Thankfully, after 15 months of living life primarily from the cocoon of our home, a few months back our lives have begun to include the rest of the world on a more regular basis. Putting some pics here to memorialize the occasion.
This New York Times interactive piece offers a chilling look into how COVID-19 spread in the US earlier this year. This part, in particular, caught my attention:
HOW THE FIRST OUTBREAKS SPREAD
Top federal health experts concluded by late February that the virus was likely to spread widely within the United States and that government officials would soon need to urge the public to embrace social distancing measures, such as avoiding crowds and staying home.
But Mr. Trump wanted to avoid disrupting the economy. So some of his health advisers, at Mr. Trump’s urging, told Americans at the end of February to continue to travel domestically and go on with their normal lives.
And they did. Millions moved across the country, cellphone data shows. Some unknowingly carried the virus with them.
Travel volume from March 1 to March 14, based on aggregated data from Cuebiq, a data intelligence firm. Minor routes not shown.
The reason this caught my attention is that in the March 1-14 window I traveled from my home in North Carolina to Washington, DC for a business trip that included a visit to the offices of several legislators on Capitol Hill on March 11. If that date looks familiar it’s because that’s the last day that Congress was open to visits from the public. Every office we visited had signs on the door stating that they were discouraging shaking hands, but that didn’t stop at least one Congressman from shaking my hand and one staff member from shaking everyone in my group’s hands – around 10 people.
In addition to visiting the Hill, I was attending a small national industry conference held at the Grand Hyatt. Several hundred people flew in from around the country for that meeting, and we spent hours together in meeting rooms of various sizes over several days. At the beginning of the conference, the only precaution we took was making sure everyone had hand sanitizer and we refrained from shaking hands. Three days later they had set up AV equipment in the meeting rooms so that people could remote in from their hotel rooms if they weren’t comfortable meeting in person.
After the conference, we were informed that if anyone was diagnosed with COVID-19 we would be informed and we never did get that notification. To be safe I decided to work from home for two weeks so I didn’t put my office mates at risk, and of course, by the time that was done, we’d shut down our office and moved everyone to work-from-home status.
In an interesting coincidence the League of Municipalities had a meeting in DC the same week we were there. Several members of Winston-Salem’s city council were there and visited Capitol Hill on the same day we did, March 11. Less than a week later they announced that they were self-isolating because attendees at their conference had tested positive for the virus. If I’d had any question about working from home before that then I’d have made the call to do so then because our paths crossed on the Hill.
So, how many meetings/conferences like ours were held somewhere in the country those first two weeks of March? How many people attending those meetings unwittingly carried the virus home with them? How many were like me: they didn’t really want to go to the meeting, but felt they had to? If the government had come out earlier then those meetings likely wouldn’t have happened and we wouldn’t have had to make that decision. It’s impossible to know how many additional infections/deaths this delay led to, but I suspect it was a substantial number.
This final bit of info from the Times piece:
More than 22,000 deaths in the New York City area could have been avoided if the country had started social distancing just one week earlier, Columbia University researchers estimate.
About 36,000 deaths nationwide could have been avoided by early May had social distancing begun earlier, the estimates say.
Doubt I could get my better half to do this hotel stay with me, but it can’t hurt to ask. Skip to 2:30 in the video if you want to see what I’m talking about.
I stumbled across this fascinating profile of some of Charleston, SC’s creative set that’s part of an interesting new online series called One of Many that’s described thus:
What: One of Many is a monthly series of photo essays about twelve American cities and their creative communities.
Who: Designers, woodworkers, chefs, engineers, illustrators, writers and anyone else making something that moves people.
Why: To inspire and be inspired by the independent creative movement that is reshaping our economy and culture. To encourage others to make the leap. To empower those already there, and let them know they’re not alone.
Why Now: The growing creative independent movement, along with renewed interest in life outside the big cities, is rapidly reshaping our economy and culture.
Read much more at oneofmany.co and find below the first of twelve One of Many essays.
An update from my Mom, who's on a trip that's given me a glimpse into what I'd like to do when I grow up and retire:
A bit of drama on the high seas for this report. We are now only a few hours from Ascension Island, finishing the third of our days at sea since St. Helena. This afternoon the captain saw a fishing vessel without appropriate identification within the restricted waters that surround Ascension, so we varied from our course to catch up with it and get the numbers and name painted on the side. It seems to be either Chinese, Japanese or Korean, and is very similar to one the Endeavor – the Lindblad sister ship – identified on this same voyage in 2008. All of the information has now been forwarded to Ascension, just as it was then, but since Ascension is without any real fishing patrol boat, apparently little can be done.
While all that was going on, the ship doctors were arranging a med-evac for one of the women on board, who has been ill for two days now, with symptoms that the limited diagnostic equipment on board fails to identify. She is the wife of one of the National Geographic photographers, so she is going into the hospital on Ascension.
Then, the decision was made to send the ROV (Remote Observation Vehicle) to investigate a sea mount, which is an underwater volcano that has been eroded by seawater so that the top is essentially flattened. This particular one is three miles in diameter and 50 feet deep. The diver/naturalist on board reported that he now has the first photographs taken of this area. He most probably will organize the images for a report within the next couple of days. Bert was on the bridge to watch all this, and is bringing home the fathometer profile.
And, finally, the crew went fishing for our dinner and brought in a very large yellow-tail tuna and a wahoo, both more than enough for one of the dinner options. They also struggled for 45 minutes with an even larger fish, this time close to the ship, so there was an opportunity to watch. Eventually, the line broke, but there was plenty of entertainment. Plus, when they were exiting the side gate to get into the zodiac to go fishing, a very small Portuguese man of war washed in, so we were treated with an up front and personal look at a cereal bowl full of potential menace!
Up early tomorrow morning for a zodiac tour around Boatswain Bird Island, home to thousands of birds, and a full day tour of Ascension, closing with a late night visit to the beaches where the turtles are laying their eggs. What's fascinating is that the males never come on shore, but the females may come on shore more than once, each time leaving behind as many as 100 fertilized eggs. Because they are vegetarians, though, they breed here, but don't feed here. Instead they swim all the way to the coast of South America to feed. Obviously, they can go months without eating. If they swim west, finding that coast isn't difficult. What IS difficult to imagine is their finding this island when they come back, and even more so the little guys who are born here, and also make that journey. Whew!
Yesterday I finished my most recent junk-food-for-the-brain courtesy of the Forsyth County Public Library (Lewisville Branch) and once again fantasized about leading a life of no possessions. The eponymous hero of the Jack Reacher series lives a life traveling around the world free of possessions besides his ID, a debit card and the clothes on his back and I often envy him his spartan lifestyle. (He also ends up killing lots of people, but that's really a superfluous part of the plot as far as I'm concerned). Don't get me wrong, I love my family and I love our household, but yesterday also featured the latest in a long series of trips to the local dump to drop off yet another load of stuff we no longer need, so I was in that mode of Spartan-envy familiar to at least a few suburbanites. I'm also a gainfully employed, married, middle-aged father of three teenagers who's freedom of movement is roughly equivalent to that of someone doing time at a halfway house.
So yes, I have a kind of "grass-is-greener" envy whenever I read anything about people galavanting around the globe with nary a bag to check, and there are people doing just that:
I've done it. Traveling with no bags is gloriously liberating. You move fast, close to the ground, spontenously. You feel unleashed, undefined by your possessions. It is just you and the world. I am convinced that with less stuff to manage you think different. You learn lots, fast.
I've done a few very short trips this way, and once I took a month-long journey in Sri Lanka without baggage. I would not want to travel this way all the time, but once you go with none, it is much easier to go with very little. It's one of the oldest truism in the world: the less you travel with, the more you take back.
There are four modes of no-baggage travel these days:
1) Total Nada
2) Just Pockets
3) Day Baggers
4) Minimalist Borrowers
Personally I dislike body odor enough that I seriously doubt I'd succeed at totally bagless travel, but it's fun to think about it.
European discount airline RyanAir is proposing a special kind of budget "seating" for some of their planes:
Instead of being allocated a seat, Ryanair travellers would perch on a narrow shelf and lean against a flat padded backboard.
They would be restrained with a strap stretching over their shoulder, the budget airline said.
Click through to the story to see an artist's rendering of the proposed seats. Basically it looks like the seating on modern roller coasters. To be honest I wouldn't have a problem with this for short flights.
It's hard to complain about anything when you've been able to take a few days off and escape with the family to a semi-abandoned timeshare in the land of over-landscaped golf courses. That said there's something very un-relaxing about spending those days ferrying around three teenagers who can't be bothered to see where they're going because they're sending text message number 8,423 of the day to their boyfriend, or playing game number 2,500 on their DS or simply going whatever place in their vacuous heads that teenagers go that gives them the glassy-eyed stare of a decade-long heroin addict. Let's just say yesterday didn't provide a very Cleaver-like moment and I let the kids and everyone within a 20 mile radius know that I wasn't cool with it.
Let me be clear: I blew a gasket. It wasn't an epic gasket-blowing, but it did involve threats of packing up and heading home a couple of days early. It did include the time-tested "you have no clue how lucky you are that we're able to go on vacation" line that's been used by every parent for generations. I even threw in the "you kids just don't appreciate what your Mom and I do for you" line. I don't think the latter two statements had much of an effect, but I think the threat of a 7 hour drive with a pissed off Dad did have a sobering effect. We ended up having a nice dinner.
And as always when I lose it I crashed early, had a fairly restless sleep and popped awake at some gawdawful early hour (5:00 a.m.). At least I get to enjoy a quiet cup (or twelve) of coffee.
Merry Christmas Eve everybody. And yes, Mom, I do appreciate the irony of all this.