Mixed bag

Amazong

You read that right.

Since I live 45 miles from the next grocery store and having no car I decided to give Amazon and free delivery a try.

First week of November I ordered a jar of peanut butter, amongst other things. The item was in stock, but no delivery date was given. Then, a couple days later I got a notice that the item would be shipped end of November. Wait, got an update! Now I’ll get an early Christmas present: Expected delivery date: December 21st.

At that rate, I must consider an overnight trip to town, on foot or by bike. We get Continental Divide hikers coming by all the time walking that distance in a day.

Mural, Silver City, NM

Not to worry, I am not going to starve, but do we have a peanut butter shortage?

Then there was order number 2. Being an environmentally conscious guy, I ordered an item from the closest vendor, 180 miles away. The item arrived within 4 days. Nothing wrong with that. When I looked at the shipment track, I noticed the package had travelled 528 miles.

What gives? I thought the traveling salesman problem had been solved many years ago.

It’s all good: Amazong.

Standard
Inside Out

Let’s Plant a Tree

The true meaning of life

is to plant trees,

under whose shade

you do not expect to sit.

Nelson Henderson


I am not pretending to know the meaning of life, but the quote by Nelson Henderson reminded me of recent acts of kindness that I have experienced. This post goes to all people that have opened their home, fed and supported me unselfishly.

More than ever, this is the time to think about and act having our less blessed neighbors, close by and far away, and future generations in mind. We indeed need to plant trees and take other measures to ensure the well-being of our Planet.

Nelson Henderson was a WWI veteran and a farmer in Manitoba. Apparently he was not a man of big words. Nevertheless, the above quote from his biography “UNDER WHOSE SHADE: A STORY OF A PIONEER IN THE SWAN RIVER VALLEY OF MANITOBA” by his son Wes Henderson speaks to us loud and clear.

One of my favorite books is “So let’s plant an apple tree. The time has come.” by Hoimar von Ditfurth. The author proposes humanity as incapable of recognizing its own behavior as the cause of the threat to our environment and of changing course. I tend to agree with the author, although I wish otherwise…

Standard
Quote

Unbearable, almost

“The answer may be found in the well-known refusal of human beings to accept reality at its face value, whether it be the fate of an individual, of a country, or of the whole of human society. Without this built-in defense mechanism, life would be unbearable.”

Rita Levi-Montalcini

Today I came across an article by Bob Goldstein describing the life of Rita Levi-Montalcini, an Italian scientist, who kept making discoveries during WWII under very difficult circumstances. What kept her going? Today we may call it resilience, she called it a refusal to accept reality at its face value. Thoughts?

Standard
Life

Your Table Is Ready

Some of us haven’t heard that sentence in a while. State, county, or city mandates had prohibited indoor service at restaurants at times during the pandemic.


Winter Patio

I consider not being able to dine in a minor inconvenience. Others view this is an unconstitutional deprivation of their human rights. Thus, the pandemic has deepened the rift in our society. How do you live with these absurdities of our times?

Here is some advice from Albert Camus, who received the Nobel Prize in Literature at the age of 44.

Accepting the absurdity of everything around us is one step, a necessary experience:

it should not become a dead end.

Albert Camus

Standard
Note to self

What the World Needs Now

Where to begin? First a pandemic, then an act of police brutality that went around the world, followed by peaceful and violent protests. Throw in a couple of hurricanes and you wonder, how to keep your head up in those times of mayhem?

A few days ago I came across a podcast with Tom Rivett-Carmac and Christiana Figueres. The authors were instrumental in the ratification of the Paris climate agreement, a daunting, if not impossible task, to bring more than 190 nations to the table and sign an agreement that requires sacrifice and action. Before the agreement was signed Christiana Figueres was asked at a press conference when she would expect all nations to sign the agreement. Her honest, instant response was: “Not in my lifetime”.

When she reflected on her response later she realized this statement was not based on reality or facts, it reflected her attitude. That’s when she came up with the concept of “stubborn optimism”, the determined attitude change, to take action, even if we, as an individual, cannot control the outcome.

During the pandemic if feels as if climate change has taken a second seat. Maybe we can handle only so many crises at a time. But we should remember two things: During the pandemic most people on Earth were forced to change their daily routines. We could not go out as we were used to, we could not buy just anything we wanted to… We did this, because our governments said so, or because our common sense told us. As an individual we did this for our own sake, but in the big picture we did this for the benefit of mankind.

So, in the days ahead we need this relentless optimism, a change of our own attitude, to move on and not go back to business as usual. If we stay passive and just go back to that, we go back to doom-and-gloom with social inequality, racial injustice, and a diminishing quality of life.

Consider that a climate crisis will be orders of magnitude worse than the current pandemic, if we don’t take action. There will be no vaccine, no cure to climate change. Climate changes will have long-lasting effects.

As with the current pandemic, time is of essence.

Standard
Dispatches from the Corona Experiment

Next

The Corona virus experiment enters the next phase: Easing of restrictions. Why? Not sure.

I think we are confused as ever about this disease. Even for a scientist it is difficult to comprehend what’s going on.

Yesterday there were 30,000 new COVID-19 cases in the US and over 1800 humans died from the disease in one day. Why would we ease restrictions? Maybe because we are bored at home, need money, or what?

We have now tested about 1% of the population in the US for the presence of virus. Most of the tests were given to people that were ill or had reasons to believe they were in contact with infected people. So that’s a small fraction of the whole population and a highly biased selection.

No problem. We need to test people at risk.

However, at this point the number of tests is too small to make any claims about the prevalence of the disease.

Why is this important?

Well, some officials think about reopening the country. One of the conditions discussed is a “certificate of immunity”. You get tested for COVID-19 antibodies. Your test comes back positive. You can go to work.

I think there is an issue that, which has to do with specificity, selectivity, and prevalence.

First, none of the antibody tests are perfect, meaning they are not 100% specific nor selective. That’s not unusual.

I thought a test that produces in 95% of truly positive cases a positive result is pretty good. And if the same test has a 5% false positive rate that should make a great test, right? Well, it depends. It depends on the prevalence of the disease. If only a small fraction of the people carries or carried the disease than the predictive value of a positive test is rather low. This is all nicely illustrated here.

Since we don’ know the prevalence of the virus in the general population and the unknown predictive power of a positive antibody, we should not send people back to work, unless we want to tolerate 2000 or more individuals dying every day in this country for the foreseeable future.

Please correct me if I am wrong.

On with the experiment.

Stay healthy.

Standard
Dispatches from the Corona Experiment

The 7 Social Sins

Wealth without work.
Pleasure without conscience.
Knowledge without character.
Commerce without morality.
Science without humanity.
Worship without sacrifice.
Politics without principle.

Frederick Lewis Donaldson


We are not even close to the zenith of this pandemic and there are already voices asking for easing the restrictions, so that the economy does not tank. It is not surprising to hear extreme opinions in a country that is more or less evenly divided over most issues. However, it shows that some folks have lost their moral compass.

This is what Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick had to say: “… no one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?’ And if that’s the exchange, I’m all in. My message is, let’s get back to work. Let’s get back to living. Let’s be smart about it, and those of us who are 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves, but don’t sacrifice the country. Our biggest gift we give to our country, and our children and our grandchildren, is the legacy of our country.”

Patrick claimed after speaking to over a hundred people over the phone that they don’t want to lose the whole country over the current public health crisis and face an economic collapse.

No, there is something seriously wrong with this picture. To put the mighty dollar before people?

What is left of humanity, morality, and conscience?

Be safe.

Standard
Quote

Arctic Light

“You only get one sunrise
and one sunset a day,

and you only get
so many days on the planet. “

Galen Rowell


Thinking back about my summer in the Arctic I am dearly reminded that we only get so many days on the planet, although for months the sun would not set nor rise.

When days and nights unite in the Arctic summer time seems to stand still for a while. Nothing tells us that it is midnight and we should be asleep, or midday and we should have lunch. Without access to daily news, TV episodes, shopping days, release dates, and scheduled appointmements it is possible to forget about time…

Until summer changes to winter. Then, time stands still, or at least moves very slowly, so it feels during long, dark nights.

Summer or winter, the light up North feels special. Like a gift of Nature. Food for the soul when it’s abundant. And like an essential vitamin, when it’s sparse?

It feels like an eternity that I have left the Arctic, although it’s just been a few weeks. That must mean I miss it…

Standard
Life

Koviashuvik

“Where is home for you?”

How do you answer that question? Is it the place you grew up in? Maybe you call home the place where you currently reside. Either way, in most cases that place comes with a street address and a zip code. A valid mailing address.

Without that, you are almost … nothing.


“Living in the present moment with quiet joy and happiness”


I am looking forward to reading Sam Wright’s book “Koviashuvik – Making a home in the Brooks Range”. Sam was a biologist, priest, and teacher who lived with his wife decades north of the Arctic Circle in a one-room log cabin, reflecting on life, mankind, and wilderness. He called his home Koviashuvik, which means a time and place of joy and happiness. According to Inuit tradition one must live in harmony with nature to experience koviashuvik,

I have not found a street address for Sam’s home, but living in a place with such a beautiful name, I imagine you don’t care that you can’t have a residential phone line, a cable subscription, or even utilities…

Maybe it was just the lack of modern day amenities (and obligations) and the presence of a relatively undisturbed wilderness that made his home a happy place…

Standard