The Premonition: a Pandemic Story by Michael Lewis is a must read

“You cannot wait for the smoke to clear: once you can see things clearly it is already too late. You can’t outrun an epidemic: by the time you start to run it is already upon you. Identify what is important and drop everything that is not. Figure out the equivalent of an escape fire.” 

“James,” she asked, “who exactly is in charge of this pandemic?” “Nobody,” he replied. “But, if you want to know who is sort of in charge, it’s sort of us.” from a conversation between two members of an informal cadre of doctors trying to get to the bottom of things that had no orders to do so from their bosses.

These quotes are from Michael Lewis excellent book on the COVID-19 pandemic called “The Premonition: a Pandemic Story.” Lewis has written another well-researched book breaking down complex topics into a story the reader can understand. He has written about the housing financial crisis in “The Big Short,” baseball’s embracing of data to change the paradigm in “Moneyball,’ how we make decisions in “The Undoing Project,” and how unprepared we were during the Trump presidency in “The Fifth Risk,” among others.

From the inside flap to the book, “For those who could read between the lines, the censored news out of China was terrifying. But, the president insisted there was nothing to worry about. Fortunately, we are still a nation of skeptics. Fortunately, there are those among us who study pandemics and are willing to look unflinchingly at worst case scenarios. Michael Lewis’ taut and brilliant nonfiction thriller pits a band of medical visionaries against the wall of ignorance that was the official response of the Trump administration to the outbreak of COVID-19.”

The book highlights an informal cadre of doctors, data scientists, and epidemiologists who dig deeper into news and data to realize we have an exponentially growing pandemic which is akin to a wildfire. If you do not act early and with strong interventions, it is hard to contain. These folks are acting without permission from their various jobs in governmental health care positions, but share communications regularly even when those communications could get them fired for going against stated public stances.

Several in the group came together at the behest of President George W. Bush after he read a book about the risks of a pandemic to a country like the United States. He formed a pandemic planning team that pulled together resources who had a reputation for solving problems in health care, breaking down preconceived notions. And, they wrote a pandemic response plan after doing much research about the failures and successes in fighting the Spanish Flu outbreak. They actually used data to turn that story on its ear.

While a few stayed around in the administration during the Obama years and were of benefit during other pandemics, they were long gone during the Trump administration who felt the greater risk was from a military or terrorist action. So, they went back to their health care related jobs. That was until they started to see reports out of China and dug deeper.

They saw global exposure and used previous exponential pandemic growth to ascertain that we could be looking at 350,000 US deaths. The key is they made this observation in mid-January, 2020. What they learned later is the exponential growth factor from COVID-19 was higher than that of other diseases. Carter Mecher, the informal head of this group who called themselves “The Wolverines” after a Patrick Swayze movie called “Red Dawn,” noted by the time the president closed incoming travel from China, it was too late as the pandemic had already reached our shores. By the time the US had its first reported death on February 26, it was masking the fact 200 others were already dying.

Acting quickly without all of the data is key as per the quote above. A key data driven lesson from the Spanish Flu response is social distancing, especially with children, is essential. The first thing they would have done is shut the schools down. Why? Kids average a distance apart of only three feet, while adults have wider distance. Kids will transmit any disease faster than adults. This practice was done in some cities during the Spanish Flu outbreak and the data showed it worked, whereas other cities who did not act like this, had worse pandemic responses.

This cadre started getting attention of others beneath the president and in governor’s offices, including Dr. Tony Fauci. So, their informal calls and email chains kept growing. They were the only folks who seemed to know what they were talking about. We also learned the CDC is not the best agency to manage a pandemic, as it is more of a research and report writing entity, not a nimble management group. One of the members of the informal team worked for the CDC and her bosses did not know she did, e.g. Yet, the CDC and White House administration staff would not go against the public positions of the president. Perception mattered more than fixing the problem, so needed change and actions could not get done. In fact, some of these officials encouraged them to keep going, even though they knew the president was not the kind of person who they could contradict without repercussions.

So, at a time when we needed to move quickly, people in positions of authority stood in the way of those who were begging with them to act quickly. A good example is in a public health official named Charity Dean in California, who was used to acting quickly when she saw potential outbreaks, often risking her job in so doing. Her boss came from the CDC and was towing that party line, yet Dean had been drafted into this informal group “The Wolverines.” While her boss disinvited her from internal pandemic meetings, she kept learning and sharing information with the group. Eventually, her boss could not make a press conference with Governor Newsom, and Dean spoke for 45 minutes of her concerns answering many questions. The press said this is the first time they have heard this. The governor acted quickly.

The book is a must read, in my view. It shows how important leadership is in welcoming information from reliable sources to make their decisions. It also shows how important courage is to tell leaders what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. As I read this book, I kept thinking how the former president craves being seen as a good leader, but at the time when we needed him to be one, he whiffed at the ball on the tee. A key to pandemic responses is to tell people the truth – only then will they act. When the so-called leader is telling them it will all go away soon on the same day the first US death is reported or that this is a Democrat hoax, then people hear that and act accordingly. The problem is those statements were far from the truth.

Republican Leader of National Governors Association says ‘Trump should not lead country again’

While it has been like watching a ship turn in a harbor, the Republican admonitions of the candidacy of the latest former president are slowly piling up. Since Donald Trump’s efforts to incite, invite and inspire the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol last January 6 to secure his status as president, I have long felt he was done as a political candidate. I still do.

Yet, after initial backlash against him by Republicans, too many have backslid and have tried to whitewash what happened in an Oz-like fashion. Now, there is more than a trickle occurring where admonishing the former president’s candidacy is not the kiss of death in Republican worlds as it once was. The other day, I posted a well-articulated letter to the editor from a woman who called herself a “sane conservative” who said she has no candidate, the former president lost the election and referenced the GOP as not living up to its ideals.

In an article called “Donald Trump should not lead the country again, says the Republican leader of the National Governors Association” by Nicole Gaudiano of Business Insider, the following negative endorsement is revealed.

“The Republican chairman of the National Governors Association said on Saturday that Donald Trump should not lead Republicans or the country again.

‘I do not believe Trump is the one to lead our party and our country again, as president,’ Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson told Insider on the sidelines of the NGA Winter Meeting in Washington, DC.

Insider asked Hutchinson whether he wants Trump to run following a video that recently surfaced in which Trump declares on the golf course that he is ‘the 45th and the 47th’ president.

Asked who should lead instead, Hutchinson said ‘that’s what the election is all about.’

The reason I am highlighting these negative endorsements of Trump is the wrong question is being asked by Republicans. It should not be whether Trump could win again? The question is how can someone vote for a president who not only consistently lies to and bullies people, but has betrayed his country and was so incompetent and controlling in his pandemic response, doctors, epidemiologists and data scientists in and out of government had to be secretive as they bandied together to get information out about the disease?

Taking the former president at his word is not only a fool’s errand, it is dangerous to the lives of people.

More movies to consider

Between HBO, a paid service, and Tubi, a free one, we watch a lot of movies. Tubi has turned out to be a wonderful resource, as it requires commercials to pay for the free service. Yet, at our age, restroom and snack breaks can fill that advertising time. Here are more than a few movies you might like, so the descriptions will be brief.

“A most wanted man” starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams and Robin Wright is set in Hamburg. It focuses on a small group who tries to help people seeking asylum gain it in turn for evidence to get bigger fish. The movie is one of Hoffman’s final movies and he is excellent.

“Lions for lambs” starring and directed by Robert Redford, also starring Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise, Anthony Garfield, Derek Luke and Michael Pena. It shows three different perspectives on a surge in Afghanistan, with Redford as a professor meeting with a smart but aimless student in Garfield, Cruise doing a very good job as a gung-ho Senator being interviewed by Streep, and Pena and Luke in a battle pinned down after a helicopter crash.

“Mulholland Falls” starring Nick Nolte, Jennifer Connelly, Melanie Griffith, John Malkovich, Treat Williams, Chaz Palminteri, and Bruce Dern. It is set in LA in the 1950s and revolves around an aggressive and corrupt police unit who is looking to solve a gruesome murder of a young woman which involves some important people.

“True Confessions” starring Robert Duvall, Robert DeNiro, Kenneth McMillan, Burgess Meredith, Rose Gregorio and Charles Durning. It is set in LA in the 1940s and involves the relationship between a very imperfect detective and his problem-solving brother who is a Monsignor as the detective investigates the murder of a prostitute.

“Gorky Park” starring William Hurt, Lee Marvin, Brian Dennehy, Joanna Pacula, and Ian Bannen. Set in Moscow, Hurt is a police detective trying to solve a gruesome murder of three people in Gorky Park. Marvin plays an opportunistic American businessman quite well and usually steals the scenes.

The Dry” starring Eric Bana, Genevieve O’Reilly, and Keir O’Donnell is an Australian movie set in a very dry part of the country that has not had rain for almost a year. Bana is police detective in a big city who has returned to his hometown for a funeral of three members of a family, the father whom he knew. The parents have asked him to work with a young local deputy to solve the murder, given the friend is a suspect. While there an earlier drowning death of another friend resurfaces.

“The two faces of January” starring Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst and Oscar Isaac is set in Greece in the early 1960s. Isaac is an American who is a tour guide in Greece and befriends two American tourists played by Mortensen and Dunst. While Isaac likes to skim money from his clients, the two American tourists have a past that catches up with them and Isaac as well.

“The next three days” starring Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, Brian Dennehy, Olivia Wilde, Ty Simpkins, Jason Beghe, and Aisha Hinds, with small cameos from Daniel Stern and Liam Neeson is about a wife and mother played by Banks who is in prison for a murder she did not commit. After exhausting all appeals, Crowe decides to take matters into his own hands and seeks to break her out before she is sent in three days to a maximum-security prison.

Each of these movies is worth seeing in my view and has a good story to tell. The first and last ones are the ones I more highly recommend, as the stories are matched by the gravitas of the actors. We watched a movie called “Dr. T and the women” the other day which had nine well-known actors, but it was only OK in my view. A few more we have seen that are good are “Untamed Heart” with Marisa Tomei and Christian Slater, “Just between friends” with Mary Tyler Moore, Ted Danson, Sam Waterston and Christine Lahti, and “Broken Vows” with Tommy Lee Jones, Annette O’Toole and Emmet Walsh.

If you have seen any of these, let me know what you think. Please feel free to mention others you watched and liked.

Conservative plea

The following letter to the editor appeared in The Charlotte Observer yesterday, penned by female citizen who identifies herself as conservative. She offers a well-articulated view of her concerns for the current state of the Republican party.

As an independent and former member of both parties, I have shared previously the opinions of conservatives and Republicans who see their party adrift. Some of these folks have been average citizens, while others have been in positions of influence. The party and our country need more of these folks to speak out and be heard and heeded.

I am a sane conservative with no candidate. I believe Trump lost and is misusing his former office to avoid criminal charges and bankruptcy. I believe taking the debt ceiling hostage is irresponsible. I want to vote for a government that believes in mostly free-market and local solutions to serious problems, but Republican governors keep placing constituents in danger.

I believe in letting local governments decide how to spend their federal subsidies, and I believe the federal government should spend my tax dollars fighting against internet monopolies and oligopolies that are occurring faster than we can regulate them. I want to believe my government exists to protect me from the worst of a free market, yet my government fights only with its former self.

Someone. Please. Help.”

Radical Kindness – once again

Yesterday, I repeated a post called “Build Bridges not Chasms” using a quote from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. One way to help build bridges comes from another earlier post which quotes someone defining another great American who passed away a few years ago – Mister Rogers. We need to practice radical kindness.

Last week, the excellent documentary called “Would you be my neighbor?” on the life and mission of Mister (Fred) Rogers, won an award from AARP’s Movies for Grown-ups annual ceremony. Morgan Neville, the producer/ director summed up his reflections of Mister Rogers with the words “radical kindness.” He noted we need his wisdom more today than ever.

In the film, Rogers, who was an ordained minister, puppeteer, and musician made it his mission to teach children about how to understand and address their feelings. His shows focused on issues that were previously avoided with children – anger, hurt. grief, confusion, jealously, greed, love, etc. He told these kids it is OK to be angry, but you should not hit others in reaction.

Through words and examples, often delivered through his puppets (and his modified voice), he discussed death, divorce, bullying and bigotry. A key example is his having an African-American in a recurring role as his Officer Friendly and friend. This sounds rather innocuous now, but he did this in the late 1960s. He made a further point of having both share the same wading pool to wash their feet, a purposeful lesson that could come straight from the bible.

Among several powerful moments in the movie, three stand out. The first is his testimony in front of a Senate committee chaired by the ornery Senator John Pastore to petition the committee not to cut $20 million funding of PBS. He focused on what he tries to do and asked if he could say the words to the following song:

“What do you do with the mad that you feel? When you feel so mad you could bite. When the whole wide world seems oh so wrong, and nothing you do seems very right. What do you do? Do you punch a bag? Do you pound some clay or some dough? Do you round up friends for a game of tag or see how fast you go? It’s great to be able to stop when you’ve planned the thing that’s wrong. And be able to do something else instead ― and think this song ―

“I can stop when I want to. Can stop when I wish. Can stop, stop, stop anytime … And what a good feeling to feel like this! And know that the feeling is really mine. Know that there’s something deep inside that helps us become what we can. For a girl can be someday a lady, and a boy can be someday a man.”

A visibly moved Pastore said he would make sure the funding continued.

The other two moments are more visual. He filmed an episode with Coco the gorilla who could do sign language. This enormous beast was quite visibly moved  by Rogers. Coco seemed to feel the radical kindness that exudes from Rogers, hugging and petting the man and signing that he loved Mister Rogers.

The other visual is of Rogers inviting Jeff Erlanger, a wheel chair bound young man on to his show. Erlanger explained to the audience what had happened to make him a quadriplegic, the result of a spinal tumor. In a very poignant manner the two sang a song together that left both my wife and me a little teary eyed.

Mister Rogers came along after my formative years. I would watch an occasional episode as I channeled surfed. Yet, seeing this and another documentary about his work, left me with a very favorable impression. As a producer noted, Rogers did the opposite of what other TV shows did. He talked directly to the children with radical kindness. We adults sure could use a large dose of that.

One of the sayings we should follow comes courtesy of Mister Rogers’ mother who said in a crisis, rather than focus on the crisis event, focus on the helpers instead, those first responders and volunteers. That gives me comfort.

Build Bridges not Chasms – a redux

I wrote the following about ten years ago and repeated it a couple of years ago. I edited it some, but the message is still needed today. Please offer your thoughts and reactions.

The title is a quote I heard recently from a new hero of mine, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. She was being interviewed on PBS Newshour about her book “My Beloved World.” She said we should “build bridges not chasms” which is a tremendous life lesson. This one resonates with me and echoes my admiration for the “dot connectors” in the world. It is also the serum for the toxic fever of chasm building our legislative and some religious leaders seem to be infected with.

Well, how do we go about living this lesson? How do we build bridges and not chasms?

– First, we should look for ways we are similar. While we remain diverse, as humans there our similarities that cross all faiths, ethnic groups and countries. We want a safe and secure future for ourselves, but especially for our children. When I look at various religions, I am not surprised by the common thread of the Golden Rule which permeates them.

– Second, find these common threads. When I walk into someone’s office or home, I search for common experiences. I look at pictures of children, diplomas displaying education, trophies or pictures of sports or activities, etc. What can I talk about that will connect us better? Also, I take delight in finding out a similar passion or story. The other day I learned of a similar passion to help the homeless people among us from an unexpected source. We are now sharing information, books, etc.

– Third, an old boss said, “you have two ears and one mouth” use them in that proportion. We cannot listen if we don’t hear. We need to know what people’s concerns are before we can begin to help them. We have far too many people who like to hear themselves talk. My wife is the best listener ever. As a result, people flock to her as she will listen to their issues, interests, aspirations and problems.

– Fourth, look for the opportunity to compliment someone or reinforce an action. I am not advocating false praise, but I am advocating a supportive word or gesture. When you step up to the counter to be served by the exhausted clerk who is doing the best he or she can when the boss understaffed a shift, you can make a world of difference by some acknowledgement of their tribulations.

– Fifth, along this same line, you can never thank people enough. We tell our kids “people don’t have to do anything for you.” So, when they do, you should thank them for it. And, mean it. Even in this Twitter, text, Facebook and email world, a call or handwritten note speaks volumes. Yet, use whatever media you prefer to say thanks.

– Sixth, an old colleague used to say “you can never have enough cups of coffee with people.” Remember that and reach out. It is a low-key investment of time as it is not as intrusive as a meal. And, conversation will occur.

– Seventh, never hesitate to include others in meals or outings. Especially meals. If a friend of your child is over, ask them to stay. My wife and I made a conscious decision to have a house the kids like to come over to. Our kids love this. Their friends do as well as we make them feel welcome. Trust me on this. There is no greater sound on earth than hearing your children laughing.

– Eighth, laugh at yourself. Let me say this loud and clear, “you are not perfect.” Neither am I. So, be prepared to laugh at your mistakes and don’t be afraid to tell the stories. It will truly endear you. I found that my kids like me telling about the times I screwed up. We sometimes are in stitches. Why? Because they see it is OK to screw up. The world will not end. And, the old line is true, “laugh and the world laughs with you.”

– Ninth, LTFU. This is a pre-Twitter acronym. It stands for “Lighten the F**k Up.” We take ourselves too seriously. We make mountains out of very small mole hills. Many of the things we fret over are not that important. Trust me. Those folks that are reading texts and emails at stop lights (and God forbid in traffic), I can tell you right now, that text is not that important, even without reading it. I told a colleague one day, “I am going to take your I-Phone and throw it in the ocean.” He was constantly reacting to the messenger and not the message. So, issues got blown out of proportion.

– Tenth, help people in need. You both benefit from the transaction. Those in need benefit if you are helping them climb a ladder. You benefit from the psychic income of helping someone. It is a powerful elixir.

– Eleventh and last, getting back to the Golden Rule, treat others like you want to be treated. That is by far the best lesson in the bible and the ones some religious leaders tend to forget. If we do only this, the world will be a better place. This is especially true in dealing with folks who are serving your needs and are more overwhelmed these days. You may not like their efforts, but please remember you are no day at the beach either. Kindness is not a weakness.

These are a few thoughts on how to build bridges. I am sure I have left off several good ones, so please feel free to share. We are a planet of fixer uppers. We should give each other a break as we need a break from them. Justice Sotomayor has it right – let’s build bridges.

Navigating medical customer service – a reprise

The following was written a few years ago, but I thought I would repost this as it might help some. By the way, some of these suggestions might serve you well in other customer service experiences with banks, retail, supplies, etc.

Before I share a few observations and experiences, let me first note that too many Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) are likely understaffed and undertrained to do the jobs they are asked to do. The healthcare system in the US is complex with a lot of moving parts, including consolidated entities on the provider side and insurer side. In other words, there are plenty of opportunities for the system to fail the customer, provider and insurer.

Through all of this, the patient has to be the navigator of his or her customer service experience. Otherwise, the patients may not realize they are not being treated fairly. As evidence that I am not personalizing this more than I am, let me mention two things.

First, I have a friend who runs a successful business advocating for insured patients. Her firm is hired by companies to help their employees and retirees navigate the healthcare insurance system. In essence, they advocate to get the insurers to pay for what they say they will in plan documents. No more, no less.

Second, as a retired benefits manager and consultant, I am familiar with the complexities, but there are people who know them far better than I. So, what concerns me is people who get maltreated  by the system and don’t know they can push back or don’t feel comfortable in so doing. The various acronyms, footnotes, poor communications, entities and touch points are confusing.

Rather than lament issues, let me offer a few tips to help in the navigation.

– If you need a pre-authorization for a surgery or procedure, start at least a week before or as soon as you can. Ask what they need and make sure they know who to call. An increasing number of providers are putting the burden more on patients to get the process started.

– On any call or reach-out, save emails or notifications, write down notes, names, dates and phone numbers – there are many, especially with centralized functions for smaller doctor offices. Recently, I was given multiple numbers to call (and addresses) from each party.

– Read your EOBs – Explanation of Benefits – including the footnotes as to why something was unpaid or pending. There may be an action needed on your part. If you have a non-ACA, non-Medicare or non-employer plan, there may be a need for medical information to confirm this is not a pre-existing condition.

– If you feel uncomfortable with asking questions of your doctor or insurer, write the questions down or include someone to advocate for you. Don’t be afraid to ask what someone said as it can be confusing or the person may not be the best communicator. And, if it is a major surgery or procedure, it is more than OK to seek a second-opinion.

– Follow-up. This is critical. Hand-offs are made to do things and the receiving entity may not confirm it has the ball. As a result, while you are waiting, nothing is happening. If medical records need to be there in 30 or 60 days, follow-up 10 – 15 days before those deadlines.

– Finally, be as diplomatic and polite as you can, but sometimes it is hard. So, be prepared to say something like, “I am sorry to be a pain, but this is frustrating.” Also, if urgency is needed, please share that need. Some readlng this may note there are websites to facilitate this process, but too often, the website does not do what you think it is doing. It may just be recording a query and not codifying an action. You may be surprised how frequentIy I have to read to the CSR what another part of the company sent me.

Again, there are many fine people in these positions who want to get things right for the patient. It is often said, good people make up for a bad structure.  Yet, it should not be as hard as it is. Until it is made easier, you must be the navigator of your customer service.

Please feel free to share your ideas and reactions.

*Note: If you simply cannot pay hospital bill after the above gets resolved, hospitals have processes in place to request an abatement to some or all of the bill. Usually, a weblink or phone number on the bill can be found. The process is not too unwieldy, given its nature. Sometimes the answer is no, but it is not uncommon for them to cut something out of the bill. Given some of the numbers are multiple tens of thousands, anything helps.

You know the rules of the road going in

Last week, an airplane departing from Miami headed to London had to turn around after 500 miles due to an unruly first-class passenger who refused to wear a mask. The first-class ticket may have given a sense of entitlement or maybe the free drinks unleashed her inner jerk, but yet another plane had issues with a passenger. It should be noted being a jerk is not restricted to first-class as a plane has many passengers

What is frustrating to all of the other passengers is you know the rules of the road before you get on the plane, so all one has to do is abide by them. If a store says no shoes, no service, one should not be surprised if they get no service. If a club says a tie is required, one should not be surprised if the Maitre’d walks up with a selection of ties to wear for the dinner.

The same holds true if a store or airline says a mask is required. That means you should wear a mask or not be surprised if you are handed one to wear. Civility should not be an art. It should be usual and customary. That Jesus fellow said treat others like you want to be treated. So, if you are treating others poorly, it only reflects poorly on the actor not the victim. This unruly passenger will be temporarily banned from the airline pending an investigation, but is yet to be fined or charged with a crime. But, she also caused people on the plane inconvenience. If they had connections or important events, they may have missed them because of one person who chose to not follow the rules.

It truly matters not if you agree or disagree with the veracity of mask wearing. The rules you have been given say wear one to enter and be served. You may not like wearing a seatbelt, but you know that it’s a law you must wear one. On the flip side, I cannot believe there are some states that allow helmetless motorcycle riders. Given how fragile the human head is, if I rode a motorcycle in one of those states, I would be wearing a helmet even if not required. Yet, those who don’t are OK as the state permits them to ride sans helmet. Those are the rules of the road in that state.

Let me close with one final thought. People who treat wait staff, cashiers, maids, nurses, teachers, et all poorly do not impress me with some false level of importance. They actually are offensive to me. I have worked in business a long time to see how people treat others based on some perception of status, with some narrow-minded folks treating perceived subordinates worse than peers who are treated worse than more senior officials. Quite simply, being a jerk does not give you importance, it just means you are being a jerk.

No more room in the inn (and hospital)

We have a relative with multiple chronic issues who is now in great pain and cannot stand up on her own. She was sent to an urgent care clinic because the hospitals are full up. She is now waiting in line at the nearest hospital to get a MRI as they cannot figure out what was wrong after the Xrays at the urgent care clinic showed no breaks.

Yet, if she is admitted, they may not have any hospital beds. You see, the hospitals are overrun by COVID patients who the significant majority of which have been unvaccinated. Yesterday, I read two things of import to this issue. In my metropolitan city of about one million people, there were only 66 hospital beds available in all hospitals within 30 miles. That was in the morning.

I also read of the death of one of my favorite singers, Marvin Aday, better known as “Meat Loaf.” Meat Loaf died of COVID after being an antivaxxer. He famously said if it kills me, it kills me. It did. In the last five months, six avid antivaxxer radio hosts have lost their lives due to COVID. Contrarily, in the last month, three of my immediate family got COVID, including me, and we recovered in a few days as all three of us had received at least two vaccines, with me having the booster as well.

Like any vaccine and any dose of medicine, there are those who react negatively to it. Some react with mild symptoms, while others realize more severe symptoms including death for an unfortunate number. But, when you divide those more severe experiences (I was just sluggish and had arm pain and a headache after mine) by the billions of vaccines in the denominator, the percentage of severe reactions is quite small.

I understand that people are concerned, but there is a lot more data to alleviate those concerns now. Yet, what I don’t understand is those who have been sold a conspiracy theory is behind all of this or that your rights are being infringed on to be made to have a vaccine as a political tactic by an opportunistic politician (think names like DeSantis, Abbott, Paul, Trump) or opinion entertainer.

If these folks had a child that would be going to a public school or any university, they would have to provide a vaccination record to get in. If they did not have certain vaccines, they would have to remedy those gaps. The rules of admission are forcing you to get a vaccine for the greater good. Why? Because the average distance between students is much closer in proximity (three feet) than the folks in general society. Schools are ripe for the passing of a contagious disease.

But, back to the hospitals. I understand elective surgeries getting placed on hold to free up space, but when acute or severe medical needs beg for immediate treatment, to have to wait is life threatening. I talked to the daughter of this relative last night. She had some choice words for antivaxxers who were making her mother wait in the lobby of the MRI wing.

Folks, there is a greater good issue that we often forget to pair with freedom. Getting vaccinated has been shown to save lives. Hospital staff are being overrun and they are begging folks to get a vaccine for the COVID patients, other patients and staff’s sake. And, yet these anti-vaxxers would like to beat on their chest to win a political argument acting tough. One thing is for certain in my mind – as the end nears for the less unfortunate unvaccinated patients, my guess is they are ruing that stubborn decision.

Save money and energy

Our friend Amanda from Australia posted a recent piece called “Changing the Material World” (see link below) written by Megan Tennant on taking strides we can do to save the environment and help do a small part in fighting climate change. I recognize fully we must do far more, so these steps are not panaceas, nor should be they be considered as such. We need to advocate for so much more and tell folks to stop listening to folks who have a vested interest in getting you to use more fossil fuel powered energy or buy more wasteful product.

The purpose of this post is to simply say, if you take steps to save on energy consumption and lessen product waste, you can also save money. And, to be frank, saving money has been at the heart of some of the major initiatives to combat climate change as the cost of some renewables is on par or better than some fossil fuel energy sources. For example, Walmart, IKEA, Amazon, Google, Facebook, etc. have all led the way with renewable energy sources as it was both good for the environment, but made their cost models look better.

Here are a few ideas, but I welcome more suggestions. These won’t solve the problem, but the additive impact will help some and get people more motivated.

  • Turn all chargers off at night for phones, laptops, – you will save on energy cost and defer product degradation with it being on at all times.
  • Turn the thermostat down in the winter and up in the summer when asleep – it is easier in the winter to throw on an extra blanket, but harder in the summer, as many folks like a cool room to sleep in, but still pays dividends. It also helps to do this during the day.
  • Walk more, use more mass transit – these save on petrol and energy to charge electric cars and avoid the concern that most car accidents happen within one mile of your home, while helping with your health. Plus, grabbing one or two tote bags as you walk to the store limits your grocery purchases, which saves by itself.
  • Be zealous with eating leftovers – this will save a large chunk in your food budget and will reduce land fill methane. I will usually eat leftovers longer than my wife, but she will do her part, usually for one (or maybe two) extra meal.
  • Buy fewer plastic items and use filtered water pitchers – we have an ocean of plastic that rivals Texas and may eventually rival the size of Australia. Getting people to buy water may be one of the greatest marketing successes ever.
  • Buy ugly produce, as it will go to waste – there are some websites that promote less pristine looking food that got passed over. Ugly food is cheaper and if we can keep good food out of landfills it will reduce methane.
  • Be careful but many expiration dates are “best by” dates not “throw away” dates – this is easier said on non-perishables, but it is not uncommon for all of these dates to be set early for you to buy more product.
  • Eat less meat, as livestock eat carbon absorbing grass and produce methane – other foods are much cheaper, plus less meat will help you live healthier and longer if replaced with other proteins.
  • Use rain barrels, compost heaps, and gray water sources to repurpose waste. An increasing number of buildings are reusing rain fall to provide water inside.
  • Print fewer items and do two-sided printing – this will save money and carbon eating trees.

Please offer some of your ideas. None of the above is rocket science, but understand that some of these suggestions are an effort to run counter to companies wanting you to spend more. No matter the product, they have marketing and sales people whose jobs are to get you to buy more. Altruism is not universal, so we must guard our energy use and money. As my wife and I have told and still tell our now adult children, people want your money.

And, again, this does not replace advocating for a conversion to better energy sources to reduce carbon and methane emissions and greater planting of trees, nurturing of coastal mangroves, and production of kelp farms, et al, which are natural carbon eaters. We are past time to take greater action. If we don’t, we are creating a different future for our children, their children and ourselves.