A random look at the 2020 blog

Thank Allah for music

while blackSome blogger buddy used to do this look at the previous year. He’d select a post date and a sentence from that post at random.

I’ve found it interesting to see how well, or poorly, it reflected the past year. So, the 2020 blog in one post. Sort of.

January: “Willis was the son of people identified only as Jacob and Charlotte.” This was the first of two posts that week about Raymond Cornelius Cone, who I had just discovered was my biological grandfather. Willis was his father.

February: “Those particular matinees mean three things: cheaper tickets, a lot of older patrons, and best of all, a discussion with the cast after the shows.”This was back in the days when I was going to Thursday matinees at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady.

March: “She had to go into work on Monday and Tuesday last week, which I thought was crazy.” An Ask Roger Anything answer about retirement. I was referring to my wife’s school’s COVID methodology.

April: “Yet, and ‘Holy Crap This Is Insane’: Citing Coronavirus Pandemic, EPA Indefinitely Suspends Environmental Rules.” The 50th anniversary of Earth Day. I was pessimistic.

May: “The United States was allegedly staying out of it.” The music of 1940. The “it” was WWII.

June: “In light of the nationwide outpouring of support for the Black Lives Matter movement, movies like Just Mercy and I Am Not Your Negro are available to stream.” Juneteenth links.

Caesar months

July: “He believes the continued popularity of white depictions of Jesus is ‘an example of how far in some respects the United States has not moved.'” He being Edward J. Blum.

August: “He often combined the two.” Another Ask Roger Anything answer about why I’m a duck. “He” was the late Raoul Vezina, who combined his love of art and music.

September: “The moderator said a particular bill meant X.” A discussion of the Federalist Paper No. 62 of James Madison and how far we’ve moved from it.

October: “The search committee was afraid that these folks wouldn’t cotton to working with a black person.” This was the job I held for over 26 years but almost did not get.

November: “Freedom for the Stallion – the Oak Ridge Boys.” A link to a song by the legendary Allen Toussaint.

December: “If I were to have major surgery, such as for this situation, one doesn’t want to deal with the complicating factor of this patient having a bad reaction from the antibiotic.” So, I’m NOT allergic to penicillin!

People who do not read this will ask, “What is your blog about?” Other than About Me, I have no retort. So maybe, just maybe, this shows what was reflected in 2020. Music, COVID, race, genealogy, health, politics. I guess that’s about right.

Dr. Rick Bright resigns from the National Institute of Health

failed White House leadership

Dr. Rick Bright has resigned from the National Institute of Health on Wednesday, October 7, 2020. Here is his letter.

Of all the tools required for an effective U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic, one that is sorely missing is the truth. Public health guidance on the pandemic response, drafted by career scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has been repeatedly overruled by political staff appointed by the Trump administration. Career scientists throughout the Department of Health and Human Services hesitate to push back when science runs counter to the administration’s unrealistically optimistic pronouncements.

Public health and safety have been jeopardized by the administration’s hostility to the truth and by its politicization of the pandemic response, undoubtedly leading to tens of thousands of preventable deaths. For that reason, and because the administration has in effect barred me from working to fight the pandemic, I resigned on Tuesday from the National Institutes of Health.

BARDA

Until April, I had for almost four years been director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. When I strongly objected this past spring to the Trump administration’s insistence that BARDA support widespread access to chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, two potentially dangerous drugs recklessly promoted by President Trump as a COVID-19 cure, I was shunted to the NIH and assigned a more limited role in the pandemic response.

My task at the NIH was to help launch a program expanding national COVID-19 testing capacity. The program is well underway and should reach nearly 1 million daily tests by the end of the year. Since early September, though, I was given no work; my services apparently were no longer needed.

I fear the benefits of dramatically improved testing capacity will be wasted unless it is a part of a coordinated national testing strategy. My recommendations to support a national plan were met with a tepid response. In an administration that suffers from widespread internal chaos, such coordination may be impossible — especially when the White House has seemed determined to slow down testing and not test people who might have asymptomatic infections.

Making it worse

From the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, the administration’s failure to respond with a coordinated strategy only heightened the danger. Now the nation, and the world, are in the worst public health crisis in over a century. More than 1 million people worldwide have died from the pandemic; more than 211,000 Americans are dead. More than half of the states in this country are reporting rising COVID-19 cases.

Nine months into the pandemic, the United States continues to grapple with failed White House leadership. Instead, we get the recent spectacle of the president exploiting his own illness for political purposes and advising the nation, “Don’t be afraid of COVID.” Ironically, he was only able to leave the hospital after receiving two treatments that I had pushed for in January.

Meanwhile, there is still no coordinated national strategy to end the pandemic. Federal agencies, staffed with some of the best scientists in the world, continue to be politicized, manipulated, and ignored.

The country is flying blind into what could be the darkest winter in modern history. Undoubtedly, millions more Americans will be infected with the coronavirus and influenza; many thousands will die. Now, more than ever before, the public needs to be able to rely on honest, non-politicized, and unmanipulated public health guidance from career scientists.

Bicuspid, nothing to do with teeth

Bi means two

bicuspid aortic valveWhen I had to have a physical for the military draft in October 1972, I told the doctor that my pediatrician said I had a minor heart murmur. The doc double-checked me and pronounced that he wouldn’t have even noticed had I not mentioned it. (No, I never was in the military. Long story.)

My primary care physician (PCP) has noted for years that I’ve had a regularly irregular heartbeat. But this year, something in some tests she ordered concerned her enough to request some more. Then I met with a cardiac surgeon who started talking about surgery. What? Still, he ordered a CT scan and echocardiogram.

Let me say here that at that moment, I’m convinced I’m about to die. My blood pressure is abnormally high at both the cardiologist’s office and at the tests. The only time my BP before was over 150 systolic was before my hernia operation in 2015. But as it turns out while there is a slight thickening of the aortic wall, it was something that needed to be monitored but not yet treated, surgically, for about five years.

Bicuspid aortic valve

But it wasn’t until I got to my PCP a couple weeks later that she told me that I have a congenital bicuspid aortic valve. What does THAT mean? “The aortic valve — located between the lower left heart chamber (left ventricle) and the main artery that leads to the body (aorta) — has only two (bicuspid) cusps instead of three.”

OK. “A bicuspid aortic valve may cause the heart’s aortic valve to narrow (aortic valve stenosis). This narrowing prevents the valve from opening fully, which reduces or blocks blood flow from the heart to the body.” Hmm, that must be plain English for what those tests showed.

“In some cases, the aortic valve doesn’t close tightly, causing blood to leak backward into the left ventricle (aortic valve regurgitation). Most people with a bicuspid aortic valve aren’t affected by valve problems until they’re adults… Some may not be affected until they’re older adults.” Lessee, I guess that includes me.

“Some people with a bicuspid aortic valve may have an enlarged aorta — the main blood vessel leading from the heart. There is also an increased risk of aortic dissection.” I heard mention of that! Meaning?

Waiting to exhale

“An aortic dissection is a serious condition in which the inner layer of the aorta, the large blood vessel branching off the heart, tears. Blood surges through the tear, causing the inner and middle layers of the aorta to separate (dissect). If the blood-filled channel ruptures through the outside aortic wall, aortic dissection is often fatal.” Oh, joy.

“Aortic dissection is relatively uncommon.” That’s good. “The condition most frequently occurs in men in their 60s and 70s.” Ah, my demographic! “Symptoms of aortic dissection may mimic those of other diseases, often leading to delays in diagnosis. However, when an aortic dissection is detected early and treated promptly, the chance of survival greatly improves.”

I suppose this means I ought to get one of those tags noting my bicuspid aortic valve. Otherwise, I may get treated for the heart attack I’m possibly not having at the time.

Let’s not get ahead of myself

People “with a bicuspid aortic valve will require regular monitoring for any changes in their condition, such as valve problems or an enlarged aorta, by doctors trained in congenital heart disease (congenital cardiologists). You may eventually need treatment for valve problems such as aortic valve stenosis, aortic valve regurgitation, or an enlarged aorta.

“Depending on your condition, treatment may include aortic valve replacement” or other surgeries. The point is that I will need “lifelong care from a congenital cardiologist… including regular follow-up appointments to monitor for any changes in your condition.”

Oh, and “a bicuspid aortic valve can be inherited in families. Because of this, doctors often recommend that all first-degree relatives — parents, children, and siblings — of people with a bicuspid aortic valve be screened with an echocardiogram.” In this case, my sisters and my daughter.

Yes, I’m still a bit weirded about this. Worrying is unhelpful, I suppose. But YOU tell my subconscious that.

August rambling: bots botch puns

“Today I find the mask useful”

photo_deposit_2x
XKCD. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.
I woke up from a dream earlier this month. The only thing I remember is someone saying Bots botch puns. Please leave your psychological analyses in the comments.

Could American Evangelicals Spot the Antichrist? Here Are the Biblical Predictions.

What Makes Trump an Autocrat?

Maryanne Trump Barry says He has no principles.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: US is making a mockery of the phrase a jury of your peers and Border Wall II.

Steve Bannon needs to watch The Inspectors.

Mnuchin paved way for postal service shake-up.

Trans Women Who Report Abuse in Prison Are Targets of Retaliation.

Aging memories may not be ‘worse’, just ‘different’.

CDC: Social Determinants of Health.

Harriette Cole: Have I been blind to my white friends’ true feelings?

Movies Misled the Masses. Can They Lead Us Into a More Equal Future?

Inside the Courthouse Break-In Spree That Landed Two White-Hat Hackers in Jail.

Placebos prove powerful even when people know they’re taking one.

Family of a young NYS Corrections Officer killed in a drunk-driving accident had some blunt advice for those reading his obituary.

Arthur writes about toxic positivity.

Brain waves can be used to predict future pain sensitivity.

How to Learn Everything: The MasterClass Diaries.

The American Scientists Who Saved London From Nazi Drones.

Pentagon’s UFO Group Is Officially Active, After Years of Secrecy.

The untold story of Jackie Kennedy’s wedding dress.

Countdown – the game show of spelling, math, and whoopsies.

What is SEO

What is a 2nd cousin once removed?

Chuck is fifty-seven.

Audio link, almost ten minutes of a 1959 Stan Laurel interview.

COVID-19

The Trump Pandemic: A blow-by-blow account.

“Immune to Evidence”: How Dangerous Coronavirus Conspiracies Spread. To wit:

Dangerous Oleander Extract Not a Cure, despite What He Said.

CDC Details Its Massive Mental Health Impact.

Today I find the mask useful
along with sunglasses
to hide my tear streaked face,
not wanting to scare the barista
who has enough to deal with
behind his own mask.
-Transitions” by Tammi Truax, poet laureate of Portsmouth, NH.

Mississippi School Opening Disaster.

Email Phishing Scams – Bad Actors Seeking to Take Advantage through “SBA Loan Application”.

Navajo Nation residents face coronavirus without running water.

How rocket scientists would approach planning to reopen schools.

Think it kills the centuries-old practice of sharing business cards? Think again.

COVID language.

XKCD. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.
DNC

Joe Biden in his speech accepting the Democratic nomination for US President; Fact-checking him. (He does quite well, unlike his opponent’s Monday speech at the RNC.)

Hidden messages in Elizabeth Warren’s video.

Bernie Sanders speech, and link to others.

Now I Know

Why the Zebra Got its Stripes and The Stranger Things About a Scientific Constant and You Don’t Have To Be A Big Shot and The Turtle With Bricks for Wheels and The Aliens in the Cupboard and From Facebook to Mug Shot.

New blog

Alison Stonbely’s blog, Secrets of the Forest, looking at art and racism.

For the record

I really don’t care about Jerry Falwell Jr.’s sex life. Consenting adults and all that. What was loathsome has been his sanctimonious hypocrisy and his golden parachute.

MUSIC

Lyric Quartette by William Grant Still.

Outerspace – Zbonics and Rebecca Jade. Plus Sobrina Taylor interviews Rebecca Jade!

Pop Psalms: (What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding – Nick Lowe.

Solace: A Mexican Serenade by Scott Joplin.

Coverville 1321: The Sparks Cover Story and This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us – The Sparks.

K-Chuck Radio: The World of the Black MIDI.

The Curse of Ham – Buggy Jive.

Christopher Cuomo – Randy Rainbow.

Kung Fu Fighting – Carl Douglas.

DOLLY PARTON Steers Her Empire Through the Pandemic— and Keeps It Growing.

Health reports: how can we keep from singing?

I’m giving a talk about March, Books One, Two, & Three>, graphic novels by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell for the Friends of the Albany Public Library Tuesday at noon.

singingYou may recall that my sister Leslie had a serious bicycle accident back on June 4, 2018. She missed about six months of work recovering and has had a number of medical procedures.

On April 8, 2019, she had a couple more surgeries, around her eye socket and nose. They were done more or less simultaneously, in order to minimize the total time of recovery. She’s doing well.

Meanwhile, I’m recovering from whatever health thing that I had. You know you’re unwell when you have to stop and rest walking DOWN the stairs.

On Sunday past, I barely got out of bed, except to watch two recorded basketball games that had been on the day before. And I couldn’t view anything more than 30 minutes at a time. It was impossible to focus enough to read or write.

Even back at work this week, I felt… loopy. I was still taking meds all week, including one at night that contained codeine. And I couldn’t ride my bicycle for the same reason.

I’m glad my wife finally submitted the paperwork for the taxes to get done. Usually, that process starts in the third week in February, during the school break. But because of our extreme busyness, worse than usual, it didn’t begin until the last week in March.

It’s just as well. Last year we got back around $700 federal; this year we PAID about the same. I was happy that all those early filers girded me for what I thought was a likely outcome.

Even though I’ve not seen five minutes of Game of Thrones – it’s just not my thing – I find myself skimming all episodes, RANKED BY TOMATOMETER; I blame my pharmacist. There are even GoT Oreos.

And speaking of religious behaviors, it’s Holy Week on the Christian calendar. Monday: I get my annual physical. This is a fortuitous occurrence, as it will be the follow-up to the treatment for my illness. I think the yo-yo weather is wreaking havoc with my allergies as well.

Tuesday: My daughter’s heading to Montreal on a ONE-DAY trip, which means getting her to school by 5:30 a.m., and picking her up around 10:30 p.m.

Also, I’m giving a talk about March, Books One, Two, & Three, graphic novels by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell for the Friends of the Albany Public Library.

Wednesday: Get my teeth cleaned.

Thursday: Sing.

Friday: Not sing, but attend service.

Easter Sunday: sing, a LOT, if I still have a voice left.

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay