Tag: Covid-19 Pandemic

Random Thoughts 0f Mid-January 2022

Covid-19 Pandemic Continues with Omicron

Mid-January 2022 may be ushering Omicron into my hometown as I type. Numbers had been consistent and in the single digits per day for the past few weeks. But numbers jumped, really jumped this last week with almost one hundred total cases just reported. This will most likely continue for a month if we follow the pattern seen in the cities.

Hopefully our little hospital won’t become overwhelmed. Not many medical choppers lately to rouse me from a sleep. I pray that continues. But the vaccine rate is low and Omicron evades the vaccine. This novel coronavirus remains a puzzle, one that most are too tired to solve.

Masks are scarce here. School is in person. Businesses are open so staffing may be a tad bit difficult but doable. My corner of the world leans toward the approach of inevitableness.

I long for a remote cabin in the woods stocked with six weeks of food. Enough time to get past Omicron. But the reality is this is not possible for me. Furthermore, what happens when the next variant hits. And the next. Quite depressing.

Psychological Impacts of Mid-January 2022 Milestones

Setting Covid-19 aside, this week is a bit of a hardship from a psychological standpoint. It marks a year since my Mom’s death. Also, the week brings two more birthdays, with one a milestone.

Ten years ago, to mark the mid-century milestone, we travelled to Denver to celebrate in style. We attended the National Western Stock Show and stayed at the historic Brown Palace. Truly a treat! But this year there are no plans to celebrate with a special trip.

Instead, we will stay at home. A shared (the two birthdays are consecutive) chocolate sheet cake with a cooked pecan frosting will be baked. To be honest, I don’t have the rest of the meal planned out. Priorities, right?

What is happening at the Federal Reserve?

If you are still keeping track of your market basket, you know first-hand there is inflation. Price increases are popping up everywhere. In the case of Dollar Tree, the inflation rate is 25%. The Federal Reserve last raised rates in 2018. Isn’t it time? Nay, past time.

But perhaps the Central Bank knows something the rest of us don’t? Or, more likely the Federal Reserve is juggling too much. After all climate change is now part of the task list. Just what will a climate stress test look like for banks? Finally, what prompted the Vice-Chairman to resign just a few weeks before his term ended? Were things that unpalatable? I think the resignation is a statement.

Mid-January 2022 at the Grocery Store

Are your grocery shelves full? Two full weeks went by without Fritos. Thank goodness these chips are not a staple. Furthermore, many substitute goods exist. But Fritos atop homemade chili can’t be beat.

This past trip, cream cheese was sold out as was my favorite kind of grated cheese for pizza. In the case of the former, no direct substitutes. I do not know if the supply problem is at the manufacturing level or is due to transportation glitches. But the chain is broken.

Media pictures show many empty aisles but neither I nor my many relatives have encountered this. Just individual items such as those discussed above. So, it is hard to get a clear picture.

Random Thoughts of Mental Wellness

Think Positive.

Take Calming Breaths Throughout the Day.

Enjoy a Bubble bath with a relaxing beverage.

Spend some time outdoors.

Read for fun.

Eat Dark Chocolate.

Tell someone you love them.

Focus on the Future

2022

I have decided to focus on the future with respect to 2022. With two bleak years behind me on the macro level and a very mixed personal 2021, it seems an almost impossible task. Yet the alternative, miring oneself in angst is not acceptable. This does not mean I am adopting a Pollyanna attitude. The world is in dire straits. But, I do want to take more of a micro approach.

Reading in 2022

While the big picture is uncertain, there is no reason to lose sight of the “little” picture. My immediate bubble if you will, can be a positive. This past year I endeavored to read more non-fiction. I did and with positive results. So this year I plan to focus on the future by reading at least one brand new author (not just new to me) every other month.

I also want to keep a good mix of genres. Perhaps even test the waters in some areas I do not visit much. We will have to see what the year brings. This past year has shown I am not a big fan of autobiographies.

Keeping the Creative Juices Flowing

Bucilla Sugarplum Fairy Stocking
A stocking for the newest family member.

Staying somewhat isolated during a pandemic has been productive for me. I am still dabbling in acrylics because I find it reduces tension. The quilt designs are another outlet as was the Sugar Plum Fairy stocking.

Writing has been a challenge. But unlike my piano playing-stopped abruptly after the death of a loved one- I have pushed on. To be honest, my reason is self-serving. Anecdotal and not scientific, but the writing helps keep my mind sharper. Most definitely a use it or lose it scenario. Brain health continues to be a priority.

Focus on the Future

Family of four on Christmas morning.
Christmas with the new generation.

Personal legacies are important. Tradition and legacy are entwined. Family traditions leave lasting memories. The importance is two-fold. First, traditions keep memories alive. Loss isn’t as tough when you can carry on as it has always been. Yes, the pandemic has created obstacles. But those can be overcome.

Second, new generations need these traditions to create a sense of belonging. This is most critical in these unusual times. We have kept our gatherings relatively small this year. Thanksgiving pushed my comfort zone but was done safely and before Omicron reared its’ ugly spikes. Christmas had one offspring and his young family in person and the rest plus my Dad joined via Zoom.

This technology has been important for our family. Much can be achieved with a focus on the future. If for some reason 2022 has everyone going their separate ways for the holidays, we can see and hear each other long enough the little ones can feel a connection.

A New Year with New Resolutions

I almost hate sharing resolutions as 2020 was such a disaster and not much was done in 2021 either. But I do want to focus on the future in a positive way. So here are my resolutions for 2022.

  1. Try a new recipe each month.
  2. Finish one creative, non-writing project each month.
  3. Continue to write.
  4. Reach out to friends and family on a regular basis.

Of all these, the last will be the most important if these mutations keep coming at us, wave after wave. I wish I could say this will be the last year, but I just don’t know enough biology to predict. Regardless of what the future may hold, I plan to focus on the future in a positive way.

2022 has started on a positive note for us in the form of snow. Even though powdery versus a heavy wet snow, it is much needed moisture. Enjoy this glimpse of a snowy start to the new year.

Snowy backyard.
Happy New Year!

October 2021 Wrap-Up

Halloween

The October 2021 Wrap-Up is here and that means it is Halloween. I am still undecided about opening the doors to Trick-or-Treaters. The general populace seems oblivious to the current resurgence of Covid-19. Additionally, the forecast is one of a wintery mix. In lay terms, a cold rain mixed with sleet or snow or both.

On top of that, the October 2021 Wrap-Up includes the quarterly Inflation Check. There is much talk in the media about price hikes. We will see what my personal check list looks like. Have you checked your list yet?

Also included is a look at winter projects. I am ready to focus on the hobby room until the first of the year when the brassica seeds will be started. Since I was not able to build a greenhouse, only a few plants were brought inside. Hopefully, they will thrive.

Man wearing a Fritos Costume
Both the costume and the wearer have aged since 2005 when this was taken but both are present Halloween October 2021.

Inflation Check Challenge

Keeping track of prices has been enlightening. There is definitely some price creep, but no large leaps in the products I am watching. The largest quarterly increase of available goods was 5% for the dry cat food. This was the first increase for this product since the challenge began.

The largest increase from a percentage standpoint was in canning lids. An increase of 17% is quite meaningless when there is no product to buy. I do not check for lids every day, but quite frequently and have not seen any locally since February. Jars are still available as are packages of rings and lids together. Both incur more cost.

Third Quarter Inflation Check Challenge

ItemAmountJanuary 2021 Price
Regular/Sale
April 2021 Price
Regular/Sale
July 2021 Price
Regular/Sale
October 2021 Price
Regular/Sale
Comments
Planet Oat Extra Creamy Original Oat Milk52 Oz.$3.49$3.99$3.99/$2.99$3.99
Small Bag Signature Select Sugar4 lbs.$2.99$2.99/$1.99$2.99$2.99/$2.49The October sale price was a smaller reduction than in April.
Signature Select Cream Style Corn14.75 Oz.$0.69$0.79$0.79$0.79/$0.65Enjoyed the October sale price.
Fleischmanns Active Dry Yeast4 Oz.$6.99$6.99$7.19$7.49Another increase in yeast is concerning. Price before the pandemic was several dollars lower.
BananasPer Pound$0.59$0.55$0.59$0.59
Kraft Real Mayo30 0z.$4.99/$3.79$4.99/$3.99$4.99/$3.79$5.29/$3.99Mayo is still on sale. However the jars were either at or past their Best Use date.
Meow Mix6.3 lbs.$7.78$7.78$7.78$8.22First increase in price for this product about 5%.
Morton Salt26 Oz.$1.19/$0.94$1.19/$0.99$1.19/$0.99$1.29/$0.99Increase in regular price.
Crest Pro Health Toothpaste4.6 Oz.$5.99/$4.99$5.49/$3.99$3.99/$3.49$3.99/$2.99The continued price decline makes one think there is a price subsidy at play.
Align Probiotics28 Count$26.58$26.58$26.58$26.58
Tide Botanical Rain Detergent92 Oz$11.97$11.97$11.97$11.97/$11.39Small Discount
Kerr Regular Mouth Canning Lids12 Count$3.18$2.88$2.88$3.38The big increase this quarter did not keep buyers away. Still completely sold out each time I check.
3M Ad. Allergy Furnace Filter1 Count$15.88$15.88$15.88$16.38An increase of 2.5%. Stock was low but not sold out.
Dunkin Donut Boston Cream1 Count$0.99$1.09$1.17$1.09Competition brought the price back down. New coffee shop in town.
Regular Unleaded Gasoline1 Gallon $2.36$2.79$2.79$2.79The local Pilot must have bought a year's worth of product- or else selling at a loss. Prices while travelling topped $3.50. We certainly fill up before leaving town.

October 2021 Wrap-Up in the Hobby Room

October is a transitional month. Outside temperatures can vary widely-even day to day. So, I spend some time in the hobby room. Currently, I have multiple projects going on. One quilt has been layered and is in a stand. At least one hour a day is spent hand quilting this Christmas gift.

Another gift is in the cutting/sewing stage. I did not include rotary cutting blades in the Inflation Check Challenge, but they seem to be a bit more expensive. Each new project usually needs a new blade, so I should have included these. Maybe next year.

A new great-nephew is arriving next February. His quilt is currently in the design stage. I am in a bit of a quandary with this one. I have a great backing piece, with one small problem. It is about ½ inch shorter than my design. So, I am working on the math.

My current plan was to have alternating blocks of a finished seven inch size. The center would be comprised of 16 of these blocks. I was planning on a six inch border. But, to incorporate the design into the border, I end up with seven inches per side. Somehow, somewhere, I will need to “cheat” either a seam allowance, or with the binding. The alternative is to use a boring border.

The final project is a cloth book. I bought the kit at the Alamosa Quilt Company travelling through there in August on the way to Santa Fe. I have been searching for kits like this for several years. The grandkids will love these!

Final Thoughts for the October 2021 Wrap-Up

An ongoing pandemic can be quite depressing. Viruses are pesky. Flus and colds appear every year. Severe consequences vary by type. Few people die from a cold, more from a flu. Covid-19 is more deadly than either. (I am really tired of seeing the 99.9% figure surviving Covid-19 on social media. That is far from true.)  But the novel coronavirus is far, far, less deadly than Ebola or the new virus I am watching- H5N6. Click here to read about this viral flu infection that kills about half of those who contract it.

Since I am not a microbiologist, I cannot offer any valid insight. But I can read and discern. And I can alert as I did back in January 2020.

We need to recognize our world is changing in many ways. Detrimental shifts need to be addressed. Beneficial changes celebrated. The future is uncertain. I intend to do what I can to add value to our world. Conservation is a good place to start. I learned when camping as a Girl Scout to leave the land better than before. What a good lesson for all people, places, and things!

 

 

 

 

Divisiveness and the Covid-19 Vaccine

An Opinion Piece

The growing divisiveness in the country (perhaps the world) is bothering me. Individuals have taken opposing sides on various key questions; vaccinations and other health issues, spending limits and other economic policies and last but certainly key-climate change and energy policies. Today I am focusing on the Covid-19 vaccine.

Personally, I think it is good to have opposing views. “Yes” men (and women) bother me. I have long been a fan of Hans Christian Anderson’s tale The Emperor’s New Clothes. But we need to remember RESPECT. Something in short supply.

Agree to Disagree

Lately, extremists are decrying the principle of agreeing to disagree. This is terrible. On so many levels. This idea of only one right is wrong and possibly dangerous. A good example can be found in the history of calculus. Both Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz developed principles of calculus-independently. The argument in the late 1600s centered on who should have the credit. As a result, British mathematics was hindered for almost a century. Click here for more of the story.

Just as there can be more than one right, more than one wrong can occur. I am sure each of you can relate to this concept. Unfortunately, two wrongs often create great divides in families and friendships.

So, how do we get past this period of divisiveness? Perhaps by reflecting on history and reading, or re-reading literature both current and classic.

Erasing History

A big concern of mine is erasing history. This is a touchy subject. But an important one. We can’t deny history. Nor should we. The Holocaust happened as did slavery and The Civil War. The flags flown by the Confederates and the Nazis are symbolic. When I see them I remember how horrific actions were. But, the reminder makes me want to not repeat the past. The statues across the country of various Southern and Northern military men also remind me of the divisiveness of the Civil War. I choose to remember. I believe if we erase the past and forget, we will repeat our mistakes.

Remembering history, or researching if not known is helpful. There was divisiveness during the Spanish Flu. Masks and isolation were the triggering points. Some towns literally shut themselves off from the world. (Click here for history.)

Vaccines are the current divider. The dissension is great. Neighbors are divided. Co-workers are divided. Political leaders are divided.

Pandemic Divisiveness

We are now edging close to the end of the second year in this pandemic. My guess is we have another year to go. I would like to be wrong-on the short side. We haven’t learned much in the last 100 years. And yet our knowledge has grown greatly.

The fear of the unknown is dividing us. Early adopters versus late adopters, risk takers versus the wait and see type.  The divisions are great. Fear of the unknown. But is there more? Does the education system come into play? What about our communication system? So much information is available via the Internet. Can the information be easily understood? And more importantly vetted! I think pre-prints need closer examination than what is being given by the various disseminators. This includes media on all levels; mainstream and back-channel.

But the media does not bear all the blame. We do as individuals. Where is our commonsense? Why can’t we discern the truth from the fake?

 

Late Adopter

I am a late adopter. I like to see things work. But I also know risks can have rewards. My daughters are proof of that. So, I am educated enough to seek good advice. When the vaccines first came out, I was reluctant to try the new mRNA type. Thus, I talked to my General Practitioner (GP), a doctor I have seen for decades. And I took his advice.

He gave good advice. I had no adverse reactions to either Moderna shot. Crowded places still worry me but I feel very comfortable spending time with family members also fully vaccinated. You only see a first crawl or step once! And I am traveling again.

But the pandemic is pushing our healthcare workers to their limits. It is not just long hours. A lack of respect is my biggest concern. The world needs to wake up to the reality of this pandemic. Mental illness is taking a big toll as well. Conspiracy theories abound regarding the vaccines. In at least one case, a sibling is accused of killing his brother-a health care worker. (Only click here if you need proof.) Over a vaccine. So very sad.

Big Brother

There is great division over mandated vaccines. I am a big believer in gray areas. Some people cannot and should not get vaccinated. Personally, I know two individuals that fall in this category. Their health needs preclude any vaccination.

I don’t believe the government needs to mandate vaccines. If private businesses, including health care facilities want to require certain vaccinations, I am okay with that policy. But non-complying employees need time to consider the ramifications. And to find another place to work.

My personal stance is to encourage vaccines. I think they make a positive difference in this world. For those who are non-risk takers and even later adopters than I am, non mRNA vaccines against Covid-19 are available.

Of course I am biased. Multiple family members died before the vaccines became available. Friends and acquaintances as well. My heart cringes each time a helicopter flies overhead. The hospital landing pad is nearby. This is not new. Flying people out is not something taken lightly. Unfortunately many have Covid-19.

Respect for Health Care Workers and Decision Makers

It is a tough time to be in charge. Decisions of utmost importance are being made on a daily basis. Not everyone is in agreement. Unfortunately, mutual respect is breaking down.

In my little part of the world, the hospital board has decided to mandate Covid-19 vaccines. As a patient from time to time, I respect this decision. This decision is not popular. Almost ten percent of the staff is unvaccinated. I do not know how many asked for exemptions, either medical or religious, but only one was granted. Perhaps this is too low a number.

Our community is divided. There have been letters to the editor and lots of donut shop talk. All is good as long as there is respect. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. I live in a county where the majority of citizens have not been vaccinated. Twelve percent of the population has tested positive for Covid-19. Even if there were no overlapping, we do not have herd immunity. Overlapping occurs.

Divisiveness-The End Result

Unfortunately, I see a long winter ahead for this rural area. One replete with divisiveness. I encourage anyone not vaccinated to talk to their primary health care doctor. If still not convinced to join the vaccinated, please practice other measures. Stay away from crowds. Limit the number of people in your circle of contacts. Wear a protective mask correctly. Protect yourself in the best way possible. This virus is real.

We need to all remember this: We are responsible for our own actions.

References and Reading Recommendations

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7264614/

https://www.denverpost.com/2020/03/29/pandemic-1918-spanish-flu-colorado-coronavirus/

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/jeffrey-burnham-killed-pharmacist-brother-covid-vaccine-shots-poisoning/

Books of Interest:

Brave New World- Aldous Huxley

1984- George Orwell

Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus that Caused it– Gina Kolata

The Great Influenza- John M. Barry

Breathtaking: The UK’s Human Story of Covid- Rachel Clarke

Populism: Before and After the Pandemic- Michael Burleigh

The Premonition: A Pandemic Story Book Review

The Premonition

The Premonition: A Pandemic Story by Michael Lewis is an indictment on America’s response to Covid-19. This non-fiction account is critical of various governmental entities. But the bigger takeaway is the hard work of many individuals. Their attempts to stop the spread were hampered by red tape.

Key Players

The Premonition is like a series of mini-biographies. The opening chapters focus on a school science project. Laura Glass, as a high school student, studied the social spread of pathogens. With the help of her father, Bob, a scientist at Sandia National Laboratories, a computer model was developed to predict outcomes. The experiment keyed on social distancing. (Fast forward to the crisis in 2020 and the computer model found a real-life application.)

Carter Mecher is another linchpin in The Pandemic narrative. Mecher’s biography is quite interesting. He was raised in a working class household. Nonetheless, he pursued a medical degree and shined in critical care situations. Eventually, he climbed the ranks of the Veteran’s Affairs as a troubleshooter of the program.

He was in this position in 2005 when then President Bush called for a national pandemic plan. Mecher along with Richard Hatchett became the principle authors of the plan. Furthermore, the two men with diverse personalities, remain close colleagues. We also learn Hatchett’s history.

2005 Pandemic Plan

Hatchett and Mecher discover the computer model developed by Glass. Then they incorporate major pieces of Laura Glass’ project into the plan. Vaccines were only a piece of the puzzle. Pathogens are spread in social settings. Since two of the largest places of socialization are schools and work settings, both were addressed. Next, the plan had to be sold to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC) and later to the American public.

Another key author of the national pandemic plan is Lisa Koonin , at the time with the CDC. But, her work on the document took place after hours. In the end, the CDC published its’ own work and the Hatchett and Mecher collaboration was published sans Koonin listed as an author. However, the two men gave direct praise to Koonin.

The Premonition

Charity Dean is the woman with the premonition, or more accurately premonitions. Her biography is the most compelling of the bunch. Lewis spends quite a bit of time detailing  her background. And with good reason. Dean is a force to be reckoned with. As is her devotion to public health.

In The Premonition, the State of California employed Dean. Her career spanned from the county level to the position of Assistant Director of the State Department of Public Health. The Premonition details the roadblocks Dean encountered. It is inferred that the pushback experienced during the early months of 2020 led to her new position in the private sector.

Indictments within The Premonition

Criticism of various governmental groups is a part of The Premonition. Neither political party escapes. Both the Trump White House and the Gavin Newsom California administration failed to recognize the talent and expertise available to them. But the most glaring failure of all belongs to the CDC.

Lewis traces the weakness of the CDC back to the Swine Flu debacle of the late 1970s. This is the point the agency lost its’ independence. Since then, politics has played a big part.

He also portrays the agency as a large bureaucracy unable or unwilling to make decisions. Instead, he suggests the CDC prefers to study and analyze problems. Not solve them.

Lewis is not all negative. His mini-biographies demonstrate that the country has many hard-working and brilliant scientists. He blames the pandemic response, or lack thereof, more on process than on people. I agree to a point.

Recommendation

I found a few things missing.

First of all, the lack of accurate statistics is not really mentioned. Lewis cites the U.S.A. as a country with four percent of the world’s population. But having more than twenty percent of the Covid-19 cases. I use the Johns Hopkins Covid Tracker for my data. These numbers do not match. Furthermore, an open society such as the United States will have a more accurate account (although not perfect) of cases. Numbers from communist countries should be taken with a large grain of salt. This leeriness of the presented data is particularly true considering the calculated death rate of the United States is in line with the world rate.

Secondly, Michael Lewis handled several governmental experts with kid gloves. Most notably, Dr. Anthony Fauci. Nothing was discussed about Fauci’s admitted lies to the American public concerning the airborne transmission of the virus and the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) especially masks. I see this as a failure on the author’s part.

Furthermore, I found the delay in recognizing Covid-19 as a concern. I first wrote about the coronavirus in January 2020. Only Charity Dean’s December 2019 premonition predates me.

Overall, the hours spent reading The Premonition were well spent. The individuals above are only a small representation of those highlighted in the book. All give hope for a better future. If you are not tired of the pandemic, this book provides information of interest.

March 2021 Wrap-Up

March 2021 provided much needed moisture here on the High Plains. The big snow event elsewhere came in the form of rain. Three days of precipitation. Then just a week later we had a quick, wet six inches of snow. All melted within 48 hours. All total, we received over three inches of moisture.

March 2021 In The Garden

Seedlings under grow lightsThe spring rains did not immediately turn into flowers. We still have the lagging effect of February’s brutal cold. The crocuses that can pop out of the ground by February 1, did not arrive until March 20th. And, the flowering trees have yet to make an appearance. So this Easter there will be an absence of color in the garden.

Several new fruit trees and bushes were planted, and a young sour cherry was transplanted. Of course, the weather was taken into consideration. A dream of having a greenhouse/garden house is becoming a reality. The cherry stood in the way but has adapted to its new spot in the yard.

The apple tree and plum tree have been protected from deer and rabbit. Plus, the raspberry is a dwarf and so will be a patio plant. More plantings will be done in the first half of April. This year may see a large amount of winterkill.

My grow light seedlings are coming along. The brassicas and leaf greens are in the process of hardening off. I have tentatively scheduled the transplanting for late next week. (After the mini heat wave which starts Easter Sunday.) Finally, the first of the asparagus have poked out of the ground. Soon, we will enjoy fresh garden grown veggies.

March 2021 In The Library

My reading goal of including more non-fiction is on track. Additionally, I am expanding the genres under the fiction category. Currently I am reading The Invisible Life of Addie Larue. Very interesting.

However, I am slacking off in the number of periodical articles perused.

Pandemic Thoughts

March 2021 certainly flew by faster than March 2020. It is hard to believe the pandemic is still ongoing. I did receive my first vaccination. There are no problems to report so far. I took the first vaccine available to me, Moderna. Time will tell if there will be any side effects, good or bad. Meanwhile, I am looking forward to seeing more family in the near future.

I am concerned by the many variants popping up throughout the world. My corner has returned to business as usual. Everything is open. For the most part masks are by choice. The exception is in healthcare areas. Perhaps we will be spared the variant strains. Starting Good Friday, anyone 16 or over may be eligible to receive a vaccination.

Inflation Check Challenge

The end of the first quarter is upon us. So our initial inflation check challenge is due. It is time to start filling the market basket formulated at the beginning of the year. Off the top, I know gasoline has skyrocketed. It will be interesting to see how other goods in the basket compare. Keep an eye out for the one-on-one comparison coming in late April.

 

 

 

 

Ten Lessons For A Post-Pandemic World Book Review

Ten Intriguing Lessons

Ten Lessons For A Post-Pandemic World by Fareed Zakaria is another library find for me. Obviously, the book is recently written. Much like The New Great Depression, the push to publish detracts from the author’s insights. Both writers and publishing houses are guilty. The Covid 19 pandemic is worthy of study. In depth study. Unfortunately, the publishing houses of the world fear a loss of interest in this topic. I believe they are wrong.

Well Organized Book

Ten Lessons For A Post-Pandemic World is well organized in its presentation. First, the ten chapters are bookended by an introduction and a summation. The lessons range from What Matters is Not the Quantity of Government but the Quality, to Life is Digital. Zakaria is left of center, but not an extremist. He presents his ideas in a logical manner. The writing is concise. And insightful.

Naturally, my favorite chapters  revolve around my topics of interest. And in some cases agreement. For example, Lesson Four- People Should Listen to the Experts—and Experts Should Listen to the People covers a topic I harp on frequently. My noggin nodded up and down while reading this portion. A key take; mutual respect seems to be missing in many parts of the world.

Agree To Disagree

However, I could not  agree with many parts of the book. Personally, I believe the differences stem from locale. New York City is central to the author. But, I live in a very rural part of the country. Remote too. Since moving here three decades ago, I gained new insight. Rural life is a vast change from living in major cities. So, I now have a rural perspective. Yet, I still recall life in a big city.

One of the key ideas put forth by Zakaria revolves around urbanization. He sees a push globally for continued urbanization. Yet, he also sees a natural limit to population living in the cities. That natural limit is close to 90%. Ten Lessons For A Post-Pandemic World supports a city-centered world. Thus, he posits the pandemic inspired “work from home” will be short-lived. I disagree.

Zakaria cites Aristotle often in Lesson Six, including the great philosopher in the title, Aristotle Was Right –We Are Social Animals. Yet, I believe the workplace will see some of the greatest changes post-pandemic. Again, my perspective is different. Young people are returning to the small towns dotting the High Plains in numbers not seen in over a generation. Covid-19 has accelerated this.  I hope Zakaria can agree to disagree.

Furthermore, education will be changed. Remote learning will replace snow days. Online and hybrid teaching will gain traction. These and other alternative instruction models will keep any future educational shutdowns at bay. Thus, the pandemic work-arounds will remain an option.

Ten Lessons For A Post-Pandemic World

I found the book interesting. There are a few shortcomings. For example, the lack of widespread Covid-19 outbreak among the American homeless population was not addressed. Perhaps not enough space, or perhaps because this oddity is counter to one of the theories.

Another concern arises from the treatment of China and the U.S.A. in the lesson, The World is Becoming Bipolar. Perhaps it is misplaced patriotism on my part, but I felt this chapter was unequal. Furthermore, the premise leaves out both the EU and Russia. Economically neither may be on par with China and America, but both greatly impact the world. As do many other nations.

The publication of the book prior to the end of the pandemic impacts the analysis. For example, the vaccine rollout turns the analysis upside down. Countries lauded for their early action are lagging in vaccinating their populace. Other nations, stumbling at first, are now leading in the eradication of the virus. Thus, another reason for writers and publishers to either update publications, or better yet not rush to publish.

Recommendations

Fareed Zakaria is an accomplished writer. Ten Lessons For A Post-Pandemic World is well written and documented. I liked both the literary and historical references throughout. Readers interested in current topics will appreciate the book.

Politically, the writing is left of center. Those on the far right may not appreciate some of the writing. Neither will readers identifying with the far left. For the rest of us, there is merit to be found. I hope there are many of “the rest of us.” A divisiveness in culture is blamed for many of the pandemic failures. I concur.

Anyone tuning into major networks will recognize Zakaria.  His ideas are interesting. Even though studying in New Haven had an opposite impact (I became more conservative, Zakaria more liberal) I encourage the reading of his work. Regardless of ones political leanings, there is much to ponder. This latest best seller is available on audio as well as in print.

American Nations Book Review

American Nations: A History of The Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard is a thorough history of political and cultural divisions. Family members highly recommended the book. I concur. This account of the area from Northern Mexico to the North Pole is thought provoking, detailed and a bit unsettling. American Nations is well researched and annotated.

The information may provoke differing reactions. The described nations are easily identified, even today. So, readers from rival regions may not agree on the implications. Indeed, I believe readers will not agree. Thus, the book is ideal for book clubs and college classrooms.

Furthermore, Woodard offers great insight into recent events. The responses to the pandemic mirror the philosophies of the American Nations. Even more telling is the reaction to the 2020 Presidential Election.

Well worn cover of the book American Nations
The wear and tear of the cover is indicative of the many readers.

American Nations Part One

Four sections comprise the book. In Part One, Woodard concentrates on the historical details behind the settlement of North America. First, is the Spanish establishment of the nation “El Norte.” The founding of “New France” follows. Subsequent nations established during colonial times are “Tidewater” and “Yankeedom.”  Englishman settled both.

“New Netherland,” now the New York City area, formed shortly thereafter. The Dutch brought their own ideals to the new land. These beliefs created the diverse culture of  today’s inhabitants. But the unique culture clashed with the other nations throughout history.

Barbados citizens of English descendant shaped the “Deep South.” These men sought to copy the island’s slave based society. The last two nations to develop during this time period are labeled “Midlands” and “Greater Appalachia.” The inhabitants of the latter are referred to as Borderlanders. Both groups retain initial traits.

The author distinguishes between the nations. The explorers  and settlers of North America pursued different goals. Each region developed independently. Thus, divergent entities arose. Those distinctions remain today. Woodard is excellent in his presentation of conflicting ideals. And he provides implications for current events.

American Nations Part Two

Woodard uses the second part to explain alternating alignments of the various nations. The various wars from 1770 to 1815 reflected divergent goals. Sides changed often. So, the unification against the British:

….was a profoundly conservative action fought by a loose military alliance of nations, each of which was most concerned with preserving or reasserting control of its respective culture, character, and power structure. (p. 115)

As the shortest of the sections, Part Two offers much insight into the differences between the many regional divisions. Indeed, this portion reminds one of the difficulties in founding the United States of America. Furthermore, in light of the history presented, the continued struggles among the founding nations are not surprising. The greatest divisions align along political and religious beliefs. Moral compasses differ creating a divided people.

Part Three: Wars for The West

The third section of American Nations demonstrates the bellicosity of the various nations. Competing interests sought to populate the vast regions of North America. Tensions were high even before the outbreak of the Civil War. Yankeedom and its’ coalition tried to impose their beliefs on newcomers. Meanwhile, the Deep South and its’ allies desired control over large swaths of unsettled territory. Both nations tried to influence El Norte and The West. Both feared a dilution of power.

Woodard clearly indicates disdain for the ideals of the Deep South. It is clear he has no sympathy for the slave owners.  The faults of the other nations are also discussed. This section is well documented with sources and paints an accurate picture of divisiveness.

Part Four: Culture Wars

The last section of the book spans over a hundred years. Woodard does an outstanding job of explaining how and why the original nations evolved. Furthermore, he outlines the switch in the make-up of the two major political parties. In his discussion of Blue, Red and Purple Nations, Woodard explains how the party of Lincoln is now central to the Deep South. Once again, the information is well researched. And well presented.

Part Four also describes the start of the guest worker program. One of the many military involvements overseas left El Norte with a labor shortage. Implications of this program remain. Indeed, the resurgence of El Norte influenced the most recent elections.

Additionally, the author offers insight into the love/hate relationship between the Far West and the federal government. Internal conflicts are a reflection of independent-minded people dependent on governmental spending. Geography plays an important part.

The current status of New France is discussed as well. Woodard points out the divisions found within Canada. Then, he differentiates between the two countries. He posits the original nations reached a compromise in Canada. Further, Woodard puts forth a similar status is unlikely to occur within the U.S.A.

Finally, he introduces the “First Nation.” The author highlights the communal nature of the original inhabitants. He credits their diversity in leadership. Finally he issues kudos on their environmental stand.

Conclusions Drawn

2011 marked the publication of American Nations. Time marches on. The insight into the presidents of the 20th and 21st centuries is excellent. As is the analysis of the “Nations” influences today. But, the Obama era is the last discussed. Conflict among the nations is accelerating. North America is changing.

In his Epilogue, Woodard is eerily prescient:

Another outside possibility is that, faced with a major crisis, the federation’s leaders will betray their oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution, the primary adhesive holding the union together. In the midst of, say, a deadly pandemic outbreak or the destruction of several cities by terrorists, a fearful public might condone the suspension of civil rights, the dissolution of Congress, or the incarceration of Supreme Court justices. (p. 317)

Woodard posits the break up of the federation of “Nations.” And possible realignments. He sees a changed future for North America.

I might have dismissed the author’s ideas as farfetched before 2020. However, after witnessing the disparate approach to the Covid-19 pandemic followed by the events of January 6, 2021, Woodard’s assessments are more realistic. But not palatable. Nor wanted. Indeed, his analysis causes concern.

I highly recommend American Nations. The book is not an easy read. But, the information is well researched. History fans will appreciate this book. So, too will those seeking a better understanding of the conflicts within North America’s shores. Lastly, the events of January 2021 demand a reading. Buy a copy today. Then consider reading Colin Woodard’s most recent book. Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood is now available.