The line between truth-telling and fear-mongering may be thinner than I'd like to believe.

I legitimately criticize most popular media outlets and others whose profits are driven by making people upset and afraid: I haven't seen such irresponsible journalism since the late 60's and early 70's. And yet I repeatedly write and share posts that I myself find frightening, because I think they highlight important information.  If fear and panic are unhelpful, so are ignorance and denial.  So I'll continue to publish information that I believe needs to be more widely known, trying not to be incendiary about it.

David Freiheit, my favorite Canadian lawyer/journalist, has given me gold mines of information about the legal aspects of current events.  When I first began listening to his Viva Frei YouTube shows, one of the things that attracted me to him was his calm, balanced approach to events.  I miss that.  Now, after two years of pandemic stress, he's a bit edgier and angrier.  But who can blame him?  He lives in Montreal, where the provincial and federal governments continue to make unreasonable, unscientific, and inhumane intrusions into the lives of its people—far worse than anything we have had to endure.  So please be patient with his anxiety; what he says is almost always eye-opening.

Below is a short clip from the full show that I will embed further on.  This clip is only a minute and a half long, and if you don't find frightening both this use of children for propaganda purposes and what the children say with such enthusiasm, perhaps a study of 20th century history is in order.  Or a reading of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. Or a chat with someone who fled to the United States from a totalitarian country.

Here's the full video (12.5 minutes) of which the story of the children is just a sidebar.  I've been referring to Florida as a "free state" given what I consider to be our relatively reasonable response to the pandemic, but this Miami judge proves that we are hardly monolithic in our actions and opinions.  Note that the issue is not so much the judge's desire to insist that all potential jurors be vaccinated, nor even his insulting, demeaning, and incendiary language, but a legal problem: "These judges are rendering decisions based on evidence that has not been adduced and that is not how the court system works."

In case you don't watch the video but are curious about the "insulting, demeaning, and incendiary language," this is what the judge wrote in his ruling, which was on the face of it a simple postponement of a trial because the defense counsel did not want the jury pool limited by vaccination status.

It is the Court's belief that the vast majority of the unvaccinated adults are uninformed and irrational, or—less charitably—selfish and unpatriotic.

Even if you completely agree with the judge, the children, and the teacher, these stories should send shivers down your spine.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, January 27, 2022 at 6:23 pm | Edit
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Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents by Rod Dreher (Sentinel, September 2020)

My previous book having been Brandon Sanderson's Oathbringer, this book's 256 pages might have made it seem like a beach read.

Not by a long shot.

I was struck by how much Live Not by Lies reminded me of The Fall of Heaven, although they are two very different books with very different subjects. The latter details Iran at the time of the 1978 revolution, while this book is largely based on stories from the survivors of Communism in Russia and Eastern Europe. What do they have in common? The warning that it CAN happen here. America is not so far off from totalitarianism as we naïvely think.

There always is this fallacious belief: “It would not be the same here; here such things are impossible.” Alas, all the evil of the twentieth century is possible everywhere on earth. — Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

This was certainly the fallacy I believed in.

When I was a child, Nazi Germany was a very near memory for my parents, and the horrors of Communism an ever-present reality. But I knew for certain that it couldn't happen here and it couldn't happen now, because America was free and the democracies had grown beyond all that totalitarian stuff. True, I was forced in school to read 1984 and Brave New World, but such situations were as alien to me as the farthest galaxies. Ah, the optimism of youth.

Did I say youth? If you'd asked me five years ago I would have pretty much felt the same way. But the last few years have shown just how quickly radical change can happen.

Enter Live Not by Lies. Dreher was inspired by the stories and concerns of those who escaped totalitarian societies (largely from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union) only to see frighteningly similar patterns in present-day America. He is careful to distinguish what he calls "hard totalitarianism" with its secret police, gulags, and material deprivation, and the sneaky, but effective, "soft totalitarianism" that threatens us today. He comes down very hard on the Left, but neither does he spare the Right. Evil is most effective when it uses both halves of the nutcracker.

As indicated in the title, Live Not by Lies is written for Christians. But it would be a great mistake for others to pass it up for that reason. The most effective resistance to the hard totalitarianism of Nazism and Communism came from diverse coalitions of dissidents, and that's just as important now. These are dangers that affect us all.

It's not a totally satisfying book, the second half being less powerful than the first—at least if I judge by the relative number of passages I highlighted. I could include a great number of quotations in this review, but I'm not going to. Live Not by Lies is only $4.99 in Kindle form. Give up one fast food meal and get a book that just might open your eyes and strengthen your spine.

The following, rather long, excerpt from the introduction explains well the form and scope of the book.

Part one of this book makes the case that despite its superficial permissiveness, liberal democracy is degenerating into something resembling the totalitarianism over which it triumphed in the Cold War. It explores the sources of totalitarianism, revealing the troubling parallels between contemporary society and the ones that gave birth to twentieth-century totalitarianism. It will also examine two particular factors that define the rising soft totalitarianism: the ideology of “social justice,” which dominates academia and other major institutions, and surveillance technology, which has become ubiquitous not from government decree but through the persuasiveness of consumer capitalism. This section ends with a look at the key role intellectuals played in the Bolshevik Revolution and why we cannot afford to laugh off the ideological excesses of our own politically correct intelligentsia.

Part two examines in greater detail forms, methods, and sources of resistance to soft totalitarianism’s lies. Why is religion and the hope it gives at the core of effective resistance? What does the willingness to suffer have to do with living in truth? Why is the family the most important cell of opposition? How does faithful fellowship provide resilience in the face of persecution? How can we learn to recognize totalitarianism’s false messaging and fight its deceit?

How did these oppressed believers get through it? How did they protect themselves and their families? How did they keep their faith, their integrity, even their sanity? Why are they so anxious about the West’s future? Are we capable of hearing them, or will we continue to rest easy in the delusion that it can’t happen here?

A Soviet-born émigré who teaches in a university deep in the US heartland stresses the urgency of Americans taking people like her seriously. “You will not be able to predict what will be held against you tomorrow,” she warns. “You have no idea what completely normal thing you do today, or say today, will be used against you to destroy you. This is what people in the Soviet Union saw. We know how this works.”

On the other hand, my Czech émigré friend advised me not to waste time writing this book. “People will have to live through it first to understand,” he says cynically. “Any time I try to explain current events and their meaning to my friends or acquaintances, I am met with blank stares or downright nonsense.”

Maybe he is right. But for the sake of his children and mine, I wrote this book to prove him wrong. (pp. xiv-xvi)

I'll let Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn have the last word.

After the publication of his Gulag Archipelago exposed the rottenness of Soviet totalitarianism and made Solzhenitsyn a global hero, Moscow finally expelled him to the West. On the eve of his forced exile, Solzhenitsyn published a final message to the Russian people, titled “Live Not by Lies!” In the essay, Solzhenitsyn challenged the claim that the totalitarian system was so powerful that the ordinary man and woman cannot change it. Nonsense, he said. The foundation of totalitarianism is an ideology made of lies. The system depends for its existence on a people’s fear of challenging the lies. Said the writer, “Our way must be: Never knowingly support lies!” You may not have the strength to stand up in public and say what you really believe, but you can at least refuse to affirm what you do not believe. You may not be able to overthrow totalitarianism, but you can find within yourself and your community the means to live in the dignity of truth. If we must live under the dictatorship of lies, the writer said, then our response must be: “Let their rule hold not through me!” (pp. xii-xiv)

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, January 15, 2022 at 9:22 am | Edit
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Our city has long been in the forefront of innovation when it comes to wastewater treatment. I'm proud of Altamonte Springs. The latest news, however, has me puzzled.

They're now testing our wastewater for evidence of COVID-19 infections.

Actually, I think that sounds clever. It's the results I question. According to this news story, 70% percent of our residents are infected with COVID-19.

Seventy percent! Does that make any sense at all? Later in the same story, it is claimed that half of the people getting tested are positive.

Wait just a minute. Who is it who gets tested? I know that some folks submit to testing, sick or not, because of their jobs, their travel plans, or because they've gone into the hospital with a broken leg and been tested for COVID because that's what hospitals do. But generally speaking, the people who bother to get tested are those who are experiencing some symptoms of illness. Those of us who think we are healthy don't bother.

So how is it that 70% of us actually have COVID when the tests, heavily weighted towards those who know they are sick, are only coming in at 50%?

All I can think of is that the COVID tests, or being ill with something other than COVID, or even breaking your leg, is somehow protective against the COVID-19 virus itself.

This may be a strange disease, but come on, it's not that strange.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, January 12, 2022 at 5:35 am | Edit
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I thought I'd already published my New Year's Eve post, but this heartbreaking news from Quebec demands publicity. For those who don't want to watch the 11-minute video, I've put a short summary afterwards.

Quebec has been iron-fisted from the beginning in its reaction to COVID-19, with tight lockdowns, cancellations, closures, severe restrictions on gatherings in private homes, travel bans, strong vaccine-passport requirements, and even a harsh, five-month curfew.

After much suffering on the part of the Quebec citizenry, the curfew was lifted and the choke-hold on the province's economy and family life began to ease, just a little. Enough for people and businesses to start making plans again.

Until yesterday.

That's when the provincial government announced new extrememe measures in the light of Omicron, the newest COVID variant. These include

  • reinstated curfew
  • take-out only for restaurants
  • no private gatherings in your own home
  • in-person school shut down at least until mid-January

And when do these measures take effect? At 5 p.m. today.

Today. New Year's Eve.

Now, I'm not one to go crazy on New Year's Eve. This image I found on Facebook sums it up pretty well for us  these days.

But I realize that for many people the New Year's Eve festivities are important. They make plans, they travel, they spend lots of money on clothes and event tickets and parties and food and special restaurant meals. Restaurants, event venues, musicians, caterers and loads of other businesses count on this time to keep them financially afloat.

The decree comes out with  one  day's  notice, and is clearly calculated to pull the rug right out from all New Year's Eve festivities. Plans are already made, tickets purchased, food bought, extra help hired ... then nothing. And all in fear of a COVID variant that has been producing high numbers but is almost always a mild illness with very low hospitalization and death rates.

This is not just tyrannical. It is sadistic.

I wouldn't go so far as to call it Fascist. But it is certainly Faucist.*

We cannot continue to ignore the economic, social, and mental health consequences of these extreme measures.

(Sorry this post is so depressing. My first post of the new year will be more delightful and uplifting.)

 


*Porter gets credit for this term, but I've latched onto it enthusiastically.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, December 31, 2021 at 3:00 pm | Edit
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I'm not sure why my husband insists on sharing the news he reads from major media outlets (mostly BBC News, Orlando Sentinel, National Public Radio). Perhaps he (correctly) believes I need to be better informed. Maybe he just wants someone to commiserate, in which case, well, that's part of my job. :) On the other hand, he may just like providing me with blog fodder.

In any case, what I'm hearing is a lot more sound and fury and flame-throwing than is good for my mental health. You'd think we were facing the end of the world with this Omicron COVID variant. It's true that we're hearing about a lot more cases among our friends and family these days, due I suspect to both the greater contagiousness of Omicron and the fact that people are going about their lives more freely than they were before.

I know better than to panic just because those who profit from panic are fanning the flames, but I was intrigued enough to revisit the Johns Hopkins site to see how Florida is doing, by the numbers. Here's what I found. (Click images to enlarge.)

Positive cases, deaths, and hospitalizations over all time

Positive cases, deaths, and hospitalizations over the last 90 days

Hospital bed/ICU occupancy

If you look at just the case rate, you might think something terrible is happening. But looking at the corresponding death and hospitalization rates, and the availability of hospital services, I can't see it as anything other than great news. Bear in mind that my medical "expertise" comes only from being the computer geek in a pathology research lab, and from interacting with this world for nearly 70 years. In other words, it's just my opinion. But I'm convinced that an increasing number of mild cases means we're interacting with this disease in a more natural way that could encourage it to mutate into something we can live with.

Cases are up, but deaths are down, and hospitals have plenty of room. I can handle that.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, December 29, 2021 at 9:35 am | Edit
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It wasn't the Christmas they expected.

The shepherds weren't expecting anything. The Wise Men (who came later) might not have been surprised that the king they were seeking was a young child, but they probably didn't expect to find him in such humble surroundings. Herod wasn't expecting him, though he certainly knew how reigning kings dealt with potential rivals: Off with their heads!

Mary (and Joseph) did know, having been clued in by an angel, but I'll bet Gabriel didn't bother to include the messy details, such as going into labor away from home, at the end of a long and difficult journey to a crowded city with limited accommodations.

Despite innumerable clues throughout their history to the coming of a savior who would put everything right—albeit less clear at the time than in hindsight, of course—the religious scholars in Israel saw nothing momentous about the events. This despite having told the above-mentioned Eastern sages that they should go to Bethlehem to look for the Messiah. As was shown some 33 years later, their ideas of "put everything right" had some major misalignments with God's own; we tend to see what we are looking for.

There's a long history of Christmas not being what people expect, so I should not have been surprised that Christmas 2021 wasn't the Christmas WE expected.

In this year's Christmas newsletter, I included this line: "Sub conditione jacobaea, we will make a fifth trip, to Connecticut, before the end of the year for another family gathering." The Latin phrase is the more formal equivalent of the Southern, "Lord willin' and the creek don't rise."

The creek rose. Or rather, COVID rose. As in, two of the people we'd planned to spend Christmas with tested positive. We reflected: (1) people who are sick do not generally welcome houseguests, (2) if one is going to get sick, home is usually the best place to be, and (3) the threat of isolation and quarantine could turn a 10-day visit into 20 or more, especially if one is flying. Then we made the painful decision to cancel the visit. :( Instead of flying out early Christmas morning, we were going to be home.

Two days before Christmas I crossed "pack suitcase" of my list and added "buy a roast for Christmas dinner." We did not have a tree, but I stopped by the Home Depot tent and picked up some of their tree trimmings to add some festive and aromatic greens to our hastily-decorated substitute:

I only drove to three places that day—the post office, Target, and Publix—but came home exhausted. As I said to Porter while he was helping me unload the car, "You'll know how crowded it was when I say I elected to wear my mask everywhere I went."

Christmas Eve wasn't as planned, either, as our pastor's wife had also come down with COVID. The CDC protocols do not require vaccinated people to quarantine, but our diocesan rules are stricter, so he was suddenly out of the picture, which cancelled some of our services and altered the others. Amazingly, they found a substitute priest for Christmas Eve and Sunday, though not for Christmas itself. Nonetheless we are grateful that the bishop didn't revoke his permission for choirs to sing without masks! All things considered, it was still a lovely service, though for us the really festive celebration had been our mid-month Lessons & Carols. (Too many of our choir members travel out of town for Christmas, for us to be able to plan anything big closer to the Day.)

Since the Christmas Eve service began well after my normal bedtime, and, unlike last year we had no children around to inspire an early arising, we slept in on Christmas Day (That is, to about 7 a.m.).

Our Christmas breakfast usually includes traditional Dutch almond raisin bread and banket. Often we order these from Vander Veens' Dutch store, but this year I convinced myself that it's cheaper and better to make them myself. (I was right.) I did buy the almond paste from Vander Veen's (much less expensive than I can find at the grocery store), but our grandson makes his own from scratch, so I might try that sometime. I doubt I'll go through the effort of making my own puff pastry, however; Pepperidge Farm does a great job with that.

No one complained that the "banket letters" were selfish this year—all I's.

The day was a quiet one, spent opening presents, talking with family, and reading. Porter read one of my Christmas present books, and I continued reading Oathbringer, which I intend to complete before the Twelve Days are over! (I'm currently 2/3 of the way through the 1200+ pages.) I did manage to cook Christmas dinner in there somewhere, and it was good (especially the gravy), but I couldn't help noting that it didn't hold a candle to my brother's Christmas roast beef, which we had been anticipating.

The Second Day of Christmas was Sunday, and we went to church. If attendance was about as expected for the day after Christmas, at least the choir did not outnumber the congregation. And we had enough choristers to sing Vivaldi's Gloria!

I hope you are all enjoying a very good Christmastide.

Even if it might not be the Christmas you planned on.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, December 27, 2021 at 11:30 am | Edit
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Those who are smart and protecting themselves need to continue doing their best to protect themselves and their loved ones.

I found this in a comment on a friend's Facebook post. One advantage of information overload is that such comments quickly become "anonymized information" in my brain, protecting the innocent and the guilty alike.

What struck me about this statement, with which I heartily agree, is what it tells me about how much we are alike. We all want to protect ourselves and our loved ones, and most of us have opinions as to how best to do that.

It is in the means, not the ends, that we disagree.

Some people move to rural areas and learn to farm. Some organize and join unions. Some purchase and learn to use guns. Others choose to homeschool, or to take political action, or to stockpile food and other essentials. Some work hard to strengthen family and community ties, or to attend to their own physical fitness, or to build up a strong financial base. And some people get vaccinated against COVID-19. Many choose more than one of these paths.

The writer of the Facebook comment was specifically speaking of COVID-19 vaccination, which I certainly consider to be a valid way of choosing to protect oneself and one's family. Unfortunately, the context of the above quotation wasn't as reasonable.

I know this is callous, but those who are smart and protecting themselves need to continue doing their best to protect themselves and their loved ones. What happens to those who do not care, is no longer taking up my headspace.

Just as the excerpt epitomizes what we have in common, the context shows what is dividing us. Because by "those who do not care," the writer appears to mean those who choose not to follow his own particular choices. Possibly, he's expressing his willingness to leave them alone to make their own decisions. But the callousness, which he admits, contains the implication that he considers doing them harm to be a valid part of protecting himself.

That is very dangerous ground indeed. We can do better.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, December 17, 2021 at 8:22 pm | Edit
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I've always had a problem with headlines, which all too often distort or even contradict the content of the story they purport to summarize. It's similar to my frustration with book covers that make me wonder if the artist actually read the book itself. Even knowing this, it's all too easy to judge a book by its cover and to get our news from the screaming headlines. To get any useful information, we have to dig deeper.

On the other hand, it's possible that our State Department has simply gone mad.

One of Porter's travel websites led him to the handy(?) State Department website for its current travel advisories: a categorization of the world's countries into

  • Level 1 Exercise normal precautions
  • Level 2 Exercise increased caution
  • Level 3 Reconsider travel
  • Level 4 Do not travel

A glance at the associated map reveals that we consider the rest of the world to be a very, very dangerous place and should probably just stay within our own borders. There are thirteen places marked Level 1, the safest level, including Paraguay, Bhutan, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Zambia, and Togo. Not exactly places high on my list of comfortable vacation destinations. Perhaps we should go back to The Gambia; our Gambian friends can take comfort in knowing that their country is one of those few getting our State Department's blessing, along with neighboring Senegal.

On the other hand, Switzerland is Level 4. Do. Not. Travel. More than 300 other countries are given this worst possible rating, include North Korea, Afghanistan, and the Central African Republic.

I am a lot happier that our daughter and her family are in Switzerland rather than North Korea, Afghanistan, or the Central African Republic. What do you think?

Fortunately, the website allows you to click on individual countries and get more detailed information about the advisories.

  • Do not travel to North Korea due to COVID-19 and the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention of U.S. nationals.
  • Do not travel to Afghanistan due to civil unrest, armed conflict, crime, terrorism, kidnapping, and COVID-19
  • Do not travel to the Central African Republic due to COVID-19, Embassy Bangui’s limited capacity to provide support to U.S. citizens, crime, civil unrest, and kidnapping.
  • Do not travel to Switzerland due to COVID-19.

Methinks our State Department could do with a finer gradation of the Level 4 warning.

Here's another interesting anomaly: Liechtenstein has a travel advisory rating of Level 3. So if you can get there, you are considered safer than in neighboring Switzerland or Austria, each at Level 4. However, they make no suggestions as to how one might get to Liechtenstein without travelling through either Switzerland or Austria, given that Liechtenstein has no airport (though they do have a helipad). Perhaps one could parachute in, though that does introduce risks of its own.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, December 5, 2021 at 10:04 pm | Edit
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Recently I re-read The Light in the Forest, a book from my childhood, though I hardly needed to read the whole book to find the passage I quote below. I could almost have quoted it from the memory of my first reading some sixty years ago.

These are the words of an old slave, in colonial America, explaining how easy it is for those born free to lose their liberty.

Every day they drop another fine strap around you.  Little by little they buckle you up so you don't feel it too much at one time.  Sooner or later they have you all hitched up, but you've got so used to it by that time you hardly know it.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, November 15, 2021 at 5:58 am | Edit
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There was no reason the day should have been unusual.

It began with a phone conversation with a good friend, and ended with choir practice. In between, I ran errands: to Jo-Ann's for a new sweatshirt, to the library for a couple of books, one by Brandon Sanderson and the other by Scott Adams. Finally, I ended up at the grocery store, for—well, for all those things you can get at a grocery store. Nothing unusual.

Errands don't generally put me in a good mood. Perhaps these should have, because they were 100% successful for a change, but that's not why I came home euphoric.

People were smiling. They were laughing. They were joking with one another. Just as we used to do before masks covered our faces and suspicion darkened our hearts.

This battle isn't over yet. But it was a good day.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, November 6, 2021 at 7:20 am | Edit
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As I wrote before, we recently made our first airplane voyage since before the start of the pandemic. I was surprised at how rusty we were in what used to be accustomed procedure!

Overall, I was impressed, as I usually am, by Southwest Airlines. We flew during their recent—and never satisfactorily explained—outage, and our outbound flights were cancelled.  However, we were automatically rebooked, within minutes of that notification, on a flight that left later the same day and arrived at our destination earlier, a much better situation for us. Between that and having automatic TSA Precheck, our airport experiences were problem-free. And I'm very happy about the improved cleaning and air filtration procedures, since in my experience an airplane is nearly as dangerous as an elementary school when it comes to challenges to the immune system. That part of the flight felt good.

Not that we had all that much chance to experience the new, fresher air, as masks were required to be worn at all times, even between bites and sips while eating and drinking. Fortunately, the between bites part was not aggressively enforced, but neither was there all that much opportunity for eating and drinking.

I can handle a mask, when necessary, for short shopping trips, and can make it through a choir rehearsal or a church service, albeit with difficulty. If I had to wear a mask for my job, I'd be applying for a medical exemption. I have no disability other than age, but that was good enough to get me priority for the vaccine, so maybe it would work. Fortunately, employment is not an issue.

Wearing a mask for the trip was hard. Ours was a relatively short flight, but that was three hours, and of course you have to add in the airport time on either end.  Still, we managed all right, as far as I could tell.

The scary part was on the flight home, when I had the elbow room to use the sensor on my phone to check my blood oxygen. I know I'm good at sleeping on airplanes, but I couldn't stay awake to read a very interesting novel, and that concerned me. The sensor on my phone is hardly as accurate as a medical pulse oximeter, but there has to be something wrong about the fact that it consistently reads between 95% and 100% at home (usually on the high side of that), and my readings on the plane were between 84% and 90%! Pulling the mask away from my face for several breaths got it up to between 93% and 97%. But for how long had I been in the danger zone? Was the problem due to wearing the mask, or the altitude, or a combination? All I know is that when I got back home the numbers were up to 97%-100% again.

I'm trying not to think too much about the fact that our overseas family, including small children, had to endure two very long transatlantic flights for their Christmas visit here, and were forced to wear medical masks because their own cloth masks—similar to mine—were deemed to allow too much air exchange.

This won't stop me from flying again, even overseas when that is allowed. Family is too important. But at my age I need all the brain cells I can keep. Who doesn't, at any age? (That's one reason I avoid anesthesia whenever possible.) I'm more and more convinced that the harmful effects of our pandemic regulations are only just beginning to be felt.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, November 3, 2021 at 6:52 am | Edit
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It's about time for another word from my favorite Canadian lawyer, who is struggling to balance principles and parenthood. (12-minute video)

Maybe it's a good thing that my only Australian source concentrates on cooking. I hear the situation is even worse there.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, October 16, 2021 at 6:22 am | Edit
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Southwest Airlines has been getting some bad press recently, but we've recently had a wonderful experience.

I'm very disappointed that they caved in to pressure to implement a vaccine mandate for their employees. I would have respected them much, much more if they could have held out against this wrongful policy.

That said, I was impressed, and pleasantly surprised, by what happened to us.

We were scheduled to fly Southwest, and more than a little concerned about their recent cancellations, especially the news stories of people waiting several hours to get help, and not being able to reschedule any sooner than three days away.

Sure enough, the night before we were scheduled to fly, we received notice that our flight was one of the ones that was cancelled. Before we could even get through to the Southwest website, however, we receive another notification:

We have rebooked your flight for you.

Not only did it happen quickly, and with no effort on our part, but they had actually put us on a better flight than the one that was cancelled. It left three hours later, giving us a more comfortable start, yet arrived at our destination an hour earlier, because it was a direct flight instead of requiring a plane change in Baltimore. True, our new flight was packed to the gills and we were among the last five people to board the plane, but at that point we felt nothing but gratitude.

Kudos to Southwest for making a potentially terrible situation into something almost pleasant.

And many thanks to all of you who prayed for our trip!

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, October 13, 2021 at 11:44 am | Edit
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My constant prayer since the start of the development of the COVID-19 vaccines has been that the knowledge gained would lead to an effective vaccine against malaria.

When I last checked the Johns Hopkins site, the total estimate of COVID-19 cases since we started keeping track have been a little less than 237 million. (Just how accurate that guess is, is another issue.)

In that time period, there have been approximately 382 million cases of malaria, a debilitating disease that cripples economies, and preferentially kills young children.

But there is good news. While there is still much room for new vaccine-development techniques to improve the situation, there is now a vaccine for malaria. It was developed by GlaxoSmithKline* and proven effective six years ago. Finally, after futher testing, has been given the green light for mass vaccinations in sub-Saharan Africa.

"Effective," in this case, is only 40%—I said there was room for improvement—and requires a series of four shots, given at five, six, seven, and 18 months of age. In a part of the world where health care is often less than stellar, I imagine this will be a challenge to implement. But malaria is a much trickier disease than, say, COVID ("comparing them is like comparing a person and a cabbage") and this is a huge milestone.

 


*Which I knew growing up by its building in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania—back when it was Smith, Kline, and French.
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, October 8, 2021 at 10:16 am | Edit
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It causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark. — Revelation 13:16-17

College is a time for wide-ranging, speculative discussions, and among my fellow students in the early 1970's this Bible verse was a popular topic. We were hard-pressed to imagine a world in which people would consent to having marks imposed on their bodies: tattoos were so rare that most of us had never seen one, and the now-common practice of implanting informative microchips in pets was 15 years in the future. The microchip itself had barely made any impression on our lives—my choice when doing my physics homework was between long, laborious hand calculations and a long trek through the snow to a small room where half a dozen chunky, very basic calculators had been made available to students.

Even more puzzling was how having or not having this "mark of the beast" could be the gateway to commerce. The marketplace still ran on cash and checks.

How much can change in 50 years.

Suddenly, in Canada, in Australia, in Switzerland, and in parts of the United States, the marketplace and much more are now gated by vaccination status. Society has been divided as by a sharp sword between the haves and the have-nots; the clean and the unclean; the ones who are free to travel, attend school, eat at restaurants, and even hold their jobs, and those who are not.

I am not saying that the COVID-19 vaccine is the Mark of the Beast. It seems clear that the Mark will involve some form of blasphemy and idolatrous worship, and this does not—although, frankly, the efforts to invalidate religious exemptions to vaccine mandates have me wondering a bit about that.

However, it is now crystal clear is that what seemed impossibly fanciful back in my college days is not only possible, but can sweep over even a free and democratic country with little effective opposition.  Whatever that Mark may be, we have opened the door.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, October 3, 2021 at 9:28 am | Edit
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