A Poem for a Time of COVID-19 Quarantine 🦠

This poem—penned by a UU minister—has been circulating among my Jewish congregation, and I’m inclined to endorse the advice: Take a page from the Jewish playbook, folks. We know a thing or two about surviving long (quasi-)confinement and social distance.

Pandemic

What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.

And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love—
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

—Rev. Dr. Lynn Ungar (Unitarian minister)

The Michigan House GOP Website is shilling for a term paper mill? #PureMichigan

OK, I need a headcheck, folks. It looks an awful lot like http://GOPhouse.org/

  1. Is the (semi-)official website for Michigan House Republicans (for example, their official Facebook page links to “MiHouseRepublicans.com” which currently redirects to “GOPhouse.org”)
  2. Is shilling for a term paper mill:

Is there something really obvious going on here, like my local DNS being poisoned? Or does the MI House GOP just have a really crappy web hosting situation? Or deeply untrustworthy staff? Or a deeper commitment to the free market and entrepreneurship than I’d previously imagined?

Who do I even call to ask about this? ’cause I’ve gotta believe that the MI House GOP has a better fundraising model than this.

Lil help, Internet?

Well, I guess President Trump was right: Illegal immigrants *do* come here to hurt Americans…

… he was just 100% wrong about which border they crossed illegally, and what they looked like:

“Derail some fucking trains, kill some people, and poison some water supplies. You better be fucking ready to do those things.”

Patrik Jordan Mathews, December 1, 2019
Patrik Jordan Mathews: AWOL Canadian Demolitions Expert and neo-Nazi

Accused Neo-Nazis Arrested Ahead of Virginia Gun Rally

This is the age of war. This is the age of entire this is the age of strife, this is the century upon which this current civilizations rotting Jew infested country comes to a collapse. You were born in the wrong century for complacency. That’s all for now.

Patrik Jordan Mathews, on or before December 13, 2019

Feds: White supremacists hoped rally would start civil war

While residing in Georgia, Mathews stated that he “only exists for the White Revolution now.” Mathews further stated that he wanted to remain a “ghost” and oversee safe houses for Base members who need to disappear. Mathews stated that once there are a few “ghosts,” they could begin doing “jobs,” by which Mathews meant targeted violence or attacks.

excerpt from the legal motion requesting Mathews’ detention pending trial

Based on other statements in the legal motion, these targets were likely to be Jewish- or African-Americans. I’ve mentioned Mathews’ had been hiding out in Michigan, yeah? And I live in Michigan? And my family and I, we’re the kinds of Americans he came here to kill?

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Solid Facts, Reasonable Fears, Sensible Measures 🦠🧟‍♀️☣️

(This is a version of something I drafted for my local faith community, where I’m active in safety/security. Faith communities offer lots of programs for the very young, very old, and very vulnerable—and we tend to crowd lots of folks into one room; disease transmission is more of a concern than it might be for a workplace full of healthy young adults who can afford and access health care services.)

Folks are worried about Coronavirus (i.e., “COVID-19”)—and this isn’t unfounded (see the “REASONABLE COVID-19 CONCERNS” sub-section for details).

While there are good reasons for concern, there are also very basic steps we can all take to reduce both the risk of infection and the severity of any disruption to our lives should an outbreak hit nearby.  Please feel free to share any portion (or all) of the following info with your people.  Thanks!

REASONABLE COVID-19 CONCERNS

As of this morning (March 2), there have been two reported Coronavirus (i.e., “COVID-19”) deaths in Washington state.  Given

  • what we know about the disease (e.g., https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/ )
  • its gestation period (~2 weeks)
  • the currently understood mortality rate (~2%)
  • how it’s transmitted (airborne droplets from coughs and sneezes)
  • and our best guesses at it’s transmission rate (or “R0”; current estimate is that COVID-19 has an R0 of “2”, which means each infected person will infect ~2 others),

this all tends to imply that the disease has been spreading in WA for ~6-8 weeks, and there are hundreds of cases there now (I heard an estimate in the thousands on NPR this morning, but didn’t catch the source, and so take it with a grain of salt).

On the one hand, this is obviously concerning: COVID-19 is ~20x more deadly than the seasonal flu (which kills tens of thousands annually).  On the other hand, a 2% mortality rate implies a 98% (or higher) survival rate, and an R0 of 2 isn’t great, but it also isn’t a Stephen King story: COVID-19 is more contagious than seasonal flu (which has an R0 of ~1.3, I think) but much less so than measles (R0 ~15) or whooping cough (R0 ~5). (Incidentally, all of those are also primarily transmitted through airborne droplets). 

Usually, diseases like COVID-19 are most dangerous to the very young and very old.  Based on limited studies in China, it appears that even the very, very young have no trouble fending off COVID-19.  That’s great!  But that means the mortality rate for COVID-19 falls hardest on the elderly and those with existing health problems.

REASONABLE COVID-19 MEASURES

  • ENCOURAGE HAND WASHING! I know it seems silly to say, but that’s the Number One way we can protect ourselves and our community members (especially the infirm and our elders).  Make sure to review this with any kids you keep around; they chronically short-change hand washing. The young aren’t at very high risk of dying from COVID-19—but are excellent candidates for spreading it.  (Also, as someone who regularly uses public men’s room, I’ll level with you: Maybe also review this with adults you know.)
    1. Soap and water beats hand-sanitizer every time!  
    2. Wash hands with soap for at least 20 seconds (i.e., sing “Happy Birthday to Me” twice while washing hands).
    3. Make sure to scrub between fingers, down the backs of the hands, and focus on the finger tips.
    4. Dry vigorously with paper towel—the friction does a lot of the work of removing pathogens.
    5. Wash hands upon returning home from school/work, before and after meals, after you cough or sneeze, and any time you’ve been touching something folks likely coughed on (e.g., shared computers/tablets, ATMs, public handrails, etc.)
    6. Failing all else, hand sanitizer is better than nothing. Proper use us just like soap & water: Cover hands, scrub for 20 seconds, focus on getting between fingers/down backs/and rubbing fingertips.
  •  Cough into the elbow crook: At school my kids were taught that this was called the “vampire cough”; I love that!
  • Plan for school closures: It’s gonna happen, just like snow days. Be ready—and be ready for your day care to be closed, too.  Make advance plans with work to telecommute, have backup helpers in place, and so on.  Make sure your Netflix and Disney+ subscriptions are paid up. Invest in a game system.
  • Take care of yourself: Disease strikes the stressed, tired, and weary.  Drink plenty of water, get plenty of exercise (go on a walk before the ice returns!), and get plenty of sleep.

FURTHER COVID-19 RESOURCES

Wanna keep your New Year’s Resolutions in 2020? Quick trick: DO less, EAT more (trust me; this is legit)

I’m not natively a “New Year’s resolution” person—but as a freelancer, I live and die by forming and keeping good habits. Over the years of not starving to death or losing our home, I’ve learned a few shortcuts to faking a disciplined life. Principal among these:

Do LESS to Earn MORE, Eat MORE to Weigh LESS—a quick-n-easy “happiness hack” 

This principal principle is super-duper useful for addressing the two most popular New Year’s resolutions:

  1. do/earn more (e.g., start this side hustle, take up that hobby, hit the gym, etc.)
  2. lose weight

New Year’s Resolution #1: Do LESS to do MORE

Stop making “to do” lists; instead make a “Stop Doing” list.

For New Year’s Resolution Type #1 (which require doing more with the same number of free hours that already feel over-packed), the usual approach is to try to cram in one more thing.

That is obviously destined for failure. You aren’t going to suddenly have more free hours or more energy just because you added one more item to your calendar.

Instead sit down for 10 minutes, uninterrupted, in complete silence.  This is vital, and insanely hard.  For real, lock yourself in the bathroom or sit in your car in the grocery store parking lot or go to the laundry room—whatever it takes to get a solid 10 minutes without distraction.

Take a hard look at what you do on the daily—especially what you do with your phone in your hand—and ask yourself if you really love doing that stuff, or if it is vital to you earning a living.

Now write a quick “Stop Doing” List.  This is a bulleted list of things that just really aren’t worth your time or attention.  Just an example, if I glance at YouTube, I end up loosing an easy 20 minutes watching video compilations of old Vines or “Wins/Fails.”  I don’t even really like those videos; I’m just stressed out, so I glance at YouTube, and YouTube knows what I watch, and there’s a whole endless scrolling list of distractions and . . . and I don’t enjoy it, it’s no good for my family or my business or my bank account.  There’s no point to it. It is time squandered.

So, Funny Fails are on my “Stop Doing” List.  So are:

  • Reading news items about celebrities who cannot call in air strikes
  • Looking at Google News and just reading headline after headline after headline without clicking
  • Facebook in general
  • Looking at my Roth IRA more than quarterly
  • Finishing a book/movie that I’m not eager to finish
  • Looking at email on Saturday (I’m a freelance writer, not a doctor or cancer researcher—no one lives or dies because I made them wait until business hours)
  • Fundraising at my kids’ schools (I know that’s controversial, but I’ve get mental health issues that make those sorts of social things literally insanely stressful for me; I earn enough to happily donate double what the PTO suggests if it means skipping shilling gift wrap or popcorn or whatever)

If your resolution is to work in a 20 minute walk every day, trust me, you can find those 20 minutes easily just by cutting out two or three phone-based distractions alone.

New Year’s Resolution #2: Eat MORE to weigh LESS

Don’t cut back on Bad Stuff™; load up on Good Stuff™.

When it comes to things we like but are bad for us (cheap pizza, salty snacks, pricey coffees, etc.), the usual advice is to cut back.  We resent this for a variety of deeply ingrained psychological reasons (from loss aversion to just plain perversity).

So don’t cut back; load up on Good Stuff instead:

Need to lose weight?  Don’t say “I have to cut out cookies” or “I have to cut calories.” 

Instead, say “I have to eat a ton of fruit.” 

Any damned fruit you like—sweet n’ juicy berries, melons, bananas, grapes, carrots (veg is fine, too).

But, two important things:

  1.  Not fruit juice! Those juices are as sugary as soda pop.  You need the fiber of the fruit for this to work (plus, whole fresh fruit is cheaper).
  2.  No human EVER got fat gobbling apples, and no pre-diabetic EVER insulin crashed on baby carrots. Every time I mention this strategy, someone warns me about how much sugar is in fruit—which is true—but it doesn’t hit your bloodstream (and pancreas and belly) like refined sugar, because of all of the fiber in the raw whole plant matter.  Your body has to work to process it.  If you eat real whole fruit and veg you can gorge yourself and be fine.

Buy your chosen fruit or veg by the sackful.  Take some with you every time you leave the house.  Pack it with every lunch.  Every time you’re hungry, start with whatever your chosen fruit/veg is.  Have it first thing in the morning, have it last thing for desert.

Sick of your chosen fruit/veg?  That’s fine; just means it wasn’t the right one.  Pick a different one.  Keep trying.  There is a fruit or veg out there that you will never, ever get sick of having fresh and whole.  That is your special fruit; cherish it.

I am a middle-aged White(ish) American man with a sedentary job.  I don’t go to the gym (I do walk a lot, because I like walking and I have a dog).  I drink alcohol daily.  I drink a ton of coffee.  I used to smoke.

My body should be a damned wreck.  But I pack away five apples per day, minimum, and am subsequently in good health.  ’cause you know what? If you have three apples before lunch, you don’t feel like stuffing your face. And if you’re full of apples and then a bowl of chili (or whatever), you don’t feel bloated and logy.  You feel like going for a damn walk.

And you lose weight.

This is one of those bone-simple virtuous circles.  Just ride it ’round and ’round and ’round: Do LESS, earn MORE; Eat MORE, weigh LESS.