A COVID-19 Log 6/n

A neighborhood cat appeared on a ledge while we were were walking by tonight and meowed out to us. I stopped and gave it a pet for a second. As we started walking again I said: “oh, that’s right, cats can get COVID“.

So that’s how things are going in week 10000.

Of course I’m not really concerned about the unlikely transfer from this friendly outdoor cat—the chance that I would touch my face without washing my hands after petting a cat in normal times is already very low, but… that the thought even ran through my head is a sign of the times.

I’ve done even better this week at avoiding the trap of the live news blog. I think I even went well over 24 hours without checking the JHU charts at some point. A little bit of avoidance and a routine go a long way toward getting things done.

I had a dream early in the week or late last week where I was out somewhere and all of a sudden felt chilled in the way you do when you have a fever. The “oh shit, I’m sick” moment hit and I of course started down the path to assuming that it was COVID.

I woke up and felt fine.

Most of my other dreams have gone back to normal. I spent an extraordinary amount of time one night trying to find a longer cable for my guitar before a show and then realized I didn’t remember how to play any of the songs. Exhausting!

We still don’t know enough about food and coronavirus, but I found “Do I need to disinfect my groceries?” interesting this week.

Takeaways: probably not, though washing is good. Stay away from people. Don’t pretend you’re good at using gloves.

The Guardian has a nice roundup of what scientists know 5 months in.

Today’s Spokesman Review editorial calling for Washington to reopen its economy soon was pretty disappointing. I don’t disagree with the need or desire to loosen restrictions on what business can be open, but it’s completely unhelpful to continue to compare COVID-19 to the seasonal flu.

Like, obviously different in so many ways. That piece without those two sentences becomes a much more meaningful editorial.

Naysayers and an absolutely inept president aside, it’s amazing to stop and realize how many people across the country and the world are taking this seriously and coming together by staying apart.

I like to think naive thoughts like: maybe this is the last gasp of the last gasp of hatred and nationalism.

Anyhow, that’s me, the optimist. Still hanging in here! 🍷

Thoughts for the week’s end

Local H’s new album, Lifers, came out last week and I’m having a lot of fun with it. Sometimes you just need some heavy rock and roll.

Their 1998 album, Pack up the Cats, has one of the closest-to-perfect track combinations ever put together. The way that tracks 4, 5, and 6 flow into each other is beautiful and still brings me so much joy every time I listen.

Tracks 8, 9, and 10 on the new album bleed together in a very similar way, just darker. So happy with this album.

More music. I’ve decided to get an electric guitar again. In hind sight, selling my guitar and corresponding gear back in 2011 was one of my least favorite decisions. It’d be so nice right now to have the half stack, a full array of pedals, and a guitar to just jam out on.

And in 2020! All of the tools available for recording music that surpass the creative ways we mangled things into a 4 track tape deck. I’m pretty excited.

Om’s post on rethinking how we support music really struck a chord (hahaha) with me this week.

In the Napster era, I downloaded a lot of MP3s. It was my way of researching music and opening doors I wouldn’t have known existed otherwise. We spent the weekends hopping between a handful of places to get used CDs and I filled in the research with actual purchases.

If I didn’t have Napster, there’s at least some chance that I wouldn’t have purchased as much music as I did. I also have no idea how the resale of used CDs works, so maybe I wasn’t really supporting anyone.

Now that I use Spotify—and previously, Rdio—for almost every second of music in my life, I don’t purchase music anymore. There’s no need because everything is at my fingertips and I “pay” for it with a subscription.

Really, I’m listening to the radio all day. But it’s a radio I have full control over and will play just about anything I tell it. This is fine for larger, more established artists that either have enough streams or have a more diverse income stream, but probably doesn’t do any favors to new artists. Even though it acts as a way for those artists to “easily” reach wider audiences.

Anyhow. I’m sure I need to complete some more thoughts there, but I do like the idea of buying albums again where it makes sense. And I joined Bandcamp finally, so I guess Om’s post worked. 😂

An example. I enjoy a lot of Spotify’s genre based playlists. Every once and a while I’ll go to something like “The Pulse of Icelandic Experimental” to try and find something that fits with focused work. This week, one of the first few songs on the playlist was “Changes“, a track from Jason Singh’s Water Songs. As soon as the trumpet started I stopped working and went to find out who it was. Luckily, Yazz Ahmed was listed as a feature musician on the track. I then looked up her stuff and ended up listening to all 3 of her albums in a row.

Then! I made my first purchase on Bandcamp. I bought the digital version of Ahmed’s album, La Saboteuse, and downloaded the FLAC files. When I streamed them to the Sonos the first time, I could immediately pick up on the difference in audio quality.

So. I guess that’s a decent example of how “radio” led to discovery led to supporting an artist in a more direct way.

The trumpet really is a great instrument. It ends up being a common denominator in much of the music I enjoy writing or working to.

I’m not done with music yet. Another album I have a lot of fun working to now is Kælan Mikla‘s Nótt eftir nótt. It’s dark and haunting in a strangely peaceful way. I don’t know how to really explain it, though I do know the vocals first reminded me of something like Le Tigre or Bikini Kill when I first ran into it.

Today I listened to it and started staring at the second track, Nornalagið and got interested in the ð character. If Google Translate is correct, Nornalagið means “witch song” in Icelandic. The ð itself is an eth and, from my quick I’m not a linguist reading, is pronounced like the th in this, except never happens at the beginning of a word.

Any ways. It better come up as a crossword clue now because I’m not forgetting that one.

I’ve had Twitter blocked on my laptop (again) for over a week now. Once every couple days I come soooooo very close to removing the firewall rules. I then recover and just get myself to close the tab I was trying to use Twitter in and go about my day.

I finally broke down so that I could post an amazing photo of my 20-year-old self in blue hair from Cycle Pinsetter’s 1999 Halloween show. That was a good time.

I came across the word antinomianism while reading Orwell’s essay on Charles Dickens.

The next morning I woke up and read how CREC churches (overall, a relatively small group, but one with a couple local congregations) have announced that they will soon start ignoring states’ isolation orders.

What’s the opposite of serendipity?

I couldn’t help but end on a non-musical note.

Sorry. 🙈

Enjoy your weekend, your coffee, your tea, your beer!

A COVID-19 Log 5/n

“Everyone has lots of ways of feeling. And all of those feelings are fine. It’s what we do with our feelings that matter in this life.”

Fred Rogers, as quoted by Jay Inslee in Monday’s press conference.

This is the week where things settle in.

I’ve conditioned myself to not look at global or local case numbers every hour. I instead check about once a day.

I’ve hidden all of my browser bookmarks to news and numbers sites. I’ll go large chunks of time without checking in on the latest-most-extreme-important headline of the hour.

I still see plenty, and I’m still learning plenty, but I’m doing a better job of taking a step back rather than pretending I can do anything with the information I’m gathering.

Part of settling in is setting new expectations in my brain for how long we’re going to be in this current state. When I do spend time thinking about the what-ifs, I find myself spinning off a hundred different threads of possibility and assigning various risk scores to them. When will I be comfortable walking into a store again? When will I be comfortable sitting and having a beer across from someone again? When might it be okay to hang out in the back yard with a few people, chairs 10 feet apart? When will it be okay to give someone a hug?

I continue to be grateful to be in a rural area of a state that made changes earlier than others. If we didn’t have a large city like Seattle seeing rising numbers in early March, it’s easy to imagine the stay at home order being implemented a few weeks later and it’s easy to imagine the spread having that much more time to have an impact. Our county had 12 confirmed cases and has now shifted it back to 11. This probably means something more like 100 total cases, though we really have no idea.

I continue to be grateful to have a partner who is my best friend. While video chats are great ways to check-in with each other at a distance, not being able to actually see and sense physical behaviors in the same way can be tiring. Having actual long conversations in person with someone about what is going on and how we’re handling it has been healthy and helpful.

We’ve established a handful of walks that keep us active, but close to home. It’s nice to have our little system of primitive trails a couple blocks away. It’s also nice to dream about the day it will be okay to go off for a proper hike on a mountain somewhere.

During our Happy Prime lunch call on Friday, we talked about how quickly time is moving. It seems like things pause for barely a minute over the weekend. Then it’s Monday. Then it’s Friday. Then it’s the weekend again.

Michelle and I are at 24 days in isolation at this point and before we know it it will be May.

What else to remember?

Washington State did announce on Monday that schools would be physically closed for the rest of the year. Inslee did leave open the (very unlikely?) possibility there may be a chance for students to gather for a couple days at the end of the year, but stressed that staying healthy is most important.

WSU will not have physical class for the remainder of this semester or the summer, but is planning on in-person sessions in the fall. I’m sure planning is also moving along in parallel on what a full virtual semester or school year might look like next year.

What a different world it would be as a first year student to arrive at a virtual university. What a different world it would be as any student to arrive on campus in fall after a 2020 that has started like this.

It’s been 24 days since I gave blood, and I’ve effectively done nothing since, but it was still a little eerie to see that a Vitalant employee from the Spokane Valley donor facility tested positive after showing symptoms on March 31. Of course it’s all very unlikely, but there’s a chance the phlebotomists on our donor bus have a home base near that location. And there’s at least a small chance that someone who donated that day was an unknowning spreader.

All very low probability, but still very easy to see how quickly connected we can become across great distances.

Contact tracing is the latest term everyone is getting familiar with, including me. So far I’ve read the announcement by Apple and Google on their proposed method for contact tracing over bluetooth between phones. Around the same time I read this great cartoon that explains some of the possibilities for a “private” solution. Joe Kent published a nice technical breakdown of the Apple/Google solution.

What I found most interesting so far was a piece by Ross Anderson that covers how app-ifying contact tracing may not be the right answer.

In the pandemic, the public health folks may have to tweak all sorts of parameters weekly or even daily. You can’t do that with apps on 169 different types of phone and with peer-to-peer communications.


the rhetoric of terror puffed up the security agencies at the expense of public health, predisposing the US and UK governments to disregard the lesson of SARS in 2003 and MERS in 2015 — unlike the governments of China, Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea, who paid at least some attention. What we need is a radical redistribution of resources from the surveillance-industrial complex to public health.

Emphasis mine. I want to read more along those lines, but it’s a statement I can connect with.

Stay healthy, y’all! 🥃

Thoughts for the week’s end

Last week was the 15th of this series, which I’m still finding interesting and in some ways therapeutic. I don’t have any kind of auto-tweet thing setup, and I often have Twitter blocked on my laptop, so I usually end up tweeting the link each week via my mobile browser.

Last week for the first time, I was able to type “Thoughts” and use auto suggest to finish the rest of the title. 😂

I spent quite a bit of time over the last couple weeks trying to think of the right clever way to implement a simple solution on a project.

Yesterday I had the epiphany that the project needed a more complex solution and all of a sudden the approach became obvious and relatively simple to implement.

Going into the weekend feeling pretty good.

When we were in Sweden last year we noticed (it was pretty obvious) lamps in just about every window in every place we stayed in that wasn’t a hotel.

At the time I found this Quora answer that seemed plausible. In a nutshell, houses in villages used to be closer together and farm land was shared surrounding the town. Over time, things were partitioned differently and the houses were moved away from each other onto their own plots of land. As a way of letting your neighbors know you were still there, you lit lamps in the window.

After spending some time trying to find historical sourcing for that, I’m not so certain it’s correct. But window lamp culture is definitely a thing in Sweden, and it’s not completely restricted to the darker times of the year.

Either way, correct or not, I kind of like the first explanation:

“wouldn’t you like to see lights twinkling through the winter darkness in the windows of those people who used to be your close neighbors? And wouldn’t you do the same for them?”

Alan Waller, on Quora

Not too long after we got back from Sweden, we rearranged some furniture and ended up putting a lamp in one of our front windows. It fits well and feels nice to have on.

This week, I realized that I like the way it fits even more now that we need to be physically distant from each other. It can be a quiet sign to the neighborhood that we’re all still here.

The split of land from communal to individual in Sweden appears to be the called the “Storskifte” or “Great Partition“, though as with everything, it seems that the actual history around things in Sweden is published in Swedish so I have some other learning to do before I get there. 😂

Om’s blog has been really nice lately.

Anne’s newsletter has been really nice lately.

One draft post I never seem to be getting to is the world of weekly notes that are out there and I had no idea existed until the last few months.

A fun thing about the weather in eastern Washington is how the temperature will swing wildly over hills and around corners.

On Wednesday, the temperature at the Pullman airport was 61. The Dark Sky app told me it was 64 in my area. The thermometer in the shade on our deck said 67. And the sunlit bedroom indoors, even with all of the windows open, was in the low 70s.

The house is getting the deep breath it’s been needing. I took two of my three walks yesterday in a t-shirt and will probably do the same today. We shared drinks over video with friends yesterday and we’ll share drinks over video with friends today.

Spring is great. If only we could meet each other in person! 🍻

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. 🥃