Rocket Man Not Wanted Dead Or Alive

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I am getting more than a little tired of this pandemic and I’m afraid it’s starting to show.   I was laughing for all the wrong reasons as news bulletins can’t decide if the North Korean dictator has drawn his last breath.  Or not.

Kim Jong Un is dead.  Or maybe just really sick.  Or mildly ill.  Or hiding from the Covid-19 pandemic at an elite resort on the eastern side of a country that claims to have no virus cases whatsoever.

The media has conjectured about the little rocket man for nearly a month.  Originally he was only oddly missing but there was no proof of this. Then someone supposed he was ill, hedging their bet by admitting that information from North Korea is hard to come by.  The President said he hoped LRM wasn’t ill and had received a nice note from him.

Less than a week ago, the New York Post said he was dead.  The story reported that a stent procedure went south because the surgeon’s hands were shaking.  It did seem a little odd that in a country with very few forthcoming details, the shaking hands ingredient had made a break for it and gotten around the world. The Post lamented that getting information from North Korea is like pulling teeth.

We were then subjected to numerous stories about Little Rocket Sister—who they say is a likely successor as soon as they bury her brother.  But of course finding the actual truth is, well, difficult.

In a very short time, Kim Jong Rocket had risen, shuffling up the mortal coil to arrive successfully at gravely ill again.  

I’ve seen this show before.  In Monty Python’s stage musical Spamalot,  Not Dead Fred insists that he’s alive as they toss him onto a cart full of plague victims.  The new North Korean hit of the season is Rocket Man: Only A Little Dead!

In today’s brave new world, honest information is scarce as hens’ teeth.dbsig2

The most recent news is that someone (I’ve given up on who said what) spotted the dictator’s private train at a resort. Someone else postulated that his procedure was
minor, that his condition was serious yet not fatal. 

I suspect that by next Monday, he’ll be perfectly all right.

What Goes Around Comes Around

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What goes around comes around.

As recently as a month ago, the news media suggested we were in a life and death struggle for more ventilators.  Now we sit atop the ventilator motherlode of the world and don’t need them. The president won’t stop boasting about them as though they were another “beautiful, huge, and incredible” Trump Tower. 

Ventilators are now old news. Today the annoying screech of the media is “More Testing!” I’ve been accused of being overly simplistic about this.  (Maybe they said I was half simple, I can’t remember.)  I’m not a doctor but I have played one onstage and I don’t need a stethoscope hanging around my neck to notice when common sense flies out the window.

Taking a test to determine if I have the virus is plausible only until somebody sneezes. The best test doesn’t require distance, danger or dollars. Do I have a persistent fever, cough, fatigue, loss of appetite or shortness of breath?  If yes, I should call the doctor.  If no, I should return to my home and nothing more will be said.  Is this overly simplistic?  I don’t think so. 

Antibody testing is a different critter. The first test was done on a representative sample of the population of Santa Clara County, California.  It appears that up to 85 times more people had been infected than reported cases—but they had not been noticeably sick as a result. A larger study on Los Angeles County has now been completed.  I’ll bet we can expect the same results.  The same studies are being done in New York with similar results.

Opinion writer Brian Giesbrecht wondered aloud about antibody testing: “If it’s confirmed that instead of the estimate that two or three out of 100 infected people die from COVID-19, only two or three out of 1,000 die, it would be a game-changer.”

Again, I’m no doctor or scientist, but I have felt for months that this virus has been around far longer than we thought and that far more people have survived, many without realizing it.  I’m not advising readers to hit the streets with no worries. Be careful out there. I’ll probably wait until the science corrects itself.  It’s a simple fact that I’m also avoiding the flu, the common cold, Ebola, tuberculosis and the Black Plague.  What’s not to like about that?

Is this worldwide economic shutdown the most costly mistake ever made?  If the pandemic is shown to be less than what we thought, the lynch-mobbing media will certainly view it that way.  A president faced with what appear dbsig2to be catastrophic consequences is forced to make choices.  What should those choices be?  If I’m not mistaken, presidents still take that oath promising to faithfully execute the office and protect the Constitution.  Time will be the ultimate judge—not the hyperventilating media.

The New Normal Looks Like The Old One

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Stanford University researchers recently tested over 3000 adults and children in Santa Clara County in California for Covid-19 antibodies.  A lot of details on this study are available, but the bottom line is that the information suggests the virus has been here far longer than we thought and it’s likely far more widespread.  People had it and didn’t know it.  Herd immunity was calmly developing before the news media first decided to be upset about Covid-19. It’s not much of a stretch to suggest also that the virus is not nearly as dangerous as we thought.  Please don’t go rushing into the streets, shaking hands and kissing each other based on what I’m saying here.  I’ve made a retired career out of being happily irresponsible and I’m not going to change now.

I have suggested, in various ways, over the past three months that the long term view of this pandemic will look far different than it does today.  We’re getting there. If you want to know how we’ll eventually view the Covid-19 pandemic, just think about how you view tuberculosis or the flu.  Study the history.  They were both horrible pandemics.  They were nightmare killers. Think about how we view them today.  It’s a safe bet that if I walk up to just about anyone on the street and ask “Wow, that deal with tuberculosis back in the 1800s was just awful, wasn’t it?”  the probable answer would be “Yeah.  I guess so.”  We forget very  quickly.  That’s our nature.

I hear the criticism of how this apparent emergency was handled.  Trillions spent!  I don’t know about you, but even if they discovered tomorrow that the virus doesn’t actually exist, I’m still  not going to have a problem with the government giving me some of my money back.  I’m not built to feel that way.

I don’t know the exact timing of when the new normal starts looking like the old normal.  But I believe it’ll happen sooner that we suspect.  We’re not going to “social distance” forever, and it’ll happen before we can think of a better term for it (like “being careful,” maybe?)

An awful lot of talking heads are now slamming the earlier models which are now “wrong.”  I’ve listened to dozens and dozens of scientists who have said, in one way or another, that of course the models were wrong.  That’s because they’re models.  A model is built with assumptions, and are only as good as those assumptions.  And of course some of the assumptions are incorrect, and the models get adjusted.  When the problem is finally solved and ended, the models serve as information for the future.

Let’s say you’re sitting at home and decide you want a hamburger.  You hop in your car, drive across town and take a short cut that happens to be a dead end.  You correct the error and get your hamburger.  The next time you’re hungry, you avoid making that mistake again. There.  You’ve adjusted your model, and it’s better than it was when you started.  If you wish to spend even a minute of your time assigning blame for your erroneous model, that’s your privilege.  I’m only on the smart edge of half simple, but I say when you correct your model you’re smarter and you’ve got a hamburger.

Why are we so upset with models?  An apparent emergency occurred and we tried to make intelligent plans.  Why do we feel the need to assign blame when we know very well that folks did the best they could with what they had and got better as they learned? it’s illogical and downright silly.

Here’s something we’ve learned:  we can knock down a highly contagious virus by staying home and being careful.  In fact, we can knock down many health problems simply by washing our hands, keeping our distance and being careful.  I suspect we’ll forget that too.

Zombie Apocalypse Reality Check

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I do a lot of thinking about things while I’m working in my shop.  Not because I have to stay home during this virus thing, but because I’m retired and I stay home and think about things while I’m working in my shop anyway.  But here’s what I think, and I believe it’s mostly correct.

On Saturday December 6, 1941 life was good, both here in the U.S. and at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.  The next morning, Japan killed thousands of us and precipitated our entry into World War II.  There were thousands of heroes on that morning and in battle during the next four years.  We’ve forgotten virtually all of them, living or dead.

In 1889, The Johnstown Flood killed at least 2000 people.  I’ll bet there were thousands of heroes there.  We don’t know who they were.

In 1906 the Great San Francisco Earthquake shocked us.  At least 3000 dead.  You can still read stories about the heroes there if you’re willing to search for them.

On September 11, 2001 terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center and elsewhere, killing nearly 3000 people.  The nation reeled under the shock.  We’ve pretty much quit reeling and stopped celebrating the firemen and thousands of other heroes.  They get an annual “thank you” these days, but in another twenty years, they’ll get the same treatment as Iwo Jima soldiers.

This list could go on and on. Today’s doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, truckers, grocery store personnel and thousands upon thousands of heroes should soak up this adulation and remember it, because in five years, we certainly won’t.

The media is currently trying to convince me that the president has done a terrible job of fighting this pandemic.  Is that true?  I don’t know, and neither do they.  Would the other choice for president in 2016 have done a better and more effective job?  I doubt it.  Here’s something I’m sure of:  Harry Truman walked out of the White House on January 20, 1953 labeled as one of the worst presidents in history.  Truman died in 1972.  Today, he is regularly listed as one of the ten best presidents in history.  Bear in mind, he accomplished all this while he was dead.   Point being that Harry didn’t change; we did.  We would do well to apply this to our current administration; you just never know how wrong a dead President is going to make you look.

The reality is that anyone trying to fight this pandemic probably made errors and heroic decisions at the same time.  Shouldn’t we all focus on how we can be better prepared next time?  I hope we do.

A little dose of positive reality: We’ve knocked the incidence of regular old flu down by amazing numbers.  We won’t see much of that reported in the news.  Bad news sells, and don’t you forget it.

What we know about this pandemic today will not be the reality tomorrow.  The business of this country will reopen. it will be spotty at first and move faster later.  People will forget about social distancing about as quickly as they learned it.  We’ll shake hands again, because that will remind us what “normal” feels like.  But we are a people who must forget things.  We are a people who require a villain and a symbolic atonement.  We’ve been doing this since we stuck knives in sacrificial lambs on stone altars.  We will create our own sunny and wonderful time all over again, but first we must put our knives in all the right places. You know, because it was their  fault.

Business and the economy will come back, sooner than we think but not fast enough for those who are suffering as a result of it.  I mean no ill will against those lost businesses and employees, but the reality is that in our society, businesses fail and people lose their jobs.  In our society, a new business is drawn to the vacuum and creates jobs.  This life and death struggle doesn’t require a pandemic, but we’ll stab it all the same. That is a reality.

People have died from this pandemic.  People will die from this pandemic—mostly older people.  I certainly don’t intend to marginalize older people—I’m one of them.  But in fact, people die, mostly older people.  That is a reality and we do our damndest to deny it.

We won’t all go into the streets, flooding the country at once. Most older people will refrain from dangerous situations until the vaccine is actually in their arm.  They’ll be the most careful and they are unquestionably the most patient.  For everyone else, the day is coming when we’ll be told the world isn’t ending.  When our healthcare infrastructure is prepared and adequate, herd immunity will win the day.  It will be December 6, 1941 all over again.

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There are good and wonderful people in this world, doing good and wonderful things. There are heroes. Look for them and celebrate them.  But be aware of humankind as it exists alongside you, not what you see and hear on television. Be aware of these small things and wonderfully good people. That’s real.

Me and Hank

 

 

LogoCommonSense2We are “self-isolating” now.  In the vernacular of those who can’t seem to avoid throwing awkward words together, we’re “social distancing.”  I’m staying six feet away from those phrases.  I don’t know what you call it.  I’m staying at home, discovering some joy in simple, forgotten things.  That’s more of a mouthful than the two-word, noun-denying affliction above, but at an age when time is running out, I keep trying to get things right.

I’m writing more often during the day.  I do that only when an idea has rattled around in my head, worn smooth as a polished rock. I’m compelled  to spit it out.  My compulsion is only palliative.  I’ve never found a cure.

Thanks to technology, Hank Williams and I have been hanging out together the past few weeks.  Not the “Are You Ready For Some Football” Hank Williams.  The other one.  The original. When I was a young college student, I convinced myself that I disliked country music.  It reminded me of who and what I was—a provincial fool.  Years later, after I grew a brain, I heard Hank singing one day and realized I had forgotten about him.  So for those of you out there who despise the twangy and simplistic tortured love of real country music, I’m here to tell you that I am now old enough to not care what you think of me.  As they say, that’s none of my business.

I don’t care for the current music that is, for some reason, still called “country.”  I know nothing about that.  But if you know Hank’s story, you understand that some things never change.  The most talented among us are often the most tortured souls on earth.

You can learn about how country music began—where it began, how it came to be—in thousands of places today.  I have found the story fascinating.  You’ll hear some names of the true pioneers of that genre.  Jimmy Rodgers, the Carter Family among others. And later, How Willie Nelson was broke and drunk and sold “Crazy” to an up-and-coming Patsy Cline. And you may, like me, think about why it seems the good die young.

Hank Williams died at 29 in the back seat of a car on a cold, wintery road in West Virginia, with a broken-down spine, shot full of morphine, alcohol and God knows what else. I can’t remember if he was married or divorced at the time.  He left behind a trail of cancelled performances and an angry music industry fed up with his unpredictable behavior.  In a career lasting less than ten years, he had created hundreds—hundreds— of popular recordings, many of which are still being played today.  Twenty-nine.  Dead and cold in the back seat of a car.

His marriage was an on-again, off-again love/hate relationship.  Lots of shouting, throwing things, name-calling.  Hank was no angel—neither was Audrey. There are always two sides to a pancake.  I’m sure that lady had stories to tell, but she didn’t have his ability to tell them.  Hank’s story is in the songs; he loved her and she drove him crazy.  There’s an old axiom in country music: “To sing a country song, all you need are three chords and the truth.”  Boy howdy.dbsig2

So this one’s for Hank.  If you secretly listen to old country music when nobody’s watching, and if you usually pretend that you can’t stand nasally twang, why you just give “Crazy Heart” a listen and see if I’m not right.

Marxist Monopoly At A Social Distance

 

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Alexandra’s cell phone battery sputtered and died while monsters shattered her world outside.

“What will I do now?” she asked.

Her grandfather looked up from his book and smiled.

“You could plug it in and let it charge.”

“That takes forever.”

“Mmmm.” he said, and went back to his book.

“There’s nothing to do,” she wailed.

“You could go outside.”

“The monsters are out there,” she said, pulling back the curtain on the window, looking up and down the street.

“Mmmm,” said the old man.

“There’s nothing to do,” she whined.

He looked up. “You could read a book.”

“Meh,” she mumbled.

He slid the bookmark into the tight crevice of the pages and closed the book.  “Now let me make sure I know what you said.  ‘Meh,’ I believe is a newer iteration that means ‘I’m not interested.’ So, say five years ago, you would have said ‘whatever’ and meant the same thing?”

She stared at him.  Meh was written all over her face.

“Why do you always say ‘Mmmm’ like you know something I don’t?”

“Mmmm. You might find this book interesting,” he smiled.  “This is a short story by John Steinbeck.  Do you know who Steinbeck was?”

“Yes, he was some old guy who wrote a book about growing grapes.  And stuff.”

Her grandfather stared at her and blinked his eyes at least four times.  Maybe five.

“It’s a story about how people behave when the zombies are on the loose.”

“I already know how to behave.  Stay inside.  Social distance, six feet, all that.”

“Don’t be churlish.”

“What’s churlish?”

“If you had plugged in that phone, you could be finding out.  That thick gray book right there in the bookcase is called a dictionary.  All the words are in alphabetical order.”

She stared at him again.  All over her face was churl.

Her grandfather smiled.  “Would you like to play a game?”

“My phone’s dead.”

“No I mean an old-fashioned board game.  In the real world.  In 3D. Let’s play Monopoly.”

Alex sighed, “I always win.”

Her grandfather allowed the slightest of smiles to cross his face.

“Would you like to play a Monopoly game that’s a little more unpredictable?”

“Maybe.”

He pulled the box from the bookshelf and blew the dust from it.

“This is called Marxist Monopoly.”

They unfolded the board on the dining room table and arranged all the pieces, sorting the play money into its proper compartments.

Alex eyed the pieces and grabbed her favorite.  “I’ll be the Scottie Dog, as usual.  He’s my good luck piece.  Do you want the top hat?”

Her grandfather’s wrinkled hand moved over the collection.  “This game is a little different.  I think I’ll be The Boot.”

He handed her a green twenty dollar bill, and gave himself one.  “Now I’ll be the bank, but in this game, we’ll call it the Government.”

“Fine.  Whatever.”

Alex rolled the dice.  A two and a one.  “Three! that gives me Baltic Avenue.”  She stared at the price.  “I only have twenty dollars.”

“Yes,” said her grandfather. “Same as the rest of us.”

“But that’s not fair!”

“Oh, I beg to differ.  It’s actually extremely fair.  We all got the same amount.”

“Then we should have started with more to begin with.”

“Well, in regular Monopoly, you’d be entitled to your opinion.  I’m afraid that’s not the case in this game.  If you don’t stop complaining, I’ll throw you in jail.”

“You can’t do that!  It’s against the rules!”

“Actually, I’m the government and I am the rules.  I can do that.”

Her grandfather rolled an eight, landing on Connecticut Avenue.  “You see?  I don’t have enough either.  Your turn.”

She rolled the dice again, landing on CHANCE.  Her grandfather handed her the orange card. “PAY POOR TAX OF $15” said the little top-hatted millionaire with his pockets turned inside-out.

Her grandfather gave her five dollars in change.  “How do you know that’s right?” she asked.

The top of his head tilted slowly down to a position near his shoulder as he stared at her.

Grandfather rolled again, landing on Tennessee Avenue.  He handed her the dice.

Eight.  She landed on Pennsylvania Railroad.  “Well obviously I can’t afford it,” she muttered.

“It makes no difference.  They’re all Amtrak now.”

“Wait a minute.  Who owns all this property at the start?”

“I do, Alex.  I’m the government.”

“Well I don’t think I like this game.”

“Most people don’t,” said her grandfather.

“I’m not going to play by the rules.”

He moved her piece to JAIL.

“ That’s not fair.”

“Oh it’s quite fair.  I’m the government and I’d do it to anyone playing this game.”

“I quit.”

“Most people do.”

They picked up the pieces and put them in the box.

“That’s an immoral and unwinnable game.”

Her grandfather’s head moved slowly over to his shoulder again as he smiled at her.

“Mmmmm.”dbsig2

(FULL DISCLOSURE BY THE AUTHOR:  I’m never this patient with young people.  I made the whole thing up.)

Coronavirus Zombie Apocalypse: The End Is Near

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As the news networks tell it, the coronavirus zombie apocalypse is continuing.  The red spread of death across the world maps continues to encroach upon us.  The end is near.

The end is near, actually.  As we apply common sense, stay away from other people and wash our hands, the numbers will drop and life as we knew it will continue.

Our society is jaded.  The lackluster solution of washing our hands doesn’t excite us.  If this virus had six heads and was standing in our backyards, we could battle it with flamethrowers.  That would be exciting and then the credits would roll across the screen and we’d be heroes.  The real heroes of hand washing and social distancing don’t generate a lot of enthusiasm.

Now, due to public pressure, the government is buying and distributing millions of corona virus test kits.  They’ll be here soon. My doctor friend cautioned me to view testing in the proper perspective.  Testing is a wise thing, from the perspective of those scientists who need information about it.  It’s of no value whatsoever to me.  My Type II diabetes doesn’t improve because I stuck my finger with a needle.  Testing for the flu helps my doctor determine how to help me, but I don’t feel any better for it. I’m not going to lose weight by standing on my bathroom scale, but I can do it thirty times a day if I feel like it. Next winter, how many times are you going to take a “free” flu test?  Probably as many times as your doctor advises it.

The other day, a good friend described the reality of free corona testing.  Alexandra is a good example.  She’s 27 years old and scared to death that the corona zombie is going to get her. She drives through the WalMart parking lot free testing.  Her result is negative.  But later that week, somebody sneezes in the tattoo parlor and back she goes again. The result is negative. Later that week, unexplainably, somebody’s lips come into contact with her lips, ears and, well, I wasn’t born yesterday.  She feels uncomfortable about it. Test number three. It’s negative also. How many test kits, how many healthcare professionals (who otherwise might be helping someone who really needs it), how much time, money and resources are involved in Alexandra’s apocalypse, while she steals our toilet paper from the supermarket shelves?  Free testing, in the end, may well slow the process of fighting the problem.  We’d be wiser to let people think they’ve got it.  They’d probably stay home, wash their hands and stop stealing my oxygen and toilet paper.

There are untold millions of Alexandras out there.  The abuse of free corona virus testing will embarrass us one day soon. Why don’t we have free drive-through testing for the flu?  Where are our flamethrowers when we have a known serial killer in our own backyard?  I’m in the high risk category because I’m over 60 and have existing health issues.  I’ll take a test when my doctor thinks I ought to.  And I’ll do it just once.  I expect to stay calm throughout the entire procedure.

When I’m sick with the flu or other winter malady, I always think it’ll get better. Then Saint Mary convinces me I need to go to Urgent Care. I lay around for days and hate being sick.  Sooner or later, I start feeling better.  I go out into the world and in a very short time, I am invincible again. This happens nearly every winter, because I always get healthy enough to be invincible until I catch it again. While you laugh at me, please realize that I’ve just described what corona virus is likely to do to us  if  we contract it.

The scientists need the tests.  They’ll get the information eventually, through healthcare providers, and it will teach us all about how to deal with corona virus.  But with free corona testing, we will tie up an enormous amount of time and resources, including health care professionals who could be helping sick people.  

I’m learning things from this zombie apocalypse, though.  I see the photos of the empty store shelves.  It teaches me how folks will treat me when the zombies are really there.

Separation Will Bring Us Together

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I thought I had held forth enough about the coronavirus, but people just aren’t listening to me. Perhaps I don’t have the readership and broad reception of Trump or doctors Oz and Drew, but I do have some common sense for anyone willing to take it.

As promised by many competent health experts, the virus has or will spread everywhere.  It’s highly unlikely that it will kill you.  We have a task in front of us—that’s you, me and everyone else.  It’s up to us to stop or slow the spread of the virus.  Talking doctor heads keep referring to “mitigation.”  That means reducing the severity of the virus.  They’re talking about you.  Not the six people around you, not just the older, younger other people.  They mean everybody.  Here’s your job:

  1. Separate.  In as many ways as possible, stop doing the things that bring you into contact or close proximity with other people, particularly in contained areas where you’re all re-breathing the same air.  Try to get it into your head to keep distance from other warm bodies—stay six feet away if possible.  Cancel your plans for any large gatherings.  They’ve mostly been cancelled for you, and that’s a good thing.
  2. Wash your hands. Scrub them, including fingertips.  Leave that soap on there and scrub them for at least 20 seconds.  Do it several times a day.
  3. Avoid sick people.  I don’t think that needs explaining.
  4. Stop raiding the stores.  You people are acting like the zombie apocalypse out there.  It’s ridiculous. Take the normal amount of toilet paper and leave the rest for us.  I thought some of you people enjoyed a little socialism in your life. Stop it right now. Go to your room.
  5. Avoid television news except to hear any recent advice or instructions.  Then turn it off.  They (all of the networks) are trading on your fear and fanning its flames.  Quit listening.  We’re being asked to work together on this and to sacrifice temporarily.  If you think it’s unfair, it’s not.  If you think your rights are being violated, they’re not.  If you feel offended, get over it.  If you think you’re being asked to sacrifice too much, find a World War II veteran (if you can) and ask him to tell you about the war.  Or his wife or family who stayed home.  They can explain real sacrifice to you and it will be much better coming from them than me. 

This is all very very simple.  Think of the virus as a tiny animal.  Without a warm body to land on, it can’t survive but a few hours.  It will die.  If we all work as a team and deny it the warm bodies it needs, we’ll see those numbers drop as dramatically as they rose.  It really is that simple.  Stop complaining, quit worrying about it and just do it.

If you find yourself thinking that missing a concert or a night at a club is asking too much, then it’s important to know that we haven’t been asked to sacrifice—or work together—for decades.  There are many of us out here who have never truly sacrificed. 

Compared to what others have done in our history, this isn’t even close to sacrifice.  It’s a very minor annoyance and it won’t last.

In My Day

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Eleanor Roosevelt wrote a popular newspaper column for years entitled My Day.  My starchly conservative grandmother, Evelyn Hicks Boehner, would work in her kitchen and mutter “My Day.  MY day.  Who cares about her day?” 

I didn’t get it then, but I get it now. My grandmother’s day was every bit as important as Eleanor’s. I think of those things and how my own day has changed so dramatically over the past few decades.  I’m really not a “back in my day” sort of person.  I don’t want this collection of essays to become some maudlin  Forever Young  tear-jerker.  But maybe there is a time and place for comparing “in my day” to the current world.

I like some new things, you know.

It may surprise my close friends, but I enjoy young people with their unspoiled exuberance and energy.  I am secretly hopeful of their spirit, because they want to change the world and I remember when I wanted to do that.  I disguise my faith in them with the rough exterior of a curmudgeon.  It works well for me, keeping them at arm’s length so I can concentrate on saving the world.

There are plenty of new things I like.  Cell phones, for example, though I worry about people who seem to be addicted to them. A phone/calendar/reminder list/newspaper in my pocket is a convenience I enjoy, yet I often put mine down and walk away from it.  There is a part of me who misses the days when there was only one phone in the house and we didn’t answer it during suppertime.

I miss the news on television.  Every network promises us news and every day—all day—there are men and women on there telling us things, but this is not news.  Depending on the network, it’s a version of the truth, slanted to reflect a particular idiology.  Television journalism, in its infancy, was basically radio that you could watch.  It began as a fifteen minute public service with not-so-attractive guys reading real, hard news and trying to be un-biased.  Yes, they had one or two commercials, but it was a basic premise that if CBS lost the Colgate account, there would still be a news program the next day, and it wouldn’t prefer one toothpaste over another. That’s why we called it a public service.

Thinking that you’re getting unadulterated, un-manipulated information from today’s 24-hour news cycle is like walking into a Las Vegas casino assuming the odds are in your favor.  The only way to survive is with your eyes wide open and your hand on your wallet.  Today’s television news is not about truth.  It’s about pushing an agenda while making advertising money at the cost of our own unguarded innocence. We would do well to remember Benjamin Franklin’s admonition: “Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see.”  Today, in reality, one must decide which side of an argument he or she wants to hear, and then select the appropriate network.

Unbiased reporting is dead.  It died of a lingering sickness. The last time we saw real unbiased reporting was on November 22, 1963, and it lasted three days.  There wasn’t time to slant it; there was time only to tell what was happening.

I’m stepping off the “news soapbox” now, but think about this: of all the ndbsig2ews you learned yesterday, couldn’t you have learned it in thirty minutes from Walter Cronkite and then gone on to spend your time doing something pleasant?

This Coronavirus Thing

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I haven’t written lately.  I don’t know if that begs an apology from me or if it was a relief to you.  I’ve been busy in my workshop for months, building all sorts of things and trying to perfect my Native American beadwork.  Each of them teaches me patience, but I’m a poor student.  I want to develop patience now.  That explains a lot, if you think about it.

I have tried not to sound off on things political.  It occurs to me that having a political opinion on social media changes no minds on the other side of the argument. Not one, not any time, not ever.  Seems like people change their minds when they’re of a mind to change and not one minute earlier.  And that makes my impatience flare up again.

But, politics aside, can we change a few things about how we think about this coronavirus?

I can’t watch the news without fifteen coronavirus stories clogging up my politics.  Readers, are you feeling a disconnect between what the experts are saying and how the media is playing it?

I talked with an old friend of mine who happens to be a very good doctor.  He is very familiar with coronavirus and has several patients suffering with it right here in our community.  Before you scream and tear off to find masks and flamethrowers, these are not Covid-19, the virus in question.  They’re in the same family—like your second cousins twice removed.  Corona viruses have been around for a while.  Only the new one, apparently, is newsworthy.

He pointed out to me that the regular old garden variety flu is killing far more people than CV.  I thought that was worth thinking about.  Why aren’t we seeing frightened media pundits describing the spread of the flu this season—about how many are currently infected and how many are dying?  And showing us one of those maps of the world with different colors of encroaching terror? 

Last week, a doctor who is on the front lines of the CV outbreak spoke calmly and matter-of-factly about the situation.  He said he’s likely to be infected and we ALL are likely to catch it, eventually, in one form or another.  According to this doctor and the most knowledgeable people on earth, about 98 per cent of us will survive in splendid fashion. Some of us will think we’ve caught a cold and get over it.  Many of us won’t realize we’ve got it at all.  It’s a serious matter for older people who have existing medical issues such as respiratory issues, diabetes, heart issues.  I’m one of those people, and I’m as concerned about Covid-19 as I am about the flu. Both of them could send me to a doctor and land me in the hospital.  Both could kill me.  But of course, I could also die from crossing the street without looking both ways, or from apoplexy after watching these wacko nutflakes on TV.

What we’re reading and hearing from the pundits is political.  Politics seldom deals in facts. Listen and read carefully; what the talking heads are saying is one thing.  What the experts are saying is almost entirely different. I call that a disconnect.

How many of us follow the rules for flu season?  Wash your hands.  Don’t touch your face.  If you don’t feel well, stay home.  Avoid contained crowds where you’re all breathing the same air.  If somebody sneezes, hold your breath and walk away.  My wife, Saint Mary, follows all these rules.  I don’t, and I’ve done pretty well for several decades.

My conversation with the doctor ended like this:

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Me:  “So, basically, wash my hands and run away from sneezers?”

Dr:  “Actually, Dick….that’s precisely correct.”

Everybody calm down.  Don’t worry, be happy.  All will be well.