Day 38-Quarantine-Six Trillion Dollar Experiment

This COVID-19 is bringing back memories of my past life as an engineer. One thing that would spoil my day was a customer complaint of a cable tie failure. Because it was my job to maintain and produce better quality, performance, and reliability of the product line I had to jump into the fire immediately. The quality manager came to me and asked what are you going to do to keep this from happening again? Sound familiar? It is the same question reporters ask President Trump every day. One question begets another, Like tell me how the product was being used, applied, what environment was it used in? The questions asked by me countered the what are you going to do question. We used a unique quality control numbering system that allowed us to trace the manufacture of a specific product back to the material it came from. The problem was that no-one ever thought to capture the number when they complained about a product. We sold cable ties in bags of one thousand with a QC number on the bag. If I got one cable tie back it was a miracle. Sometimes it was the failed product, at other times it was just another one from the bag. We hit the bonanza when we got samples of failed product and the unused product still in its original container. It was a miracle if we got all of that and a description of the application, and environment. I spun my wheels for countless hours tracking down the possibilities. I had to initiate lab tests, I did microscopic exams, and material checks, and most times I failed to come up with an answer. I needed more data. I feel for the COVID-19 Task force when they are asked the stupid questions like will the virus come back in fall. I would not last on that stage very long because I tend to become sarcastic very quickly. If it is one thing I learned over forty years of being put into a situation where I had to answer questions it is that you don’t create an answer if you don’t know the answer. Real answers need facts and analysis by experts and even then the predictions are tenuous at best.

 

During the last week I have heard too many people demanding more testing. Governors stating we don’t have enough testing, employers stating they need testing before they can allow people to go back to work. The good doctors on the podium explain where they can get tests done, but no one wants to take the lead and get it started. I hear excuses like we went to the lab you suggested but they need an approval from the FDA for a reagent, Why? They can’t get the one that is approved. So what are you doing about getting alternate approved? What about a different lab with different test apparatus? I love to hear VP Pence report. He has some very bright and science minded problem solvers working on his teams. They seem to anticipate problems and the questions they will get not because they want to cool off the reporters, but because they are on top of the problem and want to get it solved.

One of the doctors mentioned that the virus does not live long in UV light. I love it because Trump picked up that bit of info and his mind began inventing ways to use the UV to kill the virus in the body. A true entrepreneur he is. The press kicked his ass all day today because they couldn’t fathom how such a procedure would be executed. I heard Rush Limbaugh explain that he found a medical procedure that actually uses uv light in the body to aid the cure. The Press assassinated Trump all day today about his people killing suggestions.

For instance, you test negative and you are cleared to work. You show up at work and touch something that has the virus on it and become a carrier. What did the test accomplish? Or you test positive for the virus and go into quarantine for two weeks, but when you go back to work you touch something and become a carrier. What business really needs is a tester like the ones the Iranians have devised (except it works) which detects the virus in an area. At least then the area can be sanitized before anyone comes it to reinfect it.

The real value we will get from testing is data that can be used to statistically answer all the questions about the virility of the virus. That is coming ever so slowly as we fight the virus and test to learn. Even when we learn everything we need to know, we still haven’t gotten one step closer to a vaccine. The problem at the head of the list today is not testing but finding a cure.

Actually, the number one problem today is not the cure, but getting the economy back to where it was. It should be easier now that we know as much as we do about the virus, and how deadly it is or isn’t.

Day 37-Quarantine-Social Isolation

There is a huge difference between social distancing and social isolation. I am involved with a group of blind people who often find themselves in the isolation category. What ever form of vision impairment they have it overwhelms them. Of course someone who is blind from birth is in a different category, but people who have aged into blindness have problems dealing with the isolation it brings. I often think about how I would react to living in the darkness all the time. I practice at bedtime when I shut the lights off and try to navigate around the house. I still have the advantage of sight and when my pupils open large looking for light even the darkness is navigable

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I have on occasion been camping in the wild when there was no moon, and the darkness is total. That is scary dark. Even with very wide open eyes one can not see anything but stars. One night after going to bed I was awakened by owls hooting in the trees behind my house. I snuck downstairs and scanned the dark sky looking for anything, but it was so dark I couldn’t even distinguish the tree line from the sky. Only the hoot pointed me in the direction of the bird. I was convinced that I knew where this creature was but he suddenly became quiet. I stared at the trees in front of my windows and then I felt something, a presence. I swear the owl lifted off his branch and glided over me to another tree. I swore that my wide open eyes saw a darkness about six feet wide glide overhead. I’m sure the owl saw me in technicolor, but I needed radar to see him.

In a few minutes I will join a Zoom meeting of OASIS a support group for the visually impaired. Since COVID-19 began they had to quit meeting at the community center and took to Zoom. Even though they cannot see each other well they react to the voices, and the chatter between individuals. The mood change is instantaneous. Those whose sight is totally gone join by phone and those with partial sight join via computer, and turn on the cameras. We have a jolly good time kibitzing. What is really funny is to watch individuals snacking away or picking their nose, or what ever.

Kim, who runs the group is excellent at what she does and opens with a inspiration reading from her bible. then she will begin asking questions she has prepared like, “what part of being blind depresses you the most?” It takes a few minutes to get warmed up, but that one question provides an outpouring of loneliness. I don’t think Kim has ever gotten past two or three questions before it was time to end the session.

Twenty years ago, when I was prepping myself for retirement I began making lists of what I would do with my time. The lists generated some great new goals, Writing children’s stories was on of them. I told myself that after spending ten hours a day for forty years with people that being alone might require that I seek out people to socialize with. Here are some of the ideas I had and use to this day: go to the grocery store, you always see people in the stores, go to the library, my favorite because I have gotten to know the people who work there and often run into a friend. People need people to live with and to maintain their sanity. OASIS is such a group of people who are seeking like minded people to talk to and to share problems with. Thankfully, with today’s technology such as the telephone, texting, e-mails, Zoom, Skype etc. there are many ways to keep from becoming totally isolated. Even blogging is a form of socializing. I have blog friends who I reply to as often as I can, it makes me feel connected. So comment on the blog sites you visit and you may wind up becoming socially connected.

Day 36-Quarantine-Car Doctor

Today was doctor day for the Deathstar. I took my Toyota Avalon to the dealer for service. For the very first time since 2005 I overran the recommended oil change mileage. Since this car has given me the best reliability and service of any other that I have owned I wanted to continue adhering to the maintenance practices I began when I bought it.

2005 Toyota Avalon, I fondly named it the Deathstar.
1983 Mercury Sable, I got Christmas cards from the tow company every year
1992 Oldsmobile Intrigue-I really loved this car

At the beginning I had the oil changed every three thousand miles which was the recommended practice of all the American auto makers for many years. After four years of this, Toyota came out with new mileage guidelines and set the marker at five thousand miles. I have driven this car for more miles than any other car I have owned by a large margin. I have owned two previous cars a Mercury Sable which made it to 110,000 miles and followed by an Oldsmobile Intrigue which I sold at 120,000 miles. My Avalon is currently at 158,000 miles and might be the final car in my life.

I am not afraid to push this car hard, I have driven it at 100 mph for extended miles when traveling the western states on very good roads. I have loaded it with all types of equipment and materials as one would use a truck for. I have driven it in the extremes, 110 degrees F through the desert of Arizona and -30 degrees F in the Chicago area. Most of the miles were racked up while traveling the USA and Canada on interstate highways, but many miles were driven on the gravel pothole filled back roads of the country. One thing I have never done is to race with the car. I learned my lesson once when as a much younger man I accepted a challenge to drag race a youngster while driving my GMC van. The van had a very big motor and was notorious for it’s ability to haul ass. The light turned green and I floored the accelerator. Much to my surprise my opponent streaked out ahead of me. My van went clunk and coasted across the intersection. I blew the transmission. I was lucky to get home by driving slowly in low-low gear.

When I reserved my spot with the dealer I asked what kind of protective gear I should wear. The attendant told me they practiced social distancing and wiped down all the chairs between customers. When I arrived, much to my surprise the waiting area was set up so every other lounge chair was removed and the ones that were there were six feet apart. I bought my computer so I could continue to read my book, and as I sat in the bar area I witnessed an employee come through and wipe down all the seats with disinfectant.

2020 Camry TRD

2020 World’s Ugliest Car

I resisted any impulse to buy a new car, although I spotted a special sport model Camry which I liked. If the Avalon model looked as good as that Camry, I would have driven home in a new car. Unfortunately for the dealer I happen to think the 2020 Avalon is the ugliest car every made by anyone. The entire time I was waiting I never came in close contact with anyone except the service advisor and I stayed six feet away from her. She handed me my credit card holding it by the edges.

On my drive home I took the interstate highway and found traffic to be just a tad less than normal for the time of day. Going to the dealer, I took a state hwy that passes through Frankfort, and traffic was non-existent. Gasoline prices vary from $1.99/ gallon in Frankfort, to $1. 35/ gallon in Bourbonnais where the dealer is located. As usual, I had just filled my tank in Frankfort yesterday so I didn’t need gas.

Yesterday in a Zoom meeting with my Tuesday night Stray Bar Club friends, I promised to stop and visit Bob and Carol from Manteno a town next to the dealer. In the interest of staying COVID-19 free, I opted out of the visit. I also skipped my usual stop at the Farm and Fleet store where I load up on bird seed when I am in the neighborhood. Instead, I rushed home to the solitude of my castle where I have not seen, nor heard a single soul except for the news broadcaster on TV. This too shall pass.

Day 35-Quarantine-Pay Attention to the Hummm

Shhh, Listen To the Hummn

Today I watched a TED video by Shonda Rhimes. I have linked it to this post. As most TED talks do this one amazed me. Shonda spoke for fifteen minutes non-stop, barely taking a nano-second to breath and made rational sense the whole time. Her talk is inspiring.

After she finished I hesitated for a second before leaving the TED website looking for her name, and the next thing I knew I was watching another woman giving a TED talk on creativity. She also spoke non-stop and made great sense the entire time. Both of them are writers. Yet, they spoke about the work of writing rather than the creativity involved in it.

A Fast Talking Writer Discusses Creativity

I am doomed from the start, I cannot speak as fast as, nor as articulately as either of these successful authors. So what is the point of me slugging through a writing project as huge as writing a novel? I will do it because I want to, and because I want to be able to craft a story that people will read and like. That is my goal.

I don’t profess to be a writer, my friends keep telling me that I like to write, and then assign me the task of drafting something for our Lions Club. My futile attempts to write blog posts have turned me into a writer. NOT! Even though I am striving to get something published I have not been very successful. I even had to self-publish my children’s stories, but it forced me to learn how to bind books, and to make professional looking covers that give the stories an air of professionalism. I didn’t make any money, but I had a lot of fun writing, illustrating with my hand drawn cartoons, and making books. All on a desk top with non-professional computers, printers, and software programs. I spent too much time making my printer work the way I visualized the book. I also spent way too much time learning how to get page sequences correct when printing on two sides.

What does any of this have to do with COVID-19, nothing, but COVID-19 guidelines have driven me to look for productive projects to spend my time on. I picked up the manuscript of a novel I began writing in 2013, and read all one hundred pages of it and decided it is best if I begin all over again, if at all. I made a resolution after binge watching eight seasons of a documentary-drama called Homeland, a story about a young woman CIA agent and her attempts to save the USA. All told the eight seasons have a total of ninety-six episodes each between 47 to 57 minutes without commercials. I spent eighty-three hours over a time span of six weeks watching very stress laden stories which wound up giving me nightmares. I pledged not to spend any more time watching another series. Instead, I will spend evenings re-writing my novel. Thank you COVID-19. If I succeed, and I will, you will have done something positive, and if I don’t you will have one more death to add to your record, i.e. that of my novel.

 

Day 34-Quarantine-I’m Sorry

Back on Day 12, I wrote a sarcastic piece about GM and their promise to build ventilators for COVID-19 patients. I really didn’t believe they had a chance of coming up with something that looked different from a Chevy or Cadillac. What I failed to remember is that they had an empty plant in Kokomo, Indiana where they made electronic parts for Chevies and Cadillacs. It was a natural for making ventilators. Where they got the workforce to assemble them I don’t know. Maybe they rehired all the workers they laid off when they stopped making starters and alternators in the USA. What ever, I owe them an apology. I am sorry GM for making you the butt of my disbelief, and thank you for coming through for the country.

In my secret life I have always wanted a Cadillac, but changed my mind after owning a Toyota. The reason is that I take my trusty Avalon to the dealer for oil changes and tire rotations. Each time I walk through the shop on my way to the customer waiting area I walk between piles of Cadillac parts like motors, and transmissions spread all over the floor under skeletons of Cadillacs on lifts I Don’t think I have ever seen a Toyota spread out on the floor. When I first bought my car the dealer handled  Cadillac, Toyota, and Jeeps. They lost the Jeep line when Obama manhandled the automotive industry during the 2008 economic melt-down.

 

 

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