. Pacemakers are not just there to remind your heart to beat. They also track everything going on in your heart and to date, nothing has happened except the battery is aging. I hope it’s still true.

Unless you have a Pacemaker, you’ve probably never heard of a Heart Interrogation. It sounds rather James Bond, but it’s more like repairing a computer than torture by Spectre. This is when they meter your heart to check it’s memory. It somehow — in a very tiny package — remembers everything that happened to your heart since the previous reading. Were there any mini attacks? Anything abnormal. After you’ve had this surgery, everything is abnormal, so we are looking at the best results of an abnormal heart.

Any periods of rapid heart beating? And how is the battery doing?

Pacemaker

When she asked me when was the last time I had the Pacemaker checked, I realized it was probably more than two years because while I had other important checkups last year, this hospital has a separate department for Pacemakers. They set you up with “a box” that hooks to your telephone so you don’t have to come into the hospital to get a reading on your Pacemaker. This will be a significant convenience in the winter when you don’t want to drive through snow. pounding rain, or howling winds. Now, if only I can get the dogs to stop barking!

There are a lot of good reasons to die these days, but letting your Pacemaker battery run out \seems a particularly stupid reason.

I’m getting close to needing a new battery in the Pacemaker. Last time it was checked — maybe 2017? 2018? Earlier? there were about 4 years left. Time has skedaddled, so now I’m close to the battery’s end-date. My heart will not beat without a Pacemaker and these last few months have been rather over the line.

Not only did she tell me to come I needed to come  ASAP, but she also moved the date forward to next Wednesday. I need to remember that if the battery dies, I die too. That would be a really stupid reason to die. Even I am embarrassed at how long I’ve let this go. I really didn’t remember how long it had been since the battery check was made and there has been a lot of stuff going on.

Oops.

I can barely remember when my body functioned without a slew of testing.  There were surgeries for tumors (benign) in my right leg (15), the loss of an ovary (19), a spinal fusion (18) plus so much other stuff I can’t remember it. It’s a miracle I made it this far and it’s good someone reminds me that I’ ve got a lot of implants and replacements top to bottom. I don’t remember all of them when, for some reason, I’m trying to figure out which scars are from which events. Doctors should sign the incision with a date and the name of the hospital. Since age has made my short term memory about 15 seconds long, it gets increasingly difficult to remember.

She did assure me that there were VERY few people in the hospital and I would be unlikely to bump into anyone. Garry can’t come in with me which will make maneuvering difficult. There a lot of walking in a big hospital and I don’t move well.

On a more positive note, I will physically leave this house! Imagine that!

A SNEAKY LITTLE VIRUS – Marilyn Armstrong

Having had more medical issues than I can remember (sometimes I make a list and try to remember everything, but I always forget something), I speak and understand “medicalese” pretty well. Not every word or every procedure or even all the normal diseases or conditions.

Nonetheless, on the whole, I’ve got a good grip on the difference between a virus and a bacteria, the nature of antibodies, and how they work as well as immune systems. If I haven’t had a particular disease, I’m sure I know someone who did.

This little plague of ours is different. It seems to have a lot of symptoms and may conjoin with other COVID-type illnesses. It wasn’t created in a lab and really, no one is sure where it came from. Testing on it started too late in China and much too late in the U.S. which means we are long past the point of being able to pin down the Alpha case.

There’s something very sneaky about this one. It’s supposed to be most lethal to the elderly with “issues” and relatively benign in younger people. It doesn’t seem to be all that clear on what it defines as “younger” people. It has killed a lot more young people than it should have yet left many seniors okay. Now they think they have found a related disease (parallel or just another version?) of COVID-19 which is specific to children, especially very young ones — babies and toddlers.

It bears a lot of resemblance to the flu insofar as it mutates quickly so it’s impossible to pin down from year to year exactly how it will present when it shows up. That’s why sometimes flu shots are more effective than others.

I think COVID 19 (and any other title they give the disease) may not be one disease but a variety of similar ones that are somehow passed along via a single virus.  It may not produce lasting resistance even if you’ve had it. Many viruses don’t produce resistance, but most of them are less lethal than this nasty one.

All the terrible mistakes we’ve made and continue to make are not making it easier to pin this virus down. They may produce a vaccine that only works on some types of the disease, but not on others. As this country tries to “go back to normal,” the odds of a new wave of the virus killing hundreds of thousands more people is pretty good.

We aren’t going back to normal. We can’t. People will work until they look around and see their colleagues, friends, and family getting sick and dying. Then, all of a sudden, people will be a lot less eager to go out and play. Or work. This isn’t going to be a conveniently quick bubble that goes away when the sun comes out.

I’m not sure we’ve seen everything this virus can and will do. That we have the most mean-spirited, insensitive, greedy, narcissistic, dumbass as our president is not helping us either. We are short of tests, swabs, PPE. Everything we need to figure out where this disease was and where it is likely to go is absent or in very short supply.

I had a short, joyless laugh when the governor of Mississippi pulled back opening the state saying it simply was not ready. There is no more “Red” state than Mississippi. I don’t know how the election will go. I’m hoping people are not so blind that they prefer a murderer as president to any sane person.

But who knows? This country has a lot of issues, most of which have yet to be settled or even confronted.

HOW AND WHEN TO USE THE HEIMLICH MANEUVER – Marilyn Armstrong

I sneeze early and often. I sneeze loudly. Ferociously. For no reason. I don’t know my maximum number of sneezes in a row, but it’s more than fifteen. After that, I’m dizzy and I don’t know what’s going on.

So last night, I was eating a protein bar and I started to sneeze. After the first four sneezes, I inhaled and pulled a lot of protein bar bits into my bronchial tubes. Now I was sneezing and I was choking.

Garry was asleep, without hearing aids, so he couldn’t hear me. I kept choking for a long time with intermittent sneezing. Eventually, I managed to cough up enough protein bar bits to stop choking. Which was a relief because even if I’d woken Garry, he has no idea how to do the Heimlich Maneuver.

Most people don’t.

So, here are instructions. They even include how to do it for yourself if no one is around.

You’re welcome.

WARNING: Avoid having a mouthful of food when you start a marathon sneezing fit.

ABSOLUTELY NO ABSOLUTE RIGHTS

Stay at Home, Save Lives, by Rich Paschall

While we accept the precept of “freedom of speech,” we also understand that it does not apply to everything in all situations. As you probably have heard often, we are not allowed to shout “Fire” in a crowded theater when there is none. This could cause a stampede for the exits and put some people at risk of being hurt or killed in the panic.

Similarly, you can not shout out in a crowd that you see a gun when there is none. Due to the types of mass shootings we have seen in recent years, we know that there could be a panic that could cause harm.

Image: Mashable.com

You are also forbidden to engage in the type of speech that would incite a riot. Hate speech in gatherings could, in turn, result in attacks either at a rally, let say, or following in the days to come. There may be a politician or two who have gotten away with this, but that’s another matter.

There are laws against slander and libel as the defamation they bring may cause harm to groups or individuals. While we see misinformation spread often on social media, doing so as a respected news source could bring danger to others. A well known News network is being sued by a Washington State group for issuing false news in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

Yes, the Constitution promised you freedom of speech, but that does not mean you can say whatever you like. Where there are dangerous consequences to what you say, you can be held liable for your remarks. Don’t you wish that also applied to Orange politicians, but I digress?

There is also “the right of the people peaceably to assemble,” but it doesn’t mean you can gather a large group wherever you want. Try to form a parade down State Street (that great street) without a permit and see how far you get.  You can not take over a baseball diamond in a public park if another group holds a permit. You can not have the pavilion at the local forest preserve if another group holds a permit. In fact, we have many regulations regarding the assembly of large crowds. It is not uncommon to post limits of assembly, many by fire codes that are enforced by the local government.

It’s a free country, or is it?

You have probably heard of people who do not want to shelter at home during the COVID-19 outbreak. They insist it is a free country and they can do what they like. The government is not going to tell them what to do. They have their constitutional rights. But do they have such rights?

The Constitutionality of the restrictions we have described above has been tested in courts and upheld. Local and national governments not only have the right to impose such restrictions on the public, but they also have a duty to do so.

Scientific evidence has told us that the only way to “flatten the curve,” in other words lessen the spread of the virus, is to keep a “social distance.” This has caused many at the state and local level to impose restrictions. Some do not want to abide.

You can find plenty of examples of people who did not want to social distance and observe the restrictions, who have died of the virus. They not only put themselves at risk, but they also put others at risk as well.  They do not have that right.

Social Contract

Many of the authors of The Constitution were certainly well aware of the philosophical writings of John Locke (The Second Treatise of Government), Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Du Contrat social). These works would have greatly influenced their thinking about forming a new national government. They knew that members of society must agree to give up certain rights for the good of society as a whole. It is a “contract” we have as a member of society, to act in a way that benefits all. It is the greatest good for the greatest number.

“That a man be willing, when others are so too (as farre-forth, as for Peace, and defense of himself he shall think it necessary, to lay down this right to all things; and be contented with so much liberty against other men, as he would allow other men against himself.” – Thomas Hobbes

In other words, we must do what is right for all. For those who think they can assemble as they please, including religious services, they are misinformed and violating the laws of nature, science and the social contract. No one has the right to go out and spread the virus. They are not immune. They are not free to do as they like. Governors (Republicans all) who refuse to issue stay at home orders, or allow large exemptions (think Easter services), are not acting in the interest of the greatest good for the greatest number.

Let’s put it in a way that may drive the point home. There is a post going around social media which may illustrate the problem of some states practicing social distancing, and others ignoring the advice.  We must “ lay down this right to all things; and be contented” because it is the only reasonable course of action.

Sources: “Leviathan,” Thomas Hobbes, sparknotes.com
Washington State Group Is 1st to Sue Fox News for Calling Coronavirus a ‘Hoax’,” by ken Stone, timesofsandiego.com April 2, 2020.
The Social Contract,” Jean-Jacques Rousseau, coursehero.com
Social Contract,” en.wikipedia.org

UPDATED INFORMATION AND PLEASE DON’T GUZZLE THE BLEACH! – Marilyn Armstrong

This is a correction from the previous message. It didn’t occur to me to warn people to not drink Listerine or bleach. Seriously? How stupid have we gotten? I’m assuming anyone who reads this blog is smart enough to recognize the difference between a cleanser, a mouthwash, and a cure.

There are no cures for Covid 19 or stupidity, so you can be sure that none of these items are a cure. These are standard ways to clean your hands and other surfaces. Sunshine can break down the virus, but we haven’t seen sunshine in a while. I’m sure one day the sun will shine again. That would make me feel better, Covid 19 or not.

  1. The virus is not a living organism, but a protein molecule (DNA) covered by a protective layer of lipid (fat), which, when absorbed by the cells of the ocular (eye), nasal or buccal (the area around the lips, tongue, and mouth) mucosa, changes their genetic code and converts them into aggressors and multiplier cells.
  2. Since viruses are not living organisms but protein molecules, it can’t be killed. It does, however, decay. The amount of time disintegration takes depends on a variety of factors.
  3. The only thing that protects this virus is a thin outer layer of fat. That’s why soap or detergent is a good remedy because soap cuts the fat. This is also why you have to scrub for at least 20 seconds or more. Some people sing happy birthday twice. I count just like when I’m rebooting the TV or the computer.
  4. By dissolving the fat layer, the protein molecule disperses, breaks down, and is no longer dangerous.
  5. Use hot water for washing hands, clothes and everything else.
  6. Alcohol or any mixture with alcohol greater than 65% dissolves fat, especially the external lipid layer of the virus.
  7. Bleach kills it, but it’s overkill. Soap is effective and won’t damage your skin. Bleach is a powerful cleanser and inhaling it is bad for your lungs and throat. Does anyone need to be warned not to drink it?
  8. Peroxide works, but you have to use it in its pure state and it can damage your skin. Don’t use it unless you must and certainly DON’T drink it!
  9. No bactericide will do the job. The virus is not a living organism as bacteria is. Bactericide cannot kill what is not alive.
  10. Wash clothing in warm or hot water. Use soap. Wipe down surfaces with soap and water or something like that. I don’t know how effective it is against the virus, but I’ve had a lot of luck breaking up grease and fat with Windex.
  11. The virus can not get through healthy skin.
  12. Vinegar is not an effective cleanser.
  13. Booze will NOT do the job. This includes vodka. Vodka is usually 40% alcohol. There’s a Polish brand that’s 96% but if you’re buying that Vodka, maybe you should consider drinking it rather than using it as a cleanser. Now this one, you CAN drink.
  14. An effective amount of alcohol needed to destroy the protein is a minimum of 65%. Listerine is NOT 65% alcohol but I can’t imagine rinsing your mouth with it after brushing your teeth could possibly hurt.
  15. Wash your hands often, especially after touching your eyes, nose, mouth, food, locks, knobs, switches, remote controls, cell phones, watches, computers, desks, TV, and so on. And of course when you use the bathroom.
  16. You should moisturize your hands after this much washing. Invest in a high-quality moisturizer. Keep your nails short and clean.

All of this material is available just about everywhere: on hospital websites, state virus websites and more. This is pretty standard stuff and I am still having trouble believing that I have to warn my readers to not drink bleach, soap, Listerine, Windex, peroxide, et al. Maybe a slug or two of vodka could help settle your brain. It won’t cure anything, but that’s not the point.

This article supposedly debunks this article. Except what it debunks is stupidity. See it here: https://www.factrakers.org/post/busted-coronavirus-myths-take-on-new-life

Use commonsense. Don’t do anything really dumb.

HUNKER IN THE BUNKER – RICH PASCHALL

A Viral Verse, by Rich Paschall

It’s time to hunker in your Bunker.
But don’t sequester next to Lester.
He might have the virus.
He’s been sitting close to Iris.

And stay away from Bill,
He thinks he’s got a chill.
And you will have a pain
If you’re listening to Jane.

Jim has not been cool,
Had a party at his school.
And just to add a bonus,
He invited his friend Jonas.
They had a lot of folks,
Telling many dirty jokes.
He picked up a quick a kiss
From his handsome buddy Chris.

Some have not been seen,
Must be in the quarantine.
We will say it quick,
We hope they are not sick.
Others are at the store,
And invited several more.
They didn’t hear or care,
They shouldn’t be out there.
May we just repeat,
To keep at least six feet.

Still, there’s some resistance,
About keeping a good distance.
Heed the advice of your physician,
Not some wealthy politician.

BRUTALLY HONEST – Marilyn Armstrong

Medical terminology is designed to take the sting — and sometimes the responsibility — out of troubling problems. PTSD – Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is the latest entry in trying to find a way around admitting war is bad for soldiers and other living things.


A little history

The first army in history to determine that mental collapse was a direct consequence of the stress of war and to regard it as a legitimate medical condition was the Russian Army of 1905 …The Russians’ major contribution was their recognition of the principle of proximity, or forward treatment. … In actuality, less than 20 percent were able to return to the front.

The brutalities of WWI produced large numbers of the psychologically wounded. … This time, they began by attributing the high psychiatric casualties to the new weapons of war; specifically, the large-caliber artillery.

It was believed the impact of the shells produced a concussion that disrupted the physiology of the brain; thus the term “shell shock” came into fashion.

Another diagnosis … was neurasthenia: “The mental troubles are many and marked; on the emotional side, there is sadness, weariness, and pessimism; repugnance to effort, abnormal irritability; defective control of temper, tendency to weep on slight provocation; timidity. On the intellectual side, lessened power of attention, defective memory and will power….” 

At least the early descriptors name the cause — war or battle. Artillery. But those who make war and send others to fight it don’t like taking the blame. Since they are not going to end the war, they try to make its repercussions seem less threatening.

They do this by removing the word “war” from the illnesses it causes. Which of course makes everyone feel better. Not.

By the end of World War I, the United States had hundreds of psychiatrists overseas who were beginning to realize that psychiatric casualties were not suffering from “shell shock.” … Unfortunately, they continued to believe this collapse came about primarily in men who were weak in character.

During WWI, almost 2,000,000 men were sent overseas to fight in Europe. Deaths were put at 116,516, while 204,000 were wounded. During the same period, 159,000 soldiers were out of action for psychiatric problems, with … 70,000 … permanently discharged. 

Then came World War II. Everyone knows the story of General Patton slapping the soldier in the hospital and treating him as a coward. Generals cannot afford to believe that war is bad for soldiers, that it isn’t just a matter of mind over matter. Although Patton is certainly most famous for expressing his feelings on the matter, I doubt he was unique in his opinions. He was just more outspoken than most of the war leaders.

It became clear it was not just the “weak” in character who were breaking down. This is reflected in the subtle change in terminology that took place near the end of World War II when “combat neurosis” began to give way to the term “combat exhaustion.” Author Paul Fussell says that term as well as the term “battle fatigue” suggest “a little rest would be enough to restore to useful duty a soldier who would be more honestly designated as insane.”

Gabriel writes in No More Heroes, a study of madness and psychiatry in war, that contrary to what is in the movies, television, and the military, it is not only the weak and cowardly who break down in battle. In reality, everyone is subject to breaking down in combat. … ” When all is said and done, all normal men are at risk in war.

Vietnam and subsequent wars have kept troops permanently under siege while the medical community has sanitized symptoms. PTSD lacks any obvious link to war and battle. It doesn’t change the problem and has not resulted in better treatment in VA hospitals. Today’s ploy is to not even acknowledge the problem, but instead, ascribe soldiers’ symptoms to “something else.” Anything else to avoid the military accepting responsibility for the care of its victims.

The cost of war exceeds our ability to cope with its fallout. Apparently, no one considers not sending more soldiers into combat might be the best solution. Funny about that.