I don't write these posts to frighten or depress anyone. But a number of my readers have higher priorities than chasing down news stories, so I like to raise awareness when I come upon something important, interesting, or even just fun. This one's not fun, but it is important.

Why should I care what's happening in Canada? Leave aside for the moment that Canadians, too, are human beings made in the image of God and therefore we should care about them, and that Canada is the huge neighbor covering our entire northern border and one of our major allies. We should also care about what's happening with our near neighbor because the United States is not as far from this creeping danger as we might like to think.

One of our daughters and several of our grandchildren have for years been taking lessons in karate. One thing I have learned from them is that the first, and possibly the most important, key to self-defense is awareness of your surroundings. Never forget that a far better source also proclaimed wisdom as an essential accompaniment to innocence.

 


 

Half a century ago our family discovered Ontario's Arrowhead Provincial Park. We had only intended to spend one night there on our way to Michigan, but were so enchanted we stayed for three. It was quite primitive at the time: there wasn't much to do, and the bathroom "facilities" were a latrine. But we were almost alone in the park; most of the other tourists were staying in nearby Algonquin Provincial Park, which was more developed and very popular. Never have I breathed air so clean and invigorating. More memorable than that, however, were the stars. Not in all the rest of my life have I seen such a display, and such a show, as we lay on our backs on a huge woodpile and watched shooting stars streak across the sky at a rate of perhaps one every two or three minutes. I knew then that if I couldn't live in the United States, I'd want to go to Canada. Later Switzerland moved ahead, and that was well before we had family living there. But Canada stayed a solid second.

Well, that was then and this is now. There are many reasons why Canada has slipped far down on my list, but the following video would be enough.

A government (Ontario's, in this case) went too far with its pandemic restrictions, and finally the citizens—including medical practitioners and the police—rebelled, forcing the leaders to back down on the most egregious of the new rules. That's good news, but be sure to watch to the end to see the clips of Ontario's authorities and their "this hurts me more than it hurts you but it's for your own good" act. And their "it's your duty to snitch on your neighbors" response.

Ontario is a province of 14.5 million people, and 650 of them are currently in intensive care units. This minuscule percentage has caused such panic that the provincial government's response was (among other things) to issue a stay-at-home order, to close playgrounds, boat ramps, and other outdoor recreational activities, and to authorize law enforcement to stop and interrogate any people caught outside of their homes. Canada takes enforcement of these rules very seriously: the fine for violating Quebec's 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, for example, starts at $1500.

Part of the problem is that Canada's health infrastructure is not good. An ordinary flu season overwhelms the ICUs. I've known for years that Canada's healthcare system is broken, despite the fact that it has its passionate defenders. (Much of my information comes from Canadian nurses, who fled to the U.S., bringing horror stories with them.) Even a bad system—healthcare, government, business, church, marriage—can look reasonable when times are good. It's times of crisis, pressure, and stress that reveal the truth and call into account the leaders we have elected (or been saddled with).

I used to look at historical happenings in other countries—e.g. Austria-Hungary 1914, pre-WWII Germany, Communist Eastern Europe, the Rwandan genocide—and smugly think, "That could never happen here, not now." However, the past year has shown that it can, indeed, happen here and now. We're not there yet, but we've come a lot closer, particularly in the area of what ordinary citizens will do to their neighbors.

American has no call to feel smug—or safe. We may not be as far down the road as Canada is, but it sure looks as if we are heading in the same direction. Should we panic? Despair? Absolutely not. But we'd darn well better be paying attention.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, April 19, 2021 at 9:45 am | Edit
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I love our church. We have an awesome priest, a fantastic music director, a diverse congregation, and a choir of wonderful people who are managing to hang together as a choir despite having been unable to meet in person for over a year. Most amazing is that our form of worship feeds my heart and soul as none other has ever done. And the church is less than 10 minutes away from our house.

But—there's always a "but," right?—this past Sunday I had the best church experience I've had in months. We had to be in another part of town in the afternoon, so on the way we paid a visit to our previous church, one that has remained dear to our hearts even though circumstances had forced us to move on.

There I was reminded that when it comes to worship and music, I really am a high-church Anglican at heart. There are few churches in our area that have that form of worship service, and ours is a prime example, though greatly hampered by pandemic restrictions, especially those that minimize singing. The more low-church service we attended last Sunday made that clear to me. (And that wasn't even the church's "contemporary" service!) But—yes, another "but"—we were overwhelmed by the friendliness of the church, the welcome of old friends, the particular style of the music director (an unbelievably talented person and dear friend), the priest's pastoral heart, and the fact that here is a church that has managed to keep its people safe without unduly sacrificing the gathering-together and the physical touch that is so vital to that which makes us human. Unlike many churches, they have thrived during the pandemic, and it's not hard to guess why.

Hugs! They give hugs! (Though only to those who want them.)

I was unbelievably, quietly, happy all day. There were other reasons for that, but the church experience was a big part of it. It was a huge boost to my somewhat shaky mental health. I am a hard-core introvert who loves to be home, requires times of solitude to function, and has so many projects going on that boredom is very nearly not in my vocabulary. I have a husband who is very good at giving hugs! Plus, I'm not really a touchy-feely kind of person. It kind of creeps me out when people stand too close or touch me when conversing—and that was before COVID-19 entered the picture. If I am feeling significant distress because of the pandemic restrictions, what must it be like for others with greater needs, and for those who live alone?

I'm including here a video of the service. It is no mark of disrespect to our own church that I don't post our services, which are also livestreamed. I'd love to, but valiant as are the efforts of our people, we're not there yet in quality, especially for the audio.

Note to our children, who are the main reason the video is posted here: You will not have time to watch the whole service, but you will definitely want to check out the prelude (about 4:07-11:33) and the offertory (about 50:33-52:20). (The tambourine player in the offertory is, alas, not me.) If you can listen to this without tearing up, you'll be doing better than I did.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, April 13, 2021 at 8:05 am | Edit
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Porter received the following in an e-mail from George Friedman of Geopolitical Futures. At the end Friedman writes, "A referral is the best compliment. Feel free to forward this email to friends and colleagues," so I trust he will not mind if I quote substantially from it. You could read the entire article here, but it is behind a pay wall. As he often is, Friedman is spot-on. (Bolded emphasis mine.)

On Thursday, my wife and I got our second COVID-19 vaccination. ... The vaccine is incredibly successful, we’re told, which I would expect given the amount of money spent by my government in developing it. But my government is telling me that in spite of the vaccine nothing will change. I must maintain social distance, wear a face mask and so on. The vaccine’s creators say it’s unclear if the virus can still infect someone. ... [But] the continuous usage of masks can have unintended consequences. 

It is often said that wearing a mask and maintaining distance is a trivial burden to pay for safety. But I take issue with that argument. ... Talking is far more complex than merely hearing words. Humans communicate much with facial expressions....

Humans use the face to identify threats; criminals wear masks as much to hide their intentions as they do to conceal their identities. Someone enraged at you or planning to harm you looks a certain way, someone delighted to see you another. It is not only the mouth that speaks to you. The muscles in the face can reveal tension or pleasure. The nose moves. The eyes reveal much. Facial expressions are much harder to interpret behind a mask. If you are very bored, ask your spouse to put on a mask and interpret their true feelings by the eyes alone. It can be done, but without context the probability of being wrong soars. The mouth, nose and lower half of the face are the checksums on what is said, and the mask impedes that greatly.

You can text or phone, but the ability to see those you speak to, or stand close to a stranger you just met, is indispensable to being human. So by definition, masks and distancing disrupt the process of being human. Ironically, if someone is speaking with a well-made mask, they are frequently incomprehensible unless you are a lot closer than six feet apart. The mask and social distancing tend to be mutually destructive.

Now, if these measures are the only ways to avoid mass death, then obviously they are necessary. But the assertion that these measures protect without cost is untrue. On multiple levels they impose costs that we may not yet understand. Learning how to play as a child, exploring the limits of tactile interaction, is essential to adulthood. My argument is not against these measures, if they are truly vital, but the cost-benefit must be addressed, and if the measures involve real costs, they should be imposed cautiously. Finding out if the vaccine makes me not infectious must be figured out quickly, as I fear the costs of a year of massive social and economic disruption are mounting. If the mask is essential to prevent another surge, so be it. But do not treat social distancing and masking as a trivial matter.

I worry most of all for the children. There are already many people, e.g. those on the autism spectrum and those we casually referred to as nerds in the days before everything had to have a diagnosis, who have difficulty reading social cues. Thanks to the pandemic restrictions, we now have a large cohort of children who have spent a critical formative year without broad access to facial cues, and with limited in-person social interaction. There is no way this will not have a detrimental affect on their socialization.

Long-time readers will know that I am not, absolutely not, worried that children are not going to school. For decades I have been convinced that education is essential but school is not; in fact, school is often out-and-out harmful. I laugh when people express concern that home-educated children are missing out on socialization, because their opportunities for social interactions with people of all ages and backgrounds are generally much richer than those of children who spend most of their time in school classrooms. But the "homeschooling" of children who normally go to school is a very different thing, and they do not likely have the rich networks those who homeschool have already developed. Plus, during the pandemic homeschools have also been shut off from their usual experiences. Whether public-, private-, or home-educated, a generation of children is being marked, and not for the better, by masks and anti-social distancing.

As if this weren't concern enough, apparently re-opening schools is also dangerous. There's this news from Quebec, Canada, where in at least three separate incidents the government has had to recall face masks that had been widely distributed, including to schools and day care centers, and were later feared to be causing lung damage.

It is one thing to wear a mask for short periods of time—though I wouldn't ever be thrilled at the prospect of inhaling toxic materials—but quite another for children—children!—to be endangering their lungs for hours on end, and months on end, while in school. We're so concerned, and rightly, about second-hand smoke in homes where children live, but for all we know this could be as bad or worse.

I've been told many times that we shouldn't fuss about wearing masks, because doctors and nurses and others wear masks professionally for long periods of time. Actually, I worry about them, too—but at least they are adults, whose lungs and social skills have long passed their most sensitive formative years. They are wearing them much more now than they used to—my eye doctor couldn't get his insurance renewed unless he had a policy of wearing a mask at all times in his office. In fact, I'm wondering if the habit of medical workers wearing masks, as important as it may be for reasons quite apart from COVID-19, might be playing a significant role in the depersonalization of medical care. I know, there are many factors involved. But when one's doctor or nurse looks more like a normal human being and less like a faceless alien, the medical care feels better. Especially, I daresay, to children.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, April 10, 2021 at 6:18 am | Edit
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Porter alerted me to this interesting, though highly biased, view of what's necessary for successful learning at home. It's from a Geopolitical Futures report by Antonia Colibasanu.

According to an April 2020 report by the European Commission, more than a fifth of children lack at least two of the basic resources for studying at home: their own room, reading opportunities, internet access and parental involvement (for children under 10 years old).

We can ignore the absurdity of needing internet access to learn from home, because the context of the quote is traditional classroom schooling provided from outside to children at home, rather than education per se.

What struck both of us, however, is the first "basic resource": that the child should have his own room. Granted, a quiet place to work is a great thing, but I see no reason why that implies the need for single bedrooms. And, as my friend and sometime guest poster points out, school classrooms are hardly solitary spaces. Mind you, I'm not in favor of open-plan offices, but I find it amusing that one's own room is considered necessary for learning but currently out of favor in our trendier workplaces.

Public education from home is relatively new, but of course homeschoolers have been doing it for centuries (well pre-internet, I might add), and often in the context of large families in which shared bedrooms are common. What is required is not separate bedrooms, but discipline and respect for others. I'll admit it also helps to have the ability to concentrate in the presence of distractions, especially if you live (as our grandchildren do) in a family where someone is nearly always singing or playing a musical instrument. Our own children discovered that climbing a tree was a good way to get some undistracted reading time.

Further, this insistence on single bedrooms—with its implication of small family size—ignores the tremendous educational advantage of having multiple siblings. My nephew learned math far beyond his grade level because he wanted to keep up with his brother. Our younger grandchildren see no reason why they shouldn't be learning and doing what their older siblings are, and the older ones are usually happy to help them along.

Public education is a very confining box to learn to think outside of, even when the devil drives.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, March 29, 2021 at 6:14 am | Edit
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It looks as if my Pfizer vaccine worked.  :)

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, March 20, 2021 at 6:38 am | Edit
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I've mentioned before situations in which fear has led to unreasonable responses to the COVID-19 threat. Whether by governments or by private citizens, that's a bad thing. However, this is still funny.

For those who are wondering, HEMA stands for Historical European Martial Arts.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, March 15, 2021 at 3:44 am | Edit
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What current generations think of as ancient history is as alive as yesterday to those of us who lived through it.

A long time ago (1970's) in a galaxy far, far, away (the state of New York), a new mother innocently asked if it was normal to experience orgasm while breastfeeding. (It's not common, but it happens. Just as orgasm during childbirth sometimes happens. Not to anyone I know, though.)

These were days when natural childbirth was just beginning to gain popularity, and breastfeeding was still considered to be a bit weird, especially by doctors. The woman was reported to the authorities (some version of Child Protective Services) who decided she must be a sexual deviant. They forceably separated her from her baby. My memory of it is a bit hazy, but I believe it was after La Leche League got involved that the situation was resolved in the mother's favor—but by then she and her nursing infant had been separated for several days. The justification given by the authorities for their behavior, not to say their ignorance, was that it is better to falsely traumatize 100 innocent families than to let one potential evildoer slip through their hands. Sadly, this family was far from the only one similarly torn apart in those days. Maybe it's still going on; I don't know. I'm not as close to those issues as I was back then.

These memories came back in strength as I listened to this Viva Frei report. Freiheit isn't any happier than I am that COVID-19 is pre-empting so much of his law vlog, but needs must when the devil drives. Who indeed but the devil can be driving Canada to force apart law-abiding, healthy Canadian families—including very young children?

The Regional Municipality of Peel is near Toronto, Ontario. There the recommendations for what to do if someone in your child's class or daycare tests positive for COVID-19 include the following:

The child must self isolate, which means:

  • Stay in a separate bedroom
  • Eat in a separate room apart from others
  • Use a separate bathroom, if possible
  • If the child must leave their room, they should wear a mask and stay 2 metres apart from others

Remember that this includes elementary school children, and even those in day care. Very young children are to be isolated from their families—from their mothers!—for two weeks. Two weeks is a very long time in child-years.

And this is for children with no symptoms at all. What about those who are sick, whether or not with COVID-19? Is a child with an upset stomach to be left in his own vomit? What are these people thinking?

What child, even a healthy one, can endure 14 days of isolation without mental and emotional scars? In prisons, solitary confinement is a serious punishment. Freiheit makes the legitimate point that people who have been arrested on suspicion of having committed a crime have more protections than those who are suspected of possibly harboring the COVID-19 virus.

Another question comes to mind: Do all Canadians have big houses and small families? Or does the government plan to take away the children of people who don't happen to have a bedroom to spare for isolation? Apparently the fear that such official interference will take their children is driving some parents to comply with these horrendous rules. That and the $5,000 fine for non-compliance. If parents did these acts on their own they would be accused of child abuse.

I apologize if some of you think I'm being too alarmist, and maybe listening to too many YouTube videos. And yet I don't apologize—someone has to broadcast what's happening. Someone has to tell the victims' stories. Freiheit himself thought at first this had to be false news, but couldn't avoid the conclusion that it is all too real.

There is a little good news: apparently there has been enough outrage over these regulations that some politicians are now distancing themselves from them. It's an ongoing story. But one thing is for sure: If people don't speak up, the road from bad to worse is a swift one.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, March 1, 2021 at 9:40 am | Edit
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I like the Viva Frei video law blog, in part because although David Freiheit pulls no punches he is also generally happy, positive, and willing to see more than one side of a situation. But this pandemic—or more precisely, governmental reaction to the pandemic—is taking its toll on his optimism.

I haven't said much here about the horrendous rules now in place for anyone who dares try to enter Canada—Canadian citizens included—but I'm posting the following because, as Freiheit says, people need to know.

I've set the video to start part way through. The first story, about employees at a Canadian Tire store going vigilante on a man who was not wearing a mask, is definitely concerning. Here in Florida we had someone in a convenience store check-out line actually pull a gun on a woman who was standing too close for his comfort. But in the Canadian Tire event there is stupidity on both sides, and I think its inclusion distracts and detracts from the main story, in which the Canadian government is the problem. 

In short, in the name of safety, the Canadian government has taken the authority to compel people, including Canadian citizens, to be taken off to undisclosed locations and detained for an indeterminate time without due process. Heinous enough, but more harrowing is that these people are not told where they are going, and their families are not told where they are going. What's more, once they arrive at their "quarantine hotels," they are not allowed to use social media, and not allowed to disclose their locations.

So there you go. Innocent people with every right to be in Canada, whisked off to detention facilities, and no one knows where they have gone, other than that government officials have taken them. They can't leave, and they can't tell the world what's happening to them. Presumably all this is done in the name of public health, in fear of COVID-19. (I can't, however, imagine how the communications blackout is contributing to anyone's well-being.) This means that in addition to being "disappeared" and alone, these people are likely sick and alone. Even in the best of times we all know how closely their families must watch out for people in hospitals and nursing homes, because if they don't, bad things happen. They just do. I've lost track of the number of such incidents I know about personally. What are the odds these people are getting good medical care? As you can tell from the news story, they're not even getting decent security.

I'm aware that some people reading this will find Freiheit a bit too excitable. As I said, he's always enthusiastic about what he says, but as the situation in Canada gets more and more oppressive, he's getting more and more upset.

Perhaps rightly so.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, February 28, 2021 at 7:45 am | Edit
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I'm a bona fide mask agnostic. I've always considered wearing a mask a small thing to do to make other people feel more comfortable, and have worn one in most public situations since before they were required.

But I hate 'em (even though ours are creations of beauty), hate still more that they are mandatory in so many places, and can't wait until "this too shall pass." (Though I plan to keep my masks and continue to use them in occasional, appropriate situations, such as on an airplane, when I'm not feeling up to par and am out in public—and also when my nose is cold.)

Masks are not magic, and the more people treat them that way, the more skeptical I become. The following photos are from a visit to Orlando's Sea World. Note that the saxophone player—though alone on stage—is wearing a mask. Now check out, in the next picture, how far away he is from the audience.

This is a prime example of the religion of masks, of masks as magic. Some have insisted to me that the sax player must wear a mask to set a good example for the visitors to the park, though everyone I saw was already wearing masks, for the simple reason that they didn't want to get thrown out of the park they'd paid so much to get into. To me, such extreme maskism only says to me that no one here is thinking about what makes a mask effective. Nothing from that man's mouth or nose—let alone his instrument—was going to reach far across the water to infect someone, even if he were to scream at them at top volume.

People are, in general, willing to follow rules that make sense to them. Take away the sense, and even the most compliant folks start to question everything. It's like the "lawyer warnings" that come with every new appliance these days. With rules such as "don't use this hair dryer while taking a shower" receiving as much prominence as warnings that a sane person might actually need to hear, most people don't bother to read them at all.

As I said, I'm a mask agnostic. I guess my philosophy is reduce the viral load, whether it's COVID-19 or a common cold virus. I'm pretty sure masks do this. As far as I've been able to tell, there's no hard scientific evidence that proves the effectiveness of mandatory mask-wearing, but basic logic says that it's better not to get sneezed on. Wearing a mask in situations when it might reduce the transmission of this strange new virus is a logical extension I can get behind. (Making it mandatory is another issue, but one I'm not going to deal with here.)

Which brings me to the inspiration for this post, which came from a Mauldin Economics newsletter. It's only anecdotal evidence, not scientific, but it's an encouraging word that masks can make a difference. The story is from a recent conference, mostly video but with some in-person participants.

They had a small group of live participants ... [who did not wear masks but] were tested before anyone came and were tested every day during the conference. By the end, a significant portion of the attendees had acquired COVID-19.... Interestingly, they had 17 production staff, who all wore masks and intermingled with the unmasked participants. They were tested, too, and not one came down with the virus.

There are many questions that come to mind, not least of which is where the COVID-19 came from if all the participants tested negative before arrival. But the fact that none of the masked production staff caught the virus encourages me that mask-wearing does, indeed, reduce the viral transmission.

This seems like a good time to add the comment I've been itching to make, misquoting by just one letter a distant relative, Henry of Navarre (King Henry IV of France) when he chose to become a Catholic. I can't believe I'm the first to say it, but Google seems to think so.

Our planned trips to Europe keep getting cancelled on us, so I don't know when I'll have the chance to worry about face-covering rules in France. But whenever we return, there's no doubt in my mind:

Paris is worth a mask.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, February 25, 2021 at 5:48 am | Edit
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I posted previously some of the reasoning behind our decision to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Here's how it played out.

Initially I was not impressed by the system for administering the vaccines. Porter spent a week or so on the computer (and once on the phone) trying to get an appointment, only to run into all sorts of website problems and be locked out until all available appointments were gone. Again and again. He had signed up with at least three venues for notification of available vaccine. Finally, Orange County came through.

The website was definitely a problem, and from what I heard the websites of the other vaccine providers were no better. (And still aren't.) After navigating some glitches and laboriously entering pages of personal data, we finally came to a page where we could choose a (supposedly) available date and time. At that point the system would fail. Most times, fortunately, it would send us back to the "pick a time" screen to try again. But sometimes it would crash more seriously, and send us further back. More than once Porter had to re-enter all the personal data. I didn't get ejected that far; most of the time it was just a matter of click-fail, click-fail, click-fail ... for 40 minutes. Then suddenly, Porter's machine came back with "appointment confirmed"! Five minutes or so later, so did mine. It felt like winning the lottery! (Not that either of us has ever experienced winning the lottery. But we can imagine.)

Porter and I have each been paid to make computer systems work, so I will allow myself I little frustration at the poor IT work done these days. I blame decades of relentless cost-cutting, lowest-bid contracts, and consequent poor morale—though I admit prejudice in the matter, having lived through it ourselves. In any case, the website design left much to be desired—a situation which, incidentally, we have found at several other governmental websites, including those of the U. S. Mint and the Affordable Care Act.

We know much less about the medical and logistical side of administering the vaccines themselves, but from a personal point of view, we were much impressed.

For the first dose of the vaccine, we drove down to the Orange County Convention Center, where the bottom floor of a parking garage was set up for very efficient work. We never had to leave our car. It helps that the OCCC was designed to handle crowds, and the wait was not too long as we wended our way toward the entrance. We had filled out most of the paperwork online, and had just a few brief medical questions and maybe a signature or two to deal with at this point. The biggest surprise was discovering that we were getting the Pfizer vaccine, since the online paperwork had specified Moderna. We didn't care which we got as long as the second dose was the same brand.

Bar codes kept track of who we were and what we were getting. The one question that arose was quickly answered by a doctor who was zooming from car to car, as needed, on a skateboard! After a quick jab we were shunted to an outside parking lot for 15 minutes of waiting to be sure we didn't pass out, go into shock, or grow horns. One more scan of our bar codes and we were off home. A smooth-as-silk process, expertly handled. For us, the whole affair took about two hours, the majority of which was travel time.

Four weeks later, we reprised the event. The lines of cars and the vaccination process were faster, but the traffic getting to the Convention Center was worse, so elapsed time remained about the same. Nothing to complain about.

"What about the after effects?" you ask. For the first vaccine, nothing at all but a slight soreness at the vaccination site, just as with any shot. For the second, it appeared to be the same until almost exactly 72 hours later, when Porter developed mild flu-like symptoms: muscle aches, tiredness, slight headache, and feeling as if he might be getting a fever (though we didn't confirm that). They lasted about six hours, after which he was fine.

Did I have that reaction, too? We'll never know. You see, that was the day I had chosen to have a troublesome tooth extracted, and when Porter started showing symptoms I was so doped up on fever-reducing and pain-killing medications (one extra-strength Tylenol and three Advil every six hours, as needed) that anything would have been completely masked. Vaccine reactions were far from my thoughts at that time.

Contrary to the way some folks read my previous post, I am most definitely not in favor of mandatory vaccinations. :) Voluntary vaccination is a different matter, however, and we are happy to have this under our belts. Here's a shout-out to all those who made the process go so smoothly. (But can you look into getting the website fixed, please?)

Note to those urging everyone to get vaccinated: If you don't soon ease up on the restrictions placed on those who have chosen to be vaccinated, you'll be giving a huge negative incentive to those who have not.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, February 16, 2021 at 8:14 am | Edit
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No, not our government, though part of me thinks it might not be such a bad idea. A Québécois lawer is suing the provincial government over their draconian lockdown restrictions.

As you can see, I'm not yet tired of Viva Frei's glimpse into Canadian politics and American politics from the viewpoint of a Canadian lawyer. Plus, I'm still tickled that I can actually find legal language and legal procedings to be interesting.

Even in French.  I do appreciate the translations, but even more the chance to exercise my minimal knowledge of that language.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, January 21, 2021 at 10:15 am | Edit
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I enter this new year feeling unsettled and, I must admit, somewhat fearful. The best I can offer you on this day (but it is good!) is one of the most inspiring songs I know for uncertain, difficult times. The inspiration comes as much from knowing the author's situation as from the song itself. "Von guten Mächten" is based on a poem by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, written to his family as a Christmas greeting from prison, not long before his execution by the Nazis.

There are several settings of Bonhoeffer's text, as well as a few textual variations and of course differences in translation. Below is a popular version that I find incredibly moving. The first is sung by the composer and is beautiful in its simplicity. Best of all it includes English subtitles, at least if your YouTube settings are correct.

The second has no subtitles, but is an absolutely gorgeous orchestral version.

Enjoy, and take hope. Gott ist mit uns am Abend und am Morgen und ganz gewiß an jedem neuen Tag.

Here is the full German text, followed by what Google Translate has to say about it. Don't miss the additional verses.

Von guten Mächten treu und still umgeben,
behütet und getröstet wunderbar,
so will ich diese Tage mit euch leben
und mit euch gehen in ein neues Jahr.

Noch will das alte unsre Herzen quälen,
noch drückt uns böser Tage schwere Last.
Ach Herr, gib unsern aufgeschreckten Seelen
das Heil, für das du uns geschaffen hast.

Und reichst du uns den schweren Kelch, den bittern
des Leids, gefüllt bis an den höchsten Rand,
so nehmen wir ihn dankbar ohne Zittern
aus deiner guten und geliebten Hand.

Doch willst du uns noch einmal Freude schenken
an dieser Welt und ihrer Sonne Glanz,
dann wolln wir des Vergangenen gedenken,
und dann gehört dir unser Leben ganz.

Laß warm und hell die Kerzen heute flammen,
die du in unsre Dunkelheit gebracht,
führ, wenn es sein kann, wieder uns zusammen.
Wir wissen es, dein Licht scheint in der Nacht.

Wenn sich die Stille nun tief um uns breitet,
so laß uns hören jenen vollen Klang
der Welt, die unsichtbar sich um uns weitet,
all deiner Kinder hohen Lobgesang.

Von guten Mächten wunderbar geborgen,
erwarten wir getrost, was kommen mag.
Gott ist bei uns am Abend und am Morgen
und ganz gewiß an jedem neuen Tag.

 

Faithfully and quietly surrounded by good powers,
wonderfully protected and comforted,
so I want to live with you these days
and go with you into a new year.

The old one still wants to torment our hearts
We are still burdened by bad days.
Oh Lord, give to our frightened souls
the salvation for which you made us.

And you hand us the heavy goblet, which is bitter
of sorrow filled to the top,
so we gratefully accept it without trembling
from your good and beloved hand.

But do you want to give us joy again
in this world and its sunshine,
then we want to remember the past,
and then you own our life entirely.

Let the candles burn warm and bright today,
that you brought into our darkness
bring us together again if you can.
We know that your light shines in the night.

When the silence now spreads deep around us
so let us hear that full sound
the world that invisibly expands around us,
all your children high praise.

By gracious powers so wonderfully sheltered,
we expect confidently what may come.
God is with us in the evening and in the morning
and certainly every new day.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, January 20, 2021 at 12:06 pm | Edit
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Never have I been so close to wanting to acquire a gun ... and a dog.

Just kidding. Mostly. If you know me, you are well aware that I try to stay away from both dogs and guns, though I fully support the right of others to enjoy either or both. But just so you know that our good neighbors to the north aren't any less inclined than we are to throw personal liberties under the bus, if an ordinary Québécois wishes to leave the confines of his house during the hours of 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., he'd better have a dog with him. And maybe a gun, too, since the night has now been turned over to those whose activities involve both darkness and a built-in willingness to break the law.

It's meant to be funny. Sort of. This guy understands that humor can say what anger cannot. Plus it's very good for diffusing tensions, as well as for one's own mental health.

The funniest line is in the comments, however. Set aside the obvious objections, including the fact that North America technically comprises many more countries than Canada, the United States, and Mexico, and just enjoy the irony: Who would have ever thought that the best-governed country in North America would be Mexico?

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, January 15, 2021 at 8:22 am | Edit
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After about 40 minutes each Thursday morning (and much earlier work by Porter), we're signed up to get the Moderna vaccine next week.

Aren't I worried about getting a new type of vaccine that was rushed into production and has had no long-term testing?

Of course I am. I'd be a fool not to be. I look at the people who treat getting vaccinated as some sort of essential religious rite and wonder how they can be so naïve. These are people who otherwise seem sensible and rational. But vaccines are not safe. That's "not safe" as in "some people are going to have adverse reactions, some of them horrific, and some people are going to die." "Not safe" as in "it's not safe to drive your car to work." As in "it's not safe to jog past a tree because a branch might fall down and kill you." (That one happened here in Central Florida not that long ago.)

We don't get vaccines because they're safe. We get them because we have determined that they are better than the alternative, and we hope they are safe enough. "Better" may be defined as "safer"—or it may involve other criteria as well, such as "I don't need this pertussis vaccine for myself, but I'm planning to visit my newborn grandson, so I'll get it for his sake." In any case, we decide to continue jogging, and hope that we will not be the unlucky one passing under the wrong tree at the wrong time.

However, no one should make that decision for you. Pressure—let along compulsion—either way is wrong.  I'm not out-and-out pro-vaccine, and I'm not out-and-out anti-vaccine.  I'm pro-common sense.

I'm fully aware that this vaccine may later be pulled from the market because of some adverse effect or another. I've seen that happen enough times in my lifetime to think otherwise. So why am I taking it? Because I have looked at the risk/benefit analysis and concluded it's worth it. I've participated in a vaccine trial before (Haemophilus influenzae b) with no problems. As a medical center employee, I took the swine flu vaccine back in 1976—the last time the U.S. government felt pressured to prevent "the worst epidemic since 1918"—despite its apparent link to Guillain-Barré Syndrome. I've subjected my body to numerous travel-related vaccines (such as typhoid and yellow fever). I've had the old-style pertussis vaccine and also the new one. I've had both the Salk and the Sabin polio vaccines. I've even been vaccinated for smallpox. In all this, I've never had an adverse vaccine reaction. (I don't count getting miserably sick for a day after each of my first two typhoid vaccines; that was considered par for the course and left no lasting damage.)

I'm not reckless in grabbing any new vaccine that comes around. For years I skipped the hepatitis b vaccine because, as my doctor said, my risk factors were so low it wasn't worth it. (But when we started travelling to more countries with less robust medical infrastructure, he and I both agreed it was then time to take that one.) Our kids never got the smallpox vaccine that was essential in my early days, because the risks from the vaccine are currently greater than the possibility of getting exposed to the disease.  I never had nor ever intend to get the measles, rubella, or chicken pox vaccines—for the very good reason that I already have a better immunity than vaccines can give, having had those diseases in my childhood. But since my body seems to be pretty good at handling vaccines, I'm willing to give this new one a chance.

So much for the risks. I figure I'm probably in more danger driving to and from the vaccination site than from the vaccine itself.

And the benefits? Partly they're for me, and partly for others. I figure the quicker we develop herd immunity as a society, the sooner we can shed our masks and go back to hugging and travelling and living. I trust that if I develop an immunity to COVID-19, I won't pass the virus on to someone else. I hope I'll also be pushing us forward along the path to re-opening state and international borders. Whether you believe all the shutdowns and quarantines were necessary actions or foolish, I think we can agree that keeping grandparents away from their grandchildren, and letting people die shut away and alone, are very bad ideas. Inhumane ideas. If I can contribute to ending this oppression, I want to do my part.

I'd rather not have worked so hard to get our appointments. Maybe there's someone who needs this vaccine more. But Florida seems to be doing a good job of making the vaccines available—I know other states that haven't even begun to offer them—so we might as well get the thing done while we're still considered high priority (over 65).

At least we didn't have to make the decision about which vaccine to get; we "chose" the Moderna vaccine simply because that's what was first available to us. Personally, I leaned toward the Oxford, simply because of this meme:

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are both effective, protective and safe.

But the Oxford one seems to be effective, protective, and safe.

Stay tuned for more of our vaccine experiences as they happen.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, January 9, 2021 at 11:39 am | Edit
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I admit to being a big fan of Vitamin D and the role it plays in our health—especially when it comes from natural sources, such as the interaction of sunshine and our skin. (See previous posts Hold That Sunscreen!; Vitamin D; and Sunshine, Vitamin D, and Why I'm Skeptical of the Medical Establishment's Confidence in Its Broad Pronouncements.) Regular readers will not be surprised that I managed to find time, despite the busiest December we've had in recent memory, to listen to the entire hour of the following MedCram interview, which discusses the possible correlation between high levels of vitamin D in the blood and favorable COVID-19 outcomes.

Despite the length—or perhaps because of it—it is my kind of informative interview. it is full of enough charts, graphs, and data to make your head spin, and even more importantly of the kind of phrasing I'm accustomed to in scientific discussions, and which I've found so sorely lacking in scientific pronouncements these days. Words like, "we don't know for sure," "correlation does not prove causation," and "this study shows X, and suggests but does not prove Y."

Despite the hedging—or again maybe because if it—this information strongly encourages me to resume my former habit of taking a daily "sun walk" for at least 15 minutes of sun exposure on as much skin as I can reasonable turn to the sun. It's easier to do that here in Florida where the sun is more direct and short sleeves usually the order of the day, so it's good to know that this interview suggests that vitamin D supplements are also effective. I still prefer the sun/skin partnership, which produces helpful nitric oxide as well as vitamin D, but we take what we can get. I'm sure I'd be better off if I liked sardines as well.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, December 31, 2020 at 10:14 am | Edit
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