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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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…

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One Man's Paradise, Quote

Comfort & Security

It’s been a while.

I did unplug myself.

The world kept spinning in the meantime and the same nonsense is still going on.

When I turned my computer back on I learned that I am several updates behind. The apps that I have been using for years will not work in the near future. What is this?

I am going back to reading books. They don’t become obsolete and they work off-grid.

Speaking of books here is something I can recommend: “Walden on wheels” by Ken Ilgunas. As a young man Ken travels to Alaska to work at a remote camp, hitches back to New York and starts living in a van to save on rent and other expenses that suck your bank account dry.

I am halfway through the book and my favorite quote is:

“Comfort and security, when overprescribed can be poisonous to the soul – an illness that no amount of love can cure, freedom being the only antidote.”

Ken Ilgunas


Here is to freedom.

Springtime, Alaska
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This is What You Shall Do

Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”

Walt Whitman

What will the New Year bring?

More of the same?

Something new?

Do I have a say in this?

It may be worthwhile coming back to Walt Whitman’s quote throughout the year and revisit…

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Note to self

Miracles

“There are only two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Albert Einstein


Today, more Noble Prize winners have been announced. Reminded me of Einstein, who was not only good for scientific theories that changed “our” views on matter and time. He also led a wild private life and is a great source for inspirational quotes.

I liken to think of life as a miracle. Sometimes there are rocks in the way. It takes effort to turn those rocks into insignificant pebbles.

I am reentering society, sort of, after being on the road for more than 4 months and living north of the arctic circle, where every day is a miracle. The solitude and remoteness, the weather, the landscape, and the small number of individuals that I encountered in that environment left me no choice, but marvel in the quality of every day. I could stayed up there and maybe I will return some day.

 

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Note to self

Crossroads and Intersections

crossrads


“I see myself at crossroads in my life,
mapless, lacking bits of knowledge

then, the Moon breaks through,
lights up the path before me…”

John Geddes


Well, I definitely see myself at crossroads, not just a simple right or left turn. My map is full of intersections, highways and dirt roads. The problem is, which one to take. I know, the destination is not the important part, it’s the journey.

Maybe the Moon will shine tonight and tell me which way to go.

That’s the beauty (and dilemma) of seasonal work. Once the season comes to an end you have to make changes to your life. Move, idle, work? Search and choose…

I seem to be content with changing things up. After a couple of structured months with responsibilities for others and work schedules, leisure seems attractive. Then, after enjoying the great freedom for a while, a daily routine does not appear that bad.

Not working is not as easy as it sounds. The question of a purpose in life comes up. Once you have a work schedule that issue seems to be clouded over. With a lot of free time, it pops up.

Obviously, I have to much time to think…

I am probably going with Robert Frost. Have a great weekend, y’all.


The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

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Inside Out

Hollowness

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“Never was there, perhaps, more hollowness at heart than at present, and here in the United States.”

Walt Whitman, 1871


The above quote is from Walt Whitman’s essay “Democratic Vistas”. I recommend reading the whole piece, seriously.

“I say we had best look our times and lands searchingly in the face, like a physician diagnosing some deep disease. Never was there, perhaps, more hollowness at heart than at present, and here in the United States. Genuine belief seems to have left us. The underlying principles of the States are not honestly believ’d in, (for all this hectic glow, and these melodramatic screamings,) nor is humanity itself believ’d in. What penetrating eye does not everywhere see through the mask? The spectacle is appalling. We live in an atmosphere of hypocrisy throughout.”

For five months I have been largely sheltered from the news. What a peaceful and harmonious experience in an otherwise chaotic and frantic world.

Unfortunately our internet was upgraded a week ago and I have gobbled up the news like a thirsty desert hiker. Only to be left feeling nauseous.

 

 

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