Going to Work

This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.
I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom. Like art.

Toni Morrison
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Failed Haiku: ‘Morning after the election’ and ‘The pursuit’

Two of my haikus were published in the May issue of Failed Haiku on page 35.

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Finding nourishment vs. identifying poison

I follow Austin Kleon’s blog on what he’s doing as an artist and a person. Yesterday’s post, Finding nourishment vs. identifying poison, was very helpful on finding a way forward in these trying times.

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Pestilence is Back

In the wonderful Terry Pratchett novel, “Good Omens”, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are: War, Death, Famine, and Pollution. Pestilence had faded in modern times and been replaced by Pollution who rode a Vespa that leaked oil and gasoline everywhere it went. Now with COVID-19, Pestilence has re-appeared and with blue skys returning, it is Pollution that is fading from the scene.

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COVID-19 Who Gets Sick, Who Dies

I was curious about which age groups are seeing which outcomes. It took a while to track down the information.

Age GroupPopulationCasesCases per 100KInpatientsDeathsDeaths per 100K
Travis County, TX

Population by Age Groups is from Census Reporter. The rest of the data is from Travis County COVID-19 Public Dashboard.

Who gets COVID-19? It’s essentially flat from age 20 thru 69, rises slightly for the 70s, and rises a lot for 80 and up. Nursing homes are particularly hard hit. It would be interesting to see the infection rate for 80 and up among those not in nursing or other group homes (e.g. retirement apartment complex). Prisons also show high infection rates.

Who ends up in the hospital? 40-49, 50-59, and 80+ (they make up 2% of the general population and 13% of the hospital patients, way over represented).

Who dies? As the media largely reports, from 60 on up, the older the higher the death rate. One report I remember:

  • 60s: twice the risk of dying
  • 70s: four times the risk
  • 80+: eight times the risk.

In Travis County, 80+ is even worse.

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“Coyote 6” and “Coyote Vanishing” on Back Patio Press

Back Patio Press published “Coyote 6” and “Coyote Vanishing” today (May 5). Both are about the mythic Coyote, Trickster figure of the Southwest.

Coyote is also slang for people who guide refugees across the border. “Coyote 6” is also about one of these. The initial Coyote series has 5 poems in it and was written around twenty five years ago. “Coyote 6” was just a placeholder title until I found the real title. With its nod to Motel 6, it stayed.

“Coyote Vanishing” is a nod to a scene in Terry Pratchett’s “Hogfather” novel. In it, a governess or nanny is asked by her charges to get rid of the bogeyman in the basement. She takes a fire poker and a sack thru a cocktail party to the stairs. Much banging is heard. She re-emerges with something writhing and groaning in the sack as she drags it out the front door. In response to a question from the cocktail crowd, she says it was a bogeyman. They poo poo it, saying bogeymen don’t exist. She remarks, “It is amazing how much trouble something can get into that people say doesn’t exist.” (I’m doing this from memory, my copy of Hogfather resides in the library which is closed.)

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Order & Chaos

These are two heavy duty words. My definition of order for the purposes of this essay is predictability. In an orderly world, actions have predictable results, not necessarily the same every time, for example, the result of throwing dice is not the same each time but the odds for all possible outcomes are known. This is the world of Newtonian physics, the Clockwork Universe. Imperfections in reality (the pool table isn’t quite level, isn’t perfectly flat, the balls aren’t perfect spheres) cause variations in the results, but the model is good enough to play pool.

Chaos here is defined as unpredictability. The dice are thrown and turn into a pair of doves that fly off. Long term predictions of local weather and much in quantum physics is inherently unpredictable, but there are constraints on how unpredictable. Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle specifies limits on uncertainty in many quantum mechanics contexts, e.g. the position and energy of a photon.

A completely predictable (ordered) universe has no free will and no creativity, so nothing new. In a completely unpredictable universe, nothing lasts. Like the yin/yang symbol, there must be some unpredictability in order and predictability in the midst of chaos to be sustainable. Order is predictable and so comfortable. Chaos is unpredictable and so uncomfortable, but required for free will, invention, and creativity.

In Gensis, God brought forth order from the void/chaos, which was also God’s creation. That is what creatives do, reach into the chaos and bring forth something new

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Six Questions For …

As I look for new places to submit my work, the Six Questions For … blog is helpful. Every week Jim Harrington posts an interview with the editor(s) of a literary journal. The last question is always, “What one question on this topic do you wish I’d asked that I didn’t? And how would you answer it?”. The first four questions are usually:

  • Why did you start this magazine?
  • What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?
  • What most often turns you off to a submission?
  • What do you look for in the opening stanza(s) of a submission?

The fifth question is usually something specific to the journal. The answer to the third question is almost always, “Not following (or not even reading) the submission guidelines.” By the time I’ve read the interview, the submission guidelines, and a few sample items, if on the Website, I’m clear how suitable the journal is for my work. Then I go back to the submission guidelines and find when submission period is and enter it into my calendar.

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Travis COVID-19 Updates Page

I’ve moved the Travis County COVID-19 charts to their own page. Link under the picture.

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Nick Cave on Prayer

A Prayer to who? is the most powerful thing I’ve read on prayer. Requires no belief except the possibility that prayer will change something, perhaps ourselves.

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COVID-19 in Travis County, Update

Below is the chart from COVID-19 in Travis County, updated with data though today, April 22, 2020.

Additional data series have been added: New case (raw data point), EMA (smoothed new cases), Inpatients (hospitalizations), ICU, and patients on ventilators. The last three are the 5 county, Greater Austin area (Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop, and Caldwell counties). I’m trying to get the earlier data for these.

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