Finding Beauty in the Shattered

Today the package arrived with a framed drawing by a very talented niece. The package rattled. Not good. Opening it carefully, this is what we found.

A metaphor for our times, how to find the beauty amidst the dangerous shards.

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Nick Cave: What are your plans for the corona pandemic?

Nick Cave (of the Bad Seeds) writes a blog, The Red Hand Files, answering questions from readers, usually several at a time. I don’t know his music, but I like how he thinks. I’m writing an essay on “How I’m Surviving the Pandemic” to go with my poem, Austin, Ides of March, 2020 to be published in the Langdon Review of the Arts in Texas. Nick tackles the same question in What are your plans for the corona pandemic?. He’s more articulate and sees farther than I do. I highly recommend it.

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COVID-19: It’s Personal

On Monday, June 22, I received a positive test for the SARS-CoV2 virus that causes COVID-19 disease. I had no symptoms, but my brother was coming through town and wanted to visit. Usually he stays with us. Is this safe? Who knows. We agreed to both get tested. His test and my wife’s tests were negative. A friend who is a med lab tech said, my positive and my wife’s negative doesn’t make any sense. The nurse who called said they are seeing a 10% false positive rate. So am I infected or not? My brother went on without seeing us. I’m self-quarantining for the moment. I continue to have no symptoms a week after the test. I certainly will retest two weeks after the initial test. Maybe I won’t go out shopping or for dinner until I have at least one negative test. My cancer doctor won’t see me until I’ve had two negative tests at least 24 hours apart.

More of the dishes are going into the dishwasher that runs a lot hotter than hand dishwashing. And we run it more often. I’m staying in for today.

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Research

One of my principles of research is that if it doesn’t show something you don’t expect, the experiment is poorly designed. If I’m in a bad mood, I’ll say that you weren’t (or I wasn’t) doing research, just trying to confirm biases. The same goes for searches.

My Travis COVID-19 page tracks various statistics in the Austin/Travis Count area. There aren’t many surprises there, just unhappy news. Searching for data about COVID-19 in Texas does show several things I did not expect:

  • A news story on an out of state news Website reposted on Facebook claimed Austin (along with Dallas, San Antonio, Phoenix, and Tampa) were hot spots. Yes, Austin hit record highs in new cases yesterday and again today (Sunday, June 21). According to the Texas State Health Services Website, most major cities (Austin/Travis County, El Paso City/County, Ft. Worth/Tarrant County) are running a 4 per 1000 capita infection rate. Houston/Harris County is around 5. Dallas City/County is 6.
  • Big cities will show big numbers of new cases. Per capita by county shows a surprise, somewhat. Walker County in East Texas is where the Huntsville Prison is. Abilene has a bunch of colleges, as does Amarillo. The big cities are not the hot spots.
  • As Governor Greg Abbott opened up business in Texas, I felt he wasn’t abiding by his own standards of declining cases. The curve was flattening (less growth in new cases), but had not flattened or declined. This graph at the Texas Tribune shows that it did. Did, past tense. It has been rising for the last two weeks.
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Tejascovido => Langdon Review of Arts in Texas

Langdon Review Weekend is an annual literary and arts festival that takes place the first Wednesday thru Saturday after Labor Day.

This year, the festival was canceled due the COVID-19 shutdown in Texas. They approached Laurence Musgrove and offered to accept the 180 poems about COVID-19 in Texas on his Tejascovido Website as submissions to the anthology that normally comes out of the festival. He and they winnowed the submissions down to 30 poems. My “Austin, Ides of March, 2020” was one of the accepted poems.

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COVID-19 Austin Public Health

Austin Public Health has made available their dashboard tracking how the medical care facilities (hospitals) are handling the serious cases. Short story, both Austin and the surrounding area are coping well. Both the Austin and the Travis County sites are a mix of City of Austin and Austin Metropolitan Service Area (MSA) data. The Austin MSA is Travis, Williamson, Hayes, Bastrop, and Caldwell counties.

There is an APH site with month and a half old data. The age group data shows the most hospitalizations among the 20-29 year olds. In the Travis County (Austin MSA) site, 30-39 and 40-49 age groups show the most hospitalizations. This may be the UT Austin students who picked up the virus in Mexico during spring break and those they infected.

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How We Broke the World: Black Elephants

As I look back over the last 20 years, what all four of these global calamities have in common is that they are all “black elephants,” a term coined by the environmentalist Adam Sweidan. A black elephant is a cross between “a black swan” — an unlikely, unexpected event with enormous ramifications — and the “elephant in the room” — a looming disaster that is visible to everyone, yet no one wants to address.

Thomas Friedman

COVID-19 is not the only disaster the world is facing and they all have early warnings signs that are being ignored. The “perfect storm” will come if we continue to ignore the early warnings. SARS-CoV infected around 8000 people and killed nearly 800 (1 in 10) people. The numbers are small because there was prompt, coordinated action. MERS-CoV infected around 2500 people and killed 858 (3 to 4 in 10). COVID-19, the disease, is caused by SARS-Cov2 virus. The response has been too little, too late.

Extreme weather events are becoming more common. Friedman prefers “global climate wierding” to “global warming” or “climate change”, more politically loaded terms. And admittedly easier to deny. “There can’t be global warming, it snowed in my backyard.”

Financial crises are also becoming more common. Two or more of these foreseeable crises on top of each other are devastating. And preventable by putting the buffers, the regulations, the firewalls, etc. back in place.

Alas, there is no herd immunity to greed.

Thomas Friedman
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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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