Thursday, November 12, 2020

Debating is EZ. Winning the debate, maybe not so much

My comments in a Facebook discussion regarding actions suggested by public health officials to slow the spread of COVID-19. John, referenced below, is not a never-masker, but many of our mutual friends are. In the FB discussion, they were maintaining that it was their God-given right to not wear a mask, to not stay at home, and to not limit the size of gatherings they sponsor or attend. John commented that COVID-19 was much different than HIV because it was less deadly and that each person should be able to choose how much risk they were willing to accept. My point has been all along: It’s not how much risk each person is individually willing to accept, it’s how much their actions increase the degree of risk of others who have no say in the matter.

“Thank you, John, for helping me so clearly understand my points in this respectful discussion.

HIV didn't scare me. (Not that I'm especially scared of COVID, either, but that's mostly because of my hope in Christ.) Why didn't HIV scare me? Once we understood the mechanics of transmission, I realized that I had a significant degree of control over my level of risk. I chose to avoid risky behavior and that made me a very unlikely victim of HIV. Very unlikely, but still some small risk from the possibility of blood transfusion, etc. Life is not ever without risk, yet I believe we have the responsibility to control risk where we can practically do so.

I don't have the same degree of control over my risk with COVID. I can do all I can do, yet I can't be sure that an infected and unmasked person won't spread droplets in my vicinity, or sneeze on that food package that the 'no contact' deliveryman will leave at my doorstep later. And I don’t have the choice to not breathe or get groceries—I’m not ready to live naked in the wilderness and subsist on locusts and wild honey.

In the book of Matthew, Jesus taught us that a Christian should rise above the mere avoidance of doing evil to reach the ideal of not even thinking of evil (as in Matthew 5:27-28) AND in Matthew 25:40, he taught that we are to ensure that we do good and not harm even unto the least of our brothers and sisters. In Luke, he teaches us to love our neighbor as ourselves. As I read the scriptures and try to apply them to my daily walk (which I am much less than perfect in doing), I can not understand how I could knowingly fail to take steps to even *possibly* protect others--even the least of these. In this, I'm not even being asked to go so far as to cross over the road to aid and comfort the wounded. I'm just being asked to not harm or further hurt him.

The risk of death from COVID is lower than that of HIV and it appears to be lower now than earlier this year. Thank God for that. These statistics are cold comfort to the loved ones of the 240,000 COVID victims in the U.S. How many of those deaths may have been prevented by simply taking responsibility to be, at least a little bit, our brother's keepers? We will not know in this lifetime.”


Monday, October 19, 2020

Maintaining perfection must not be EZ!

Today, I have to admit to taking extraordinary joy in another’s mistake. Noting, if you will, the clay feet of one of my heroes.

I don’t think it’s Schadenfreude. I certainly wish him no ill. I did, of course, have to jump into the fray with other followers in calling him out in public. But he is a public figure, so I figure that’s OK. I also believe he has a well-developed sense of humor and will take the ribbing well.

His mistake was not a very serious one – he simply posted to Facebook a meme. I don’t believe it was a meme of his creation—simply cute, timely, and presenting all the attributes to make it worth sharing. With one exception: There was an error in the text of the meme. A fairly obvious error. It is very likely that his forward-sharing of the meme, error and all, will have no negative impact on anyone. But it is funny.

What makes it especially funny (sweet?) is that the poster in question is none other than the well-known and highly-regarded internet publisher Randy Cassingham. With his publication, This is True, and other associated media such as a podcast, the True Stella Awards, and articles published here on Medium, Randy promotes the application of common sense and the use of our mental faculties to think about things. Randy has been publishing on the internet since before publishing on the internet was a common thing to do. He has proven himself to be persistent, reliable, and astute—normally well-written and a smooth verbal presenter. I have been a satisfied paid subscriber to his This is True newsletter for years and I have learned to respect him and his opinions, even if we disagree occasionally.

Randy’s minor Facebook faux-pas doesn’t change any of that. If anything, such a sign of his humanity only makes me feel a stronger link of brotherhood.

Much of what Randy publishes is very funny—most of it is very enlightening—and nearly all of it makes me think. That, according to Randy is his goal.

Thanks, Randy, for showing you are not perfect and for allowing a laugh at your expense to brighten my day.

 

Do yourself a favor: Follow Randy here on Medium (https://medium.com/@ThisIsTrue),

on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/ThisIsTrue),

and subscribe to his This is True newsletter (https://ThisIsTrue.com).

 

Published October 19, 2020 at https://medium.com/@dan.g.moyes/randys-random-error-50dbf5abac38.

  

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Reminiscing is EZ; International Travel, not so much.

A question posted to Quora asked: “Have you, as a U.S. citizen, ever been denied entry to another country?”  Well, pull up a chair, children. I've a tale to tell:

Oh, yes! In 1990 I was living in Okinawa, Japan, working for the U.S. Military as a health-and-safety specialist. We provided consultative services to all U.S. organizations (military, State Department, Health and Human Services, etc.) located anywhere on the western edge of the Pacific Rim area from Alaska to New Zealand. We received a call from the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia for some assistance. I was tagged to make the trip. At this time the only passport that I had was a 'red' U.S. official passport — I had used that for all official travel for two years with no problem — it is what the U.S. Government, as my employer, had issued me. What I didn’t know was that Indonesia, at that time, did NOT recognize the U.S. official passport. All entry by U.S. citizens into Indonesia had to be with the standard 'blue' passport, with, at the least, an airline-issued visa. As I said, I didn’t know. But the good folks from the U.S. embassy in Jakarta knew. They also knew that I would be traveling with my red passport and didn’t bother to tell me about this little ‘detail.’ My transit from Naha was on Northwest Airlines, and *they* didn’t object to my routing and travel documents, either.

Photo by Wendy on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

On my arrival at the customs and immigration desk in Jakarta, the immigration official, dressed in olive drab green military fatigues, took my passport, eyed it, then me, then it, then me…and loudly blew a big chromed whistle hanging from his neck. Looking up I saw two military uniformed men with semi-automatic-looking rifles hanging from their shoulders approaching rather rapidly. The man at the desk handed my passport to one of the military men and told me, “Go with them!” Well, what could I do? With one of the military men on either side of me, we proceeded to walk down the sloping floor of a long hallway away from the arrival area. This was distressing. This was pre- TSA and I’d never been treated like this. Even the facility seemed to echo doom and gloom with sickly yellow sulfur gas-discharge lamps overhead, dark and unpleasant colors on the concrete walls, and a black non-skid rubberized flooring surface. Visions of a dismal, damp concrete-and-steel cell swam through my mind. Ahead I could see large automated glass doors and beyond that a crowded arrival plaza.

As we approached the doors they slid open and, I swear, Agent K and Agent J from Men in Black, suits, ties, sunglasses and all, exited a big black Chevy Suburban and swept quickly into the building. Of course, it couldn't have been Agent K and Agent J. This was seven years before Men in Black was available for viewing. They approached the two Indonesian military men (the guys with the rifles) and began a rapid conversation in Indonesian, I assume. The conversation got a bit heated, with the sunglasses guys doing quite a bit of gesturing and head nodding. Finally, the taller of the sunglasses guys put an arm around the shoulder of one of the Indonesian military men and led him a few paces to the side—their conversation continued in a muted mumble for a few moments. Then the mood lightened and head-nodding seemed the new norm for the four of them. The taller of the sunglasses guys (Agent K?), now with my red passport in his hand, turned to me and said, in English, “Come with us”. Out the glass doors and into the back seat of the black Suburban we went.

As we drove away Agent J says, “Relax. We’re from the U.S. Embassy and we're taking you there.”

“My luggage…?” I asked.

“Taken care of.” Said Agent K.

So it was. I was taken to the embassy compound and introduced to the people I’d be working with for the next few days. They told me I was in the custody of the U.S. Embassy staff rather than in an Indonesian jail as a courtesy to the U.S. extended due to goodwill by President Suharto. The embassy official made it very clear that I was not, under any circumstances, to leave the embassy compound. Well, not too tough. I was escorted to a deluxe room near the embassy restaurant and club, poolside. There I found that all the creature comforts of a tropical resort were available for me in my off-duty time. Off duty staff, spouses, and family were relaxing around the pool outside my door. Some were being served exotic cocktails by white-coated wait staff. My luggage and professional equipment were already in my room. Not a bad way to spend a workweek.

When my work was done with the embassy’s medical staff, I got a ride in the black Suburban back to the airport where I was escorted by the two sunglassed agents into the custody, again, of armed uniformed guards. The guards took me to the outgoing customs/immigration desk where the officer there stamped my passport with the date and, in bright red, the words, “DEPORTED—REENTRY DENIED; DIUNDANG—DITENTUKAN.” I caught my Northwest Airlines flight back to Okinawa and found I’d been upgraded to international business class. I had not requested an upgrade.

So, this is how I got deported from Indonesia. It still irks me that the embassy staff there allowed me to walk into the situation unaware. In 1990, the internet was in its infancy, and it wasn’t so easy to research State Department advisories and travel information on the various countries. I had depended on the travel staff in Okinawa, the airline, and my U.S. Embassy hosts to let me know what I needed to know. In the end, they took good care of me, but I’ve got to admit to being a bit frightened as I was led away from the immigration clerk’s desk. Thanks, men in black, for keeping my week in Indonesia safe! 

Monday, September 7, 2020

Self-Knowledge? Not EZ!

I have found that I rarely know what I believe or what my opinion is on any given matter until I try to write about it.

Then, having written about it, I find that I need to amplify, clarify, or modify the thoughts expressed in my writing. 

Clarity of thought! Who has it?

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Memes are not EZ.

 

NRA vs BLM

A recent Facebook-posted meme gave me pause. It posed the question: Why does BLM have to answer for looters, but the NRA doesn't have to answer for school shooters. 

My first impression was that the root intent of that meme, rather than to call out any organization's failures, is to further drive a stake into the heart of our society's ailing and fragile unity. Further thought yielded the following: 

I am not an NRA member. I do not, in any way, support or defend the current 'leadership' of the NRA as I believe they are a corrupt and self-serving group of individuals who have cheated their membership and seriously need to be brought before the bar of justice. I also recognize that the NRA has morphed over the years into a very powerful lobbying entity. A separate issue to me, as I believe paid lobbying should be outlawed along with private money in federal politics in general. That's a long story--if interested, you could see my blog at https://ez-dunne.blogspot.com/2020/05/stay-at-home-makes-it-ez-to-rant.html for my opinion on money in politics.

However:

The NRA was founded in 1871 by a lawyer and an NYT reporter. It was, in their words, to be an organization that promoted marksmanship, personal responsibility, and safety. The NRA firearm training is currently used to train over 1 million people a year to be safe, ethical, responsible shooters, and instructors. The current membership of the NRA consists of 40% women and 40% minorities with an average member age of 42. I am unable to find a single instance where an accredited NRA member (let alone an NRA leader) publicly called for violence or mass shootings or perpetrated such actions. There is nothing I can find in NRA literature that supports violence or unlawful behavior against persons or property.

So far as I can ascertain, there has NEVER been a mass-shooting done by an NRA member. National statistics show that legal gun owners are MUCH less likely to commit a felony than people who are either not gun-owners at all or hold guns unlawfully. In at least two cases near my former home in San Antonio, NRA members have been the 'good guys with guns' who stopped mass shootings from being much worse. First, in Austin at UTA in 1966 when Charles Whitman killed his wife and mother then calmly went and shot and killed 14 other innocents from the Bell Tower. That rampage was put to an end when an armed civilian and--NRA member--led two Austin police officers to the top of the tower where they could stop Whitman's rampage. More recently, in 2017, NRA-certified firearms instructor Stephen Williford interrupted, shot, and chased the man who killed 26 members of the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Has the NRA, as an organization, honorably fulfilled their duty to speak out against violence? Not in my opinion. They could and should do more.

On the other hand, instances of BLM supporters (and those called leaders within the decentralized organization) calling for violence and murder are legion. It has become so common since founding of the movement in 2012-2013 that it's hard to catalog them all. I find it interesting and amazing that BLM has received hundreds of millions of dollars of support (well over $200 million of it well-documented from oil heiress Leah Hunt-Hendrix, Thousand Currents [Susan Rosenberg's organization--you may recall that she is a convicted felon for bombing civilian buildings in the Northeast and D.C.], and the Ford Foundation) and has banking accounts but no official 'leaders.' Somebody has to sign a signature card for those bank accounts, and apparently, a great deal of the legal and financial work of BLM falls under the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation. Somebody runs that organization, I'd wager.

As far back as early 2017, Yusra Khogali, a self-proclaimed BLM leader, called for the violent murder of all white people--lacking that, she supports genetically eliminating whites.

Patrice Cullors defines herself publicly as a 'trained Marxist' and says that her cofounders, Alicia Garza (winner of the Humanitarian Award for the Commission on Hispanic Affairs in my home state of Idaho) and Opel Tometi are also. She and her cohorts have the right to their beliefs and to speak on them. Two points: (1) I hope she understands that it is our liberal Constitution as interpreted through our courts after much sacrifice and hard work by those working for universal equal rights (a work that isn't completed yet) that guarantees her those rights*, and (2) I wonder who trained her? We do know that she is a protege of Eric Mann of the Weather Underground, an organization famous for espousing and committing violence. Ms. Cullors praises the Black Panthers, Young Lords, and the Brown Beret organizations, all with checkered histories of violence.

Having said this, I think you can see why I find it somewhat misinformed or disingenuous to compare BLM and NRA. It would have been much more correct, in my opinion, to compare BLM and the awful Proud Boys organization.

I wish to note that I support some, but not all, of the BLM movement's goals. In some cases my support has caveats. In particular, I support:

  • Ending mass incarceration for non-violent offenses
  • Reforming police structures and strategy and using enforcement funding in ways that support communities and mental health
  • Changes in policing culture to reduce/eliminate excessive use of force
  • Holding police officers and their leadership responsible for the unlawful treatment of citizens
  • Investment in public education (while ensuring the funds go to classrooms, teachers, and students and not just to administration and unions)
  • Decriminalizing sex work (without decriminalizing non-consensual sex trafficking)
  • Abolishing cash bail
  • Eliminating redlining in housing and business finances
  • Recognizing that no lives matter if black lives do not

While I support what I define as worthy goals, I will not speak in support of nor materially support any organization that promotes violence or mutely allows others to promote violence in their name. I have recently canceled my subscription to the Ford Foundation specifically because of the BLMs failure to condemn violence. I also do not support the NRA financially. 

* Added 9/6/2020: I believe the 'Founding Fathers' gave us a very valuable document in the Constitution as a starting point--they knew times would change and that much of it as accepted then was a compromise--thus they provided a process for improving and modifying the Constitution as needed over time. Perhaps the most precious part of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, is a product of that process for modification. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

This seems it should be EZ to understand.

Re: The Kenosha, Wisconsin shooting of Jacob Blake:

Due process must apply to all or it becomes just a capricious privilege for the select few. Note that in saying this, I also support proper due process for the police officer involved in this tragic-for-all incident. Rioting and looting by mobs robs business owners and their innocent employees, homeowners and renters, and taxpayers victimized by the looting and destruction of their right to due process.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The EZ way, or the humane way?

I am seeing a lot of people ending relationships this year with family and long-time friends over disagreements in politics. Generally, but not always, such statements I have seen are authored by relatively young people who proclaim alliance with left-leaning politics and the ‘party of tolerance and inclusion.’ But not exclusively, as I have seen the phenomena on both sides of the current situation. I’ve seen people blocking or unfriending people they have known since 1970 or before; blocking close family; blocking next-door-neighbors. They call their former associates ‘toxic’ and state that they must eliminate them from their lives for the sake of their own mental health. To these, I say I am sorry to hear your mental health is in such a weak state. Ending a relationship over a disagreement in beliefs is purely selfish—an immature response.

Having said that, I will admit that I have temporarily distanced myself from a few of my contacts at times, admitting that I’m simply tired of hearing their opinions or rants. I have not permanently blocked any friend or family member—to my knowledge I have not ‘ended’ any relationships over politics.

Before you color me a troll, allow me to state that I am a life-long political conservative who believes strongly in truth (even if uncomfortable), justice, equality of opportunity, freedom of thought and speech and association, and has, to my memory, never voted a straight ticket. I have no respect for Mr. Trump and consider him unfit for his office. I did NOT vote for him in 2016  and will not vote for him in 2020.

The echo chamber of communications only with like-minded people handicaps your understanding. Association with people who disagree with you helps you to understand, clarify, and deepen your own beliefs. Without challenge or opposite insight beliefs become superficial and without depth of conviction.

 

How to deal with those who are avid supporters of the opposition and their positions and behaviors we strongly dislike and disagree with? I start with a quote attributed by Evelyn Beatrice Hall to Voltaire: "I wholly disagree with what you say and will contend to the death for your right to say it."

Did you ask them why they support who and what they do? When they told you did you listen? Truly listen to see if you could understand deep-seated motivations? Or was that simply too much work for you? Or did you listen to find weak points where you could destroy their argument? What happened when you voiced your beliefs and your disagreements with theirs? When you told them you supported and would vote for the opposition? Did they allow you to tell them why? Or did they banish you? Did they demonstrate their disagreement by becoming violent? Did they call you a moron or an idiot? If so, perhaps you are justified and correct in ending the relationship. If not, I then would ask you, the party ending the relationship, why does it upset you so that others disagree? Do you feel responsible for their thoughts and actions? Or do you wish to exert control and see your political aspirations succeed? Do you understand that by ending the relationship you forfeit any opportunity to influence them for good through long-suffering and example? Or do you fear that your opinion is the wrong one?

I, personally, feel strongly that our country and our freedoms that I hold dear are in jeopardy. As such, I will speak out for my beliefs and I will demand my right to do so. I will speak out against both anarchy and fascism. Remember that denying another the rights you ask for yourself is anathema to freedom and that the suppression of opposition and criticism is the very definition of fascism.

Perhaps If we could find it in our hearts to admit that our connections should not depend on controlling the other person or their beliefs, we could salvage or heal those relationships. If we could heal those relationships, perhaps we could exert, through long-suffering, patience, and love, some righteous influence. If we could exert some influence and heal personal relationships, perhaps we could heal our nation.

If I may quote a FB Project Lincoln member, Dave D’Auria from his post of August 19, 2020: “Being human is a given. But keeping our humanity is a choice… Humanity (Websters): compassionate, sympathetic, or generous behavior or disposition: the quality or state of being humane...

In my opinion, ending relationships over a disagreement in politics is the counter to being humane. You are welcome to your opinion.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Politics ain't EZ

In a Facebook discussion of a particular political candidate, it was mentioned that he had served in the military. One commenter said, "What has military service got to do with running for office, anyway?" Well...

Let me preface this by saying that each individual is just that: an individual. Some benefit from training and experience more than others, and some are simply untrainable. With that caveat, you ask: What has serving in the military got to do with running for office?

The military teaches leadership. 

To be a good leader you first have to be a good follower. The military teaches that a good follower: Keeps their ego in check; forms strong credibility; is committed to a purpose; focuses their efforts for the maximum purpose; supports others

The values taught to support leadership include: Service before self;  loyalty; duty; respect; honor; integrity; ethics; courage; excellence. 

Where else, outside a solid, loving home are these values taught?

Those who have not served in the military would be dumbfounded to learn that much more time and resources are spent on values training than on the military skills of shooting, fighting, and killing.

Tell me: Which of these values and behaviors do you NOT want in a political candidate?

Friday, July 10, 2020

It is EZ to find what you are looking for

I just read an article on Medium.Com, entitled, "The Unintentional Racism Found in Traffic Signals" (https://level.medium.com/the-unintentional-racism-found-in-traffic-signals-b2899c34fefb"

Which caused me pause. Never mind the premise of the 'walk' signal being a 'white man' and the walker needing his 'permission.' Can an unintentional act or condition be racist? Is that possible?

I believe and freely grant that unintentional acts or conditions may be harmful and may need to be addressed and/or corrected. Harmful, yes. Racist? Not so much.

The definition of racism, courtesy of Dictionary.com, is:

(1) a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others.

(2) a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.

(3) hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.

Where is there room for defining unintentional acts or conditions as racist?

Racism *requires* belief, policy, or action because of hatred or intolerance based on the belief that one of another group is inferior. I see no evidence that that can possibly be anything but intentional. An action might be unconscious or unrecognized and that action might be harmful and need to be corrected--that's why humans need to communicate with each other--and what a blessing to all that we can. But if it is racist -- it is, by definition, intentional.

After further reflection, I have noted that the title of the subject article really says a lot: "The Unintentional Racism *Found* in Traffic Signals." Not "The Unintentional Racism *Placed* in Traffic Signals." I guess one finds what one is looking for.

Monday, July 6, 2020

I brought home over $100 worth of fresh vegetables today from Safeway. I bought these because Glenda has decided she wants to follow a vegetarian diet. I thought I had enough veggies to last us a week. I came out of a meeting today at abut 2:30 to find that Glenda has chopped and is frying all of the new fresh veggies.

SMDH.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Cannot anything be EZ?

TLDR: See my rule of thumb at the end of this post.

I absolutely hate that meteorologists have now decided that the amount of moisture in the air should be reported in dewpoint rather than in relative humidity. Prior to the 1990s, the dewpoint was considered an arcane and generally useless data point for public reporting. Relative humidity was widely used and reported and the general public had an instinctive understanding of the impact of any given relative humidity number reported. For some reason, which I’ve not yet been able to fathom, the ‘experts’ determined during the last decade of the last century that reporting the dewpoint would be more helpful than reporting relative humidity. Why and how?

Warm air can hold more water vapor than can cold air. Thus the relative humidity (RH) in a given environment can change with temperature with no change in the amount of water vapor being held in the air in that environment—RH is a relative measure, not an absolute measure—as indicated by the naming convention used. So, if an RH of 50% is reported at 70 degrees Fahrenheit (F), the RH will be lower if the temperature increases to 80 F with no change in the amount of water vapor in the air. Regardless of that, if the RH is 50%, we know that the air is holding half of the water vapor that can physically by held by the air at that given temperature regardless of what that temperature is. Given an RH measurement and a temperature, we could calculate the RH for any other given temperature assuming the physical amount of water vapor remains constant. Most people are comfortable at 30% to 50% RH. Above those values, and certainly at and above 70% RH, most people note that the air feels ‘clammy’ or ‘sticky.’ This human perception of moisture in the air is irrespective of temperature. An RH value is easy to understand. Humans generally like that 30% to 50% RH—and here’s the key point—REGARDLESS OF ACTUAL TEMPERATURE. 80 F and 30% RH is comfortable. 80 F and 80% RH will feel sauna-like. On the other end of the scale, 80 F with 3% RH will feel like you are in an oven.  30 F and 30 % RH may not be comfortable (because it’s cold) but 30 F and 80% RH is going to feel even worse.

The dewpoint (dP — not to be confused with DP) is the temperature at which the air has been sufficiently cooled such that the RH at that cooled temperature would be 100% assuming no change in the amount of water vapor physically in the air. Remember that warm air can hold more water vapor, thus, by inference, cool air must hold less water vapor. As the temperature drops to and below the dP, there will be condensation of moisture out of the air resulting in dew, or frost, depending on the air temperature.

So, the TV weatherman, probably a Certified Broadcast Meteorologist—a credential governed by the American Meteorological Society, reports the conditions with a dew point of 40 F. Or 65 F. Or 30 F. So what? What does that even mean? What I want to know is, how wet, how sticky is the air. Reporting the dP sort of tells me. A higher dP means more water in the air and thus more stickiness. But, how much is how much? How do we interpret a dP reading into practicable and actionable knowledge?

In reading information from the American Meteorological Society, they explain that a higher dP will generally be less comfortable. OK. Higher than what and less comfortable than what? If the air temperature is 80 F and the dewpoint is 50, will that be comfortable? Does anybody know? Can the dP be too low for comfort? What if it’s the same 80 F and the dP is 12 F? Is that going to be comfortable? How the hell do I know? Is there a chart somewhere that tells me what dPs provide human comfort at a range of temperatures? If there is I’ve not found it.  Here is what I did find courtesy of Wikipedia. EZ? I think not!


Chart by Easchiff - Own work
CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3334334

So, after spending some time with the chart above and doing some calculations in Excel, here's my rule of thumb: If the dP is more than about 20 degrees cooler than the current temperature, the RH is probably within the comfort range.

Friday, June 12, 2020

EZ Time.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Glenda and I are vacationing at a cabin in the Tonto National Forest of Northern Arizona about 20 miles east of Payson and just below the Mogollon Rim. As a retiree without employment, I’m learning a lesson that I think I needed: How to take a break from doing nothing.



I noticed this morning that time seems different here and now. It has less meaning. I arose at first light and watched the eastern horizon become bright with a new day’s sun. I had a light and easy breakfast and prepared Glenda’s protein shake. I did my 20-minute yoga routine. I took a shower and dressed. And through it all I didn’t care what time it was. I not only don’t need to be anywhere else, I have absolutely no plans to go anywhere else. Other than the small necessities of living (preparing food, cleaning up afterward) there is NOTHING I must do. Nothing that needs done. Nothing that calls for my attention. The cares of the world could be light-years away. And that truly does make time feel different.

I haven’t had any deep thoughts nor epiphanies nor do I feel like I need any.

The word ‘vacation’ has an etymology and a heritage: Empty time; a time to be unoccupied. I’ve taken many ‘vacations.’ Today seems to be the first time I’ve ever truly experienced what empty time feels like.

It feels good—really, really good—to just BE and to breathe. For this I am thankful.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

We are complicit


The article began, “White people of America, take a moment to reflect on the reality that many of you have and continue to witness black people brutalized and killed for the better part of the last decade. #YouAreComplicit” (You Are Complicit, @Shaft, Medium.com, May 28, 2020)
@Shaft is surely right. He quotes David Crossman as saying, “When you turn a blind eye to atrocities, you are complicit in them.”

How can anyone believe themselves to be human while ignoring so many major and minor abuses of our brethren regardless of their skin color? How can one believe themselves to be caring while not speaking up?

I know I have biases, both explicit and implicit, both conscious and unconscious. I try to be aware so that those biases do not unfairly impact my behaviors and responses—I sometimes fail. I am that worst-of-all character: A white aging balding Christian male. My upbringing was rather insular. I have things to work on. I know I have lived and still live in a privileged position. I was born into a financially-poor family, and I’ve worked hard for my position in life, but I know that my skin color has not impeded my success—and that gives me privilege.

But am I wrong to think that ‘white people’ are not alone in possessing biases? I hear, “You wouldn’t understand.”

One incident remains in my mind. About five or six years ago I was driving out of my close-in suburban neighborhood in San Antonio to run an essential errand. Backing out of my driveway that clear and cool morning, I could hear the brassy sounds of the marching band at their Saturday morning practice over at St. Mary’s Hall, the exclusive and expensive private school a few blocks West of my home. Bronzed by the South Texas sun and toned by exercise in backyard pools or home tennis courts of the mansions that surrounded the school, these high-school band members would hardly be breaking a sweat in the mild weather today. Resting my arm on the driver’s door at the open window of my 10-year-old GMC pickup, I slowly drove away from my home. Down the block, I waved a greeting to my neighbor, Dr. Anna Karlsdotter, as she unlocked her Mercedes sedan. Noticing that she was dressed in a conservative light-blue pants-suit, I imagined she was headed for work at Northeast Baptist Hospital near the I-410 highway near the southern-most entry to our neighborhood. I thought about Dr. Karlsdotter and her family and hoped they would stay in their current home, but had my doubts. The homes on my street were a little old and a little small for an up-and-coming OB surgeon.

Several families were already outside working on their suburban yards. Taking a left on Barrington Drive I noted a line of cars already along the curb by the Episcopal Church of the Reconciliation. A few church ladies in colorful hats were lugging bags and boxes toward the church’s cultural hall for a spring-time event. As I rolled slowly past, their priest, Bishop Washington, purple scarf hanging from his neck, greeted me with a fist-wave. At the far end of the oak-lined paved parking lot, a group of young men, mostly a mix of Hispanic and black, were playing basketball under the outdoor hoops and I could hear their trash-talk. It’s a good bet that most of these youngsters were residents of one of the many apartment complexes between the church and the nearby freeway and that they didn’t attend St. Mary’s Hall. Bishop Washington and his congregation provided a lot of good services for those young men and their families, including breakfast and lunch for the youngsters that they probably wouldn’t otherwise get when school was not in session. Further along, the suburban homes turned to townhomes in tight rows with contracted landscape men at work. Serna Elementary School, ranked one of the most diverse public elementary schools in Texas, wasn’t in session, so the schoolyard and playgrounds were empty. I took another left at the Rahman Mosque and pulled up to the stoplight at the corner by the Lighthouse Baptist Church.

So there I was, a stereotypical white guy driving a stereotypical white pickup truck in Texas, windows cranked down on a balmy spring morning. I had been listening to some Fleetwood Mac. As I pulled to and waited at the stoplight to turn right where my neighborhood street exited onto the feeder road, I noted several people at the covered bus stop waiting for trusty Via Metropolitan #14. My wife often rode that bus to and from her gymnasium and had reported a generally congenial mix of riders. As I watched, a big guy finished his 32oz Circle K drink and tossed the paper cup, plastic lid, and straw to the sloppily trimmed lawn area behind the bus stop. Allow me to emphasize this: HE WAS STANDING NEXT TO A CITY-PROVIDED TRASH CAN. I was appalled. How can we keep our neighborhoods and streets nice under the insult of such behavior? I hate littering. I had just read that local peer pressure is more impactful against littering than rules and signs. I quickly escalated from appalled to incensed.

Window down, I shouted, “Hey, you, soda drinker! Pick up that damn cup. Trash can’s right there. Don’t trash our neighborhood!”

The light turned green and I drove away. Within seconds it hit me. “Oh, no! Damn.” The guy, the litterer, was black. He will think my verbal admonition was motivated by race.” I felt bad, and I still do, about this. I did not yell at him because he was black. I yelled because I hate slothful littering and trash. Anywhere, but especially near my home.

I know I have biases—but here I assume that he was biased too in thinking my rant was race-based. I have no way of knowing what he actually thought, but my imagination hears him responding in kind but with a racial component that probably had something to do with honky or cracker. What did he think of my use of “our neighborhood?” I meant OUR neighborhood – his and mine – but I fear he thought I meant MY neighborhood. “What are you doing here, ‘boy,’ anyway?” may have been, to him, implied in my words. Did I commit a microaggression? I felt bad then, and still do, that he may have felt attacked for his skin color. Would it still have been a microaggression if I had been black? Or if he had yelled at me? Or can only white people commit microagressions?

What should I have done? Nothing? Accept that some people just don’t care about litter? Should I just give up any and all attempts to shape the world around me in what seems to me to be a positive way for fear that I might offend someone? Should I just shut up and color if I perceive a wrong in the hands of someone of a different ethnicity or culture? Our taxes pay for picking up litter and we have to live with the garbage until it is picked up—I often pick up litter from others.
I struggle to understand: There was a trash can right there! This was a ship-in-the-night incident. I never saw him at the bus stop or in our neighborhood after this. I have had no chance to apologize or to discuss the event.
What should I do now in the time of George Floyd? I simply don’t know. I try not to discriminate in business and in my personal life.  I’m very willing to discuss this and try to learn. “You wouldn’t understand” does not help. I am trying to understand and to know how to help. From what platform should I speak? I have no broad audience.

I only ask that you bring to our discussions the possibility of considering that it is not only white people who have biases and that it is not only people of color that are harmed by them. I strongly agree that people of color have for much too long carried a much heavier, unbearably heavy, load in this regard—but the distrust, the fear weakens and harms us all. We can talk and maybe work together if we don’t simply condemn one another out of hand due to our skin color.

I can go birding (#ChristianCooper)
I can go jogging (#AhmaudArbery)
I can relax in the comfort of my own home (#BothemSean and #AtatianaJefferson)
I can ask for help after being in a car crash (#JonathanFerrell and #RenishaMcBride)
I can have a cellphone (#StephonClark)
I can leave a party to get to safety (#JordanEdwards)
I can play loud music (#JordanDavis)
I can sell CDs (#AltonSterling)
I can sleep (#AiyanaJones)
I can walk from the corner store (#MikeBrown)
I can play cops and robbers (#TamirRice)
I can go to church (#Charleston9)
I can walk home with Skittles (#TrayvonMartin)
I can hold a hairbrush while leaving my own bachelor party (#SeanBell)
I can party on New Years (#OscarGrant)
I can get a normal traffic ticket (#SandraBland)
I can lawfully carry a weapon (#PhilandoCastile)
I can break down on a public road with car problems (#CoreyJones)
I can shop at Walmart (#JohnCrawford)
I can have a disabled vehicle (#TerrenceCrutcher)
I can read a book in my own car (#KeithScott)
I can be a 10yr old walking with our grandfather (#CliffordGlover)
I can decorate for a party (#ClaudeReese)
I can ask a cop a question (#RandyEvans)
I can cash a check in peace (#YvonneSmallwood)
I can take out my wallet (#AmadouDiallo)
I can run (#WalterScott)
I can breathe (#EricGarner)
I can live (#FreddieGray)
I CAN BE ARRESTED WITHOUT THE FEAR OF BEING MURDERED (#GeorgeFloyd)
#BlackLivesMatter

Monday, June 1, 2020

The Twenty-First Century is not turning out to be EZ.

June 1, 2020

As the world burns around us with rage boiling over and the coronavirus lurks, I cannot help but be reminded of the ancient curse: "May you live in interesting times." I didn't want to live in interesting times. In fact, this is NOT the twenty-first-century that I was expecting. No one expects what we are getting this year. I only hope and pray for good health, peace, and justice for all.

Please, may we learn from the despicable dumbness of Ms. Cooper vs. Mr. Cooper in Central Park. May we reform our policing to honor the life and needless deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. May we show compassion and kindness to one another. May we honor the noble words of our Constitution and allow, nay help, all enjoy the liberties enshrined therein.

If. If we can, then we can work on fighting disease, deprivation, and disaster. We can protect our fragile Earth. We can distribute our bounty more equitably. Conquest, war, famine, and plague need not destroy us. We can look each other in the eye and say, "Brother; Sister."

Why else are we here, folks?

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Beating the Odds - Never EZ!


A sleeve gastrectomy removes about 80% of the stomach, reducing the capacity for food in one sitting to about four ounces. Intended benefits of a gastrectomy include weight loss and remittance of diabetes. Short-term complications can include bleeding, pain, and blood clots while long-term complications may include failure to lose weight, the eventual regaining of weight initially lost, intolerance to certain foods, dyspepsia, addictions (believed to be transfer reaction from overeating), GERD, abscesses or ulcers, gallstones, diarrhea, and, believe it or not, divorce. Some studies have shown that over 80% of marriages end in divorce after gastrectomy surgery.

Nearly 68% of gastrectomy patients have regained all or nearly all weight lost by five years post-surgery.

My wife had laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy surgery performed in the summer of 2014 by Dr. Lisa D. Brostrom, Chief, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.

Pre-surgery, her weight was 234 pounds and she was a diagnosed type 2 diabetic. Her body mass index (BMI) was over 36. Six-months post-surgery, she weighed 145 pounds. Her fasting blood sugar levels and A1C (average blood sugar levels over three months) were normal. By the middle of May 2020, six years post-surgery, her weight remains 145 pounds with a BMI of less than 23 and there is no sign of the return of diabetes. She has had no gastric distress or problems of any kind, with the possible exception of a small but noticeable increase in stomach gas, which has not caused her any distress. To this non-medic, the operation seems to have been successful and well worth the cost and healing required.

During the pre-discharge briefing, Dr. Brostrom stressed that with her decreased stomach size, it was essential that we modify her diet to ensure that she got sufficient protein. After discharge, she was to be restricted to a liquid diet for a few weeks. After that she was to eat six to eight very small meals per day, and also ensure adequate water for hydration.

Considering her need for protein and her newly-limited stomach size, we determined that a protein supplement may be helpful. As she was on a liquid diet, at least short-term, we decided that making her a morning protein shake would be a wise thing to do. After some thought and research, I decided that just dumping a package or scoop of protein powder into some water or plant-based-milk would not provide the optimum solution (no pun intended). Accordingly, I developed the following recipe.

1 package* Carnation Instant Breakfast Light Start™ (Sugar-Free)
¼ cup raw rolled oatmeal
1 20-gram scoop of no sugar added whey protein powder*
1 medium not over-ripe banana
3-4 ounces unsweetened plain yogurt
3-4 ounces in-season fresh berries
6 ounces of unflavored, unsweetened soy or almond milk
I place the dry ingredients into a blender, add fruit, yogurt, and plant-based milk then blend until smooth and creamy. This makes about 22 ounces of creamy shake which she enjoys through a straw for breakfast, mid-morning snack, and (most days) lunch. She generally snacks on fruit and/or whole-wheat toast in the afternoon and we enjoy a normal dinner with a protein entrĂ©e (which may be fish, poultry, meat, or vegetable protein such as lentils or beans), a vegetable side or salad. An evening snack often consists of about 2 ounces of ice cream or some buttered popcorn. I have observed that she normally drinks about 48 ounces of water per day. She does not drink coffee, beer, liquor, or caffeinated tea. A sugared soda is a rare treat – her preference is ice-cold root beer.

Here is something that is probably key to her success: she has stayed active. She normally gets about 40 or more minutes per day of light exercise, either in the community pool or walking. Her balance and vision no longer allow bicycling, but we have added some 1- and 3-pound weights and some stretchy bands to her routine for arm and wrist resistance work and a large body ball for balance.
Making the shake is quick and simple, but it does require some time and effort and some planning for shopping to ensure ingredients are always on hand. To me, it would be inconvenient to try to carry the ingredients and a blender for travel, so we rely on products like Boost™ or Ensure™ for times of travel or if I were to be unable to prepare her concoction.

The table below presents the estimated representative nutritional values for the morning shake. In compiling this table, I noted that the amount of total sugars is higher than I expected, and exceeds the recommended daily allowance for sugars. We are using no-sugar-added and unsweetened products where possible; the largest contributor to the sugars is the banana. In defense, those sugars are ‘natural’ and mostly in the form of fructose. Less-ripe bananas have lower sugar content.


Values are approximations
(a) 0.8g per Kg body weight

Oh, and did I mention: We are still married. We will celebrate our 52nd wedding anniversary on August 16, 2020.

For more information on sleeve gastrectomy surgery, see the World Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery, April 27, 2017, National Institutes of Health, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5406732/ .

DISCLAIMER: I am not a physician and this article is not providing medical advice. I am simply relating our success story with my wife’s gastrectomy. Always seek competent medical advice from a licensed professional before selecting any course of action regarding your health.

*She prefers chocolate

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Stay-at-Home makes it EZ to rant!


In the United States, our current politics stink. There is much rotten in Washington. The politicians there have forgotten who sent them there and what we sent them there for.

Photo credit - Rats! by ricardo on Flickr. Used per Creative Commons License.

They are supposed to be our representatives. They work for us and are to serve our ‘common welfare’ yet they call themselves our ‘leaders’ and expect us to kowtow to them while they ensure their nests are feathered with pay, benefits, travel, a fat retirement, and health care while we the people slave for them. Many of them have never worked in the private sector or even served in the military. The United States has become a feudal society supporting a few oligarchs. Some of the oligarchs are powerful businessmen or women. More are in our Congress. Many of them have become wealthy while serving in Congress while complaining that they can't live on their Federal pay and benefits.

We badly need to fix our system.

1. Term limits for Congress. I recommend six years for Representatives and eight for Senators. No exceptions. Members of Congress need to know they will have to live with the laws they create.
2. Establish fair, transparent, enforceable standards for obtaining ballot access. You want to start a party and back a candidate? Sure. Here are the rules for getting your candidate certified and listed on the ballot. The same rules apply to all. This may be the weakest link in my reform proposal – It will be especially essential that money must be prevented from ruling supreme here – I’m not sure how to accomplish that. Party primaries will have to be considered and solutions found.
3. Limit public campaigning for any federal position to 120 days prior to the election date (180 days within states where a primary is required). Incumbents are NOT allowed to hold rallies or partisan events of any kind prior. No campaign funds may be expended prior to 240 days before the election date (this allows for travel, communications for planning, and to meet requirements to get a candidate on the ballot). Money spent in the party selection process during the period between 240 and 180 days before election day must be accounted for and meet federal rules for campaign funds and donations. All other political donations are made to the Federal fund to be spent equally by the candidates. There will be NO private-source money spent to support any candidate or any party after the campaign process begins in any way for any purpose, including in-kind contributions with the exception of labor donated by campaign volunteers. Money remaining after a candidate is certified and the campaign process begins must be returned pro-rata to the donors or donated to the Federal fund for elections.
4. Repeal Citizens United – it will be mostly moot anyway, if items 2 and 3, above, are enacted.
5. Eliminate lifetime stipends and benefits for representatives. Provide a 2 – 4-year post-service period where pay and benefits continue at a reduced rate to aid in transition back to civilian life, but end payments and benefits completely after that period. All elected officials participate fully in the Social Security (and any socialized medicine program) exactly the same as civilians.
6. Once campaigning starts, fund all campaigns for all certified candidates for all federal offices with public funds. All certified candidates get the same amount (which amount may vary based on position—House vs Senate vs Executive). No other money may be spent from any source at any time for any reason. Political donations are made to the federal fund to be spent equally by the candidates.
7. Re-enact some form of the “Fairness Doctrine.” This is an area that needs thoughtful action. Media can be too unbalanced with no checks in place.
8. Enact legislation limiting each action of either house of Congress to ONE ITEM per bill and per vote. Disaster Relief Bill? Take out those non-related items tacked on or added as riders. One bill, one topic. No funding of the arts in a transportation bill, etc. Limit the page count for bills. No 800-page bill will ever by thoughtfully considered by our representatives anyway.
9. Enact legislation to make it a felony for any representative to vote on any legislation that they have not personally read. In its entirety. No more of this, “We have to pass it to learn what’s in it.”
10. Voting fairness. One person, one vote. Make registration and voting easy, safe, and secure for every person 18 and over. Require some form of personal identification but ensure that all who are eligible to vote can quickly and easily obtain such. If they can do it in Afghanistan and in Ghana, we can do it in the U.S.
11. Reform the electoral college – eliminate the possibility of “faithless” electors (Note: done by the Supreme Court in July, 2020). Also eliminate 'first past the gate' elections.
12. Mandatory retirement from the Supreme Court bench after 20 years of service.
13. Enact sunset legislation for all federal rules and regulations (note: Not laws – just the rules and regulations that are implemented and enforced by non-elective agencies – laws remain in effect until revoked or replaced). Perhaps 12 years would be a reasonable sunset limitation? Rules and regulations die at their sunset date unless renewed – there must be a reasonable public comment period prior to the renewal effective date.
14. Make the Post Office profitable. Home delivery reduced to three days a week – geographic routes get Monday, Wednesday, Friday OR Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday pickup and delivery. Allow PO personnel strength to diminish to right-sized counts as people retire or die. Raise rates as necessary – make the service competitive and worth any increased cost.
15. Improve medical care in the U.S. by fixing Obamacare, one step at a time. Consider allowing states to implement their own rules so long as they provide at least the minimum benefit as the federal plan. Remove federal restrictions, but not standards, so health insurance can work across state lines.
16. Remove the ‘cap’ on Social Security contributions. Keep long-term capital gains taxes low, but include all income, to include ‘non-earned’ income in the Social Security program taxation (dividends, rents, stock profits, etc.) Every dollar of net income or salary is subject to the SS tax. Remove gender-based discrimination from SS. If a man dies, his widow can choose the greater of his (before death) or her benefits. If a woman dies, her widower has no such option.
17. Make the heads of all Federal agencies subject to Civil Service rules.
18. Public Service unions, by definition, are a huge conflict of interest. Find some transparent way to ensure fairness and representation for Federal employees without the COI of a union. Ensure that employment rules do not unwisely protect marginal or worse employees but do provide fairness for all.
19. Repel or fix the Patriot Act and FISA. Ensure the Bill of Rights is respected and enabled.
20.  Outlaw (or severely restrict) paid lobbying.

"If a law is unjust, a man [or a woman] is not only right to disobey it, he [or she] is obligated to do so." Thomas Jefferson: Papers of Thomas Jefferson as presented by the Jefferson Monticello project at monitcello.org.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness… it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” The Declaration of Independence, 1776. From the works of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 2, as presented by the Online Library of Liberty at oll.liberty.org


Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The golden years may not be EZ.

I really, really want to rant. I know this has to be near the acme, the epitome of a privileged, first-world problem. I know I should sit down and shut up. I know how blessed we are, still, this hurts.

Photo credit - Heather Cowper, Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.


The number one item on my bucket list of earthly delights has been, for some time, a Danube River Cruise with my sweetheart. Deluxe top-of-the-line service on a world-class ship, an upgraded stateroom with a balcony, evening drinks watching the sunset over the river from the shaded upper deck, guided excursions in Southern Europe's historic capitals and art musea, dining with the locals, symphony concert in  Vienna's  Musikverein Orchestra Hall, first-class air travel round trip, two nights in a luxury hotel in Budapest before the cruise.

Photo credit - Alex Talmaciu, Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.


Importantly, to be most enjoyable, this trip needs (or needed) to happen while Glenda and I still enjoy good enough health for the travel, the walking tours, and such.

I have saved my pennies for years for this trip. YEARS.

Finally, in 2020, we can do it, we thought. Over a year before the trip, in July of 2019, we sought out a travel agent to help plan and arrange the travel. I have normally done all of our own travel arrangements, but this trip is complicated, with many international requirements and connections not to be missed. With the agent's help, we selected and booked a cruise with Avalon Waterways. We would leave Phoenix on August 3, 2020, and fly by Delta's best class of service to Budapest, Hungary. There we would spend two nights at the JW Marriot hotel, giving us time to overcome jet lag and to enjoy the relative luxury of the surroundings. After two nights of rest, we booked an escorted private tour of Budapest, concluding with a formal catered candlelight dinner for two on a balcony overlooking the 17th Century Chain Bridge crossing the Danube between the sister-cities of Buda and Pest. The next morning would begin our 8-day cruise with Avalon, visiting a new European treasure of a city each day with appropriate tours and such. Nights aboard the boat as we sail to a new city.

Then came Covid-19.

Today, May 12, 2020, Avalon notified us that all operations are canceled through August of 2020, including, of course, our August Danube Cruise. They really have no choice, as the government of Hungary is not allowing any international travel into the country right now, anyway, and it's unknown how long that will go on. They are allowing us to use our paid fares, along with an additional $400 credit, through 2022. Delta has also said that our airfare can be used as a credit for rescheduled travel through, I believe, September of 2022. So while the money is tied up with Avalon and Delta, it is not lost.


Photo credit - Krisijan Brkic, Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.

So nothing is lost but time, right? Yes. But time...time becomes so precious when most of your time is certainly behind you. Or, as Bonnie Raitt puts it, "Life gets mighty precious when there's less of it to waste." Nick of Time (1989)


Tuesday, May 5, 2020

It is EZ to be afraid!

Some people just have to stir up fear. China has been investing internationally for at least four decades. We DO need international law that provides a level field so that U.S. businesses can fairly invest in China, too. If our "leaders" could get off their asses and stop fighting each other so they could work laws and treaties, that would be a good thing. Fear doesn't fix anything. Last year the *add-to-your-fear meme* was: we will all soon be forced to live under Sharia Law. In the '90s, it was that the Russians will own all of the beach-front properties by the turn of the century. In the 1970s it was the Mexicans will take all our jobs. In the 1960s it was those hippies and their damn marijuana and free love. In the 1950s it was Hollywood is all Communist. In the 1940s it was the Japanese are all traitors and must be locked up. In the 1930s it was the Jews will own everything! In the 1920s it was that devil liquor. In the 1880s, it was the Irish will take all of our jobs. In the 1870s it was the Italians will take all our women. Just stop spreading fear. It doesn't help.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

EZ Yoga Thoughts

At the end of my morning yoga routine, I was cooling off in the ‘corpse’ pose. While there I found myself pondering death for some reason. Was I influenced by the latest pandemic scare, perhaps? May be.

It occurred to me that someday in the not-too-distant future (I will be 70 next month) my body will be assuming that position for real; when any movement is beyond my control. I will enter into eternal rest.

When that happens, when the body becomes a shell and the pose is not posing – where, if anywhere, will I be? My being? My consciousness? My memories? My self? Me?

It’s OK to have a belief in life after death. It’s OK to have faith. I have some. Many have more. But the fact is that none of us KNOW. To avoid insanity, it is important to make peace with death.

What we do know is that pandemic or not, death will come for us all at some point. More important than making peace with death, I think, is to make peace with life. Now. While we can.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

EZ promises

He made her three promises;
only three promises.
I will never lie to you.
I will never hurt you on purpose.
I will never forget you.
They were all she needed.
He kept two of the three
faithfully.

An EZ Quote from a Master



“I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all, I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.”  Agatha Christie

Monday, April 20, 2020

Baking in the time of Corona - More EZ Than I Thought


Twenty-four days ago, the 13th day of mandated social distancing here in Arizona, I found that I had turned in my man-card and turned to the act of baking to fill the time (and my enlarging tummy.)  On that day, I posted to FaceBook about my first-ever attempt at a quick-bread from scratch. 

A sliced home-made loaf of beer bread.
Beer Bread - Photo by Dan Moyes

This is a beer-bread, where the carbonation of the beer, along with a little baking powder, replace the yeast. It's a quick-bread because it doesn't have to raise and be kneaded. You just mix it all up in a bowl, pour it into a greased baking pan and throw it into a 350-degree (F) oven for an hour. My first attempts were made using Michelob Ultra (left in my garage fridge by visitors a few weeks ago). I made several loaves over a week or two and they were all quite good. 

I shared a loaf with our cross-street neighbors and got thankful raves!!

But now, the Michelob is all gone...No problem, there are other things that have been left in that garage refrigerator. And I'm an experimenter anyway.

First, I tried a can of raspberry-flavored seltzer water from Kroger's. It worked -- the texture was good and the flavor was OK. The berry didn't come through and the bread lacked a certain degree of bitter which probably comes from the hops in the Michelob Ultra. I probably won't try that again. 

The next thing I found in the refrigerator was a bottle of Hop Knot IPA from Four Peaks Brewing in Scottsdale. Well, if the berry-seltzer mix lacked the hops bitter, this IPA should fix that, right? In mixing the dough, I found that the Hop Knot presented a prominent fragrance of citrus (grapefruit?) with a touch of pineapple. "Well," I thought, "This should be good!" As in the case of the berry-seltzer loaf, it baked well and exhibited a good texture. The first heel piece, plated while still, warm soaked up a pat of melting butter attractively. My mouth watered. 

About then, my beloved Glenda asked for a moment's help with her iPhone. I can't say no to her! Finishing the tech task, I turned to find our bichon-frise dog, Dak, walking out of the room with MY slice of buttered bread in his mouth. Damn! Four stars from the dog! Oh, well, back to the bread knife.

Once I got the second piece buttered, I found the flavor of the bread made from the hoppy IPA to be fine, but not outstanding. The fragrance of the citrus carried through to the finished bread. I did not notice a citrus flavor. The hoppy bitter was there -- and perhaps just a touch too strong. The bread didn't have the sweet wheat finish of other breads; providing a light bitter after taste. Like the berry-seltzer recipe, I probably won't try this one again. But, like the berry-seltzer loaf, we certainly will eat all of this one!

What to do in this time of quarantine? I know, for my next loaf I think I'll try Corona --  without the lime.

Here's the basic recipe:


Quick and easy beer bread

One and one-half hours
Prep time: 10 minutes
Baking time: 1 hour
Cooling: 20 minutes

NOTE:   Not intended for the gluten intolerant or those on carbohydrate-restricted diets

INGREDIENTS

2 cups all-purpose flour (or bread flour -- NOT self-rising)
1 cup whole-wheat flour
¼ cup granulated white sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
*¼ cup old-fashioned oatmeal (optional)
*¼ cup cracked wheat (optional)
*1 TBSP powdered milk (optional)
¼ cup melted butter
1 egg
1-12 ounce can or bottle of beer

DIRECTIONS

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Lightly grease or non-stick spray a standard loaf pan (glass or metal)
In a large bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients ensuring a complete mix
Add egg and beer and mix well but don’t over-stir – don’t “beat” the mix
                A proper dough mix should be thoroughly “wet” but not “creamy.” It will be heavy and sticky
Pour/scrape dough mix into loaf pan
Drizzle melted butter over top of loaf
Bake at 350 F. for one hour - when done, a table knife inserted to the loaf will come out clean
Cool on a rack – slice - enjoy

As this is not a yeast bread, it will be somewhat heavy, but with the CO2 from the beer and the added baking powder, it should raise nicely while baking and have a chewy, bubbled interior and a crunchy crust.

You can get a less crunchy crust by stirring the melted butter into the dough mix rather than drizzling it over the un-baked loaf.

*The optional grains and dry milk add character to the loaf and may be omitted if you don’t care for them. If you do add the optional extra grains, you may need to add a tablespoon or two of room-temperature water to the dough mixture for your desired consistency.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

The Modern Ethical Dilemma of COVID-19


As anyone who has ever spent more than five minutes considering it knows, economics is an extremely complicated matter. It's been called the dismal science. Maybe the most simple rule of the economy is that any transaction that leaves both participants happy is a positive thing and enriches the overall economy.

Some hold out that we should now open the economy fully to stanch the financial bleeding. Yes, they say, some will die, but mostly the old and ill anyway.

The loss to society of illness and premature death has been studied and written about in great detail. I'll give you just a couple of links, later, so you can ponder this question.

But, first -- even if all the deaths were those receiving social security -- do you think those recipients stuff the money in their sofa cushions? No. As a retiree, I can tell you that the money gets spent on housing, utilities, food, clothing, transportation, medical care, and recreation (to include gifts for children and grandchildren). Every dollar they spend is good for the economy. All the vacation travel canceled due to COVID-19? Much of it by seniors. Ask any airline executive what that's worth to the economy.

But the elderly and sick won't be all of those taken. When a person in mid-life (20 to 45) is taken, there are somewhere between 1/2 and 2 million dollars of value lost, forever, to the economy. They won't fill a job. They won't raise a family. They won't spend their earnings. They won't pay taxes. They won't invent the next big thing. Imagine if the cancer that took Steve Jobs life had done that when he was in his 20s, or if Alexander Fleming had died young.

But, wait, there's more! Even if this illness killed nobody, even if the illness didn't close a single business, there is a horrendous cost from the illness. I've read that COVID-19 runs 8 to 16 days from onset to death or recovery. What does that illness cost? My most recent 3-day hospital stay for surgery cost nearly $150,000.00; so $50K a day. Maybe that's high. Maybe the average is more like $20K a day--and that does not include the loss to the economy from that person being off the job. Every dollar spent on health care that could be prevented is a dollar that isn't spent in restaurants, stores, bars, and entertainment venues.

In the 1918 flu epidemic, 20% of Americans were stricken. Let's be conservative and work with only 1/4th of that as possibly needing hospital care -- if only 5% of our populace of 300,000,000 is stricken by COVID-19, that's fifteen million people. If their average hospital stay is half the sixteen days, 8 days at $20K a day, that's 2.4x10^12 dollars--$2.4 TRILLION. Pure, direct cost to the economy, not including the loss of their productivity. The total, true cost is much higher and beyond the scope of this discussion to calculate. If 2% of the fifteen million ill will die, that's 300,000 deaths -- news flash, we are already over 100,000 world-wide -- how long till just the U.S. reaches that.

So if by closing and quarantining we can reduce the illness by only half, that's a savings of at least $1.2 Trillion just from the avoidance of the illness.

It has been said that those who will not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. OK, look at history: Again, in 1918, the jurisdictions that quarantined early, stayed long, and enforced it suffered MUCH, MUCH less than the jurisdictions that did a poor job of quarantining. They had lower mortality, lower morbidity, less overall impact to their economies and recovered MUCH, MUCH faster and fully. Minneapolis tightened early and long: 388 deaths per 100,000 people. Pittsburgh didn't: 1,244 deaths per 100,000 people. And the financial recovery was strikingly different. Minneapolis tightened early and long: Growth in employment in 1919 over double the rate Pittsburgh saw in 1919.

Pittsburgh: 1,244 dead per 100,000. That same rate would mean 3,732,000 deaths in the U.S.; nearly 25,000 deaths in just the San Antonio, TX area. 25,000 fewer to work, spend and live in one city. About half of COVID-19 deaths have been people younger than 65. What would the loss of 12,500 full-time employed do, long-term, to the economy of San Antonio? And the human cost – are we ready to allow this kind of carnage without doing all within our power to fight it? I believe we have a moral imperative to do all we can to prevent illness and death. This is our real-life ethical dilemma of the trolley problem (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem)

The illness, the cost of care, the deaths, the lost productivity has the potential to impact the economy in a much more negative fashion than the quarantine. And for much longer -- literally, forever.

There is something called the parable of the broken window, introduced by Bastiat in 1850, that considers the impact of negative events on the economy. A broken window in a storefront, good or bad? Good for the glazier, bad for the storekeeper. No, in the long run, it is bad for everyone because it causes resources to be expended just to maintain the status quo -- there is no advancement when the window is repaired -- things are simply returned to their earlier status.

For further reading: