Tag: COVID-19

Brave New World

It’s a Brave New World out there. For those looking for a review of the classic novel by Aldous Huxley, this isn’t a critique. But you might, just might, find my ramblings interesting. The technological revolution is profound, exciting and more than a little bit concerning. Quite the dichotomy, but not surprising in the year 2020.

Brave New World of Science

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought out the worst in some people. The Great Mask Debate and the Virus Hoaxers continue weeks after Election 2020 when the illness was magically scheduled to disappear. Unfortunately, in my part of the world the virus is spreading like wildfire.

On the bright side, across the world scientists are working to find both effective treatments as well as a vaccine. Perhaps with the passage of time the efforts will appear concerted. But at present, the work reminds me of the Race to the Moon.

Two of the vaccines closest to distribution are using a new technology. Instead of using the virus itself to develop immunity, the vaccines are taking a genetic approach. Ironically, I first wrote about CRISPR in my review of Robin Cook’s Pandemic back in February 2019. This cutting edge technology is currently treating genetic defects such as Cystic Fibrosis (CF).

Scientists responding to the Covid-19 crisis have taken two approaches. The tried and true use of either small amounts of live virus or the mRNA genetic approach linked to the CRISPR technology. Small groups such as individuals with CF have been treated with medicines based on this bioscience for about a year. There are known side effects. But the individual I personally know taking treatment based on this new science has so greatly benefitted by improved health, he has no qualms about a vaccine developed using similar techniques.

Ethical Questions

Genetics has elicited ethical questions throughout the years. Both those who lived through the era of World War II and those who studied the history are familiar with Hitler’s desire to create a master race. The Holocaust must never be forgotten.

Fortunately genetic sequencing was not possible in the 1930s. It is now. If a Covid-19 vaccine using mRNA is a success we will have embarked on a path for a brave new world. The possibilities for good may be endless. But the same is true for evil.

Key Questions for a Brave New World

Aside from moral questions, the biotech revolution raises a host of questions. How are new products tested and regulated? What is the cost of development? How are the costs recouped? Will drugs be affordable? Who makes sure only “good” or beneficial drugs are created?

Of course those are just the tip of the iceberg. In the case of Covid-19, millions, nay billions of individuals will benefit from a vaccine. So who is first in line? Again, who pays? Lots of old adages come to mind. Money doesn’t grow on trees. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Those apply. There is a cost to be born, yet obviously the ability to pay varies. Perhaps in the end all questions are truly moral in scope.

Science is truly not my strong suit. So I am sharing some of the many articles I have been reading. I am a late adopter. But I am related to many early adopters as well as trend setters. I hope Covid-19 is but the latest in a long line of once in a hundred year pandemics. Once in a lifetime is plenty!

https://www.brinknews.com/crispr-and-the-fight-against-covid-19/

https://www.wired.com/story/why-its-a-big-deal-if-the-first-covid-vaccine-is-genetic/

https://innovativegenomics.org/projects/crispr-based-dna-vaccine-enhancer-covid-19/

https://www.scmp.com/business/article/3088568/explainer-who-are-global-competition-develop-coronavirus-vaccine?src=covid_home_faq

https://www.scmp.com/presented/news/hong-kong/education/topics/research-excellence/article/3109497/cityu-develops-anti

Thanksgiving 2020

Thanksgiving 2020 will be a different kind of celebration for many. The fifty states are varied both in their Covid-19 outbreak data as well as their approach to the pandemic. As numbers increase, new guidelines as well as rules and regulations are issued. Not only do local, regional and state governments differ with enforcement, individuals also differ with compliance levels. Hopefully common sense will prevail.

 

These turkeys freely wander around Central Florida subdivisions.

Turkey with feathers spread for Thanksgiving 2020

Importance of Thanksgiving to Americans

Like the many Thanksgivings before it, Thanksgiving 2020 is one of the most important holidays in American culture rivaled only by the 4th of July. Perhaps this holiday is so special because of the long history.

Traditionally, the Thanksgiving observed by the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock is acknowledged as the first occurrence of the celebration. However, a few other “thanksgivings” predate the above mentioned gatherings. Click here to read about Florida’s claim to the first Thanksgiving.

Regardless of the date and location of the first feast, the tradition and November time frame was officially decreed by George Washington, the United States of America’s first president.

Thanksgiving Timing

Although the fourth Thursday in November was not settled on for many years, the day of the week has remained the same. I am unaware if there is a rhyme or reason for holding the celebration on a Thursday. But the changing to the fourth Thursday is directly related to commerce.

Abraham Lincoln choose the last Thursday and for the most part this was followed for decades (President Grant was one exception.) But in part to stimulate spending at the end of the Great Depression, President Roosevelt moved the official date to the fourth Thursday of the month. So Thanksgiving 2020 will be on the 26th which is both the last and the fourth Thursday.

This designation keeps the date from ever occurring on either the 29th or 30th of the month. And creates more opportunity to shop for Christmas. One wonders if FDR knew he was creating a monster in the form of Black Friday.

Thanksgiving 2020

Plenty of accounts exist reflecting on Thanksgiving 1918. The Spanish Flu pandemic coursed through the country much like our current Covid-19 pandemic. Researching and reviewing the outcomes in 1918 may make it easier to decide how to celebrate Thanksgiving 2020.

The federalist system of governing in the United States of America is reflected by the varied guidelines and mandates across the country. Enforcement will also differ. For example, fines and jail time have been decreed in the state of Oregon for violating the strict Thanksgiving dinner guidelines of no more than six people joining together. Contrast that with the state of Florida where there are no limitations on gatherings and nursing home residents are allowed to partake in family dinners off-grounds.

So, once again common sense is called for. Before finalizing any travel plans, look at positivity rates. Is there a surge or a cluster of cases at the destination? Or in the areas where individuals are traveling from?

What are the demographics of the celebrants? Sibling millennials should fare better than sibling baby boomers. Multi-generational gatherings in numbers greater than ten would make me uncomfortable. And not just for Thanksgiving 2020 because Christmas 2020 is just around the corner.

We are still undecided about our own plans. None of our millennial offspring are returning home. Our positivity rate is sky high. But we may take a meal to one of the octogenarians in the family. The key is to reduce the spread by keeping as isolated as possible while not ignoring the needs of others.

Happy Thanksgiving to All

Even though we are in the midst of the pandemic, we need to remember to share Thanksgiving Thankfulness. This may be difficult for those who have lost one or more loved ones this year. My suggestion for countering the gloominess is to look to nature.

The Leonid meteor shower is one such example. I spotted almost a dozen streaks of light in twenty minutes earlier this week. The experience was uplifting. And waking up at 4 A.M. was doable.

But there are others. For those of you living on the coast, consider a walk on the beach. Mountain hikes may be difficult in snowy areas, but there is little to compare to the beauty of fresh snow. We need to give thanks for our natural world.

The people in our life bring great joy as well as significant sorrow upon loss. Reflect upon your loved ones this week even as normal celebrations fall by the wayside. I plan to Zoom with my parents and my kids. Maybe next year we can all be together.

Group of turkeys Thanksgiving 2020

Patience with a Side of Self-Discipline

Practicing patience with a side of self-discipline is much needed these days. For Americans, a double helping is called for due to the as yet uncalled Presidential election. But, across the globe, the pandemic still reigns and all of us need to exercise both.

Patience is a virtue. Our busy lives do not lend themselves to this particular quality. 24/7 news, cell phones, the Internet and even fast food restaurants provide instant gratification with no need for patience. Unfortunately a lack of patience can lead to non-virtuous behavior.

The loss of patience manifests in the inability to practice self-control or display self-discipline. Patience is difficult to teach. Just ask any mother of a young child. But patience and self-discipline are critical at this moment in time. The waning months of 2020 look to be a challenge on several fronts.

Election Results

Citizens of the United States as of this writing still are unsure of which candidate won the election. There may be recounts and challenges. Yet, there will be an inauguration in January. We just need to exhibit patience with a side of self-discipline while awaiting results.

In my corner of the country this is occurring. No riots or demonstrations have occurred. Neighbors supporting opposing parties are still neighborly. Indeed, a greater concern is Covid-19.

Pandemic Continues

Unfortunately my small town reflects much of rural America. We are currently experience a large outbreak of the coronavirus. And worse, patience with a side of self-discipline is not evident. Twelve fellow citizens out of 240 confirmed cases have died. Yet, I see less caution now than last spring. We have grown weary of the pandemic. But Covid-19 did not magically disappear after the election.

We really need to practice the ideal discussed in the May 2020 Wrap-Up. People, Place, Time and Space will get us through this one hundred year viral outbreak. Limit the number of individuals you meet with; meet either outside or in large indoor spaces; shorter time periods and greater amounts of space between individuals make it hard to transmit the virus.

Patience with a Side of Self-Discipline

Two major holidays are just around the corner. Thanksgiving and Christmas are both loved and revered in this household. But much like Easter, I think plans will need to alter. Spreading the virus in a large family gathering is a recipe for disaster.

We need to practice patience with regard to Covid-19. Time will allow for better treatments and hopefully a vaccine. But it will take a healthy side of self-discipline during the waiting period. Our current outbreak has been exacerbated by family gatherings. Holiday office parties are on the horizon. Maybe this is the year to take the money spent on these gatherings and distribute as a bonus. Quite possibly the extra income could come in handy.

We need to understand Covid-19 affects people in different ways. Many individuals will fight off the virus easily, but up to twenty percent will have a more difficult time and/or have long-lasting complications. I prefer to use the CFR (Case Fatality Rate) when looking at Covid-19. The November 2020 edition of the International Journal of Infectious Diseases has an excellent article covering Covid-19 CFR on pages 302-308. Click here for direct access. As the article points out, the CFR varies from country to country. Just as responses to the pandemic have varied. At this point in time it looks like the CFR is dropping worldwide. A good thing.

Unfortunately my little hamlet is well above the world average with respect to CFR. Our five percent rate is scary. Patience with a side of self-discipline is much needed here. Maybe now that the divisive campaigning is over, we can practice the self-control needed to bring down the CFR.

October 2020 Wrap-Up

My October 2020 was certainly busy, but not as stressful as October 2019. I spent quite a bit of time in the garden before the snows finally came. But now that the seasons have made their hand-off I am re-focusing on indoor hobbies. Political events are taking center stage and Covid-19 is ever present so I expect the month of November to be action packed.

In the Library

Only two reviews were released this month. One was non-fiction-The Day It Finally Happens and the other, Near Dark by Brad Thor was reviewed earlier this week. These were not the only books read. You can expect a review of Catherine Coulter’s newest FBI series next week. However, I actually encountered two unpalatable books this month. Neither were finished. Fortunately, one was checked out from the public library and the other on Libby, so money was not wasted.

It isn’t often I encounter a book I just don’t like and two in a month, nay two in a year is unheard of. Looking on the bright side, odds are it will be quite some time before I stumble upon another. Perhaps, the negative political advertisements have permeated everything-even enjoyment in reading. Or, maybe the books were just bad.

October 2020 In the Garden

The Big Garden is ready for winter. Hoops over the rosemary and artichoke have worked so far. The basil just beyond the rosemary did not survive. Nor did I expect it to. A greenhouse is still in the dream stage. But, the Swiss chard and the brassicas are good-for now.

New straw and compost were spread along the rows of the garden. While I may still pop some garlic gloves in the root row, the rest will lay fallow until late winter. The Raised Row system has eliminated rototilling and I have been reluctant to put in a cover crop over the winter.

I did receive a query this October 2020 on how hard a raised row system would be for senior citizens. I wish to share my response with all of you. Setting up the garden is strenuous. Depending on individual fitness, the implementation may require the aid of a younger body. But the reason I love my big garden so much is the weed control. I have few weeds to pull in the rows-both growing and walking. Indeed the only weeds are along the outer edges. Crabgrass and bindweed try to sneak underneath the metal perimeter.

So, if you are a senior citizen and can get help starting a raised row garden, I highly recommend one. The main caveat would be nimbleness. If you no longer are able to easily get up and down due to flexibility issues, raised boxes may be a better answer. Bodies-and minds- age at different rates.

A few strands of wheat came up volunteer this past summer. Even though it is late I may take those gathered seed heads and plant in one of the boxes as an experiment. Less than half-a-dozen heads were gathered. Otherwise, the garden is at rest until February.

October 2020 In The Kitchen

Lots of goodies were processed in the kitchen this October 2020. Many of the recipes such as Green Tomato Relish have been shared in earlier years. This relish is a favorite. Click here for the recipe. And I still have a bucket full of tomatoes in the garage slowly turning red.

The baking season is about to begin. I am fine tuning another biscuit recipe. Unlike the Hearty Wheat Buttermilk Recipe posted last spring, these are light and fluffy. Delicious, but probably not as healthy.

Of course, Halloween is a holiday. Holidays call for rolled sugar cookies and themed cookie cutters. I am glad a few little ones live near enough to indulge my need to celebrate holidays in this fashion. Otherwise I would indeed turn into a Cookie Monster complete with an extra pound or two.

I do not plan to hand out candy tonight. Instead, I packaged some goodies and walked around to the neighboring kids. I think the Covid-19 outbreak will impact the festivities.

Hobbies

Indoor activities will now come to the forefront. This past week featured hand-quilting of one baby quilt, finalized piecing and layering for another, and early color selection for a third. The family is expecting another little one in late February.

The wet snowy days do not lend themselves to hand quilting. I am finally experiencing a touch of arthritis in my right hand. Since both my mother and maternal grandmother have/had problems this was not unexpected. I am just happy the problem held off so long. Perhaps I will invest in a long arm quilting machine if the condition deteriorates quickly.

Covid-19 Pandemic

My little corner of the world had a rude awakening this month. The number of Covid-19 cases doubled in just over a week. We also registered our first deaths. Yes, plural. Unfortunately we still have low compliance. In addition to anti-maskers and hoaxers, we have an unwillingness to social distance.

Rural areas are experiencing what happened in the cities last spring. We have fewer people and much less resources. Many counties only have one hospital and critical care cases are flown out-weather permitting- to the large cities. It may get quite ugly.

We were behind Europe by 3-4 weeks in the spring. If this holds true, I expect Thanksgiving, a very dear holiday to Americans, to be quite bleak. Shut downs may occur again. And people will probably ignore common sense. We are trying to be optimistic, but I doubt Thanksgiving will be normal.

United States of America Elections 2020

I have been fairly quiet with respect to elections. Partly from the influence of my paternal grandfather. He had some quirky beliefs. One was that a young woman should only appear in print three times; at birth, upon marriage, and at death. Another ideal was to never discuss religion or politics at the dinner table.

So far, I have tried to stay within that parameter. That is not to say I have not discussed the elections. Instead, my intent is to get everyone to vote. Even if the individual may have opposite views. I am encouraged by the early voting turnout. I may end up in the minority on some candidates and issues, but I feel like the 2020 election year will be representative of our populace.

Furthermore, I am confident that our elected officials overseeing the vote are accountable and will give us honest results. Our county clerk lives in my neighborhood and her character is outstanding. We need to remember everything begins at the local level. If you can trust your local officials, then that belief can be transferred up the line. And if you can’t- then you have the duty to vote out the local representatives.

I have put together a slideshow for October 2020. This is a transitional month between seasons. Perhaps that is what makes October a favorite time of year. Enjoy.

Breast Cancer Awareness

Breast Cancer Ribbon
Not for Women Only

Just one short year ago, I sat in a surgical waiting room waiting for the results from my Dad’s operation to determine if he had breast cancer. Now we are in the middle of a pandemic-what a difference a year can make! October is still Breast Cancer Awareness month but I have seen very little on the topic. Last year, everywhere I turned a media outlet was reporting on signs, symptoms and treatments. Breast Cancer is still a problem for many.

Symptoms of Breast Cancer

My Dad felt a lump on his breast while in the shower. Lumps are one of the key symptoms according to the CDC website. Unfortunately, men do not routinely have mammograms. These diagnostic tests can detect cancerous cells at an early stage. The survival rate for breast cancer, and indeed most if not all cancers, increases when caught early on.

Other symptoms include pain in the breast, unusual discharge from the nipple including a bloody discharge, and change to the size or shape of the breast. Irritation of the skin, including redness or flakiness is also a sign. In my opinion, the best websites to consult for symptoms to include the aforementioned CDC ,are the WebMD Breast Cancer Health Center and the MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Breast Cancer is a complex illness. I do not have the knowledge to be truly informative. If you or a loved one have any concerns about breast cancer, I urge you to click on the above websites. Then, if you have not sought out care from a medical provider-make an appointment TODAY.

Even though my Dad’s cancer had spread to a lymph node, his prognosis is positive, in part for not taking a wait and see approach. I am a firm believer that individuals need to be pro-active in regards to health concerns. Don’t wait to get examined and don’t wait too long for results. Especially during this pandemic.

 Organizations to Support

There are many organizations raising funds on behalf of breast cancer research as well as in support of individuals fighting this disease. The Susan G. Komen may be one of the best known. However, my favorites are the American Cancer Society and the Shantel Lanerie Foundation. Just click on the highlighted names to view their websites.

The year 2020 has been a difficult one. The CARES Act includes a provision to help non-profits. Charitable donations on both the corporate and individual levels now result in a greater tax benefit for the donor. Click here to read a brief report from AFP Global or consult your tax accountant.

Many families are struggling to make ends meet due to decreased income amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. Obviously, feeding the family and paying bills comes first. But those who can give should consider an increase in their donations.

2020 has been a difficult year. However, breast cancer does not take a break. Remember to perform your monthly self-checks. Don’t put off your annual mammogram and check-up. Last, but not least, if you are in a position to give, donate freely.

 

August 2020 Wrap-Up

Wrap-Ups can be hard posts to put together and the August 2020 piece is no exception. In addition to the bucolic happenings in my rural part of the world, many events of note are occurring elsewhere. Unfortunately, the news from outside my hamlet is both disturbing and distressing.

Civil Unrest

Most significant from my point of view is the continuation of violence in American cities. Perhaps readers living outside of the United States see the civil unrest as more of the same. But my perception is different.

Some of my earliest memories arise from the year 1968. A year in American history marked by assassinations and protests. The issue of civil rights for African Americans played a significant part of the unrest in 1968 and is a key component to 2020 protests. Additionally, young people in 1968 as in 2020, formed the heart of the disruption. The Vietnam War also played an important part in the history of 1968. The prevailing uncertainty of 2020 is the Covid-19 pandemic.

Both years also share the aspect of a Presidential election.

However, in my mind the unrest is different in this year of perfect hindsight. The divisiveness is uncivil. Finger pointing and name calling have given way to bricks, Molotov cocktails and most upsetting, bullets. It seems to be Blue Lives Matter versus Black Lives Matter. And God help you if you try to insert All Lives Matter. Those three words are akin to the kiss of death. Just ask Hillary Clinton.

Political pundits and others claim outside influences. Multiple countries have been stipulated. This concept dates back to the cold war. Author Helen MacInnis posited this type of psy-ops in many of her books. This is a theory bandied about but to date no solid proof.

Covid-19

The pandemic continues. Much like an ocean tide its’ intensity ebbs and flows across the globe. An area or country is thought to be past the danger when new infections pop up. As of yesterday there are 8 confirmed cases of re-infection. I fear we are far from the end of this virus.

Covid-19 has also caused conflict, and not just here in the United States of America. Mask or no mask, closed borders, restricted travel, herd immunity or flattening the curve, each approach finds opposition among the populace. Each individual must weigh the risks because collectively most nations have failed to balance the health danger with economic collapse. The end result is a failure of both.

Furthermore, the rush to find a cure is problematic. First is the shortened time period and reduced number of trial participants in order to put a vaccine on the market. This leads to the second problem of public skepticism.

In authoritarian run countries, the citizens will not have a choice. The vaccine will be required. In places where individual freedoms are core to the culture, the government(s) must convince the public that the vaccine is safe. This will not be an easy task in countries such as the U.S.A. where the response has been ambiguous at best and disastrous in some states and localities.

Financial Crisis

A distant third in the list of national and global concerns is the financial crisis. The debt levels in the United States are spiraling upward as can be seen in the debt clock by clicking here.

Perhaps more concerning to those with an economic background is the changing role of the Federal Reserve. In the past, the primary role of the Federal Reserve has been addressing inflation and unemployment through monetary policy. This is no longer the case.

Perhaps due to the political climate in Washington, D.C. the role of the Federal Reserve is evolving. An excellent discussion of this change is in the latest newsletter from Allison Schrager. Click here to access her website and sign up for her newsletters. Or click here to read my review of An Economist Walks into a Brothel.

August 2020 for Econogal

August 2020 contained many days of triple digit temperatures. Yet the garden kept producing vegetables. I was able to read quite a few books, scientific papers and blogs. In addition to working on quilts, masks were made as it seems we will be wearing them for a bit longer.

August 2020 In the Garden

The garden continues to produce much of our fresh produce. Green beans, eggplant, Swiss chard, cucumbers, beets, onions and tomatoes made regular appearances at the dinner table. On occasion, enough ripened simultaneously to preserve.

The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving is a life saver for a home gardener. I do not have space for multiple rows of tomatoes or cucumbers, for example, and it is nice to put a small amount up at a time. This winter we will enjoy opening the garden bounty as well as sharing s Christmas gifts.

I spent a few hours picking grapes at the home of a relative. My own grapes are not yet ripe due to a late freeze. I love grape jelly. However, it has been a bit difficult finding the low sugar pectin. So the full sugar recipe was also utilized.

Visitors to the garden were beneficial insects, bees and spiders. So far, no orb spiders with their distinctive web. But spiders are welcome additions to the garden. I just need to remember where the webs are.

I also had human visitors to the garden. Three family youngsters brought me honey and sand hill plum jelly. I sent them home with enough Swiss chard to make Swiss chard with Raisins and Almonds. As they left, air hugs were exchanged. Such is life during a pandemic.

August 2020 In the Library

I read a variety of novels this month and reviewed the best of them. This month I concentrated on books that were either uplifting or offered escape. Sometimes you need a mental break from the difficulties of life. A balance of entertainment keeps one grounded and ready to face life’s tasks.

Non-fiction continues to be a struggle. Perhaps the scientific and business articles I am reading need an offset of light hearted fiction. Plus, my reading is predominantly from Libby or Kindle. I have yet to make an appointment to browse at my library. A requirement now that Covid-19 is making the rounds of our small community. Nor have I had the pleasure of wandering around a book store. Usually these two places are my sources for non-fiction.

August 2020 In the Kitchen

We continue to create new dishes in the kitchen using fresh produce from the garden. However, I am glad Econogal is eclectic versus solely based on food. I either forget to take pictures, or take pictures and forget to write down the recipe. So you can guess what will feature in next year’s resolutions.

Hobbies

I am so glad I learned to sew many years ago. The quilting offers inspiration. I love working with colors.

But the ability to make my own masks is wonderful. I do not like the elastic around my ears. Nor could I find any until just recently. So my masks have ties. Plus, I can color co-ordinate masks to my outfits. Many sacrifices need to be made with regards to the pandemic, but fashion doesn’t need to be one!

July 2020 Wrap-Up

July 2020 Wrap-Up

In these pandemic times each month stretches into a year and July 2020 is no exception. Our little corner of the world tripled in virus cases this month. Yet we have only had one new case in the last ten days. This is a good example of how the disease spreads- in fits and starts.

I struggled with my emotions a bit in July 2020. I live in a rural area and many still feel like the virus is unreal, even a hoax to an extent. So, I isolated as much as possible. And I kept my spread sheet current. I am tracking daily new cases in counties of interest to me. My hope is the numbers will help me evaluate the risk of certain actions.

Travel

The only travel outside of my county in months was the quick trip to Vail Valley over the weekend of the 4th of July. Click here to read how we mitigated our risk. It has been almost a month since our risky celebration. No ill effects so far.

As those who follow me know, I like to travel. So, this pandemic is really curbing my style! It has been interesting to hear from others that also are afflicted with wanderlust. Cautionary tales of planning as well as the willingness to call an audible are emerging. In the end it boils down to risk averseness. Each individual needs to understand the risk/benefit ratio.

Staying away from hot spots and following health protocols diminish the risk, but the danger from Covid-19 remains. Thus I am still aiming to strike a balance.

Weather Anomalies At Work

For decades the weather pattern in my part of the world has been one of rains in April, May and June. The 4th of July usually marked the end of the moisture and the beginning of triple digit heat and winds close to tropical force levels. But July 2020 is following the pattern seen more recently.

The wind and heat were abundant in June with a much lower rainfall mount than “average” but this last week in July 2020 has brought monsoon type rains and pleasant temperatures. Last night we enjoyed our backyard fountains and fireplace. No wind and cool, but not cold temperatures. The forecast for the next ten days is similar.

I hope these daily temperatures continue. The garden thrived on the over two inches of rain this week. My tomatoes struggle with triple digit temperatures too. So the respite is welcome.

My canning chores have begun. Beets and cucumbers have been pickled and a batch of mixed fruit jam made. Grape harvest is not much more than a week out. Plenty to keep me busy as we begin the last full month of summer.

The homegrown veggies are a staple of our evening meals. Eggplant and Swiss chard comprise a major part of the current menu. The peas are about done but the beans are starting to take their place. If you don’t currently have a garden, consider planning one for the next growing season. Now is a good time to finalize the fall crops. Kale, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower are among the crops I have begun for a fall garden.

July 2020 Reading

I continue to borrow books from Libby, the library app. We have also bought some to read through Kindle. I have a backlog of reviews. My feedback from loyal readers is that two posts a week with an occasional third is just about right. So my blog has been a little off in the timing this month with some reviews posted on days other than Friday.

I did read a children’s book explaining the coronavirus published back in April. So much has been learned since then. I also continue to read research papers from across the world. I truly appreciate Google translate, this tool allows me to read in my native language.

Looking Forward

August will be spent working in the garden, quilting, reading and enjoying my corner of the world. I have two places to keep track of for possible trips in September. Striking a balance remains important. I do not envy the local elective officials and their task to decide the best way to keep educating our young.

Enjoy the pictures and stay safe from this virus everyone!

Volunteer Garlic Bunch
Volunteer Garlic-Hardneck Variety
Flower among a Planting of tomato
A gladiola growing alongside a tomato.
Tray of drying basil
Drying Basil
Fire glowing in outdoor fireplace
Our back patio retreat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acrylic painting landscape view from car window
An acrylic painting titled Getting an Early Start

Vail Valley Escape

Last week we escaped the triple digit heat with a retreat into Vail Valley of the Colorado Mountains. We did as much as we could to mitigate the chances of catching Covid-19. Only time will tell if we were successful. But it was a much needed break from the past few months.

Vail Valley House Rental

There were several pieces to our mitigation strategy. First, we rented a house from Gore Creek Properties. This actually turned out to be an economical decision as well. Because we had four generations, we would have needed three motel rooms. Our rental price was about half of the motel cost.

Perhaps the owners had the three story home backing onto Gore Creek priced at a discount since the Vail Valley area had just re-opened days before. Or, the cost was lower because the location was in East Vail. Whatever the reason, we benefited.

The house itself dated to about the 1980s. Since there were three levels, the generations each had their own floor. (The fourth generation having recently reached the ripe old age of one, had to share with her parents!) I believe this spacing along with the multiple outdoor spaces offered many beneficial health benefits: Both physical and mental.

Packing In and Out

A second piece of our strategy was packing in our food. Four coolers of food sustained us through the stay. It helped to have both a spacious kitchen and an outdoor grill. Of course cultural differences popped up. As “Westerners” our bar-b-que night consisted of burgers, grilled sliced herb potatoes, and hot dogs. The lone Southerner was surprised. In the southern part of the United States, bar-b-que means pulled pork and brisket along with slaw and potato salad. We muddled through.

We did have to pack out a few items as a result of one of two trips into the town of Vail. Our first outing was a Sunday morning Farmer’s Market. Even though we went early, we did encounter some crowded situations. However, in Vail Valley the majority of individuals wore masks.

Our best buy at the market in terms of taste was a delicious, if pricey, blueberry pie. One of the best I have ever tasted. Sometimes you do need to pay up for quality.

Most of the pictures in the slide show come from this foray into town. The second visit to the more populated part of Vail Valley was a trip to the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. Again, a majority, but not all, had masks on. Even the kids.

Mountain Air

There is something to be said for the pureness of air at elevation. The altitude is in the 8000 foot range. Fortunately, everyone from the toddler to the octogenarian fared well. The adults enjoyed biking, hiking and running while the youngster ruled from her stroller. I have fond memories of the area from the Extreme Hike fundraiser for Cystic Fibrosis a few falls ago.

While I do not plan to participate this year, the fundraiser is ongoing. You may click here for more information. Hopefully, important organizations like the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation will be able to survive Covid-19.

Taking Risks in Everyday Life

Granted, taking this trip to Vail Valley was a risk. We did our best to limit the danger. As I discussed in May in the blog post ‘Striking A Balance’, individuals need to be responsible; Every day and especially during this pandemic.

We wear masks in public. As individuals, we practice social distancing. And we strive to keep healthy with an appropriate level of exercise.  Most importantly, we are striking a balance between total isolation and ignorance of how quickly this virus can spread. Family gatherings can be dangerous.

In our case, three of the attendees had recent negative tests for Covid-19. Two live in an area where testing is limited. But they actively practice social distancing and good hygiene.

I hope those who don’t believe in this virus change their minds. Currently, we just have one family member fighting the disease. She picked up the virus working as a camp counselor at a summer camp for kids. Others we have known with the virus have recovered. Unfortunately, one did not.

Apparently we are too early in this pandemic for everyone to know someone who has either survived or died from Covid-19. I still am questioned on whether I “actually” know someone who has caught the virus. I tell them I not only know individuals who have it, I know someone who died from it.

Rest in peace April.

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 2020 Wrap-Up

Writing was a bit thin for Econogal during June 2020. Instead, I read, gardened and quilted. I also kept track of Covid-19 in various United States counties. Unfortunately, I also witnessed via television a lot of civil unrest in my country. All components added to a lack of writing.

Beastly Weather in June 2020

I love my adopted home of the High Plains except for a few weeks in late July-early August when the wind blows and the temperatures are in the triple digits. Unfortunately, those weeks came during June this year. We have low humidity, but the winds are often tropical storm strength. This creates a very unpleasant atmosphere.

We were fortunate enough to receive a bit of rain. Twice we had rainfall of one half inch and the third rain was three tenths of an inch. While the amount was about half of average it was welcomed as the measured precipitation in May was measured in one hundredths. The next two months are our rainiest, with approximately 2.5 inches expected each month. As you can see from the photo, our neighborhood is praying for rain.

Decprated sign saying Pray for Rain
Pray For Rain

Quilt Room

I spent a lot of time in the quilt room during the month of June 2020. Two quilts have been sandwiched together and are in the process of hand quilting. A third is still in the piecing process. My quilt room is in the basement which helps provide a cool location to hang out.

Piecing is time intensive. Even though I use a machine in the piecing, the work can take weeks depending on how many pieces are involved. Some quilt designs have over a thousand pieces. The one I am working on now is just in the hundreds. Five of the blocks are called The Courthouse Square and the other four are a variation on the Rail Fence.

In the Garden

June is the first month of harvesting nearly every day. Herbs are gathered just before blooming and dried. In addition to the cooking herbs of sage, thyme and oregano, I also cut lavender. It smells wonderful and I can use it dried in teas next winter.

I lost my battle with the flea beetles this year. They devastated the brassicas. However, my lettuce crop was outstanding. Even though the early triple digits brought on early bolting in the big garden, the side garden is still producing delicious greens of many varieties.

The first of the beets were picked. I used one of my favorite recipes from The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving. We love opening our pickled beets on cold winter days. For some reason, the beets struggled at first but now they are growing quickly.

Cherry Harvest

While the old cherry tree was loaded with cherries, harvest was just so-so. Usually the birds split their feastings between the cherry trees and the mulberry trees. This year a frost nipped the mulberries so naturally I had intense competition for my cherries. I did make one batch of jam and enjoyed cherry pie and cherry smoothies.

The younger cherry tree just had a handful of fruit. This is just the second summer since planting. The goal is for it to reach a good harvest before the old one stops producing. I would love more fruit trees but am grateful for the two cherry and two peach trees.

Covid-19

June started with six million Covid-19 cases worldwide and ends with over ten million cases and half a million deaths. I fear we are only at the beginning. At least in the United States.

Draining is probably the best way to describe the feeling I have with respect to the virus. I am being careful. Yet I even hate to type that. Here in America the virus has become political. I am dismayed. A pandemic should not be viewed politically. Especially one so far reaching.

So I have not posted much June 2020. Instead I have read and researched about the virus. Regretfully, biology is not my strong suit. Microbiology seems alien. The only microbiologist I personally knew died years ago, at a far too young age.

I fear we will start to see more and more cases and even deaths among our younger population. The protesters and rioters are not immune to this virus. Covid-19 is truly non-discriminatory. June 2020 was just the start to a long, long summer.

 

May 2020 Wrap-Up

In this roller coaster year the month ending on May 31, 2020 is no exception. Near 100 degree temperatures today are a reflection of the violence and debate rippling through the United States of America and spilling into other locales. Many compare this month to the late 1960s. Even that comparison fails to achieve unity with camps divided on which moment in time is awarded top spot. A misnomer, since I think both belong in the pits.

Civil Unrest

In actuality, the violence marking the end of May 2020 has been festering under the surface for a while. There are protests throughout the world today. While a few are in support of the racial injustice in America, the Hong Kong protests have a spark of their own. The most recent spawn from an announcement May 21 of a planned new national security law. Click here to read more.

Both the Hong Kong and the U.S. of A. protests come on the heels of an extended lock down due to Covid-19. Additionally, skyrocketing layoffs and terminations from permanent business closures add to the angst. Thus the pandemic coupled with economic threats created a tinder box waiting to ignite.

The above May 21 announcement was the catalyst overseas. But the incendiary in America was yet another death of an African American at the hands of a white cop. Unfortunately, this is nothing new. Many will remember Colin Kaepernick gained infamy and lost a starting job as a NFL quarterback trying to address this decades, nay centuries, old problem of racism and bigotry.

I have no answers to why peaceful protests in America turned so ugly. Part of me wants to say it is an attempt to divide and conquer much like many Helen MacInnes plots. Part of me wants to blame the idle restlessness caused by the isolationism of the pandemic. I fear a breakdown of society is untenable.

May 2020 Closer to Home

Since I live in a very rural setting, the riots both in this country and abroad seem remote. Other than concern for family members living in major cities across the country, life continues as normal. Quite the juxtaposition.

My May 2020 was spent primarily in the garden and in the quilt room. The triple digit heat will force the lettuces into bolting but will be welcomed by the plants that prefer warm days and nights. And the hot afternoons were spent in the cool of the basement designing baby quilts left and right.

People, Place, Time, and Space

I was blessed with another great nephew this last week of May 2020 and was thrilled to don mask and gloves for a peek at him that could be measured in seconds. A Web M.D. doctor was interviewed on television and threw out the four guidelines above (although not in the nice rhyming order.)

People refers to limiting the size of the group you are in.

Place is location. Outside is better than inside.

Time needs to be minimized. Don’t give Covid-19 the time to transfer.

Space is distance from one another. The U.S guidelines are six feet.

So an example of a relatively safe gathering would be less than ten people outdoors for thirty minutes sitting at least six feet apart. A quick visit, perhaps enough time to eat. But certainly not foolproof.

Goodbye and Good Riddance to May 2020

If one lives long enough, one experiences difficult periods in life. As I touched upon in my post, Successes and Failures, early in 2020, work is a good cure. However, many have lost jobs. But one can still stay productive. Volunteer or create. Either is better than the actions of mob mentality. Certainly for me these last days of May 2020, staying productive eased the pain of societal disintegration.

I hope calmer heads prevail in the coming months. This does not mean I think the problems need to be swept under the rug. Freedoms are being usurped across the globe. The sins of our forefathers continue to regenerate here in America. The issues need to be addressed. The violence is but a symptom. The underlying cancer goes deep. Societal change will be difficult and fraught with danger.

2020 is indeed a pivotal year.

Striking A Balance

Striking a balance is a key to life. One that seems to be sorely missing at this moment in time. In economics we call this balance an equilibrium. If you believe in the philosophy of Adam Smith you think a system which is out of whack will correct itself. Eventually. If you are a fan of John Maynard Keynes, your belief runs toward giving nature a helping hand through intervention. Usually government intervention.

To be honest, I tend to favor Smith over Keynes. (Although neither is my favorite.) The biggest problem with Smith is that nature can take a long while to correct itself. The biggest problem with Keynes is thinking man has the discipline, and the knowledge to strike and maintain a balance. Striking a balance is quite difficult. Maintaining one, perhaps impossible.

Debt

From time to time I link to the Debt Clock. I have already asked you to click here once this year but please do it again. The overall number is eye-popping. Over 25 trillion as I type this. But dig down deeper. Look at family savings, student and credit debt. Take a further look at household and national debt. Finally take a look at the M2 money creation.

The Federal Reserve is following a Keynesian path and pumping money into the monetary system. This chart from the St. Louis Federal Reserve office shows the steep increase in M2 since the start of the year. The Federal Reserve has deeply cut the interest rate on the funds loaned out. The rate currently stands at .25 down from 1.75 earlier this year.

From both the Debt Clock and the M2 chart one can discern the attempt at striking a balance the Federal Reserve is trying to make. It is not this action I disagree with. Instead I worry about the unwillingness for re-balance in good times. Why, were interest rates low to begin with when we were at all time market highs the first months of the year? Shouldn’t the rates have been at 3, 4, or even 5 %?

My fear is the inability of governmental entities in striking a balance. Keynes’ basic philosophy will work but only if humans can put aside for a rainy day. I have seen little of this in my lifetime.

Managing a Pandemic

Public service is difficult. I have had some personal experience on a local level and the job is tough. Making decisions for the public is not easy. A crisis makes it even harder. Dealing with Covid-19, while not unprecedented, is proving to be the greatest challenge many will ever face. This holds true on a personal as well as public level.

I think the problem will be most apparent in countries that have enjoyed more freedom for citizens. But I think people everywhere will struggle with striking a balance in fighting this pandemic. Individuals in countries that practice preparedness will do better than those who live in places where a just-in-time philosophy extends to households as well as production facilities.

There have been a multitude of agencies as well as people that have not responded as effectively as one would hope. Additionally, political leadership has not been on an even keel. But perhaps what disappoints me the most is the divisiveness of the human population. Although, I feel a little better about the split since reading Gina Kolata’s Flu. Apparently a similar split has happened in the past on the best way to deal with an epidemic.

Personal Responsibility in Striking a Balance

Nonetheless, I urge everyone out there to consider the needs of others. A person can look healthy and young on the outside, but suffer from lung conditions such as asthma or cystic fibrosis. Pacemakers are not just operating in the elderly. So for once I am asking you to “assume” something. Please assume anyone you meet, young or old, may have an underlying condition. Give people some space. Further, assume you could be asymptomatic, spreading disease unknowingly. And by all means, if you do have symptoms of Covid-19 take responsible actions.

Striking a balance between public health and public wealth is difficult. We all have a responsibility. As humans, we need to show respect for each other. At some point in the future we will reach an equilibrium. Let’s just hope we remember to repay the funding mechanisms. Otherwise, the difficulties of living through this pandemic will pale in comparison to a future of financial instability.

 

 

Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus that Caused It Book Review

Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus that Caused It by Gina Kolata  is a well- researched tome. I spent about a week reading through the historical information in order to better understand the response to the Covid-19 pandemic we are currently facing.

Historical Account of Flu Through The Ages

Kolata begins with a prologue well worth reading. She follows this with an opening chapter on the Spanish Flu of 1918. The information presented is a basis for the main thread of virology research which takes place decades later and is the impetus of Kolata’s writing. This historical approach carries throughout Flu.

In order to give the reader perspective on pandemics, Kolata digs deep into history. An early (perhaps the earliest) record of epidemic exists through the writings of Thucydides from 431 B.C. in Athens, Greece. In addition to describing the illness, Thucydides comments on the reaction of the populace to the disease. The Greeks experienced medical doctors falling prey to the epidemic, people turning to religion for salvation and finally isolating themselves in their homes to avoid the illness.

This pattern repeats itself throughout the centuries. Kolata reports on the various pandemics including the Black Death and the flu of 1918. An eerily similar response occurs time and again. The population divides into two groups of thought. (Much like we are experiencing in 2020.)

Cross Species Flu

After providing an historical basis, Kolata switches to some of the unknowns of viral spread. Through the years, scientists tried to link all types of flu outbreaks to bacterium. Perhaps the presence of bacteria provided the quick spread. Others linked viruses to co-existing in animals. Pigs, ferrets and birds are just some examples.

The 1918 pandemic is often linked to swine and the author ties this strain to a chapter on the Swine Flu vaccine of 1976. Again, the comparison to the politics and scientific disagreements to current events is relevant for the reader.

Advances in Science

Much of Flu focuses on the work of scientists to determine the cause of the 1918 pandemic. I found the information interesting. But, to be honest I struggled to a certain extent with the jargon as well as the concepts presented. But biology was not my strong suit.

Kolata discusses multiple attempts to isolate the 1918 Influenza virus. As early as the 1950s, scientists attempted to retrieve the virus from frozen bodies. This effort was unsuccessful. However, the 1990s brought about additional attempts.

This portion of the text interested me the most from an economic standpoint. In the 1990s, multiple researchers again attempted to isolate the origins of the 1918 virus. Kolata relates several different approaches. One expedition took five years at a cost of half a million. It did not succeed. However, other sources had more success.

Flu was written prior to the reconstruction of the 1918 virus. Those of you interested in what has happened with this particular strain can click here for a CDC report.

Non-Fiction

Gina Kolata presents in Flu an excellent example of a well-researched non-fiction account of scientists searching to unravel the source of a pandemic.

Those of you who follow me know that I have been struggling of late to finish a variety of non-fiction books. Kolata’s book was the longest at almost 400 pages of text. Perhaps what sets Flu apart was the thorough research. Another possibility is the blend of science and history. Regardless, I read Flu in its entirety.

Although Flu was published in 2001, copies are still available to purchase. The book is also on Kindle and through the Libby app. I highly recommend this book for anyone with a science or history background. Furthermore, I think those with an interest in political science, economics, and anthropology will also find the subject matter of interest. Flu is not a quick read. The time spent is worthwhile. Someone on my Christmas list will get a copy in December of 2020.

 

April 2020 Wrap-Up

Fair warning: The topics in the April 2020 Wrap-Up are about as eclectic as they come. It has been a whirlwind stay-at-home month. I actually left my home four times. However, on two occasions I did not leave the vehicle. Both times we drove through for a take-out dinner.

Essential Trips

The other two times involved essential purchases. Both occurred the same week. The first was to a greenhouse nursery. The proprietor has a policy of appointment only and masks must be worn. I purchased about a dozen peppers. Even though I have a multitude of seedlings going, the peppers are necessary for my secret recipe salsa. And I have trouble getting peppers to grow from seed.

Then two days later I made the first trip to the grocery store in a month. What an experience! Now, the store has huge arrows on the floors directing the flow of traffic. Apparently, following the arrows is quite difficult for people to adjust to. Furthermore, only about half of the people wore the masks requested by the government.

I had heard tales in the media about shortages. Perhaps it was my lucky day, but there were only two items on my list unavailable; yeast and avocado. The milk was a little light and the expiration date quite close as well. Furthermore, a large amount of stock sat around the aisles waiting to fill shelf space. I just hope they had room for all of it!

Covid-19 Update

The latest case figures worldwide show over 3,000,000 cases with 214,583 deaths. Now many people will divide the number of deaths by the total cases. Easy math gives you the figure .07 (percent) of those infected have died. Not too worrying? Well, I am still worried because I do the math a little differently.

Of the 3,045,993 positive cases worldwide, only 1,006,102 are considered resolved. This terminology is important. A resolved case means an individual no longer has Covid-19. Obviously, there are two resolutions. The negative ending is reflected by the death count. Then, the remainder are those who battled Covid-19 and won.

However, using these figures in an easy math equation indicates a less satisfactory result. 214,583 divided by 1,006,102 equals .21 which gives one a rate of death triple of above. Furthermore, if this is extrapolated over the two million unresolved cases, the world could expect to lose about 640,000 lives to Covid-19—If and only if no one else tests positive.

Caveat for April 2020 Covid-19 Numbers

Please keep in mind a few things. First, not everyone will be tested. Therefore, one cannot say one-fifth of the population will die. The one in five number is only for confirmed, resolved cases. So, there is hope that better treatments may impact this number. However, my plan remains to avoid the virus.

Second, this calculation is based on worldwide numbers. Individual countries vary. If you would like to calculate your country both BNO News and Johns Hopkins University are compiling data. As of today, BNO News is still playing catch-up due to the death of a family member. But I like this online news agency out of the Netherlands because they started tracking stats very early on. The two organizations have different time zones so that also pushes the numbers apart. If you use JHU numbers, the ratio is .18. Rounding gives you the same one in five number.

April 2020 In the Garden

April 2020 showers were on the light side, so I have used soaker hoses to keep the garden alive. The temperatures have been about average. Although the weather forecast gave me a bit of a scare. Today an original temperature forecast of 96 degrees Fahrenheit and bright sun was slated. I am so glad the experts were wrong. At mid-afternoon it is 84 degrees Fahrenheit and partly cloudy. Perfect weather for transplanting.

While I did not have the nice two hour drizzle that accompanied the pepper transplanting, today was ideal. The plants I placed in the garden today were chosen from the seedlings I have started indoors this spring. Transplants include peanuts, basil, artichoke and my hybrid tomato favorite Heirloom Marriage Genuwine. I love these tomatoes but I do think the name is a bit confusing. Hybrids are not heirlooms and thus I won’t save seed from these tomatoes.

Hardening Off

My other tomatoes are still hardening off on the front porch along with more artichoke, basil, and dill. The cucumbers and beans are just now sprouting. I will wait a week or so before transplanting. Even though we are not quite past our last freeze date, the long-term forecast looks safe.

The hardening process can be tricky. Each day, plants are left outside in a protected area to become accustomed to Mother Nature. The goal is to lengthen the exposure daily. However, a few days ago we had a Red Flag Advisory. Since the wind can do so much damage, I skipped a day in the hardening off process.

Transplants that do not receive this gradual adjustment to the outdoors are vulnerable to loss. I would hate to waste two months of nurturing. So I am not rushing the process. The photos are of seedlings nearing the end of the process and/or the seeds started outdoors but in containers for later transplant.

Raised Row Garden

The raised row garden continues to astound. Please read this review of a great method of gardening. I managed to keep Swiss Chard alive all winter with a fabric hoop covering. Unfortunately, the recent high wind ripped the covering. Making lemonade, I just relocated half to protect some young cabbage seedlings.

Landscape Blanket
Protecting Beet Seeds From Starlings

I believe some pesky starlings have been enjoying my sweet beet seeds. So, I have now replanted a variety of beets for the third time. A light landscaping blanket now covers the seeds.

Cherry Blossoms
Cherry Tree in Full Bloom

Garlic and onions in various stages of growth are sprinkled throughout the garden. I have placed a small amount of garlic under the almond tree to help deter borers. The tree flowered for the first time; Just a sprinkling of blossoms as compared to the fully loaded cherry tree.

Early Harvest

April 2020 included bringing crops to the table. We enjoyed carrots twice. First just cut and boiled and the second time in a stir fry. I sow the carrot seed in late fall and they are among the first green shoots in the garden. We are also enjoying asparagus, Swiss chard, green onions, mint and lettuces. Egg-white frittatas with home grown produce cannot be beat.

April 2020 Hobby Room

The top for the Train Quilt 2 is fully pieced and waiting to be sandwiched. I love the circus theme of the border. The pastel colors are perfect for the little miss who might receive this on her first birthday. Additionally, I have settled on a pattern for the new baby who might be here for the next Wrap-Up. Another great- nephew to spoil.

But the time in the hobby room was also practical. Dozens of masks were made and then mailed to family members. My offspring live in large cities. The hope is the masks are enjoying use. They were quite easy to make and I kept one for myself. As stay-at-home restrictions ease, I believe I will still wear a mask in crowded situations. At least in the short term.

  • Quilt strips before sewing in mauve, blue gray and off white
    Beginnings of a quilt

April 2020 In The Kitchen

Covid-19 has one beneficial side effect. We are enjoying amazing meals. Even before the virus struck, we cooked most of the time. But the stay-at-home orders have created an abundance of extra time in the day-or so it seems. The result is fantastic recipes discovered or just remembered. A highlight of April 2020 was making sugar cookies for Easter as part of the Easter delivery meal.

I am a little concerned about the local yeast shortage. But, if I run out of regular yeast, I will turn to making sourdough bread. Additionally, I am thankful that my bread-making skills have improved so dramatically over the last few years. Soft home-made sandwich is preferable to the bricks I turned out early on. Bread Illustrated remains as my go-to cook book for bread recipes.

Fresh Bread
Fresh Bread

April 2020 In the Library

Just a couple short months ago I asked my librarian about online library loans. Her response was to download the Libby app. I did and I couldn’t live without it! While best sellers usually mean a wait, we both have enjoyed reading the various Lorena McCourtney books. She is a champ at writing cozy mysteries.

However, I do have some non-fiction books on hand. I have started three and have yet to finish one. Perhaps they do not offer the escape from reality I need. At least one of them is riddled with inconsistencies so that is also a factor.  Depending on how long this isolation lasts, I may find a way to finish each of them.

Three books
Reading in Progress

No Travel

Seldom do I have a month where I do not travel at least to a neighboring state. But April 2020 was a month without any travel. I love my corner of the world. But I also like to travel. I had hoped to recognize my Dad’s battle with breast cancer with an in person attendance at the Kentucky Oaks. But the first weekend in May is upon us. No running for Oaks Lilies or Kentucky Derby Roses will occur this spring.

Very few planes fly overhead. The Amtrak does pass through twice a day, but I have no idea how full it is. April 2020 brought a cancellation of the Centennial Zonta International Convention. So I will not be traveling to Chicago this July. No travel and no plans.

Thank you to all that made it through this long post. No venturing outside has cut down on my interaction with people so I jumped at this opportunity. I wish all of you good health. Carpe diem!

Science and Politics Don’t Mix

The one take away from this Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 is science and politics don’t mix well together. In a rush to print, research papers are being presented without the time honored test of peer review. This is a critical flaw. A second even greater concern is the sound bites of politicians. Neither of these issues are helping society deal with this novel corona virus.

Good Science versus Bad

So, how does the layman determine the validity of scientific papers? Several clues help. First, how is the research released? Peer reviewed scientific research is the best. Such articles are examined thoroughly by individuals in the field of study.  So these are the articles to utilize. My personal favorites are The New England Journal of Medicine; Science; and Nature.

Articles found in such publications refer directly to the source. Additionally, attached links are provided to connect the reader to the actual research paper. Finally, methodology is explained and the outcomes include the statistical variances for error.

Secondly, beware of research which first appears as a headline in a newspaper. An example would be the recent release of the study by Stanford researchers on the incidence of Covid-19. The released study reports the virus is much wider spread than previously thought. However, a peer review of the study is not available. Thus the conclusions are premature. This is bad science.

The paper is flawed.   A better explanation of the errors than I can give can be found by clicking here. At best, the goal of the premature release is to provide hope for a frightened populace. At worst, it is a political ploy.

Lastly, look for secondary studies that independently confirm the original study. Often the scope of a first study has limits. Validation from larger later studies is important from a scientific standpoint.

Politicians and Pandemics

Science and politics don’t mix well under most conditions. But a pandemic can make things worse. Worldwide there are many elections in 2020. The Iranians experienced a low turnout of just over 42%. Officials attributed the reduced participation to the corona virus. Perhaps this is true. But it is also a possibility that the politicians are using the pandemic as an excuse.

On the other hand, Israel had a record turn-out for their election; the third in a year’s time. The Israeli’s had special voting stations available for citizens infected by the virus. Other countries facing elections this year should consider this model.

Science and Politics Don’t Mix Well in America

The political elections in the United States next fall are already impacting the scientific response to Covid-19. The White House holds daily press conferences on the pandemic. Ostensibly, this is critical information for the public. I believe they may have started out with this intent. However, I now think the gatherings are as much a campaign venue as an informational release.

Further danger arises from the political influences on science. Covid-19 is new. Therefore, scientists need to investigate without fear of funding loss or political gain. So, the science needs to remain separate. It is naturally human to want a fast fix. But that may not happen regardless of money or political desire.

As discussed above, the scientific studies need to be independent and then peer reviewed. Furthermore, secondary studies need to be completed. Politicians should not push for limited research. Anecdotal positive results are not conclusive. Thorough research is a priority.

Conversely, scientists need to concentrate on the science. Rushing studies will only backfire. As individuals, we may have our own political beliefs. But, researchers need to put politics aside. At this point in time, all possible treatments need to be vetted by studies. Science and politics don’t mix well and both sectors need to focus on their jobs.

Here are the relevant links to this post:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/17/antibody-study-suggests-coronavirus-is-far-more-widespread-than-previously-thought

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2214-z

https://www.nejm.org/

https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/iransource/factbox-the-outcome-of-irans-2020-parliamentary-elections/

https://www.jpost.com/israel-elections/israelis-go-to-polls-for-third-time-in-a-year-619439

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/04/how-does-coronavirus-kill-clinicians-trace-ferocious-rampage-through-body-brain-toes?fbclid=IwAR2OlkswmZl0O6e4lVL4sooo5OzcA1dsd-kElTc4NlwSkT9R8K3Hzig8nfU

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Unusual Easter for the Year 2020

Easter basket with dyed eggs and plush bunnyThe year 2020 brings forth an unusual Easter. Here in the United States many locations have enacted a stay-at–home decree. The regulation and enforcement vary from state to state and even from town to town. Indeed, individual families also carry out differing practices.

In an agricultural based economy such as that found over the vast Great Plains, many people work in essential businesses. Animals need to be fed. Spring planting can’t be delayed. So all around my small town many are going about their work.

But, Covid-19 has brought about a disruption in life even here. Our churches are not congregating. Nor are our schools in session. Playground equipment at parks is cordoned off. Due to my status only the former directly affects me.

Unusual Easter 2020

Last Sunday, Palm Sunday ushered in an unusual Easter week. No church attendance meant no waving of the palms by the Sunday school classes at the start of church service. A tradition I loved as a Sunday school teacher.

Spring like weather brought forth tulips, hyacinths and even the hops. But no city wide Easter egg hunt and no Good Friday community service put on by our town’s ministerial alliance. So it was not too surprising that by the end of the week I became a bit blue.

Fortunately, Good Friday turned out to be good. And even though the spring shower formed to the East, the first rainbow of the season brought a fitting end to a day. Friday started out teary but changed to one of joyful preparation for an unusual Easter.

Family Togetherness at a Safe Distance

My niece lives a mile away, but due to this nasty virus afflicting the world and an abundance of caution I have seen her only once in the last few months. At that time a window separated us as she dropped off some farm fresh eggs in exchange for some Econogal’s Granola and strawberry-blueberry jam.

But we talk on the phone from time to time. This unusual Easter week more often because of her plan to share the holiday even though apart. She is putting a meal together to take to her grandmother. The food will be left on the porch much like the eggs. My contribution is dinner rolls from a Bread Illustrated recipe.

The trip will take three hours or so. The distance is about 100 miles one way. The extra time will be spent at a quick stop in a small town 30 miles from her parents. Again the visiting will be through a window-in this case a car window. Grandparents want to see their grandkids on holidays if at all possible.

Extra precautions due to Covid-19

This distancing may seem extreme. But, my mother-in-law is well into her 80s and we want her around for years to come. She is an incredible person still active in one facet of the family agribusiness. Furthermore, we want to keep my niece healthy. She is expecting another little one soon. You may remember the Train Quilt made for the younger of her two children. So extra precautions are in order this unusual Easter.

My official contribution is dinner rolls, but I have a few surprises as well. I have sugar cookie dough ready to roll out. My Easter cookie cutters have been dug out of the cookie cutter drawer. I have enough powdered sugar to make a buttercream icing and enough dye left over from the Easter egg dyeing to make colorful frosted cookies.

Truly I think dyeing the eggs lifted my spirits the most. However, I also enjoyed putting together surprise packages to keep my niece’s kids entertained on the drive they will undertake on an unusual Easter morning. For those of us that are Christians, Easter springs forth eternal life. I am grateful for the renewal each year.

During this terrible world-wide pandemic, find ways to celebrate life and living. We cannot predict the future. But we can live to the best of our ability in today’s uncertainty. There will be no large family gathering this Easter for us, but there will be lots of shared love.

Random Thoughts on Stay at Home Orders

This past week, an unprecedented action of widespread lock down spread to the United States of America. Back in January, various members of my family shared their belief that a Wuhan style lock down could not occur in a free country. Yet cities, counties and entire states have enacted stay at home orders as a response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Furthermore, this stay at home action is found on multiple continents. The Statista website offers easy to read charts with Covid-19 data around the world. Click here for access to the secure site. Another informative chart for those interested in U.S.A. stats comes from the New York Times and can be found by clicking here.

Economic Impact of Stay at Home Orders

The volatile stock exchanges due to Covid-19 are a precursor to the total economic impact. Stay at home orders will accelerate the fallout. While I first wrote about the novel corona virus in the January 2020 Wrap-Up, I did not comment on the economic impact for another month. But, the February 2020 Wrap-Up focuses on supply chain problems as well as lost consumption.

Here in the United States, the virus is just ramping up. There are hot spots across the country where the health care system is under strain. However, to my knowledge the only impact felt by individual businesses is related to private or public action. For example, as reported by the Seattle Times, Boeing is halting operations at Puget Sound for two weeks. Thus, closures are proactive and temporary.

The stay at home orders come with an economic cost to business. Of most concern are the companies heavily leveraged. This existing debt burden will make it tougher to withstand a short term loss of income.

Essential Business

Public action from various governmental entities issuing stay at home orders include exemptions for essential services. My thoughts on this range from agreement to bemusement. Obviously, hospitals and other healthcare providers along with fire and police fill the need for an essential business. However, outside of the Sun Belt perhaps, I see no need for landscapers to be exempt from the stay at home orders.

Food manufacturers are also open. This is a bit of a two-edged sword. Our Just-in-Time attitude and desire for fresh meats and produce keep these businesses open. But what if the virus sweeps through the workers? Then, the devastation of this lingering illness will have a long-term impact.

I do not know how far ahead food manufacturers operate. However, I do know  local farmers store grains and seeds for months after harvest. Perhaps going forward the mills can stockpile the flours and oils. Perhaps they already do. If that is the case a voluntary shut down is preferable in my line of thinking.

Mandates versus Personal Responsibilities

I tend to be on the side of personal liberties. So company closures appeal to me more than government mandates. Unfortunately, individuals as well as companies vary in the ability to display and act upon social responsibility. This is why governments across the globe are issuing mandates.

But as individuals we can respond proactively. Cultural attitudes definitely play apart in whether or not masks are appropriate for non-healthcare workers. However, cleanliness and hand-washing transcends across societies. You Tube offers a number of videos from hand washing to cleaning grocery packaging. Watch this short video from Kenya on hand-washing.

The hand-washing efforts are second nature to me. Long ago, I participated in a 4-H program where an extension agent shook hands with each of us as we walked into the room. The handshake transferred a non-harmful chemical agent which then showed up in UV light. Even after a hand washing, traces remained on hands. Thus the need for thorough hand-washing.

According to a recent study released by the NIH, Covid-19 can survive in the air and on surfaces. Click here to access the press release. So, my search of You Tube yielded  videos relating to surface cleaning in connection to the virus. I found this one on handling groceries helpful. Click here for this explanation of the importance of cleaning packaging.

Amid

From a writer’s stand point, an interesting byproduct of the Covid-19 outbreak is the sudden use of the word amid. According to the online Oxford dictionary, the definition of the preposition amid is: surrounded by; in the middle of.  Amid is now  everywhere.  Is this true in all English speaking countries?

While the use of amid is an instant change brought on by the virus, I believe other changes will occur. It will be interesting to see how the online educational component influences the future. Remote work had a small role before the stay at home orders. This may change as well.

Extroverts versus Introverts

My final thoughts revolve around personalities. Whether social distancing is self-imposed or government ordered, I think introverts will fare better. The ability to self-entertain will be quite important for people of all ages. Individuals with one or more hobbies stand a better chance of getting through the next few months without going stir crazy or experiencing cabin fever.

Staying productive is important to me. Between gardening, quilting and reading I am coping with my self-imposed isolation. So far, 2020 is not turning out as I thought which is why only hindsight is 2020.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Ready for Covid-19-Econogal’s Preparation

My loyal readers may be wondering about my lack of posts last week. I was getting ready for Covid-19. Actually, I was finalizing my preparation. Over twenty years ago a Mormon friend shared her philosophy of preparedness. She knew I was very active in my own church, but she wanted me to understand the self-reliance component.

I am so glad for Shalah. She moved from my small town over ten years ago. So if any of my local followers are still in touch, please thank her for me. Because of Shalah, I did not join the panicking crowds. While my preparations surely fall short by the standards of The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, I am hopeful that I will be able to manage a few weeks of isolation if I need to quarantine. No last minute hoarding, no rush for tons of non-edible toilet paper. Just peace of mind.

Covid-19 Readiness

So I had also urged my loved ones to get ready both financially and personally for Covid-19. I am pleased many family members listened. And I have been busy checking in on the octogenarians in the family. The personal visit I made to one of my elders reassured me. Again, no hoarding. Perhaps because farm families always put a little back in case the next harvest is compromised. Or maybe the yearly chance of a High Plains blizzard is always possible. Preparation is second-nature. Regardless, I am thankful and hopeful we can isolate enough to make it through this Covid-19 outbreak.

It did not take much to convince my one offspring with family of his own. That happens once you have a little one to look out for. An overnight visit in early February sharing websites and Twitter accounts across the world convinced the young parents to go beyond the just-in-time supply chain for diapers and baby food. The gratitude I received from them is reciprocal. Since they listened and planned accordingly, they were able to stay away from the hoarding masses at the big box stores in the city. And I did not need to worry about them.

Financial Readiness

The markets across the world are taking a hit. Covid-19 is a lengthy illness even for those not hospitalized. One Twitter account I follow chronicles the progression of the disease in a family of five. For good, unsensationalized information read @richisalsohere the daily tweets are from an American living in Northern Italy.

His account illustrates how productivity and output are directly affected. There will be supply chain repercussions rippling around the world for months. The likelihood of a recession is great. Further, there is a possibility of a depression. Of course that will depend on a variety of factors.

In the two weeks since I wrote the February Wrap-Up where I discussed economic impacts of Covid-19, the U.S. markets have been extremely volatile. Losses, at least on paper, have been great. Much like the financial crisis of the oughts, the younger generations should be ok with a hold philosophy-I believe it is too late to sell.

It is also too early to buy. But I hope we are getting close. Timing the market is impossible.  Although the late Mark Haines did call the bottom in 2009. It may have been a lucky guess.

Buy What You Need

If you have extra dollars right now put them to good use. Buy some groceries-without hoarding. But buy what you eat and know how to cook. It is normal for us to cook from scratch. Even though cooking from the source vs. out of an instant box is not rocket science, it does take practice. For example beans need to soak overnight before cooking. Because we live in an area that grows pinto beans, this is second nature to us. But, the cooking process may be unfamiliar to those raised on canned goods.

If you need something, a new refrigerator, or new tires buy them now if you can pay for them without borrowing. Shop at odd hours. Get prescription refills. Online ordering may become difficult as transportation companies get overwhelmed and potentially understaffed.

Even though the Treasury Market does not anticipate higher interest rates or inflation, I think the long run calls for both. Just my opinion but I am very concerned about the national debt. Click here for the debt clock.

The worst case scenario would be a default. But truly that cannot be our first concern. We need to get through this Covid-19 disruption to life. So, those short on savings need to conserve as much as possible. Non-essentials will need to wait. Belt-tightening begins.

Covid-19 is Serious

I am most frustrated by those who do not take Covid-19 seriously. Perhaps it is normalcy bias. Perhaps the decade long span of prosperity has spoiled us. Maybe they believe preparation ahead of time is not needed in a land of plenty. Nonetheless, I think most are not ready.

This novel corona virus is not just another flu.

I give a lot of credit to the Chinese scientists and medical providers. They issued a warning at the very start of 2020. Additionally, the genetics of the virus were released. I first looked at the structure in January. To be honest it was and remains above my head. I could see the null set as well as the altered strands but that was the limit of my ability. I understand the virus is novel and thus best treatments are unknown. The links following will be of interest to those with a scientific bent.

Mental Preparation

I think the most important preparation at this point is mental. The medical professionals in America are preparing for 96 million cases of Covid-19 with approximately 500,000 deaths. This is a much lower percentage than that forecast by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. And a higher percentage than that occurring in South Korea.

At this point we could veer in either direction. Isolation is difficult. A wide-spread outbreak is worse.

We need to practice social distancing. We need to avoid unnecessary travel. Finally, we need to prepare for long illnesses and the likelihood we will know at least one person who will not survive. I am not sure Americans are prepared for this, but we are moving in the right direction.

We need to stop complaining about cancelled sporting events, conferences and schools. Online learning will blossom. Hobbies need to come to the forefront and media streaming will replace movie theaters in the short term.

I respect the Love Not Fear movement, and I believe preparation is not equal to fear. In fact, individuals attuned to world events can spread the love by sharing such as the residents in Liverpool reported in this article. (Click here to read.) (And here) to read a report in America.

I cannot predict the long term repercussions. I think much depends on if we can self-discipline enough to sacrifice now. In our society of instant gratification that might be tough. One can hope though and I do have hope. In the meantime, I recommend the following:

On Twitter:

@richisalsohere

@onlyyoontv

@peakprosperity

@APHL

@ScottGottliebMD

 

On the Internet:

https://www.ejmo.org/pdf/2019%20Novel%20Coronavirus%20COVID19%20Outbreak%20A%20Review%20of%20the%20Current%20Literature-12220.pdf

 

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30185-9/fulltext

 

https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.02.29.20027698v1.full.pdf

 

https://journals.lww.com/cmj/Documents/CMJ%202019%20novel%20coronavirus%20disease%20(COVID-19)%20collection.pdf

 

https://asm.org/Articles/2020/January/2019-Novel-Coronavirus-2019-nCoV-Update-Uncoating

 

https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.01.22.914952v2.full.pdf

https://www.imperial.ac.uk/media/imperial-college/medicine/sph/ide/gida-fellowships/Imperial-College-COVID19-NPI-modelling-16-03-2020.pdf

 

 

February 2020 Wrap-Up

The February 2020 wrap-up has been difficult to start. Perhaps a bit of writer’s block. Certainly not from a lack of things to share. Both personal life and world news have been difficult to process. So at times like these, I keep busy.

The Peanut Experiment

Regular readers know of my latest garden experiment; starting peanut plants. Others can click here to read about it. The sprouting has begun-with a bit of a surprise. The first to pop out was from an un-soaked good seed. I certainly was excited even though it is a bit straggly. Then the second start, which was from a good soaked seed, put it to shame. Lots of tender green leafy parts. Much healthier looking.

I am anxious for more to sprout. In the meantime, I put out the first two rows of onion sets, two weeks apart. I have also planted a variety of cold hardy greens.

Un-soaked Peanut

Soaked Peanut Sprout

Hobby Room Update

The baby quilt is coming along. The first side is almost complete. But the borders have not even been cut out. A tune-up to my decades old machine has allowed me to embroider the birth information on various blocks.

So far no new painting has been started. Perhaps in March. While quilting soothes my soul, I am best at painting when things are calm. February events called for soothing and nurturing.

Economic Impact of COVID-19

In February 2020, the stock market finally took notice of the corona virus, now officially named COVID-19. The last week in February brought back memories of the 2008 financial meltdown. But the causes are so disparate, I am not expecting a similar V shaped curve. I hope I am wrong.

These are my thoughts-my opinions. The supply shock we see in various parts of the world is not equal to the cleansing of the derivatives market. February 2020 saw a complete halt to manufacturing in parts of China. Toward the end of the month, the disruption to production extended to other countries.

Even those countries which may somehow escape similar lost productivity from the virus will be impacted. We live in an interconnected world. The vast majority of the world’s population has access to goods originating in foreign countries. At the very least, the supply lines will hiccup.

But a supply shock is just one half of the equation.

Delayed Consumption or Lost Forever?

There are two parts to the break in the consumption chain. First, consider delayed purchases. For example, if I want to buy a specific item only made by one of the countries already hit hard– so hard the goods aren’t shipping out—I would just need patience. Sometime down the road shipments will re-start. Then I would buy, a delay but not a loss.

Another key part of the transportation component is tied up in the shipping itself. Shipping containers need product in them to make money. Thus companies don’t want containers to move empty. This holds true whether cargo is on a ship, plane, train or truck. If the containers are stuck on one side of the ocean (or continent) goods sit idle on the opposite shore. The end result is chaotic. Eventually the delivery of goods will occur.

But some consumption will be lost forever. For example, if I usually travel to Kentucky twice a year and I stay home this spring, the consumption will not likely be recouped. The potential earnings to motels, airlines and restaurants are lost forever. This applies to major sporting events as well as concerts, business meetings and once in a lifetime vacations.

Human Cost of Covid-19

The human cost from the virus cannot be equated to a price tag. Death cannot be undone. Life is precious.

Since my country is just now experiencing the virus, I do not have first- hand knowledge of any significant health concerns of those who survive. There has been limited information about the recovered patients. Can they go back to work right away? Are there lasting complications? Are the reports of second infections correct? Just a few of my many concerns

I worry about my family members that fall into the high risk categories. Naturally, my hope is that we all come through unscathed. Time will tell.

R.I.P. Uncle Rick

February 2020 marked the loss of my Dad’s older brother. I am grateful my Dad finished his radiation treatment for male breast cancer in mid-February. As told in a previous post, he drove up to see his brother the following day. I was fortunate to talk with Uncle Rick at that time. I cherish the memories.

Both brothers played college ball. While my Dad excelled at football, Uncle Rick was a stellar basketball player. He set many records at his state university. It helps to be tall. And quick.

I have a black and white photo of my oldest playing basketball. The resemblance to my uncle is uncanny. My kids loved their “Great” Uncle Rick. We miss him. Rest in Peace.