A COVID-19 Log 4/n

I forgot to mention last week that I started having my first real coronavirus dreams.

In the first, I was talking with a friend in the WordPress community. He had just gotten back from a bakery and was showing off all of the newly purchased goods to a group of us. As he was talking I felt a droplet hit my cheek and my dream brain all of a sudden got wise and started looking around at the room wondering why we were all talking to each other so closely.

In the second, I was in a seat on an airplane and sitting next to—what is my brain even doing—another friend from the WordPress community. The rest of the plane was empty except for our two seats and the seats directly in front of and behind us. Once again, my dream brain all of a sudden got wise and started wondering why the hell we were all sitting so close together.

In the third, I was in a line waiting to be tested for COVID-19. Apparently widespread testing was in effect and there were hundreds of people waiting in three lines that started merging toward the test point. At the merge, people started getting closer and closer to each other until I was shoulder to shoulder with the people beside me. I said something like “welp, looks like we all have it now!” and people looked at me like I was crazy.

And in the fourth (that I remember), I woke up from a dream in which I came into contact with somebody that had COVID-19. As I got out of bed, I noticed that I had a deep cough all of a sudden and started checking for other symptoms, wondering if I was imagining it because of the dream or of something else was going on. I then woke from that dream and felt fine. 🙃

There was another that I don’t really remember well in which Michelle and I were traveling somewhere that should have been super populated, but all of the landmarks and maybe even complete towns were completely empty.

What’s funny is that my biggest takeaway is probably that I miss hanging out with everyone. Also, what is “normal” going to look like when we get there? Let’s get there!

The Washington state department of health continued to have trouble updating case information on their website this week and posted a quick explanation as a PDF. I had seen the term “notifiable conditions” before, but this is the first time the Washington Disease Reporting System was mentioned. These reporting processes are all things that are up and running and probably working fairly well—so much so that we hardly pay attention until there’s a pandemic.

Two interesting parts of the explanation:

  • The system was built to log positive tests only. Notifiable conditions include things like influenza, plague, mumps, and many other things that are probably interesting to those collecting data whenever they have spikes, but maybe not so interesting as a percentage of total tested. Now that it’s being used to capture negative results for COVID-19, the pipeline is clogged.
  • Duplicate case data is handled manually right now and there were more than 2000 duplicate records one day last week. That obviously takes a lot of attention from actual people to resolve.

If you search Twitter for “@wadepthealth” around the time you would expect the latest case information to be updated on the Washington State Department of Health’s COVID-19 page, you’ll see a whole slew of angry people demanding numbers. These are numbers that aren’t actionable to most of us and won’t cause us anything other than stress until they start going down significantly. But here were are, wanting to know—and I check in on those numbers daily!

I’m not surprised by much of this, though if I was I would be surprised that the state did not stress test the system to mimic pandemic conditions. It seems like small numbers overall. Handling thousands of data records in a day is much different than handling millions. But I also have no idea what’s actually being collected and how much manual attention it needs.

The new system has been up for the last few days and seems to be working much better. There’s a delay on some of the numbers, but the consistency and stability has been nice.

Zoom has been huge over the last several weeks and has been running the gauntlet of another form of stress test: attention.

Doc Searls wrote a series of excellent posts picking apart various privacy issues that didn’t have clear answers. It took less than a week for Zoom to introduce a new privacy policy and to announce new efforts to continue addressing concerns. I’m impressed by their response so far.

I keep on learning new words related to viruses and pandemics. This week I learned comorbidity.

Another super-spreader party story from a Seattle party.

And a super-spreader choir. This is actually the first place where I’ve seen (or paid enough attention to see) a definition for “aerosols” as “a particle smaller than 5 micrometers that can float in the air for minutes or longer”. I’ve been wondering what “aerosol” actually means after seeing the study in which the coronavirus could last up to 3 hours and trying to measure it against reading how droplets emitted through sneezing, coughing, or breathing are heavier than air and will immediately start falling towards the ground.

It’s also strange how I started this blurb earlier in the week and it already feels like this is ancient knowledge I’ve had for years.

The choir article also mentions a 1977 Alaska Air flight in Alaska between Homer and Kodiak in which a large portion of the plane got sick. This intrigued me enough that I went digging. There’s a paper from 1979 in the Journal of Epidimiology, “An outbreak of influenza aboard a commercial airliner“, that is pretty interesting. It’s crazy that we may not have really understood influenza as transmitted via air. Though when I started thinking about that, I realized 1977 was only 59 years from 1918 and we’re already 43 years from 1977. Whew.

There’s more in “Airliner Cabin Safety and Health Standards“, a report of a “Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Aviation of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.” It too is an interesting read.

Vincent van Gogh, The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring(1884) ©Groninger Museum.

Some opportunistic art thieves stole Vincent van Goh’s painting, The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen from the Singer Laren musem. I wonder how long until we get a heist movie that takes place during a pandemic.

We ordered groceries online for the first time through our local grocer, Dissmore’s. It was fun to see that their site is powered by WordPress and a theme from Freshop, which specializes in exactly this.

The process was super smooth and we got everything we needed. In some ways I was wondering if we should be going to the store ourselves, but in other ways I think we’re helping to stress test the system a bit without going overboard. (Can you tell that’s a focus right now?)

If this goes on for the rest of the year somehow, it will be nice to know that stores were able to ramp up now toward providing delivery to everyone. And I have to imagine keeping extra humans out of the store is healthier (COVID-wise) for the employees.

This is the week in which masks really took off in the US. We still haven’t made some, though we’ve talked through our design a bit and will get to it shortly. I enjoyed Kottke’s breakdown on masks and appreciate most the idea of normalization.

The Internet Archive took a big political stand and created a National Emergency Library.

The University of Washington Medical Center was loaned a couple of testing machines from the Washington State Patrol’s DNA lab.

Some hospitals are running out of money. Pullman Regional is cutting wages and has just over 60 days cash on hand. So much more is going to take its toll on the healthcare system than individual cases of COVID-19.

It looks like $100 billion was earmarked for hospitals in the stimulus bill. There are 5198 community hospitals in the US, which works out to around $19 million per hospital, which is about a third of Pullman Regional’s operating budget. This is all very quick napkin math and I’m sure the amount available to individual hospitals will be much lower than that, but hopefully the path to getting money is not hard! A donation could definitely be where a portion of our “stimulus” money goes.

Every week I mean to log where I went last in public beyond neighborhood walks before this all came crashing down around us and every week I forget.

Except this week!

  • March 20: (16 days ago) Blood donation on a bus outside Pullman Regional Hospital. Close contact with a bunch of people.
  • March 18: (18 days ago) Safeway for some perishable staples: eggs, milk, ice cream sandwiches, and a few other things.
  • March 14: (22 days ago) Stopped at Chevron on the way back from walking on the trail to top the car off. We’ve probably used a quarter of a gallon since?
  • March 13: (23 days ago) Safeway and Rite Aid to find a couple more rolls of toilet paper (but not in a hoarding way!). This was the last day of school in Washington State and the shelves were getting pretty empty.
  • March 11: (25 days ago) Our last trip to the co-op in Moscow. Also my last visit to the credit union. (Finally checked out the app and mobile deposit works well!)
  • March 8: (28 days ago) Last time eating out. Stephen and I tried to play pool, but the poolhall was closed after a Mardi Gras party so we went to The Breakfast Club instead. I remember being a wary of how close we were sitting to the table next to us.
  • March 6: (30 days ago) Maybe the last really “normal” day? Coffee shop in the morning, Paradise Creek for lunch with Happy Prime, Noshies for a couple beers, the chiropractor, and the co-op for groceries.
  • March 3: (33 days ago) The last time we played pool. Very much looking forward to that again!

The riskiest pieces keep getting further away. I continue to be amazed how slowly things happen and how quickly time is going by. 🥃

Six years of the Hood Hopped Belgian Strong

The original bill of materials for my Hood Hopped Belgian Strong

Way back in February of 2014, 2 rentals and 3 (4?) phone models ago, I brewed what I think was my third homebrew: a Belgian Golden Strong Ale that I named Hood Hopped Belgian Strong.

All I know about the recipe is through the image above. I have no idea where I put any notes with actual quantities. I do know that when I logged the beer in Untappd, I assigned it an 8.5% ABV. I called it “Hood Hopped” because of the bag of Mt. Hood hops I used and I likely did something special with them during the brew to better impart their characteristics on the beer.

The part I remember the most is the use of a large bag of candi sugar, which the yeast just loves turning into alcohol.

The first glass, in April 2014.

When I finally tried my first proper glass of it in April 2014, I really enjoyed it. Because it was one of my first beers, I was likely not surprised by how cloudy it was even though the style probably meant for more clarity.

But! Things change when they sit in bottles.

A glass from January 2015.

The photo I took of a glass in January 2015 while bottling another beer looks much better. You can actually see through the glass a bit and understand where the description “golden” may come from.

It’s around this time that I started mistreating it. We moved a couple times and the beer sat in boxes shoved under other boxes and for a long while I entirely forgot that the beer existed.

At some point in our last place, I found these boxes of beer and decided they had been through too many varying conditions of heat and storage and should probably all just be dumped down the drain. 😱

Unfortunately, I did just that. But I did hang onto a few – “just to see what happens.” (To be fair, when you bottle a 5 gallon carboy of beer, you get a lot of beer.)

A glass from February 2019.

Last year, in February, I opened one of the last bottles and was absolutely amazed at how crisp and clear it was. It was tastier than ever—even though it had been completely mistreated for five years! It had spent the year previous in a pretty decent location, cellared in a nice, cool spot. But I definitely did not deserve this surprise after what it had been through, and I was happy.

Several months ago I put my last bottle in the fridge with the idea that I’d finally get around to drinking it and be done with the saga of the Belgian.

And last night I decided it would go great with my pizza.

A glass from April 2020.

SIX years later and it’s absolutely wonderful. I drank it and was happy and amazed that it had survived this long. The power of fermentation is something to behold.

And then. I went down to the cellar and poked around because I had a feeling. And sure enough, one more bottle. I have no idea where they keep coming from—I’m pretty sure I’ve had the last bottle several times now—but I am definitely excited for next year. 🍻

Thoughts for the week’s end

Hello, April. May it start being spring soon? 🌨

A coffee grinder operating at its best is so wonderful. That the espresso started actually being espresso again was great by itself, but I dialed in a new grind for the chemex this week and it just tastes so good.

There were a few days last week where I was able to wear a t-shirt for our mid-day walks. That was fun while it lasted. Now it’s back to a bit of winter with some short bouts of light jacket. Supposedly it will be in the 60s by the end of next week. If so, the house windows are going to be wide. freaking. open.

We felt an earthquake! It was a 6.5 with an epicenter in the middle of Idaho, just about 300km from Pullman. A long way from us, but it made itself known. I felt my chair rolling back and forth as if the house was shaking and I couldn’t figure out what could be causing it. I looked over at the plant next to my desk and the leaves were waving. It’s funny how long the delay in my brain lasted before I realized what was going on.

I was very happy today to look closer and see that Shake Creek happens to run right by the epicenter. 😂

My last issue of High Country News arrived this month and I was on the fence as to whether I would subscribe again. I really like the work that they do, but I wasn’t making the time to read it and my unread stack is pretty high.

This week they published a very in-depth report, “Land-Grab Universities“, which explores how “expropriated Indigenous land is the foundation of the land-grant university system.”

I’m grabbing this quote from the article only because I’m familiar with WSU and some of the tribes mentioned:

“Meanwhile, Washington has retained nearly 80% of the original grant to fund Washington State University. No money was paid by the federal government to the Coeur d’Alene, Colville, Shoalwater Bay and Chehalis tribes for land supporting WSU. The Makah, Puget Sound Salish, Chemakuan, S’Klallam, Umatilla and Yakama received a combined $2,700 for their land cessions. In fiscal year 2019, the remaining lands generated $4.5 million for WSU, mostly from timber harvest”

HCN, Land-Grab Universities

The journalists dig down to the individual parcel level and show pictures of the current land, how much the federal government originally paid for it, and how much revenue it has brought in for each university. It’s really fascinating reporting.

This doesn’t change my mind on the land-grant mission. The work that land-grant institutions do is important and how they share that work with the community can be critical in many areas. I hope reporting like this is embraced by each land-grant institution as a way to start coming to terms with what it means and what reparations can be made.

Note: I also renewed my subscription to HCN.

I haven’t done a picture in one of these yet!

The empty streets, parking spots, and sidewalks of downtown Pullman, just after what would normally be rush hour.

Michelle and I have walked through downtown Pullman a handful of times around 6 or 6:30pm over the last week. It’s amazing how empty it is. Normally there would be a decent stream of cars coming down the one-way Main Street with plenty still parked on the sides. Now it feels like Christmas morning or something.

The bicycle shop that you can see in this photo was featured in the local paper the other day. Bike shops remain essential businesses under Washington State’s current guidelines. I appreciated the sign the owner was wearing around his neck telling customers to please keep a 6ft distance.

Hang in there and enjoy the weekend as best as it can be enjoyed. 🤗

A COVID-19 log 3/n

REM’s It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine) has been appearing on various charts all of a sudden, along with a handful of other tracks that have new meaning.

I’ve learned more about viruses in the last month than I ever expected. There’s a chance we covered this in high school biology, but I wasn’t familiar with or didn’t remember the difference between enveloped viruses and non-enveloped viruses. FiveThirtyEight’s piece on how coronavirus testing actually works was really interesting. The concept of priming RNA was vaguely familiar, but not much. It’s all very interesting to explore and a notable side effect of, uh… viral news.


Whitman County confirmed its second case of COVID-19 last Monday and its sixth at the end of the week. On Monday, the county’s director of public health estimated local facilities had “supplies on hand to conduct about 50 tests”. The current test count on the county’s test result page is 92, so it looks like we may have access to more now.

Crosscut had a good piece on how rural hospitals were prepared to deal with the spread. One interesting bit is how our local hospital, Pullman Regional, “is used to staffing large events, like Washington State University football games.” This means a “pandemic stock” of some supplies already exists. Good to know!

Also on Monday, I watched a live governor’s address for the first time in my life. Jay Inslee announced Washington’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order. He did a good job though looked appropriately exhausted. I really appreciated the lines he quoted from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself, 33. I’ll quote that entire section:

I understand the large hearts of heroes,
The courage of present times and all times,
How the skipper saw the crowded and rudderless wreck of the
steam-ship, and Death chasing it up and down the storm,
How he knuckled tight and gave not back an inch, and was
faithful of days and faithful of nights,
And chalk’d in large letters on a board, Be of good cheer, we will
not desert you

Walt Whitman, Song of Myself, 33

That message of hope? solidarity? is good to hear. There is no denying that we are all in this together.

Washington’s cases continue to double about every 5 days. The department of health changed how they’re reporting the data this evening in a way that I think seems more clear. The numbers posted every day are for confirmed cases as of 11:59pm the day before. There are several different graphs that now appear on the page. Hopefully they get the loading speed dialed in as bits of the page load in very slowly when pulled in live from Microsoft Power BI. I appreciate the historical views of data rather than the daily snapshot. It looks like hospitalization data will be up soon as well.

It’s stories like this one about a super-spreading party that help highlight how very connected we all are without even realizing it.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington has a COVID-19 projections page up that is updated regularly based on current data. As of now it looks like both Washington’s and the overall US’s peak will happen in just over 2 weeks.

It’s still just so nuts to watch all of this unfold in slow motion.

One thought that just hit me: how tone-deaf it would be if various internet companies still went all in on April Fool’s Day. And sure enough, Google has cancelled theirs this year.

The onslaught of COVID-19 emails from various companies seems to have started to die down. It was getting ridiculous for a bit there.

How about longevity? The news out of Wuhan of recovered patients testing negative and then positive again is worrisome. And “the longest observed duration of viral shedding in survivors was 37 days” in one study from this month is eye opening. The median was 20 days. I still don’t think I have my head wrapped around how contagious asymptomatic carriers are. Is it only for the first 14 days, or is it as long as viral shedding occurs?

More to learn!

After the sort of winters we have had to endure recently, the spring does seem miraculous, because it has become gradually harder and harder to believe that it is actually going to happen.

George Orwell, Some Thoughts on the Common Toad

Hanging in there and rooting for spring to bring some change. ☀️