Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘pandemic

Holiday Afterglow

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A particularly precious aspect of family gatherings over a holiday is the physical assembling in collective display of love and affection for each other and the sharing of our immediate concerns and joys. I am greatly blessed to be a member of Cyndie’s family and together we are humbled to be parents of two incredible individuals in our daughter, Elysa, and son, Julian.

The previous two days were filled with hours of family time, regardless of the growing threat of the highly contagious coronavirus spiking once again around the world. We will serve as examples of the full vaccination/booster combinations to constrain any possible infections from severe illness or forced hospitalization if sickness arises in the days ahead. We hold no confidence that the latest omicron variant was completely absent the whole time, despite the lack of any symptoms or known contacts in those present.

Out of an abundance of caution, not all family members chose to participate in-person, in order to protect those with greater vulnerabilities to the threats of infection.

This morning, Cyndie and I are warmed by the residual energized emotions of heartfelt sharing with so many relations we dearly love.

My body feels hyper-nourished and a little over-sweetened by the feasts we gleefully enjoyed. Man, this family cooks and serves regal holiday meals.

The time shared at the home of Cyndie’s mom in Edina was a bit more emotional than usual due to activity underway to prepare the house for sale and the thought process and physical work of transitioning Marie to new living space at Friendship Village in Bloomington.

The next few days will involve intense effort by many hands to replace Christmas decorations with a much more austere simplicity in preparation for the realty company to film the full walk-through for online “open house” reviewals.

I will do my part by holding down the ranch so that Cyndie can offer her full-time attention to helping her brothers carry out the herculean task of processing in just a few days, lifetimes of accumulated family possessions.

In a perfectly timed gift after my final day of commuting to a day-job, Elysa gifted me the perfect shirt reflecting one of the responsibilities that will become an enhanced focus of my increased hours available to manage the ranch.

The EFRU has gained a new full-time member and I couldn’t be more proud.

I feel great pleasure every time I push our wheelbarrow out of the barn door and under the overhang with a calm greeting of, “Housekeeping!” for our horses to know what comes next. It doesn’t hurt that they smartly recognize what usually follows the tidying up of their accommodations. That is when their feed pans are served up.

Today is my half-birthday. December 26th is always a day I feel rather celebratory in the afterglow of Christmas magic.

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Not COVID

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After almost two years of the pandemic, I finally had a reason to get tested for COVID-19. The Delta variant is raging and the Omicron variant is beginning to spread but so far I have survived in general isolation, mostly buffered from first-person contact with known positive cases.

On the Sunday after we hosted Thanksgiving, I sensed a tickle in my throat. It seemed like a wimpy cold until the fourth day when it intensified significantly. Worried that I may have misjudged what I was experiencing and sensitive to the fact we are in the midst of a pandemic, I called my doctor and was told to come in to get tested for COVID.

I had received my vaccine booster shot on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, but no masks were worn when sixteen of us spent the holiday together at our home, some of whom had traveled from other states.

When my son called with news that he was experiencing the same symptoms as me it raised my alarm a little, but he had good news of already receiving a negative test result for COVID. It restored my confidence that I would likely receive the same result.

Yesterday afternoon I began to feel my cold symptoms had plateaued and this morning my temperature has returned to normal. An hour ago I received the call confirming my test for COVID was negative.

So, my avoidance of the pandemic virus continues but my run of good luck for freedom from illness has ended. It was a little strange to experience “normal” cold symptoms during this time when a more lethal contagious virus is filling hospitals to the brim but in the grand scheme of things, it was just a normal cold.

Normal isn’t normal, usual, typical, or what is expected anymore.

Uncertainty is probably the better descriptor.

Be vaccinated out there!

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Written by johnwhays

December 5, 2021 at 11:21 am

One Thing

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Or another. I was thinking about writing “The Thing” for the title of this post in a riff off the idiom, “Here’s the thing.” My software indicated I’d already used that title once before on Relative Something. I try not to reuse titles if possible. Seriously, though, I was thinking, “Here’s the thing…”

Did you know Alec Baldwin hosted a public radio show and podcast interview series by the title, “Here’s the Thing?” I didn’t.

Makes sense though. That’s a great title. I tried a couple other pairs of words and found I’d already used them, too.

I prefer the pattern of holding my titles to two words, but after more than ten years of blogging, it gets hard to come up with a unique pair.

Whether it’s one thing or another, here’s the thing… I never expected that one day, I would live in Wisconsin.

Maybe I should have titled this post, “Never Expected.”

There are innumerable things I never expected to experience in my lifetime. I never expected I would witness stupidity being proudly espoused as publicly as is common in this day and age.

I never expected the burgeoning of private military companies into global powerhouses offering services to nation-states.

I never expected that I would be alive during a years-long global pandemic that would cause the amount of death COVID-19 has, even though I had read books and watched movies about similar biohazardous calamities.

I never expected private companies would create space crafts with reusable propulsion modules that make pinpoint landings on floating platforms in the ocean, especially modules with video capture abilities allowing public viewing of the feat from multiple angles.

I never expected to find out microplastics are everywhere, including inside both animals and humans.

I didn’t expect that so many things imagined for science fiction stories would become realities, ala Star Trek communicators and today’s smartphones. I never imagined that mobile phones would be able to rival cameras to the level of making professional-quality movies.

I remember thinking touch screens would never work. Folding screens? Not possible.

I don’t want to think of how many other things I deem not possible will become reality in my lifetime.

During my technical career in industry, I was on a development team that designed a custom machine for making coated optical discs that the customer boasted would be able to fit an entire volume of encyclopedia for viewing on a computer screen. Even as I worked on the electronics and vacuum chambers of the machine that would make this possible, I struggled to fathom the enormity of digitizing all the information in those books.

I never expected to come to the realization about how much human suffering results from religious conflict when simply loving others solves conflicts, heals wounded souls, and sows peace for all.

I never expected so many of you to read the words I write.

Here’s the thing, overcoming depression opens a world of possibilities.

This I know: It’s always one thing or another, whether you expect it or not.

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Thinking Contrarily

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The coronavirus variants are causing the pandemic to not go away as much as people wished it would. When not worried about a wildfire or flash floods ravaging homes, the threat of COVID continues to linger large in people’s minds. Some folks have decided to think contrarily about protecting themselves from the virus. Instead of accepting a free vaccine that is the prevailing solution for the pandemic, they decide to pay someone for a livestock dewormer.

Instead of thinking about how to protect their children from a threatening contagious illness by wearing a mask indoors, they choose to focus on how oppressive it is to be told to wear a mask and begin imagining that wearing a mask is actually harmful to their kids.

I get it. I have contrarian tendencies, myself. I choose to wear my belt so the buckle is on my side instead of front and center. Because, why not?

I’m wondering if the concept of virus variants prolonging the pandemic couldn’t contrarily be applied to variants of love that can improve the health and well-being of the human race.

What if oppressive regimes the world over were to become influenced by a new variation of love that morphed into one that overwhelmed their pillars of greed, power, and control?

What if a new mutation of common sense were to evolve and imbue the minds of people who have difficulty thinking for themselves or find it hard to recognize when a grifter is fleecing them?

What if domestic house cats overcame their urge to bother sleeping humans during the wee hours of darkness when sleep is so precious? Okay, that one is really a stretch, but there could be some variation of that tendency that is less crazy-making, couldn’t there? Please?

If thinking contrarily about controversial subjects can lead to some insane results, it seems only logical, being a contrarian, that thinking contrarily about non-controversial subjects could lead to some increasingly sensible and practical results.

A contrary decision to something good doesn’t have to be bad. It could contrarily be better than good!

Let’s put our contrarian tendencies to good use and find new ways to morph love into a continually more effective influence on the world at large.

Let love be the world religion. No dogma. No doctrine. Just L. O. V. E.

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I want to hear about variants of love that are more contagious than any previous love we experienced before.

Let it command the lead story of newscasts and fill front-page headlines.

Unstoppable spread of unbelievably contagious love!

Contrary to the norm, let it be that people grow to respond with more fascination and interest to headlines like these than to the negative stories of old.

Can you say, “enlightenment?”

Oh, you contrarian, you.

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One Less

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Back in July, I reduced commuting to the day-job from four days a week down to three. I now drive into the Cities on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. That one small change is providing a large improvement to my quality of life. Just one less day on the road is saving me expenses and reducing stress. I also moved some documents online in order to allow more productive use of my remote days, a step that probably should have happened a year ago when COVID moved much of the world’s workforce out of offices and into homes.

When the pandemic first materialized, our customers quickly assured us we were “essential” as manufacturers of high-tech industrial products, so we maintained our normal schedule without interruption. I just kept doing things the same as always.

Now the increased productivity during my two remote days is freeing me up on the other three days to give more attention to on-site issues that arise. Now if I could just control things so that issues only arise when I am on-site, everything would be perfect.

Being available at home an additional day per week is providing rewarding benefits, too. Yesterday afternoon I was able to double-team two small projects with Cyndie that most likely wouldn’t have happened in the few hours after I normally get home on commuting days.

All that is needed now to recover some normalcy in our workplace is two or three skilled high-tech assemblers to walk in our doors and fill openings that have existed since before the pandemic even became a thing.

While I’m dreaming, I’d also like my government to never again invade another country with the idea of overthrowing a less equipped but incredibly patient group of local fighters. Fool us once, fool us twice…

Might as well keep going with dreams of solving world problems. What if we found ways to move impoverished peoples off of islands where earthquakes or hurricanes, and sometimes both in rapid succession, repeatedly occur?

The people of Haiti could do with one less disaster right now.

The people of Afghanistan could do with one less day of everything that is out of control there.

The people in the western states of the U.S. could do with one less drought and raging wildfire combination.

The doctors and nurses treating unvaccinated COVID sufferers in over-crowded ICUs could do with one less highly contagious coronavirus variant.

I could do with one less global catastrophe, but for now, I will settle for driving my fossil-fuel-burning vehicle one less day every week.

Small changes can sometimes lead to proportionally bigger rewards.

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Written by johnwhays

August 17, 2021 at 6:00 am

Push Pull

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The world is in the midst of a bizarre pandemic contrast of simultaneous good progress and bad outcomes. The calamity of skyrocketing cases that are overwhelming hospitals and crematoriums in India has been widely reported at the same time we hear about travel opening up in the EU. In the US, states are ending mask mandates, and relaxing restrictions.

I heard a story on NPR about the lack of vaccines in the Philippines creating a massive crisis of surging cases. In Colombia, violent rioting has erupted, triggered by a proposed tax fix for their pandemic-battered economy.

Things seem to be getting better and worse all at the same time. I suspect there will be a time lag of ramifications that continue to appear for quite some time.

The US Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, made a good point advising that people not focus so specifically on the percentage number of citizens vaccinated (be it 70% or 80%) toward achieving herd immunity. He pointed out that it doesn’t work as a switch when a specific percentage is achieved, suddenly ending transmission.

Realistically, there will be a gradient of improvement, one we appear to be seeing early hints of locally. It feels odd to be enjoying the reduced pressure to isolate when other parts of the world sound like they are getting so much worse.

Causes a real push-pull on the senses.

 I suppose it’s not unlike a lot of things in life where good things and bad are in perpetual interplay.

While our horses are showing good signs of becoming more comfortable with their situation here, Cyndie needed to call for the vet yesterday to check on Light who appears to have a possible sinus infection. While he was here, Cyndie was able to confirm our suspicions about Swings suffering from a bout of rain rot, a skin infection.

A little odd that they both seem to have an infection at the same time, but we are told they aren’t related.

I hope they don’t tell us the horses should be wearing masks.

You can bet that would be a real push/pull.

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Written by johnwhays

May 5, 2021 at 6:00 am

Think About

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Think about what your life was like before the pandemic.

Gosh that seems great, not dealing with the sickness, mask wearing, shutdowns.

Visualize what it will be like for us when the pandemic is history.

In the mean time, do your part to get us where we all would prefer to be.

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Written by johnwhays

April 15, 2021 at 6:00 am

Speed Perception

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Did the year 2020 feel like it took a long time to transpire? Does it seem surprising that we are past the middle of March already? We all know that time passes slowly or quickly depending on how we consider it, despite the fact it ticks off at the same rate no matter what. It’s our perception that changes.

On my commutes, I find myself surprised by how easy it is to spot a car ahead that is traveling significantly slower than the rest of the traffic. It comes in handy for making lane changes well in advance of needing so to do. Spotting vehicles in my mirrors that are traveling much faster than I am usually provides a lot less time to react.

It is common knowledge that water takes longer to boil if you watch and wait for it to happen.

How fast is the impact of rising greenhouse gases on the earth’s climate? It is occurring right in front of our eyes. We are living it. The thing is, I remember hearing about this threat decades ago from explorer Will Steger‘s first-hand eyewitness accounts of changes in both polar regions of our planet. We know the ice is melting. We know weather events keep getting more intense.

Will climate change take longer to happen because we are watching it? I wish.

Yesterday, I had a meal inside a restaurant for the first time in a year. That was a long time in coming. So long that it exceeded my ability to perceive whether it felt like a long time, or not. It just felt strange.

Let’s hope we are racing at breakneck speed toward a post-pandemic world that includes less poverty, more equality, zero emissions, greater social justice, the end of food insecurities/homelessness/violence/hatred, and reaches record levels of love beaming throughout the world.

That’s something I’d really like to see coming up in my rearview mirror faster than I expected.

I wouldn’t need to get out of the way.

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Written by johnwhays

March 18, 2021 at 6:00 am

Conflicting Thoughts

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There’s a battle raging in the available space of my brain between the wonderful goodness all around us and the repeated failings of improvement where the needs are well known. We just heard an update on progress to vaccinate for COVID-19 that lamented the low percentage of the neediest people receiving shots, despite the advanced knowledge that this should be the priority. Even when there is broad public awareness of the need to get the first vaccinations to the communities most impacted by the virus, insufficient effort to make this come about leaves things to play out as usual with the advantage going to people of privilege.

It is a lot easier to talk about what “should” happen than it is to actually enact the changes needed to achieve high ideals.

Sounds a little like the way things always go in our governmental system. Two-party politics for passing legislation advancing the lofty goals of a nation results in a lot of sounding off but very little in the way of bringing lasting positive change. Progress is slow for the poor and disenfranchised citizens of our country.

We have passed the 1-year milestone since the pandemic took over all of our lives and Cyndie and I have thus far dodged illness. Others we know have not been so lucky, including some who are currently suffering symptoms. We are sending love to those of you experiencing the virus first-hand.

News reports announcing crazy-high numbers of small earthquakes in Iceland, combined with several other notable recent quakes around the planet suggest something big is about to go boom. It’s a strange threat to contemplate from our relatively stable geographic landscape.

A strong spring melt is underway at Wintervale and the chickens are thrilled over the ever-expanding “tillable” terrain becoming exposed again.

The south-facing slopes are free of snow but the rest of the forest is still covered like the surfaces of an old-fashioned freezer. Walking the trails is a fascinating demonstration of how much chill emanates from the icy carpet below.

Delilah loves to pause and rub her face in the snow-cone texture. Her head was all wet at the end of a walk yesterday from rolling in the slushy snow.

It’s incredibly calm and soothingly optimistic with the promise of spring unfurling right before our eyes. The animals all seem giddy and I guess that is contagious.

It’s a welcome contrast to the more unsettling thoughts looming.

Here’s to visions of the days ahead when COVID sufferers can come walk our trails, breathe the health of our forest air, and hang out with our chickens for a while.

We’ll send you home with fresh free-range eggs.

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Written by johnwhays

March 6, 2021 at 10:28 am

Everything Fatigue

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I can totally relate to the Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engine suffering metal fatigue last weekend. I’m feeling a bit of everything fatigue lately, although, I do my best to avoid raining debris all over people around me, unlike that airplane in Denver Saturday.

I’m clinging to my thread of sanity with a weary, wavering grip. There is a climate calamity unraveling right in front of our eyes that appears to deserve a lot more change to our ways of life than the slow-responding societies around the globe are revealing any willingness to undertake. Communities are burning, flooding, freezing, suffering drought, or reaching intolerably high temperatures –sometimes experiencing an unlikely combination of the extremes– but I still climb in my gas-powered car and drive an hour to work like always.

It just feels wrong.

It also feels dangerous. Yesterday morning, I had a close encounter that used up some of my limited luck on avoiding a collision on the interstate. I commonly operate in cruise control mode with my car holding the speed and distance related to the vehicle in front of me. A business panel van passed me on the left and then slowed down entering a curve in the highway. My car maintained the cruise speed and caught right up beside the van in the turn as it slowed, at which point he decided to move into my lane.

I hit the brakes and swerved as little as possible, having no time to look to the lane to my right for clearance. My lunch tote on the front seat instantly relocated to the floor below.

It happened so fast, I didn’t have time to honk my horn to alert the other driver to my position. I suspect the assumption was that I had been passed and was no longer a concern. It wouldn’t surprise me if the other driver wasn’t even aware of having slowed at the curve.

The event provided me an unwelcome shot of adrenaline and triggered visions of a fate I flirt with two times a day, four days a week. Haunted by a belief that anything can go dangerously wrong at any time when commuting in traffic, I’m feeling the fatigue of having tolerated the risks of this trip for too many years.

I’m fatigued with the pandemic, its death toll, and everything related to coping with the ever-present threat of spreading the virus.

I’m even growing fatigued with our latest jigsaw puzzle. We picked one with way too much solid black background that is cut entirely of one primary classic puzzle piece shape: four arms, a knob on each end, two cutouts on each side. The only variation is the size and shape of each of those features.

It is very possible I will give myself permission to give up before placing every piece. That just depends on whether searching for the barely perceptible features of each completely black piece distracts me from the other angsts nibbling at me and releases the blessed endorphins when I stumble upon ones that fit.

Endorphins do wonders for fatigue.

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