Category Archives: Uncategorized

My Big, Dysfunctional Family

Our little neighborhood in Oregon is a magnet for drama.  To paraphrase the wonderful Alexander McCall Smith, “When people don’t have enough to do, they turn on their neighbors.”*

This community depends on its owners to run things, which might be ok if we weren’t a bunch of amateurs — some well-meaning; some self-serving. Many are retired executives who haven’t quite grasped that nobody here actually works for them. This leads to micromanagement, incompetence, and finger-pointing. Our motto should be “Once burned, twice shy” because we put a big bullseye on our backs the moment we volunteer.  After doing your bit, who needs more aggravation unless you’re a certified martyr or control freak?

The problem is that we’re all part of an extended “family” living in close proximity but connected only by the circumstance of choosing to live in the same neighborhood and, otherwise, having little in common.

Were this a Regency play, the cast of characters might read as follows:

Sir Bluffalot: “Whenever I’m wrong, bullying has always worked for me.”

Mr. Bragalot: (Bluffalot’s illegitimate brother) The self-styled expert on everything, no matter how trivial.

Our Lady of Perpetual Discord: Creates conflict so she can swoop in to solve it, ignoring pesky facts that might contradict her cast-iron assumptions.

Saint Gossipus: Want everyone to know your dire financial situation? Tell Saint G.

Aunt Sweety: A beautiful soul who sees the good in everyone.

Cousin It’sTheirFault: She takes no responsibility for her part in events since it’s much easier to blame others.

Uncle High Dudgeon: No issue is too small to overreact.

Miss Representation: Loyal subject of Saint Gossipus, the truth is a pliable commodity.

The Twins, Pitiful Pearl and Timid Timmy: “Please, someone else, solve my problems for me.”

Lord Blinker: Storms into battle for the woman he loves, armed only with outrage.

Sister Sycophant: “I can’t be bothered to find out anything, so I’ll just mix up a big batch of Kool-Aid and pass out the straws.”

The Moral of the Story: Hire professional management. If that’s impossible, avoid all meetings, curl up with a good book, sleuth out some trustworthy friends, and enjoy a nice glass of wine.

Cheers!

action alcohol art beverage

Photo by Posawee Suwannaphati on Pexels.com

*”If you don’t have things to keep you busy, you end up starting fights with your neighbours.” — The Second-Worst Restaurant in France

 

The Summer of COVID

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What’s better than an early morning barefoot walk along a deserted beach? The sand rubbing away rough skin, the tang of the ocean, the whoosh of the waves… all contribute to a feeling of deep peacefulness — temporary, but still restorative.

Here a few scenes from this week’s excursions, plus a useful hack at the end.

The starfish returns

After years of decimation by disease, we’re finally seeing a resurgence of glorious orange and purple sea stars.

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Nature’s patterns

Sand crabs create patterns that suggest a rose and its leaves. Others mirror a grove of trees.

Some plants grow anywhere

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Ducks: They’re just like us — calm on the surface, paddling furiously to stay afloat

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A surreal beachscape

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Summer hack: How to keep sand from sticking to feet

First of all, why does it stick? Sand is highly hydrophilic (“water-loving”), i.e., water molecules attach to each grain. This creates tiny water channels that attract additional moisture from anything that’s even slightly damp.

What to do? Shake a little baby powder on your feet. It’s even more hydrophilic than sand, so the grains should fall away. Also, the powder is less sticky and any residue is more easily brushed off when you leave the beach.

Happy Random Day

Not only is today a lot like yesterday — and probably tomorrow — but I don’t seem to be able to focus on one particular topic. A few things are buzzing around my brain. First up:

Can You Get COVID-19 Twice?

As with everything else, nobody has a clear opinion. Or they change faster than a politician’s election strategy.

Reported in today’s Washington Post:

Doctors emphasize there is no evidence of widespread vulnerability to reinfection and that it is difficult to know what to make of these cases in the absence of detailed lab work, or medical studies documenting reinfections. Some people could be suffering from a reemergence of the same illness from virus that had been lurking somewhere in their body, or they could have been hit with a different virus with similar symptoms. Their positive COVID-19 tests could have been false positives — a not-insignificant possibility given accuracy issues with some tests — or picked up dead remnants of virus, as authorities believe happened in hundreds of people who tested positive after recovering in South Korea.

Suspect Sanitizer

The FDA has warned that some hand sanitizer brands labeled as containing ethyl alcohol actually contain a much more dangerous ingredient.

The agency reported that there has been an increase in hand sanitizers that have tested positive for methanol, or wood alcohol. If methanol is absorbed through the skin, it can cause blindness and hospitalizations; even death if ingested.  For the complete list, go to FDA hand sanitizer updates.

Men and #MeToo

It’s not just women who’ve been harassed by men in power.  This fascinating article looks at how some men have suffered too. And no, they weren’t the abusers.

Life In 3-D

How about a random mantra? Decode the problem. Decide the next steps. Deliver change.

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(Random beach photo from a recent walk)

 

 

Good News Monday: Boredom Buster

Guess who else is bored with COVID-19? Penguins!

It seems they’d been extra fidgety over at the Newquay Zoo in Cornwall, England until a donor came up with an ingenious solution: a bubble maker.

No mere entertainment, the CPC (chief penguin caretaker) explained that the bubbles also keep the penguins’ predatory reflexes sharp.

One wonders… could there be a tie-in between champagne and aggression in humans? Is this why some wedding celebrations turn into drunken brawls?

Anyway, the article and video are seriously cute.

cold nature cute ice

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Good News Monday: Why Masks Work

Yes, it’s Tuesday. But, honestly, who can tell the difference between one day and the next?

This, from the Los Angeles Times, is interesting.  On the off chance that the link doesn’t work — because, mostly, they don’t since they want you to subscribe instead of reading for free — I’m pasting it here.

You’ll get the gist even if you don’t read the whole thing. (What’s a “gist”? Glad you asked. Extensive research indicates “early 18th century: from Old French, third person singular present tense of gesir ‘to lie’, from Latin jacere . The Anglo-French legal phrase c’est action gist [‘this action lies’ , e.g. occurs] denoted that there were sufficient grounds to proceed; gist was adopted into English denoting the grounds themselves.”  Now you know.

Masks offer much more protection against coronavirus than many think

RONG-GONG LIN II, MAURA DOLAN

There’s a common refrain that masks don’t protect you; they protect other people from your own germs, which is especially important to keep unknowingly infected people from spreading the coronavirus.

But now, there’s mounting evidence that masks also protect you.

If you’re unlucky enough to encounter an infectious person, wearing any kind of face covering will reduce the amount of virus that your body will take in.

As it turns out, that’s pretty important. Breathing in a small amount of virus may lead to no disease or far more mild infection. But inhaling a huge volume of virus particles can result in serious disease or death.

That’s the argument Dr. Monica Gandhi, UC San Francisco professor of medicine and medical director of the HIV Clinic at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, is making about why — if you are unlucky to get infected with the virus — masking can still protect you from more severe disease.

“There is this theory that facial masking reduces the [amount of virus you get exposed to] and disease severity,” said Gandhi, who is also director for the Center for AIDS Research at UC San Francisco.

The idea of requiring mask-wearing in public has become an increasingly pressing and politicized issue as California and the rest of the nation see a surge in new cases as the economy reopens.

California this week ordered a reclosure of many businesses, include a statewide halting of all indoor dining and a closure of bars. The state also ordered a closing down — in dozens of hard-hit counties, including L.A. County — of indoor gyms, houses of worship, hair salons, nail salons and offices for nonessential industries.

But experts say masks are essential for people to wear when they still go out in public, such as to shop or go to medical appointments, and to get exercise like heading to the beach or park.

California has mandated face coverings in public settings since June 18, and a growing number of communities said they will ticket people who disobey the rules. But there remains some resistance to the government mandating wearing masks in some corners of the state, including Orange County.

Some leaders in Orange County have pushed back against requiring students to wear masks should they return to classrooms in the fall.

In policy recommendations approved by the Orange County Board of Education on Monday, a document stated that “requiring children to wear masks during school is not only difficult — if not impossible to implement — but [is] not based on science. It may even be harmful.” Individual districts will have the final say on how schools open.

Some health experts were appalled by that language.

“This anti-mask rhetoric is mind-blowing, dangerous, deadly and polarizing,” said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, professor of medicine and an infectious diseases specialist at UC San Francisco. “There is no evidence that it is dangerous.”

In fact, wearing masks can help prevent children from being infected and suffering serious consequences of infection, such as multisystem inflammatory syndrome, a rare condition that has been seen in children who have been infected with the coronavirus. “Kids not only transmit, but they can get sick as well,” Chin-Hong said.

While children are less likely to develop severe illness from the coronavirus than adults, they can still be infected, be contagious and transmit the virus to other people, Gandhi said.

Wearing a mask at school would not only reduce their ability to transmit the virus to other classmates, teachers and administrators, but also protect the students from getting infected with a large dose of virus from infected people.

Transmission rates for coronavirus have been rising across the state. Nearly 1,000 of San Francisco’s nearly 4,600 cases have been diagnosed in just the last two weeks, said Dr. Grant Colfax, the city’s director of public health.

In San Francisco, nearly half of all those who have tested positive in the city are Latinos, he said, even though Latino residents make up just 15% of the city’s population. Overall, the city has seen 7.8 new infections per 100,000 residents over the last seven days, far above its goal of no more than 1.8 new infections per 100,000 people.

“This, again, indicates that the virus is spreading throughout the city, particularly … in the southeast part of the city,” Colfax said.

For every one person who contracts the virus, another 1.25 people on average are now infected, he said. “We really need to drive that down to 1 or below as quickly and as soon as possible.”

The transmission rate also rose above 1 in L.A. County in June, but has fallen back to 1. “The virus currently rages on in our community,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.

The reason why masks are so important in controlling the spread of the coronavirus is that it can be widely spread by people who are not visibly sick — either because they haven’t yet shown signs of illness, or they will spend the entire course of their infections with little or no symptoms at all.

A key piece of evidence for this emerged earlier this year, on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that carried infected crew and passengers in Asia. A study published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that of 712 people testing positive for the virus, nearly half were asymptomatic at the time of testing.

“We also know that viral load is highest early during disease,” said Dr. Chaz Langelier, an assistant professor at UC San Francisco, during the panel discussion. In fact, 44% of transmissions are believed to occur when the infected person has no symptoms, according to a study published in Nature Medicine.

That’s different from the seasonal flu, where peak infectiousness occurs about one day after the onset of symptoms, Langelier said.

Masks don’t filter out all viral particles, Gandhi said. But even cloth face masks filter out a majority of viral particles.

And even if a person wearing a mask gets infected, the mask — by filtering out most of the viral particles exhaled by the infected person — probably leads to less severe disease, Gandhi said.

The idea that a lower dose of virus when being infected brings less illness is a well-worn idea in medicine.

Even going back to 1938, there was a study showing that by giving mice a higher dose of a deadly virus, the mice are more likely to get severe disease and die, Gandhi said.

The same principle applies to humans. A study published in 2015 gave healthy volunteers varying doses of a flu virus; those who got higher doses got sicker, with more coughing and shortness of breath, Gandhi said.

And another study suggested that the reason why the second wave of the 1918-19 flu pandemic was the deadliest in the U.S. was because of the overcrowded conditions faced in army camps as World War I wound down.

Finally, a study published in May found that surgical mask partitions significantly reduced the transmission of the coronavirus among hamsters. And even if the hamsters protected by the mask partitions acquired the coronavirus, “they were more likely to get very mild disease,” Gandhi said.

So what happens if a city dramatically masks up while in public?

If Gandhi is right, it may mean that even if there’s a rise in coronavirus infections in a city, the masks may limit the dose people are getting of the virus and result in them more likely to show less severe symptoms of illness.

That’s what Gandhi said she suspects is happening in San Francisco, where mask wearing is relatively robust. Further observations are needed, Gandhi said.

There’s more evidence that masks can be protective — even when wearers do become infected. She cited an outbreak at a seafood plant in Oregon where employees were given masks, and 95% of those who were infected were asymptomatic.

Gandhi also cited the experience of a cruise ship that was traveling from Argentina to Antartica in March when the coronavirus infected people on board, as documented in a recent study. Passengers got surgical masks; the crew got N95 masks.

But instead of about 40% of those infected being asymptomatic — which is what would normally be expected — 81% of those testing positive were asymptomatic, and the masking may have helped reduce the severity of disease in people on board, Gandhi said.

The protective effects are also seen in countries where masks are universally accepted for years, such as Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea and Singapore. “They have all seen cases as they opened … but not deaths,” Gandhi said.

The Czech Republic moved early to require masks, issuing an order in mid-March, Gandhi said; that’s about three months before Gov. Gavin Newsom did so statewide in California. But in the Czech Republic, “every time their cases would go up …their death rate was totally flat. So they didn’t get the severe illness with these cases going on.”

By May, the Czech Republic lifted its face mask rule. “And they’re doing great,” Gandhi said.

End of article, back to me.  If it’s good enough for hamsters, I’m definitely wearing a mask.
hamster

Photo by Juris Freidenfelds on Pexels.com

COVID-19 Spending and Saving

Perhaps the only upside to what I call the “pandammit” is that I’m not shopping like a drunken socialite, to quote my friend S. Which doesn’t mean I’ve stopped shopping altogether; it’s more that I’m buying different things.

Big-ticket items flew out the window as life got simpler and our activities remain close to home. Meanwhile, entire categories (hello, hand sanitizer) became essentials. What a topsy-turvy world! (Google reports that the expression “may be an adaptation of the medieval verb ‘tirve’, meaning ‘to turn or to topple over’. It has also been suggested that ‘turvy’ is an allusion to ‘turf’ and that ‘topsy-turvy’ means ‘with one’s head on the turf’.”) 

Spending more

  • Amazon – miscellaneous household items, esp. hard to get stuff
  • Whole Foods delivery in the early months
  • Fresh fruits and veggies from farmers’ market and small specialty grocers
  • Cooking gadgets
  • Wine and booze – do you even have to ask why?
  • TV streaming services
  • Zoom membership
  • Books
  • Vitamins, supplements, acetaminophen PM
  • Face masks — whoever predicted one would need a wardrobe of these?!
  • Cute socks
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Fresh flowers to maintain sanity and illusion of elegant normalcy

Saving more

  • Makeup, especially lipstick – kind of pointless when wearing a mask, no?
  • Hair salon – spreading out appointments and doing trimming/touch-ups myself until desperate
  • Pedicures – My toes are not worth dying for
  • Restaurants
  • New clothes – to go where, exactly?
  • Travel
  • Cultural events/theatre/opera tix
  • Massages and facials (see pedicure)

Yep, things are definitely tirving these days.

photo of inverted woman on wooden chair

Photo by Wendy Wei on Pexels.com

 

 

 

Good News Monday: Bad and Good Women Get What They Deserve

First up, breaking news: Amy Cooper, the white woman in Central Park who called the police on a Black bird watcher, will be charged with filing a false report, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

Ms. Cooper will be arraigned in October.  If convicted — which seems likely since the incident was captured on video and went viral — she could be given a conditional discharge or sentenced to community service or counseling rather than jail time. (Counseling seems like an excellent idea, regardless of any other punishment.)

On Memorial Day, Ms. Cooper who’d been walking with her dog, encountered Christian Cooper (no relation), a Harvard graduate and bird watching enthusiast, in the Ramble, a semi-wild part of the park where dogs must be leashed.

Mr. Cooper said that he asked Ms. Cooper to leash her dog, and when she refused, he attempted to lure the dog with treats, hoping to compel her to restrain her pet. (Pet owners don’t like strangers to offer treats and usually leash their dogs to avoid this.) The encounter then got ugly when Ms. Cooper decided to call 911 and tell them that an African-American man was threatening her life.

That’s the Bad Women part of this report. Now, let’s celebrate more illustrious women.

On a more positive note, this year marks the centennial of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the long-overdue right to vote. In honor, The National Trust for Historic Preservation is currently crowdsourcing locations where women made history.

Savingplaces.org directs visitors to a number of distinctive destinations, including the house where Susan B. Anthony was arrested for voting in 1872, the First Ladies’ Museum, Frederick Douglass’ D.C. home, which Helen Douglass and the National League of Colored Women worked to save, the first secondary school for women, the home where the initial Girl Scouts meeting was held, and many others. They’re hoping to receive hundreds of suggestions.

[pixabay.com]

Good News Monday: Plastic Fantastic

These amazing artworks, created from the tons of plastic that wash up on local beaches, are exhibited at the Oregon Zoo, The Smithsonian, and other locations to call attention to pollution and its effect on marine life. I imagine the schedule is changing due to coronavirus, but this is something I can’t wait to see!

Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea

What Is Washed Ashore?

Roughly 300 million pounds of plastic is produced globally every year—but less than 10 percent is recycled. As a result, millions of pounds of plastic end up in our oceans.

Washed Ashore takes on the global marine debris crisis by turning plastic waste into beautiful, thought-provoking works of art. With the aim to educate viewers on the state of plastic pollution in our oceans, Washed Ashore features larger-than-life sea creatures made entirely of discarded, washed-up plastic waste.

Washed Ashore founder and director Angela Haseltine Pozzi began the project in 2010, collecting accumulated plastic along the Oregon coast. With the help of a small staff and thousands of volunteers, Pozzi has since processed around 18 tons of plastic and transformed it into powerful art with an important message.

Washed Ashore will be on display at the Oregon Zoo beginning in late January. Come view these spectacular sea creatures for yourself, and discover the reality of the “deadliest ocean predator”—plastic pollution.

Reducing plastic pollution

The rise of plastic pollution has created a global plastic waste crisis, and our oceans are feeling the effects. Plastic pollution is a threat that continues to grow, and impacts the health of both marine and land-based wildlife, as well as our ecosystems and humans. The Oregon Zoo believes that reducing sources of plastic pollution is an essential aspect of protecting the health of both wildlife and people, and the ecosystems we all depend on.

Reducing plastic pollution is only achievable through a combined effort on the part of consumers, business and governments. To learn more about what the Oregon Zoo and the city of Portland have done to reduce plastic waste and consumption, and see actions that you can take to help, click here.

 

Coping with Covid-19: It’s About Time

Many of us joked at the beginning of this pandemic that introverts would be better equipped to handle long periods of isolation. We’re all still inside reading, while our extrovert friends and family — plus all those manic folks we’re seeing on the news — are out cavorting as if the emergency is now over.  If only.

I’ve been thinking that another factor influencing how crazy-making this is, is whether you generally prefer having structured or unstructured time.

Most people have a strong inclination towards one or the other.  Put another way, do you tend to feel happier during the workweek, when you have a series of tasks that need to be done, colleagues with whom you interact, a feeling of achievement when you complete a project? Are schedules and routines useful rather than burdensome?

Or are you more of a “free spirit” who doesn’t like to follow a regimen? Are you happiest at the weekend with no particular agenda and the option to use your time as your own?

Being retired, I notice less of a difference than I did in my career life, but I clearly still fall into the “structured” category. For example, I’ve always liked to make lists and plan appointments ahead of time. Sundays and major holidays can be frustrating because certain things are closed and I can’t get stuff done.  (Are structured people more prone to impatience, too, I wonder? Don’t answer that!)

Of course, Covid has tossed many options out the window. But knowing which type you are can help you deal with stress and uncertainty by adding more or less structure to your day.  If you’re an “S”, try keeping a calendar of even the most banal activities so you can feel some sense of accomplishment as you tick them off your list. If you’re a “U” who hates following rules, enjoy the relative freedom of working from home and taking breaks when you feel like it.

I’ve read that S’s often instinctively pair up with U’s, which may be nature’s way of helping us find balance in a relationship: The “structured” person can do most of the planning and organizing, while their “unstructured” partner comes up with spur-of-the-moment fun stuff.

Is scheduled spontaneity the best of both worlds? Or merely another oxymoron in our current reopening-but-not reality?

man break dancing on street

Photo by Luis Quintero on Pexels.com