The Grapes of Math

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Night. See it now, untainted, while available.

My parents (from Nor Cal) decided in January to come up for an extended visit. Just a few weeks. A friend of theirs was moving house and in between places, so she was going to house sit for them — and store her POD in their driveway. Win-win. The math was favorable.

Then the coronavirus started in Wuhan, and the math began to change. It quickly became apparent, at least to us, the present US administration was not just botching the national response, but actively throwing wrenches in it (can you say, depraved indifference?).

At that point, my parents decided to visit for the full 6 months allowed by law. This changed the math again, for my Gran, in So Cal, who was vulnerable. She has a caregiver that helps her out, but without family right there? What really were Gran’s chances going to be?

Given the Italian situation, the math dictated Gran needed a single family member there to care and advocate for her if she got sick. Since I was young and fit, I squeezed that grape hard and volunteered.

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Happy first day of Spring!

I called old employers down south and found one that could use an extra person till May. I figured, that’d be long enough, maybe.  I asked to work at home, so I could be with my Gran, because of the virus. He thought I was nuts, that the virus was nothing. But I’m a powerhouse worker, and when left alone, I do twice the work of anyone else. So given the bargain aspect, he said ok.

As time went on, I found it frightening that I was the only one allowed to do work at home.  The nature of the work is dependent on a high degree of interaction with the public. It’s a bullpen style office, with multiple shifts on shared computers A lot of the workers are retirees over 65, who need the money to live.

The math said, all kinds of bad would happen in that scenario when the virus came.

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Sailing too close to the wind?

I love my boss. He’s an ex-Navy officer who enjoys sailing really close to the wind. We get on because I’m the “this is reality and you need these contingencies in place” person. He always ignores me, and then gets himself in trouble. But, like Jeremiah, I keep trying to get through to him. For his sake, and the people that work for him.

I felt compelled to repeatedly tell him things needed to change, externally and internally, if he wanted to protect his business, and his workers.  He always laughed. The other people in the office? They didn’t laugh at all. They saw reality too. But being the voice of reality made me the thorn in the lion’s paw. I was “disrupting the office, bad for morale.”

 

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By Leap Day, neither he, nor I, could take it anymore. I could see people at work were in danger. He just couldn’t. The turnaround for the project was way ahead of schedule. I said, “Great.” He said “Terrible. We need to slow it down.” I thought, “This is a gift. This could save the company (and the workers) if California shuts down.” But I didn’t say it.

The math said, time to go. So I quit that day. At that point, I didn’t know if it was safe even to touch the work I was handed from the office to do at home. There was no research at that point. And with my Gran at 90+, I wasn’t going to risk it. And that was that.

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So, I spent some time re-reading “How to Human” by Episcopal priest Alice Connor. I’ve been out walking in the dark quite nights, free of noise and light pollution, and when I can adding to the science data base on night sky light pollution.

I fed the birds (and the squirrels) and listened to the many more birds to be heard now that things have slowed down. I painted. I signed up for some online classes at edX.org. I got into online Lenten praying with the Irish Jesuits, and this year some hard-core fasting (which cuts down on going out to buy food, and has weight loss benefits!).

It was all good.

C2015 Quarantini

Shameless steal from my friends at Liquor Store Bear

Then a week later, I heard from a work friend (over age 70) that she had become sick – at the office — and kept working! She finally got so dizzy she had to be taken home by her spouse. She told me she tried to go back into the office after a few days at home, but felt so sick she had to leave again.

From what she described, I’m pretty sure she had (still has) Covid 19, although she didn’t get a test.

She decided it was just flu, really, really bad flu. She told me she was upset that she wasn’t allowed to work at home, that still no one was, even though by now the government was asking people to. I was thinking, “You’d be working while sick, and shedding virus on the work.”

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I’m not sick, just very, very sleepy.

She asked me: “Do you think they’d pay me the 3 days sick pay? You know, I don’t want to get fired.” This is the state of employment, health care, and being “retired” in the US.

There’s an unspoken tone at the company. If you use any type of benefit, UI, sick leave, anything, you’ll be fired and never rehired. It happened in the distant past — even though those resources are all legally the employee’s to use.  I said, “You’re legally entitled to use those hours, if you want to claim them.” And I left it at that.

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Some companies’ policy is “if you’re sick and use sick leave, you leave for good.”

This week on Monday, I went out to get dog food at a hole in the wall, local-owned shop. It was just me, the manager and the clerk. But the parking lot of 300+ space was full and people were cutting each other off and stealing spaces. I later saw there was a police cruiser with lights on at the Trader Joe’s. People were panic buying.

Tuesday, I texted my senior friend to check on her. She said she’s still had headaches and nausea, but she was self-quarantining. I applauded that. But her husband, who runs a busy appliance repair shop and has as mother dying of cancer, wasn’t also doing SQ. And, she told me she’s working from home, meaning she went to the office to get work and will be taking her work back there, all while supposedly SQ!

Uh, okay. (here’s how to SQ the right way.) This is how Americans behave. Because they have no healthcare, have no living wages, have no safety nets. All they have is a “hell bent on destroying people” federal government.

Wednesday I got a short email from my boss asking me to please take work home. By this time, I’d read an article on how long the virus can live on things.  It seemed safe, and with the economy cratering, best to build a nest egg while one can. So I said ok and went down the rabbit hole again.

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Kids art project: Easter Eggs.

I went to the company parking lot and made them load work into my trunk. I didn’t touch it. I stood 6′ away and talked to a couple other people. Then I went home and left the work to sit for 3 days, in my garage, in quarantine. I told them in future, put work for me in boxes, seal them and mark the date and time (pre-Q).

I wear a mask and glasses while working, even at home. I tend to touch my face a lot and this reminds me not to. I wipe down my computer and phone every night. Some people might find this overkill. I don’t. As my work friend’s case proves, people aren’t even taking even basic common sense precautions.

DO THE FIVE – STAY ALIVE
1

HANDS Wash them often

2

ELBOW Cough into it

3

FACE Don’t touch it

4

FEET Stay more than 3ft apart

5

FEEL sick? Stay home

I think this probably started because of the name. We call it Covid-19. We should call it SARS CoV 2. SARS CoV 2 is the virus. It causes Covid-19, the disease. Think HIV causes AIDS. Covid 19 causes pneumonia. You didn’t die of pneumonia, you died of the disease, Covid 19. And, if you died of Covid 19, that disease was caused by, surprise, the virus SARS Cov 2. I’m not sure why everyone is burying that lede.

If you called the virus what it really is, SARS 2.0, maybe people would stop acting like it’s the flu and no big deal? There should be PSA’s about all the stuff government wants you to do, even just basic things like not panic buying, or hand washing for kids, or how to SQ, or other steps you can take. The should be blasting across TV, radio, podcasts, social media…. but there aren’t any PSAs. None.

I think people here have basically just stripped a gear. A necessary gear. Fact check your behavior before you take action. You don’t need antibacterial hand sanitizer, you just need a basic bar of soap and water to wash. You can carry your own bar of soap if you want too. You don’t need wipes. You just need bleach and a dishcloth (that you can wash). You don’t even need Kleenex, just a handkerchief you can bag (and then wash).

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What do you think that thing in your pocket is for?

There is no food shortage, or water shortage.There’s enough toilet paper. There’s no shortage. The average family buys 100 rolls a year. Why do you think you need 250 rolls? And those flushable wipes? Not flushable. So unless you want $10K in septic tank or sewer line repairs, leave the wipes in the trash. Or better yet, leave them for people who have babies and need them.

Seek online psychological help if you start to panic buy. You’re buying because you need some sense of control and that’s the only thing you can control. I get it. But stop. Just buy what you need for a week. And try thanking your local store’s workers. Who maybe don’t get a living wage or healthcare.

Leave the N95 masks and googles for health care workers, who may have to save your life and who may have to reuse masks during the pandemic.  Maybe make your own masks instead. It’s easy to do. Volunteer to make masks for your local hospital and doctors. You can actually do that.

And try thanking the orderlies, cooks, laundry workers and other frontline medical facilities staff that, again, don’t get a living wage and may not have great healthcare. Only the doctors have health care and a living wage.

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Guns don’t kill viruses. People do.

You certainly don’t need to panic buy a gun. WTF, people? What are you teaching kids about life if you, the rational adult that’s suppose to calm and comfort them, are buying a gun in response to a disease that only requires social distance and hand washing? Holy Moses.

Focus on the reality and what you can do. I spend my time chatting with my significant other, now locked down with his parents in Europe, about next steps. We talk about how you can maybe make a basic ventilator out of an O2 concentrator and nebulizer.  And we talk about end of life stuff.

We talk about my Gran. There’s no point in taking her to a hospital. She’s old, they’ll let her die. And I understand that. She has a DNR on file too. So after doing research, and talking to my Gran, we decided if she gets sick, we’ll put her on oxygen, and crank up the heat and humidity in a makeshift tent.

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Somebody crank up the steam! I’m going in.

There’s a study that says the SARS virus hates warm air and  high humidity. If you go to a hospital, it’s cold and dry.  The ventilator you end up on, pumps warm humid air into your lungs. We keep the humidifier going in the house and keep the heat at a reasonably warm level.  But we have a plan in place if she (or I) gets sick. Stick head over a steam bath and add O2 and really heat the room.

It sounds pretty grim, but reality can be. And, always kind of has been. I’ve been reading the ancient book of Jeremiah. The other day, it was Jeremiah 16. It’s not what you’d call a happy chapter. It’s entitled the Day of Disaster. But it’s a chapter I’ve always wondered about.

In it, Jeremiah, who has had a thoroughly difficult life — preaching reality to people in power who daily denied reality — describes his nation as it will be in the near future as a result of all the denial. It will be a nation in the grips of huge calamity.

He speaks of deadly diseases ravaging the nation. To the point of there being no more weddings, no one to mourn at funerals.  It’s a world gone silent. Until recently, I couldn’t identify with the prophet, and this state of a nation he spoke of was not something I could imagine. Sadly, now, I know how he feels and what he means. So do many around the world.

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Selfie-ism. This is a problem.

I’m not a “this is God’s wrath” person. I read the Bible as a book of wisdom, not a book of rules. I see this historical prophet and this historical event as a lesson in  “what’s the best way to respond, as a loving rational human, when this kind of thing is going down.”

Sort of buried in the middle of the chapter 16 is a line that says, basically, I paraphrase:

“you’re deep in the weeds now because you, each of you, did what was in your own selfish, petty little hearts. You forgot about loving your fellow man, like I told you to do.”

Earlier Jeremiah (Chp. 7) stood in the temple and gave an elaborated version. He said, “If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly,  if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood” you’ll dodge the bullet.

Social justice was the required response to avert national disaster. But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. And for the lack of social justice, the nation fell. I see that message as really applicable right now.

When people lose the plot, lose their love for and faith in each other, things go south quickly. When Selfie-ism is writ large, nations face harsh realities. When governments go “me, me, me” instead of “we, we, we,” you hit the iceberg. The US now clearly a failed “me, me, me” administration.

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The current administration.

 

SIDEBAR:

As the Governor of California was on TV over the weekend, telling people what to do, the POTUS decided to “podium bomb” him and come on during Gov Newsom’s message because….

Well, I guess, the POTUS can’t have someone intelligent and giving rational information to people — getting air time and upstaging him. You ban groups of 50. I’m going ban groups of 10. Dick swinging of the most desperate and juvenile kind.

My Gran just changed the channel to the local news that continued to carry the Governor’s message. She changes the channel every time she sees or hears the POTUS. To be fair, I think that’s the most wise and rational move an American can make now.

It’s true, the current US administration flailing about and going under (even Sen McConnell is signalling this is a one-term administration by asking judges to retire early). But that doesn’t have to happen to you, to your community, to your state. You don’t have to flail or founder or go under. You can pull together. You can help each other. You can do the right things. You can be an agent of change.

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Agent of change, or provocateur?

Once upon a time the world went through yellow fever, cholera, typhoid, TB, and plague on a regular basis. It’s why New Orleans and Washington, DC, both swamps, were places you went in the winter but left by the summer. The 1938 movie Jezebel with Bette Davis is based on this theme, and the theme of “me, me, me.”

One of the reasons Asian nations come through these sorts of things better than Western nations is community spirit, caring about each other collectively. It’s “we, we, we.”  I think Christianity, properly done, in the past gave the West its resilient, can do, “we, we, we” community spirit.

Even today, in a diverse nation such as the US is today, all religions preach the oneness of humanity and selfless love or compassion. Moral ethical scientific people understand, there’s one Earth, and one people. This shouldn’t be news. Unfortunately there’s a lot of twisted theology out there too. And that’s got to be jettisoned.

 

My feeling is the US keeps getting schooled in the value of oneness, social justice, and compassion by reality (God, the Earth, your choice), but it doesn’t learn much. Like a sailing ship, a nation should be tacking, maybe right, maybe left, but always forward into the winds of progress.

America really should be out beyond Europe in terms of progress toward pro-humanity, pro-Earth governance and ways of living. It should be the ship out in front that the other ships of state aspire to emulate. Instead, our ship is being actively kedged backwards and onto the rocks.

If you doubt, read the 1939 book Grapes of Wrath. In many respects, the US is still in the 1930s. The few profit and seek to profit, even off of tragedy, while the many suffer and die. Depraved-heart murder is murder as a result of depraved indifference. It’s where the “stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts” Jeremiah mentioned naturally leads.

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We’re about to bail out the few, to the tune of a trillion dollars, but no mention of the many. No living wage, no single payer health care, no sick or parental leave for all. No protection for the ballot box or voters of color. No passing the ERA or upholding Roe. Nothing for the many. The current US administration wants us to stay in 1939.

The SARS 2.0 – Covid 19 pandemic is another chance for nations, for the US, to change, to tack the ship of state forward for the many. But the only way the many will get through this to create change, is if everyone does what’s best for the many, not the few, or the one. And then those many vote. Vote hard. And tack the ship forward.

If you keep turning the ship in a tight circle around the past, a past that wasn’t good even in the past, eventually you get a maelstrom and …..

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It doesn’t end well for you.

 

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