Tag Archives: bloggers 50+

Good News Monday: The Ultimate Haircut

Baarack the overgrown sheep shorn of 35kg (78 lbs!) of matted wool.

From The Guardian

Escaped merino ram found on the lam in regional Australia.

A rogue overgrown sheep found roaming through regional Australia has been shorn of his 35kg fleece – a weight even greater than that of the famous New Zealand sheep Shrek, who was captured in 2005 after six years on the loose. The merino ram, dubbed Baarack by rescuers, was discovered wandering alone with an extraordinarily overgrown wool coat, and was promptly shorn to save his life.

Kyle Behrend, from the Edgar’s Mission farm sanctuary, told Reuters that it appeared Baarack was “once an owned sheep” who had escaped. Merino sheep do not shed their fleece and need to be shorn at least annually, as their wool continues to grow.

The hirsute ovine was found near Lancefield in Victoria, and rescuers said he had “eked out an existence” eating small shoots of grass.

“He had at one time been ear-tagged, however these appear to have been torn out by the thick, matted fleece around his face,” Behrend said. “He was in a bit of a bad way. He was underweight and, due to all of the wool around his face, he could barely see.”

Baarack is the latest in a long line of very large and woolly sheep to make international headlines.

In 2005 Shrek became a beloved celebrity in New Zealand after he spent six years evading capture and growing to a tremendous size.https://interactive.guim.co.uk/embed/aus/2021/02/ai2html-output_sheep

He was eventually shorn of his 27kg fleece, and even met the New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark, before he died in 2011.

A 2014 Guardian Australia analysis estimated that Shrek’s fleece could be used to produce 47.3 jumpers. (That’s “sweaters” in American.)

Based on an 70% yield assumption, Baarack’s fleece would be the equivalent of 61.3 wool sweaters, or 490 pairs of men’s business socks.

A shorn Baarack wearing a rug
 Thirty-five kilograms lighter, Baarack is adapting well Photograph: Edgar’s Mission

Shrek’s legacy much lives on in his home country, with TVNZ announcing the discovery of Baarack with the headline: “Lost Australian sheep brings back memories of our very own Shrek.”

In 2014 another escaped merino ram, called Shaun the sheep, was found with a 23.5kg fleece in New Zealand.

And last year in Australia an escaped ewe – eventually dubbed Ewenice – was relieved of her 20kg fleece after she was discovered in central Victoria.

But all sheep, Baarack included, still pale in comparison to Chris, a Canberran ram who was found in 2005 with a world record 41kg fleece – twice his body weight.

Chris’s fleece was donated to the National Museum of Australia, where it sits in a large display case. The relieved sheep was adopted to live comfortably on a sanctuary until he died in 2019.

Behrend said Baarack had adapted well to his new weight and was settling in with other sheep on the farm.

Life in the Slow Lane

Do you ever get to the point that life has gotten so far away from you that you don’t even know how to begin to make excuses?

That’s how blogging has been for me these past couple of weeks. A combination of factors that I rationally know are out of my control but are nonetheless stressful, plus long lists of specific things that need to be done, overlaid with general anxiety about world issues such as the weather and that damn impeachment trial. (Seriously — how could any sentient being think 45’s behavior was anything but inexcusable?!) But that one, at least, is in the rearview mirror for now.

I know this is a first world problem, so I apologize in advance.

Dear Husband (DH) and I are in the midst of renovating our soon-to-be-one-and-only-house, which is rapidly being gutted. This is all good news, though it means we are renting a townhome/apartment in another location and need to drive out periodically to pick up mail and make sure there are no contractors lying insensate under a random beam.

Meanwhile, we are trying with no success to date to get on a Covid vaccination schedule. We have signed up in both of the counties where our house and rental are and neither has resulted in an appointment since the state has nowhere near enough supplies for everyone who wants to get it.

On the good news front, our Texas house went under contract within a day of our lovely realtor — who is DH’s oldest daughter — notifying a few agents that we were preparing to sell it. Everything would be proceeding smoothly if it weren’t for, oh, deadly ice storms, massive amounts of snow, power outages, etc. We’re thankful not to be living there but worry about friends and family who are coping with this.

Selling the house also means having someone else pack and ship it. Anxiety-producing because a) we have a lot of things we hope to sell or donate and can’t manage this ourselves, and b) we have to relinquish all fantasies of control over the specifics of the process. I’m trying to adopt the attitude that “stuff is just stuff” and if something gets lost or broken we will replace it. But this is not helping me sleep at night… I’m not counting sheep, I’m counting boxes.

I guess, like all of us, I have to put my faith in whatever powers-that-be may exist, know that we will eventually be on the other side of pandemic-related stress, and just hunker down while managing the few small aspects that are within my control.

If anyone has any good tips for patience after this year of endless upheaval, please share!

Demolition derby!

Double Up!

 C.D.C. research finds that tightly fitted masks, or doubling up with both cloth and surgical masks, could reduce virus transmission by up to 96.5%.

This just in:
Wearing a mask — any mask — reduces the risk of infection with the coronavirus, but wearing a more tightly fitted surgical mask, or layering a cloth mask atop a surgical mask, can vastly increase protections to the wearer and others, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Wednesday.

New research by the agency shows that transmission of the virus can be reduced by up to 96.5 percent if both an infected individual and an uninfected individual wear tightly fitted surgical masks or a cloth-and-surgical-mask combination.

“Which Sounds Are the Most Annoying to Humans?”

The title of this article intrigued me, as I wondered if there are universally annoying sounds such as “nails on a chalkboard” (does anyone still have chalkboards? Does this reference mean anything to a younger generation?) — or if it is more subjective.

My list would have to include:

  • A screaming child, especially in a public place or an airplane
  • The sound of someone chewing loudly, esp. if there’s gum involved
  • A dental drill
  • The screech of a train pulling into the station
  • Donald Trump’s voice (hopefully, we will not hear it much longer)
  • Nervous clicking, tapping, etc. of long, fake nails. Even without the chalkboard.

The common denominators being Loud/Repetitive/Incessant/Harsh.

The author posits that the pandemic has made things worse, as being cooped up for weeks/months on end is bound to lower our collective tolerance. Odds are, your neighbor banging pots and pans might be (slightly) more tolerable if you weren’t forced to hear it day in, day out.

What drives YOU bonkers??

More Good News on Vaccines

Happy Hump Day! This info is very encouraging. Maybe we’re close to turning the corner on this vicious pandemic. How sad it didn’t happen much, much earlier. And if Congress defangs that crazy Marjorie Taylor Greene, it will be an all-around excellent week. Cheers!

[From New York Times]
“For once, we have some good news to talk about: the prospect of another vaccine coming online in the U.S., and a long-awaited indication that at least one vaccine reduces transmission, not just the severity of Covid-19.

Let’s start with the remarkable turnaround of the experimental vaccine from Novavax, a Maryland-based company that has never before brought a vaccine to market.

Last fall, Novavax postponed U.S. clinical trials because of manufacturing delays, jeopardizing the company’s $1.6 billion federal contract and leaving some to wonder whether they should write off the company’s shot entirely. In December, Novavax watched from the sidelines as the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were approved.

But things have changed. Novavax announced last week that its vaccine produced robust protection in a large British trial and that it worked — although far less well — in a smaller study in South Africa. The company has also been able to quickly recruit volunteers for its U.S. trials because the two authorized vaccines have been difficult to get, and many see the Novavax trial as their best chance to get vaccinated.

So the company now stands a chance of having trial results this spring, with possible government authorization as early as April. If everything goes well, and that is a big if, Novavax could deliver enough additional doses to vaccinate 55 million Americans by the end of June. That would be on top of the 400 million doses that Moderna and Pfizer are contracted to supply the U.S. by the middle of the year — enough for 200 million people.

It gets better: Novavax has been laying the international groundwork for the eventual production of two billion doses per year — and its vaccine, unlike Moderna and Pfizer’s, can be stored and shipped at normal refrigeration temperatures.

As for protection against transmission, AstraZeneca recently released a report that offered an answer to one of the pandemic’s big questions: Will vaccines prevent people from giving the virus to others?

Researchers from the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca have found that not only did their vaccine protect people from serious illness and death but also had the potential to reduce transmission. Swabs taken from trial participants showed a 67 percent reduction in virus being detected among those vaccinated, though scientists warned that the data was preliminary and that masking remained necessary for all.

The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is in U.S. trials, and the company has a deal to supply 300 million doses, enough for another 150 million people.”

Good News Monday: Something’s Better Than Nothing

To summarize some encouraging vaccine news in today’s New York Times:

  • All five vaccines with public results have eliminated Covid-19 deaths. They have also drastically reduced hospitalizations. “They’re all good trial results,” reports Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University. “It’s great news.”
  • Don’t focus on the relatively minor differences among the vaccine results. The available data is very encouraging — including the vaccines’ effect on the virus’s variants.
  • Coronaviruses have been circulating for decades if not centuries, and they’re often mild. The common cold can be a coronavirus. The world isn’t going to eliminate coronaviruses — or this particular one— anytime soon.
  • We don’t need to eliminate Covid-19 for life to return to normal. We need to downgrade it from a deadly pandemic to a normal virus.
  • All five vaccines — from Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Novavax and Johnson & Johnson — look extremely good. Of the roughly 75,000 people who have received one of the five in a research trial, not a single person has died from Covid, and only a few people appear to have been hospitalized. None have remained hospitalized 28 days after receiving a shot.
  • For perspective, in 75,000 American adults, Covid has killed roughly 150 and sent several hundred more to the hospital. The vaccines reduce those numbers to zero and nearly zero, based on the research trials. A typical U.S. flu season kills between five and 15 out of every 75,000 adults and hospitalizes more than 100.
  • When you read that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was 66 percent effective or that the Novavax vaccine was 89 percent effective, those numbers are referring to the prevention of all illness. Researchers count mild symptoms as a failure.
  • What about the highly contagious new virus variants that have emerged in Britain, Brazil and South Africa? There is no evidence yet that it increases deaths among vaccinated people. Two of the five vaccines — from Johnson & Johnson and Novavax — have reported some results from South Africa, and none of the people there who received a vaccine died of Covid.
  • The vaccines still provide considerable protection against the variant, though less than against the original version. Some protection appears to be enough to turn this coronavirus into a fairly normal disease in the vast majority of cases.
  • Any of the five vaccines can save your life. If you have to choose between getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine now or waiting three weeks to get the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, the experts say: Get what you can, as soon as you can. Don’t risk three more weeks of exposure.

Calling All Men (and the Women Who Love Them)

This is an interesting article, especially relevant for older gentlemen.

6 Reasons Men Should Pee Sitting Down

K. Grossman Updated: Dec 12, 2020

Pee Sitting Down

The ability to pee while standing up is one that is distinctly masculine. But just because a man can pee standing up, does that mean he should? The ability to urinate while standing up is a definite plus on wilderness hikes and out in the backwoods. But is it something that should be used in the world of low toilet seats, expensive hardwood floors, and marble restrooms? Is it better for a man’s health to urinate while in the seated position? Here are six reasons why men should consider peeing sitting down.

6. It Prevents the Spread of Illness

Spread Of Illness

While urine is sterile, those splashes and puddles that accumulate on the toilet seat and floor make for sticky areas where germs can collect. When your doctor collects your urine for a urine test, the pee is sent to a lab, placed in a petri dish, and kept at body temperature to see if any bacteria grows. Since no one wants to walk into a life-sized petri dish, sitting down will keep your pee in the toilet where it belongs.

5. It May Prevent Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms

Lower Urinary Tract

The National Institutes of Health reports that sitting down while peeing can decrease lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) in men who are prone to frequent symptoms. Symptoms of LUTS are an increased frequency of urination, inability to completely empty the bladder, and an urgent need to urinate. Sitting down allows the bladder to more completely empty and prevents leftover urine from developing a bacterial infection.Related: 12 Signs You May Have a Kidney Infection

4. It Prevents Unsightly Puddles

Pee On Floor

One of the best reasons to pee sitting down is simply for the aesthetic effect. You don’t have to be a germaphobe or a neat freak to prefer using a restroom that is devoid of unsightly splashes and splatter. Bathrooms are used for more than just peeing. You might enjoy a soak in the tub, relaxing in a steamy shower, and trimming your beard at the sink. These activities aren’t so pleasant when surrounded by yellowing drips and drizzles. Peeing while sitting down ensures you don’t have to keep seeing your pee on subsequent trips to the bathroom.

3. It May Improve Prostate Health

Prostate Health

As men age, the prostate gland can become enlarged. When this happens, added pressure on the bladder can lead to incomplete emptying of the bladder. Sitting down allows for more complete relaxation of the pelvic muscles and more complete emptying of the bladder. Peeing sitting down can help prevent some of the painful symptoms of an enlarged prostate such as bladder stones and urinary tract infections.Related: 8 Prostate Cancer Myths Debunked

2. It Protects Your Floors

Protects Your Floors

The uric acid in pee can leave behind stains and odor in your tile, wooden, and ceramic floors. A landlord in Germany actually sued one of his tenants for urine damage to his marble floors. To keep your floors pristine and to avoid odors from urine damage, take a seat while emptying your bladder.

1. It Makes Your Spouse Happier

Spouse Happier

Leaving the cap off the toothpaste, hogging the blankets, and not replacing the toilet paper roll are all common disagreements among couples. Add leaving unsightly pee splatter near the toilet to that list. Sitting down to pee is one way to keep your spouse happy—especially if she is the one cleaning the bathroom. Sitting down to pee is one simple way to keep your bathroom cleaner and your wife happier. Maybe then she’ll be more willing to share the blankets.

Good News Monday: Yes, Vaccines Work!

Encouraging news from today’s New York Times (Sorry, the formatting is a little wonky):

Why the vaccine news is better than you may think.

By David Leonhardt

Preparing the Pfizer vaccine in Phoenix.Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times


‘We’re underselling the vaccine’
Early in the pandemic, many health experts — in the U.S. and around the world — decided that the public could not be trusted to hear the truth about masks. Instead, the experts spread a misleading message, discouraging the use of masks.

Their motivation was mostly good. It sprung from a concern that people would rush to buy high-grade medical masks, leaving too few for doctors and nurses. The experts were also unsure how much ordinary masks would help.

But the message was still a mistake.

It confused people. (If masks weren’t effective, why did doctors and nurses need them?) It delayed the widespread use of masks (even though there was good reason to believe they could help). And it damaged the credibility of public health experts.

“When people feel as though they may not be getting the full truth from the authorities, snake-oil sellers and price gougers have an easier time,” the sociologist Zeynep Tufekci wrote early last year.

Now a version of the mask story is repeating itself — this time involving the vaccines. Once again, the experts don’t seem to trust the public to hear the full truth.

This issue is important and complex enough that I’m going to make today’s newsletter a bit longer than usual. If you still have questions, don’t hesitate to email me at themorning@nytimes.com.

‘Ridiculously encouraging’
Right now, public discussion of the vaccines is full of warnings about their limitations: They’re not 100 percent effective. Even vaccinated people may be able to spread the virus. And people shouldn’t change their behavior once they get their shots.

These warnings have a basis in truth, just as it’s true that masks are imperfect. But the sum total of the warnings is misleading, as I heard from multiple doctors and epidemiologists last week.

“It’s driving me a little bit crazy,” Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown School of Public Health, told me.

“We’re underselling the vaccine,” Dr. Aaron Richterman, an infectious-disease specialist at the University of Pennsylvania, said.

“It’s going to save your life — that’s where the emphasis has to be right now,” Dr. Peter Hotez of the Baylor College of Medicine said.

The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are “essentially 100 percent effective against serious disease,” Dr. Paul Offit, the director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said. “It’s ridiculously encouraging.”

The details
Here’s my best attempt at summarizing what we know:

The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines — the only two approved in the U.S. — are among the best vaccines ever created, with effectiveness rates of about 95 percent after two doses. That’s on par with the vaccines for chickenpox and measles. And a vaccine doesn’t even need to be so effective to reduce cases sharply and crush a pandemic.


If anything, the 95 percent number understates the effectiveness, because it counts anyone who came down with a mild case of Covid-19 as a failure. But turning Covid into a typical flu — as the vaccines evidently did for most of the remaining 5 percent — is actually a success. Of the 32,000 people who received the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine in a research trial, do you want to guess how many contracted a severe Covid case? One.


Although no rigorous study has yet analyzed whether vaccinated people can spread the virus, it would be surprising if they did. “If there is an example of a vaccine in widespread clinical use that has this selective effect — prevents disease but not infection — I can’t think of one!” Dr. Paul Sax of Harvard has written in The New England Journal of Medicine. (And, no, exclamation points are not common in medical journals.)

On Twitter, Dr. Monica Gandhi of the University of California, San Francisco, argued: “Please be assured that YOU ARE SAFE after vaccine from what matters — disease and spreading.”


The risks for vaccinated people are still not zero, because almost nothing in the real world is zero risk. A tiny percentage of people may have allergic reactions. And I’ll be eager to see what the studies on post-vaccination spread eventually show. But the evidence so far suggests that the vaccines are akin to a cure

Offit told me we should be greeting them with the same enthusiasm that greeted the polio vaccine: “It should be this rallying cry.”


The costs of negativity
Why are many experts conveying a more negative message?

Again, their motivations are mostly good. As academic researchers, they are instinctively cautious, prone to emphasizing any uncertainty. Many may also be nervous that vaccinated people will stop wearing masks and social distancing, which in turn could cause unvaccinated people to stop as well. If that happens, deaths would soar even higher.

But the best way to persuade people to behave safely usually involves telling them the truth. “Not being completely open because you want to achieve some sort of behavioral public health goal — people will see through that eventually,” Richterman said. The current approach also feeds anti-vaccine skepticism and conspiracy theories.

After asking Richterman and others what a better public message might sound like, I was left thinking about something like this:

We should immediately be more aggressive about mask-wearing and social distancing because of the new virus variants. We should vaccinate people as rapidly as possible — which will require approving other Covid vaccines when the data justifies it.

People who have received both of their vaccine shots, and have waited until they take effect, will be able to do things that unvaccinated people cannot — like having meals together and hugging their grandchildren. But until the pandemic is defeated, all Americans should wear masks in public, help unvaccinated people stay safe and contribute to a shared national project of saving every possible life.

Breaking Up is Hard to Do (Political Edition)

What a week! I would normally shy away from discussing anything political on this blog, but it’s been such a wild time that I feel compelled to dive in and mix a few metaphors.

7 million more of us saw the writing on the (bathroom obscenities) wall and anticipated a certain amount of resistance to the election results. But I do have some sympathy for those blindsided Kool-Aid drinkers who couldn’t see that their beloved was in the throes of a Hitler-in-the-bunker last stand.

Think about it. Four years is a long time to be in an intense relationship with a crazy person. There’s been a collective Stockholm Syndrome amongst these supporters who only get information from their crush and don’t want the grownups to explain that all is not as it seems. Both the highs and lows are so intense that “normal” is seen as boring. And woe betide anyone who dares say that the emperor has no clothes (ok, that’s a horrifying visual). He HAS clothes. They’re GREAT clothes. They’re the BEST clothes anyone ever had.

Well, sadly, the wannabe coup-coo dictator can’t even break up with his fan club on Twitter, like other cowards do. And unless he’s planning to write a whole lot of personal “It’s not you, it’s me” Dear Don letters, they’ll have to learn about it on the real news, i.e. the non-conspiracy, actually-validated-with-facts sort of news.

Meanwhile, expect sales of tissues and Rocky Road ice cream to go through the roof.

Ain’t love a bitch?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Junk Food Junkies

Need help following your New Year’s resolution to eat healthier food? Move to the UK, where apparently they will do this for you! (You might take this with a grain of salt, except it’s also on the watch list.)

Thanks to TheEnlightenedMind622 blog for another eye-opener.

The U.K. Uses COVID-19 to Justify More Nanny State Junk Food Crackdowns

Bans on ads, displays, refills, and buy-one-get-one-free offers

by SCOTT SHACKFORD 

britishcandy_1161x653

(Composure / Dreamstime.com)

The United Kingdom has been attacking its citizens’ food choices for years and now the government is using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse for a new crackdown.

On Monday, the U.K.’s Department of Health and Social Care announced a pack of new regulations that will be implemented in April 2022 to restrict junk food promotions.

In 2018, London implemented a ban of junk food advertising that was written so broadly that it forbid promotion of all sorts of normal foods (like butter, olive oil, and canned fruit) not because those items were unhealthy but because they had sugar, salt, or fat levels beyond government-approved thresholds.

The U.K. now plans a nationwide ban on television advertisements for what it calls “junk food” before 9 p.m. And that’s not the only new regulation. Also on the list:

  • Retailers will not be permitted to offer “buy one, get one free” promotions (or similar offers) for foods the government deems unhealthy.
  • Retails will not be permitted to display these unhealthy foods for promotioal purposes near checkout counters, near the front of the store, or on the ends of aisles.
  • Retailers will not be permitted to promote unhealthy foods on the entry or landing pages of their websites.
  • Free refills of sugary drinks will be banned at restaurants.

“We know families want to be presented with healthier choices,” said Public Health Minister Jo Churchill. “This is why we are restricting promotions and introducing a range of measures to make sure the healthy choice is the easy choice.” They’re going to make it the “easy choice” by deliberately bringing about economic harm to any competing choices!

The government claims that the British people have an obesity problem—more than 63 percent of adults and a third of elementary school children are overweight. Because the United Kingdom has socialized medicine through the National Health Service (NHS), this means the healthcare costs associated with obesity, which are estimated to be 6 billion pounds annually ($8 billion), are everybody’s problem.

The U.K. government can’t seem to acknowledge or accept the idea that people are voluntarily and willingly making bad choices. This Nanny State mentality means that the government must lay the blame on those who sell or advertise unhealthy food.

“Promotions often appear to help shoppers save money,” the agency explained in its press release. “However, data shows that these deals actually increase purchases of promoted products by almost 20%. They encourage people to buy more than they need or intended to buy in the first place.”

But people always need food. If you buy more food than you “need or intended to buy in the first place” you can usually save it for the future. That is what sales, promotions, and other low-pricing deals accomplish. They allow people to stock up and store food. That’s particularly important when governments everywhere are trying to discourage people from gathering in public places due to the pandemic.

Speaking of COVID-19, even though the U.K.’s food nannyism has been building for years, British officials can’t help but try to use the coronavirus as a justification for their actions: “The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the fore the impact that obesity can have on people’s health and health outcomes.”

Snowdon notes that a ban on buy-one-get-one-free promotions could cost the average family more than 600 pounds (more than $800) a year by the government’s own estimate. That means that British officials are trying to deliberately force up the cost of unhealthy foods because they think this will force people to choose healthier alternatives.

But that’s just not what happens. Instead, shoppers will turn to black markets. Driving up the price of sodas in Philadelphia with a special tax, for example, did not affect how much soda that people drank. Lots of people there just avoided the taxes by buying their soda elsewhere.

What will U.K. health authorities do when their latest tactics fail to make people eat better? A cynic might assume they’re already planning out even more new rules that are doomed to fail.