Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Great Pause Week One

"A pod of dolphins rose and dove, then in pairs leaped high in the air, or walked on water with tailfin, or leaped and rotated. We applauded and cheered."


It is all too easy to die. I want to survive.

That’s my goal, but I grok the hurdles. You see a neighbor and you think, well, if I have a moment with them, it will be okay. But you don’t know who they have been in contact with, or where they might have been. You have to hold that 2-meter distance. You have to if you really want to survive. Even if what you both most need, really need, is a hug and a moment together, and maybe to pass a joint.

Today the dolphins were putting on a show. I went for my daily swim at sunset and some friends also in their 70s were having chilled white wine on the beach. I sat with them after the swim. With appropriate social distancing and no greeting hugs we agreed we are going to be making this a regular thing.

I noticed a fin break the surface out about 100 yards and pointed. We were treated to a great display. It must have lasted 15 or 20 minutes. A pod of dolphins rose and dove, then in pairs leaped high in the air, or walked on water with tailfin, or leaped and rotated. We applauded and cheered.

Nearby, a man cast his net for fish. I told Sandra I thought the dolphins were driving the fish for him but she called bullshit on that. They were too far away to see him, she said, and probably just fishing for themselves.


Spring Breakers oblivious to social distancing
Last of the regular blogs posted today. It will be a while until I can bring myself to write in that style again. There is no doubt Trump is still worth bashing, and I may not be able to resist piling on, but the climate emergency and my biochar solution now seem all too remote.

Of course, the climate emergency continues grinding on in the background, even if humans have a different kind of crisis occupying their minds. The pandemic will make the world warmer by global brightening, but not by very much or very soon. Air travel was 10% of GDP and 8% of GHG. Climate scientist Paul Beckwith is reassuring that the pandemic dimming bump will be minimal — 0.03°C — but I would not take any prediction to the bank. 

Speaking of which, the ATM by the mayor’s office still works so I took out the limit — 8000 pesos, which will last me a month, maybe two if I spend carefully.


Learning to social distance
The real demon in the room is not the virus. You will get it or you won’t. You will die or you won’t. The real demon is your mind. Yesterday I smoked some reefer and it thrust me into the local telepathy bubble. There is a lot of fear there. The antidote is to radiate happiness and tranquility even if you feel the grip of another’s angst in the pit of your stomach.

At sunset today Sandra was right to chastise me for gallows humor. Also, I need to limit my news downloads. WHO has recommended only twice a day on the mass media for the sake of mental health. That is good advice. I have the Beatles channel on Sirius. And Elvis.

I put out a couple Instagram stories about making sauerkraut at home. They were well received, more because they were upbeat, I suspect, than because they were particularly useful as how-to videos. 



Trying to Suspend my Verizon Account

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Taking temp and BP daily now. I need to work more to bring my BP down. It seems good after workouts but elevates when I am reading. I checked the supply of prescriptions and will visit the pharmacy today or tomorrow to see if I can get a renewal of each for up to 2 months. Not sure that will be possible but worth the try. I don’t want to give up reading.

Yesterday I improved my spreadsheet on virus case projections for Mexico and Tennessee, which are both on a similar datapoint in the exponential curve, just past the bottom of the J. While global doubling time is approximately 5 days, both Mex and Tenn have established 2-day doublings for the past 10 days. My new spreadsheet projects that trend out a few months.

This produced an interesting discovery for me. While the public health professionals are all asking us to flatten the curve, the lax control attitude that places the economy over ecology will spike the curve in red states. South Korea, with active suppression, is the world model for a flat curve, Italy, with slow mitigation, is the model for a spike. What I saw in that data is that S. Korea will have the virus at a semi-epidemic stage for a very long time — likely until there is a vaccine. Italy, and by extension red states and countries like Mexico, will have more rapid and extensive deaths in their populations (in the red states denialist Republicans are more likely to die than Democrats), but it will saturate the entire population faster and be “over” quicker. How fast? My estimate is that Tennessee, for instance (and Mexico by extension), will peak their cases by the end of April and peak their deaths by May or June. They simply cannot keep doubling beyond the size of their population.

I am not saying the do-nothing approach is kind and compassionate, but that “strategy” (if it is one) does get survivors back to work sooner and gets the economy restarted, so there is a certain logic to it, even if the optics are horrendous and hence untouchable, even by Fox, although apparently not for the Lt. Governor of Texas.

Turns out this discovery was also made by Tomas Pueyo and reported in an essay for Medium called “The Hammer and the Dance” on March 19. That post has received more than 9 million views and been translated into 29 languages. Pueyo wrote:
Presented like these, the two options of Mitigation and Suppression, side by side, don’t look very appealing. Either a lot of people die soon and we don’t hurt the economy today, or we hurt the economy today, just to postpone the deaths.

This ignores the value of time…. Every day, every hour we waited to take measures, this exponential threat continued spreading. We saw how a single day could reduce the total cases by 40% and the death toll by even more.

But time is even more valuable than that.
We’re about to face the biggest wave of pressure on the healthcare system ever seen in history. We are completely unprepared, facing an enemy we don’t know. That is not a good position for war.
What if you were about to face your worst enemy, of which you knew very little, and you had two options: Either you run towards it, or you escape to buy yourself a bit of time to prepare. Which one would you choose?

This is what we need to do today. The world has awakened. Every single day we delay the coronavirus, we can get better prepared.

For the countries where the coronavirus is already here, the options are clear.

On one side, countries can go the mitigation route: create a massive epidemic, overwhelm the healthcare system, drive the death of millions of people, and release new mutations of this virus in the wild.
On the other, countries can fight. They can lockdown for a few weeks to buy us time, create an educated action plan, and control this virus until we have a vaccine.
Governments around the world today, including some such as the US, the UK or Switzerland have so far chosen the mitigation path.

That means they’re giving up without a fight. They see other countries having successfully fought this, but they say: “We can’t do that!”
One irony of this pandemic’s history is that the heroes may wind up being doctors and geneticists from Cuba and China. That does not square with US propaganda casting those countries, along with Russia, into the role of Eastasia in Orwell’s 1984, always the enemy. This meme is taught rote to schoolchildren after they recite the Pledge of Allegiance. But as Orwell pointed out, it is easy to rewrite history. Once Germany, Italy, and Japan were our enemies and Russia, Cuba, and Mexico were our friends. Tomorrow Canada may have always been our enemy.

Why do socialist countries have an edge? Jem Bendell says:
…the impact of this pandemic is far greater on society than it needed to be, because of the nature of our economic system, which is dependent on financiers’ confidence of an increasing volume of trade, transactions and debts. In a world where disease and other disruptions are likely to increase, we need a different economic model which does not multiply and prolong the harm.
We have learned that smoking and alcohol both place you in a higher risk category for Covid. Word on the street was that alcohol would no longer be sold on the island after today. I went to the store and got a bottle each of good tequila and vodka and some Pinot Grigio to contribute to the Sunset support group. Then I saw the rotgut vodka (Sisi) selling for 85 pesos a liter ($4) so got some of that for homebrew hand sanitizer and surface sterilizer.


Listening to The Overstory on Audible while biking the empty beach in the cool morning hours.
“That’s when Adam realizes: humankind is deeply ill. The species won’t last long. It was an aberrant experiment. Soon the world will be returned to the healthy intelligences: the collective ones; colonies and hives.”
As I passed homes, old men sat in doorways mending old fishing nets. It has been a while since they fed themselves this way, but they still know how and can teach grandchildren eager for something to do. We are on an island in a constant current that directs fish from the Caribbean into the Gulf. It is the same blue current that Hemingway called his “stream.” Fish will always be plentiful and now, more than ever, as the restaurants in the hotels no longer need to be supplied.

When I waded out for my swim I surprised a sting ray no more than 12 feet from the shore. She turned and scurried away so I wouldn’t step on her. I saw schools of long silver fish. I had to dodge diving pelicans to get to deep water. Glinting bodies leapt into the air to eyeball me as I swam. They followed and nipped at my heels. “Better swim faster, friend, our time is returning.”


South of the small town on the mainland where tourist buses disgorge their cargos to ferry the last 8 miles, our islanders and their local allies decided to erect a barricade. Frustrated by the slow action of government, which has ignored our petitions, they turned out in numbers at 4 AM to put tires across the road.

Eventually the federal police — the military — were called out and they erected their own, more elaborate checkpoint. Tourist vehicles are turned back. Residents must show ID and have their temperature taken to proceed farther. Your papers must be in order.

There is a steady rain of requests for me to join online conversations of various ilk and I have to decide which and how many I want to join. I am quite productive just being a hermit and don’t really need to give advice when I don’t even know myself where all this is going.

That’s really the thing. Some people think that the pandemic will issue in the Age of Aquarius. Others think we will just go back to normal, probably before much longer. It is a Wizard and Prophet tribal divide, to borrow from Charles Mann. The wizards reckon there will be a cure, soon. The prophets, clad in Mr. Natural gowns and sandwich boards, say we have brought the wrath of the gods and a sacrifice is required, to wit, consumer culture hence and forthwith. As usual, they are both speaking past each other.

Our 3000 to 5000 new tourists per day are now gone.
I suspect it is neither. There will be some lessons learned in this, such as the importance of preparation for the unknown knowns. Eighteen percent of the US GDP is devoted to health care (previously thought “the best in the world,” an expectation soon to be revised downward). There were not enough N95 masks, gowns for personnel, or ventilators. There was nobody coordinating preparation and implementation at the national level. Wall Street had collateralized the sick and dying in order to issue corporate and municipal bonds for the rentiers, rather than prepare for what epidemiologists told them was coming. Central planning is communist, right? The market will fix everything.

Perhaps a few more people will have learned to garden and be exploring the possibility of joining an ecovillage. More likely, when this is over, they will have to go back to work in the same, familiar, coal mine economy to try to dig their way out of the collapse of their own personal finances, pay off student loans and buy health insurance.

Perhaps we can have a discussion about that when we get to those times. For now, just #stayhome.

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ElizabethAnn said...

FYI, the WHO has changed the term from "social distancing" to "physical distancing". Maintaining social connections is very important, physical connections not so much. Stay safe.

60sKid said...

Thank you, Albert.




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