April 25, 2020

Various & Sundry

Everyone is so sports-starved that the NFL Draft took on epic proportions. It was like the Super Bowl despite the promised lack of drama. The Bengals did the obvious thing and picked Joe Burrow making them instantaneously interesting to me - if they play this season.

Most of the players I’d never heard of as I’m not big on knowing offensive linemen from the Georgia Bulldogs or safeties from Iowa, but there was a voyeuristic drama in seeing the homes of these kids as well as the homes of the executives. Jerry Jones skyped in from his $250 million yacht. Coach Mike Vrabel shockingly had someone going to the bathroom (number 2) in the background! You can’t make that up.

Vrabel answered reporter’s questions and said that it was a reflection in a mirror of a cabinet and was not what we thought:
"It’s been a long quarantine over here," he said of the overall setup. "We’ve got a bunch of 18 and 19 year old kids but Tyler was not going to the restroom. He was sitting on a stool not a toilet."
Consider toiletgate solved.

The disappointment was OSU star JK Dobbins not going until number 55, in the second round. Seemed harsh. One magazine had him ranked 38th and CBS Sports ranked him 45th.

So basically the draft was excitement until Tua got drafted, then it was all about looking inside other people’s houses. 



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Came across a St. Padre Pio quote I need follow more instead of reading bout corona or drafts: “Help yourself during this troubled period by reading holy books. This reading provides excellent food for the soul.”

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Heard this from a priest on Twitter: “Why is it so hard to convince you people that God loves you? Like, for real, this is the most difficult part of my job.”

Interesting. I think of St. Peter’s response to Jesus’s favor: “Lord, leave me for I am a sinful man.” As well as his later initial refusal to have Jesus love him by washing his feet. Is the problem for many that Jesus is too close to us, as he was for those who stopped following Him after the words in John 6 about having to eat His Body and drink His blood to have life? Is that the appeal in the Muslim idea of a God that is more distant and inhuman?

I learned today that the word “companion” literally means “Bread-with-us”.

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Ohio health guru Dr. Amy Acton said, right from the get-go almost two months ago, is that the goal is NOT for fewer people to get the virus. The point of “flattening the curve” graph was to get same number of people sick but just over longer period of time. That’s pretty amazing thing, to recognize the virus is so contagious that half or more of the country will get it regardless of what we do. The whole point was to allow the virus to come into society in an orderly manner to prevent a rush on our health care workers. It’s like we’re saying to the virus with the lockdown: “Queue up! You’ll get plenty of time to have hosts and you’ll infect the same number by not rushing. We just need you to slow down and sicken people one-by-one.”

I like the transparency of Ohio’s governor and Dr. Acton that their appeal was not for us to avoid getting the virus but to avoid having the health care system crash and not be able to deal with it.

For me, this virus always seemed to have two options: kill it at the start in early cases, by doing social tracing and testing. Don’t let it spread. Once a hundred got it it would be too late. And by “too late” I surely didn’t see that an option was to close schools and workplaces and shut down barbershops and churches. The point of my obsessive need to learn about how the CDC and FDA botched it from the start was related to thinking that all of this would’ve been avoided if we had killed the virus in the crib, so to speak.

But in hindsight I now think that was utopian and could never happen. We have porous borders, a globally connected economy, a population with a high propensity of travel. There was no way the virus wasn’t going to get in and get large. And it’s also probable that the first known cases back in mid-February were surely lagging indicators. All the testing and contact tracing in February was likely already too late. It got in silently due to lack of symptoms and you can’t trace that.

Wall Street Journal opinion piece said:

"What Amer­i­cans need now is not an­other celebrity ad re­peat­ing the un­sus­tain­able 'stay at home' mantra. They need de­tailed ad­vice from gov­ern­ment about how transmis­sion does and does not oc­cur (do masks help? are sur­face residues a sig­nif­i­cant threat? does in­fec­tion con­fer im­mu­nity?) so they can learn to live with a virus that isn’t go­ing away at least un­til a vac­cine is de­vel­oped."

April 23, 2020

Haiku Corner

I used to walk steps
To park, eat, meet and bathroom
Now five steps to each.



China lab mishap
John Prine died and people cried
Damn Commie Bastards



Had a Corona
In a Chinese restaurant
Beer and food are safe.

April 22, 2020

Civic Duty When Your Impact Approaches Zero

Feels like the virus has been momentarily tamed. Attractive Dr Amy as lion-tamer. Just 3-4% increase each of last four days in Franklin County. About 40-50 new cases a day amid our 1.3 million. (Obligatory caveat is we don’t have testing of course, yada, yada.)

That’s the sort of increase one could live with although obviously it will increase as we open up. The peak, so far, was 4/17, which means the “caught-it date” was around Holy Week and Easter.

The odds of getting the virus here seem to be extremely slight (unless you’re in a nursing home, prison or hospital) and yet if everyone works from that knowledge the virus will take off again.

It reminds me of voting: my individual vote for president is infinitesimally small as far as impact. In fact it’s so close to zero in percentage terms that it is practically meaningless mathematically. But if everyone acted on that rational knowledge no one would vote. The civic duty of voting reminds me of the civic duty of socially distancing oneself and wearing a mask.

I think some vote like the play the lottery: Winning the lottery is mathematically close to impossible just as affecting an election is close to impossible.

But some people vote for other reasons than changing the outcome. They simply enjoy having their say or they want to run up vote total (by 1!) for their candidate. Or, best choice, they vote out of civic duty.
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The time we are in feels absurd. The social distancing, schools closed, the workplaces and sports gone. It’s funny how I’ve always thought that that the true measure of a crisis is whether sports continue. If there’s time for trivia of sports then things must not be so bad. This is what I’ve long thought of the basket case of Detroit - as long as the Tigers are playing how bad could it be there?

And now... we don’t have sports. The god of this world has been taken down!

And the economic front is pure carnage. Our government debt spirals faster than the virus. Justice is served in that our government spent trillions it didn’t have and now is in no position to pay for this rainy day.

And our spiritual capital is nearly all spent down as emotional carnage exponentiates.

As the old Italian proverb goes, “The situation is hopeless, but not serious”. I interpret that personally as, “the situation is hopeless but God is not hopeless and therefore neither are we.” Pope Francis recently said, “Optimism disappoints, but hope does not.”

I’m reminded of this meditation about Mary’s response to the Annunciation:
“Mary did not laugh at God, as Sarah did when she was promised a son. Sarah, being a sinner like ourselves, began from the difficulties; she focused on what was absent, on reasons to dwell on impossibility. Mary, being truly innocent and without sin, did not entertain cynicism even when historical circumstances made it difficult to see how God could fulfill his age-old promise of an eternal King and Savior. Mary does not start from absence. She does not focus on darkness and nothingness and impossibility, which leads to despair and to no! Mary starts from a presence. Her only focus is the light and love and limitless possibility that embrace her. This leads her to yes!”

April 18, 2020

Plague Journal & Timeline

My brother did some bottom-fishing and bought some Royal Caribbean stock a couple weeks ago (a good purchase so far for him) and so I looked at the graph to see when and how it dawned on people that they needed to get the hell out of that stock given the virus.

It’s sort of like trying to see on a micro, anecdotal level how efficient the market is.  It doesn’t take a brainiac to realize a virus is going to hit cruise ships hard. Of course you do have some people in for the long, long run. Buy and hold for a lifetime and they may do fine. But I’m interested in those who sold and when they sold.

I already had my “plague timeline” started so I plugged in the big moves in the stock. Obviously anything I knew was already far from gnostic knowledge.

The summary answer is:
1/23 to 2/12 there was a slow drift of 7% down.  Verdict: Smart money.
2/12 to 2/21 it goes to 106, down another 9%. Verdict: Obvious move given cruise news.
2/24-3/4: Goes down to 79, down 25%.  Verdict: Meh, late to the party but...
3/4-3/12: Down another 62% from 3/4.  Verdict: Dumb money. 
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Plague Journal, because I’m such a slave to the NY Times (not).

1/26/20:
Addicted to news of the Wuhan (China) coronavirus. Five in U.S. now. Seems an end of days kind of thing even though it’s like an Avian flu rather than Ebola. Still it’s deadly for the respiratory challenged, like poor Steph. Scary.

1/27/20:
Grim twenty-something lad on Twitter announces concerning coronavirus, “this is going to kill everyone’s grandparents”. Time to buy masks.

1/31/20:
Co-worker Brian mentioned his parents are going on a cruise in March to Hong Kong and China; I’m predicting that’ll get called off.  He says they’re pretty relaxed about it, letting the cruise ship decide.

And in May colleague another coworker's parents are going to China. At least he thinks so. I’m not so sure it will be burned out by then even.  I reply to FB friend: “History doesn’t repeat but I can’t help thinking this one may rhyme with 1918 flu.”

2/9/20:
Here’s how Trump doesn’t get re-elected: virus kills market and starts recession.

2/12/20:
From 1/23 to 2/12 Royal Caribbean stock slowly drifts down 7% from 129 to 118.

2/15/20:
The Coronavirus cruise ship kind of surprises me as far as how many infections they’re seeing even after the quarantine. Apparently there are some asymptomatic people testing positive.

On Feb. 1st you had one guy leave the ship with it. Feb 5th they have the total lock down, can’t leave cabin. They find 10 infections that day. You’d think within 3 days the infections would start to level off as a result of the quarantine. But they doubled between 2/8 and 2/10 and again between 2/10 and 2/13. 67 more yesterday, to 285 total. They’re slated to get off the boat on 2/19 but how can they let that happen unless new virus cases go to 0. No wonder U.S. wants to airlift and expatriate U.S. passengers from ship. (Later: as of Monday there’s 450 infections! Update 2: now over 670!)

The current death rate is around 2.2%, with an additional 19% in serious or critical condition.

This year, the regular flu has killed about 14,000 people with 26 million infections. That’s a death rate of a paltry .000538 rate, or one half of one-tenth of one percent. If 26 million got the coronavirus there’d be 572,000 deaths at the current rate. So I get why the China panic.

2/19/20:
In meeting I jokingly said: “Will we be changing our mortality expectations due to the coronavirus?” Gallows humor. It got some laughs.

Stock market at all-time high!  Go fig.

2/21/20: From 2/12 to 2/21 Royal Caribbean goes to 106, down another 9%.

2/24/20:
Stock market down sharply this week.

2/28/20:
So today was the last-gasp day before vacation. I’m glad to be going now rather than late March if only because by then the coronavirus could be in large and in charge by then. Fortunate that it was only because flights too expensive that we moved it to now.

A respected virologist in Atlantic magazine said he expects eventually about 40% of Americans to catch it primarily because you can carry and pass it along without having any symptoms yourself. No way to quarantine that. Basically it’s the perfect virus from a virus’s perspective: don’t kill your hosts too frequently because otherwise it’s harder for them to pass it along. Also infect some victims without them knowing they have it. I suppose this was always a “when” not “if” thing since viruses (like terrorists) are plotting incessantly. Sometimes the terrorists are going to win given the law of averages. We’re all germophobes now.

On the economic front I was surprised though economists think earnings will take a 30% hit. That seems harsh. For sure some companies but they made it sound like it would be nearly across the board. Meanwhile my 401k may be a 201k.

3/2/20:
So the Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic is in Columbus this week. A gathering of tens of thousands of visitors including athletes from 80 countries. If that doesn’t bring the coronavirus to Columbus nothing will. There’s an online petition to cancel the event, as if that would ever happen.

2/24-3/4: Royal Caribbean goes down to 79, down 25%

3/4/20:
Arnold cancelled! Guv got stones.

3/7/20:
Two people with coronavirus were at this airport recently, one death. They got back to Fort Meyers on the Wednesday before we left Ohio, and they didn’t report to hospital till following Wednesday. Kind of weighing on my psyche since for the first time it dawns on me I could be a widower. I don’t have a ton of confidence Steph can fight off a virus attacks the respiratory system so strongly given her background of age and lung issues. The dirty little secret is that coronavirus will be with us for a long while.

Given the germ can survive a week indoors it looks like it could actually have coronavirus at the airport, great. Expected that would happen eventually but not this soon. Hitting too close to (travel) home.

Couple hundred cases in all U. S. and it would have to be where we travel.

3/8/20:
Last grankids visit. Seems to have gotten real, as the kids say, gotten in my head. One thing’s for sure, there’s no way [my brother’s family] going on that European cruise in June. So I predict in March.

Fr. J. today talked a bit about the coronavirus saying that he wasn’t going to change anything, not the Sign of Peace or receiving from the Cup. He says common sense that you don’t give Sign of Peace or receive from the cup if you’re ill, but the dirty little secret is that you can be contagious and not know it, for sure with the coronavirus but potentially also other illnesses. The lady in front of me made a point of just nodding and saying “Peace be with you” and not shaking hands, a little act of civil disobedience I liked so I followed her lead.

I think handshaking needs to go the way of all flesh since it’s a very effective germ transmission vehicle.

3/9/20:
I feel like a prophet with this coronavirus and collateral damage, although admittedly it was the most predictable thing in the world for those who have eyes to see. You can’t contain a virus like that to one of the most populous and interconnected countries in the world although China gave it a heckuva try. The virus surely was going to pummel the stock market, potentially cause a recession, and greatly harm Trump’s reelection chances. Presumably all because some Chinese like to eat bat. The coronavirus is China’s gift to the world much as the 2009 financial panic was America’s. The irony is they’ve been able to get the virus under control due to extraordinary test procedures that efficiently test and isolate someone. We - and Europe - are well behind that curve. You’d think it’d be an advantage to see this coming up Fifth Avenue and thus be prepared but you’d be wrong. The CDC made a major mistake with producing flawed testing kits and we don’t seem to be able to screen as well for the virus as the Chinese are doing now.

But I’m surprised it’s taking this long to come to a venue near us. China was in a state of panic around mid-January and now it’s almost mid-March and U.S. has only 554 cases. But I doubt even the return of warm weather will kill this virus now. It’s too entrenched. Best we can hope for is a 3-month reprieve from it going bonkers: by next fall - by next November election time - it’ll be back and bad as ever. I hope I’m wrong.

3/10/20:
Italy in free fall coronavirus-wise and U.S. is said to be 11 days behind them. So if that’s true then 3/21 should be when we get really hit. Still, the good sign is that the Asian countries (South Korea, Japan, China) have shown that it is possible to get it under control. Alas, Europe and U.S. have not shown that ability yet.

3/11/20:
Cratering interest rate have our company leaders scared.

3/12/20:
We live interesting times. “Historic times” as a company leader put it. Certainly distracting times as it’s hard to think of anything else when you’re reminded of it constantly: even ESPN in the gym was talking coronavirus given the cancellation of the NBA season. It’s gotten real now. Maybe a virus is never real until a celeb gets it, Tom Hanks in this case.

Stock market crashing. Everything is getting cancelled left and right: our parish Fish Fries since it involves over a hundred people gathered. Not sure how we’ll make up all that lost income. And Sunday mass has been deemed optional for the next three Sundays according to the bishop of Columbus. Our March Madness work event/fundraiser at a local bar was cancelled. The Beethoven symphony concert I was planning on going to Friday likewise. I wonder if the holy of holies, baseball, with delay the season.

And the company came out with what they’d been hinting at for awhile: working at home. For the next three weeks (and “likely into May”) we have a goal of 50% working at home. It would be 100% except for the fact that our IT department doesn’t think our VPN can handle the gigantic traffic load.

3/4-3/12: Royal Caribbean down to 30. Down another 62%. A week later, a low of 22.

3/13/20:
First case in Columbus reported. Company announces cafeteria will be greatly reduced, just pizza and hamburgers and hotdogs. Ouch. That’ll pinch.

3/15/20:
Last Mass (Latin at Holy Family).

3/15/20:
Headed out to mass on a Sunday of no obligation - the bishops dispensed with the obligation to go to Sunday mass, which is a first in my 56 years of life. I went although Steph wasn’t happy with me. First time I’ve ever got in trouble for going to Mass! Crowded mass.

Dewine closes restaurants and bars. Company announces 100% work from home beginning 3/23. Steph cancels our housecleaner. We don’t get the grandkids this weekend due to Will coughing and K. being at day care.

Multiple cases in Franklin county now due presumably to more testing.

4/14/20:

Listened to a little of the DeWine press conference and he said he talked to Cameron Mitchell, the great local restauranteur in Columbus, and Mitchell said, “we have the wherewithal to open once. Not twice.” Meaning that he’s not signing up for on-again off-again shutdowns in response to viral conditions. And I think the governor understands that. DeWine said the question is not “when” we’re going to open back up but “how”. He said one thing will be the requirement that everyone going to work will wear a mask. But how can you have an Ohio State football game? Sell every sixth seat? One college in Ohio has already cancelled fall classes.

April 10, 2020

Virus Not as Effective as Alien Invasion

Ohio’s health guru, Dr Amy Acton, is quoted in TIME:
“I used to say if aliens invaded us, it would be a blessing. We’d all finally be on the same team. We’d have this common enemy—well that is now,” she argues.
I think she is right in that it would take a massive external threat to unite Americans. And we’ve seen a little taste of it as for most of us the non-issues of things like unisex bathrooms have dropped off the table. And somehow Congress passed a bipartisan aid bill, although admittedly spending money is a bipartisan proclivity.

But the virus was not a big enough thing (speaking now as the models have radically downscaled) to unite us. The anecdotal sign I look at is my brother-in-law's Facebook feed - if he ever sees things not in terms of politics then I’ll take that as a sign of unity. But, of course, it’s still all politics all the time. To say he hates Trump more than Michigan fans is really saying something for him.

Ultimately people need a scapegoat, need someone to hate (which is part of the point of Good Friday, Jesus offering himself as that scapegoat, becoming the focal point of hatred in order to show us the futility and error in that.) If aliens invaded us, they would qualify as the “people” to hate. But the virus is likely too impersonal to hate and the threat is too small given it kills only 1% and mostly the elderly. And so the polarization and the cold civil war continues.

Funny that Charlie Cook, respected political pollster and pundit, mentioned this topic in a column recently:
Fred Yang, a protégé of Peter’s at Hart Research, observed on Monday, ‘...Maybe the sheer magnitude of this pandemic and the fact that it is truly a national and global experience, might bring us together. BUT …. just like Donald Trump’s winning the presidency in 2016 was a confluence of factors years in the making, I worry that the current divergence of opinion is too wide and borne of fundamental factors (culture, economic status, values) that a big event, however searing, might not be enough to bring the country together, even temporarily.’

And Neil Newhouse, one of the most senior Republican pollsters in the business and another very wise person, observed, ‘Half the voters will believe the president took the right action, and the other half will believe he's failed to meet the needs of the country. Our divisions are extraordinarily deep. This is unlikely to change a thing.’”

April 06, 2020

God Did Not Send the Coronavirus

Fascinating homily from priest in Cincinnati on recent gospel about how Jesus healed a man and how people asked Him, “who sinned? Him or his parents?” and Jesus said “neither”:
This great story of the man who was born blind contains some of the deepest mysteries of the relationship of God and the world and some of the greatest mysteries of human misinterpretation of God to the world.

It is deeply, deeply embedded in the Hebrew scriptures that when God created the world he created everything “good” and yet they observed there was great deal of evil in the world, and they pondered this, and the Spirit moved them, and they began to understand that the source of all evil in the world is the sinfulness of humanity. 
So that throughout the Old Testament it is understood that it is the sins of the people which bring on the disasters of the world: whether emotional or physical of the natural order, the root cause is humanity and its willful alienation from God. This was the heavy burden for humanity to bear, thinking somehow or other in the corporate nature of the people of God they carried a responsibility for the suffering of the world. 
So in the 16th century Christianity did what that rabbis had done in the centuries before Christ, they said in some unconscious way “this is too heavy a burden for us to bear, we will particularize it, we will individualize it.” And in doing so they destroyed the whole understanding of the corporate nature of man’s relationship with God. In this case, the rabbi did not say, “Woe to the world for our sinfulness, for it has caused this man to be born blind.” Instead, “either he sinned or his parents sinned, we can’t be responsible for evil in the world, it is only they who suffer, they are the ones”. In Christianity we did the same thing in 16th century, chiseling to individual, not a corporate faith, we now have “my faith”, “my truth”, none of which means much of anything and has little to do with the words of Jesus Christ and Scripture.

So this fundamental desire to distort the relationship between God and humanity, and to blame either an individual or God for misfortunes in our world, Jesus raises this to the surface and says, “neither he sinned nor his parents, you are wrong”. And then Jesus was blamed for healing on the Sabbath.

What is this for us, in our lives? It becomes very clear to us that each of us bears the corporate responsibility for the bad things that happen in the world. God does not punish us. God allows us to punish ourselves, through our own sinfulness. Any tragedy that afflicts humanity can almost always be traced to a human source. It’s not a vengeful wrathful God, it is our sins that punish us. What war did God start? What disease did God inflict on humanity what of it was not traceable to human ignorance or human malice? Well what about a hurricane in Florida I’ve been asked. God is not the source of harm and evil. We can say, “but how can we start a hurricane?” Well I’m not sure, but we created disorder within the created world and the disorder within the created world punishes us for what we have done. God will rescue us from it, he will save us from it. In the prophecies of Isaiah the lion lays down with the lamb and child puts his hand in the adder’s den. All things are in harmony when humanity is faithful and reunited with its source, the living God. 
For us it’s imperative we accept the Catholic notion of sin and redemption. Otherwise we allow things to worsen. There is no such thing as a “personal” sin, it affects the whole corporate body.

April 01, 2020

On Corona, What Else?

I semi-facetiously said this lockdown will end when more than 50% of Ohioans need a haircut. I’m 3/4ths of the way there.

Seriously, they said it will take 6 weeks to get to the peak virus (according to Gov DeWine and Dr. Acton) which implies it will take at least 6 weeks to wind back down. The graphs they show of flattened curves show bell-shaped curves and they are centered between mid-April and mid-May. This means the best case scenario is June 15 before “normal life” ensues.  But will the economy (and haircuts) have something to say about that before then?

It’s interesting that the lawmakers are doing a 90-day forgiveness on mortgages. Does that mean they think this will end in 90 days, around July 1st?

Given that the whole world has the virus in retrospect it’s hard to blame even the CDC or FDA for this hose-up. In a globalized world it’s “everybody into the pool”. Certainly even pre-modern air travel the 1918 flu went world-wide. So I guess it was naive of me to think that somehow we could lock this down in the very beginning before it showed up in America. Securing our borders is not something we can do even if we wanted to. Besides that, we’d been warned for years that a superbug would come and we’ve had a really good long run without one.

But it’s harsh to see the economy shattering and people I love out of work.  It’s harsh likewise to see the virus inch closer to those I know.  Between a rock and a hard place. Terry Teachout lost his wife recently and quoted Raymond Aron: “There is no apprenticeship to misfortune. When it strikes us, we still have everything to learn.”

Parishioners at my church have received an inspiring update from a fellow parishioner with coronavirus, whose similarly afflicted husband has been in the hospital for two long weeks:
"We are in our 16th day of quarantine, J. still at Hospital and I am at home. 
I know your prayers for us are being answered! Today, they moved J. out of ICU to a new room. His oxygen level dropped from 10 to 6 liters - good improvement! He remains on oxygen. I am a bit stronger but still have respiratory symptoms. Have to check back with my Doctor on Friday. 
As we approach Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday, I want to encourage you to remember that, even though we all are physically isolated, we are still the Body of Christ, still Church! Jesus will call, "Lazarus, Come Forth!" The crowds will shout, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" And we will still hear those words in our hearts, because we believe in Jesus Christ, Our Lord, God, and Savior! Tell Jesus you love Him and that you will be with Him every step of the way through Great and Holy Week. 
Thank you, Father, for encouraging us to live and share our Faith during these dark and sad times. Thank you for keeping in touch with us and for sending the beautiful prayers to help us prepare for Easter. Your words, "Do not be discouraged!" , uplift us and help us to do God's Will! 
May God Bless all of you for the love you have shown to me and to John! That Love is Jesus in you!

Your sister in Christ, P. 😄🎶💒💖🌷