So long, Mom…

I’m off to drop the bomb, so don’t wait up for me. Some of Tom Lehrer’s lyrics may have gone over my ten year old head, but that one struck home. I thought of it as I rode off from our campsite this morning, not sure when I’d be back.

While Gil Scott-Heron told us the revolution will not be televised, Lehrer let us know that WW III could be shown in prime time and be over before we went to bed.

There was no plan. I headed north (north ¿!?¡?!) as I left the park. I figured I’d check out the lookout tower that was under construction a year ago when I was here. After that…? I used my usual road hierarchy – town roads (named), then county roads (lettered), then state roads (numbered). Since this peninsula is not on the way to anywhere else, there are no US or Interstate highways here.

If the road had an interesting name, it would probably win – Orchard Road sounds more interesting than Townline Road. The final arbiter is that, when I get to an intersection, I look in all directions. If one catches my eye and my heart, I go that way.

I did end up on Townline Road for several miles. After aimless wandering, it was a straight shot on the border between two townships and I covered some miles without having to think about turning – and there were no cars.

One could say I was scouting the route for the century I will ride next month but one would be lying. Since I don’t know the route, I was just wandering. Not to mention that I stopped in the first half hour to hike through a Land Trust.

That is a path – just not very wide

No map is necessary, because it is pretty hard to get lost on this narrow peninsula. Head west and you hit Green Bay. East and you find Lake Michigan. North and the end of the peninsula appears. South and you arrive in the town of Sturgeon Bay. With the sun shining, it’s pretty easy to know which way you’re going.

This spot is kin to Poniatowski, a town that is halfway from the equator to the north pole, and halfway from the Prime Meridian to the International Date Line. The equivalent spot east is in the  Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China, near the Mongolian border. To the south, these points are in the Pacific (W) and Indian (E) Oceans and not particularly near any land.

I found an interesting-looking coffee shop in Bailey’s Harbor. The menu looked good, there were lots of available outside tables, and the sign said “masks and social distancing required”. I put on a mask and joined the line. It’s hot breathing through a mask after a couple of hours of riding. I grew tired of waiting and got back on the road. The state highway was freshly-paved, with a beautiful paved shoulder and not much traffic (it being Wednesday morning), so I headed down the road to Jacksonport, where there is a cafe I’ve stopped at in other years up here. That cafe was closed (permanently? for the duration of the pandemic? because it’s Wednesday?), so I continued on. I thought about lunch at the brewpub in Egg Harbor (a branch of my neighborhood brewpub, owned by a guy whose dad I knew years ago), but I landed on another road with beautiful pavement and it wasn’t going that way so neither was I.

Back in the park, I climbed the steps up to the lookout tower and looked out. From there it was downhill all the way back to camp. A shower, a couple of tamales, a glass of Tuscan grape juice, and I was ready for the rest of the day.

I don’t know how far I rode, and I really don’t care. I’m on vacation. The biggest tasks for the afternoon are chasing sun for the solar charger and shade for me. Sun is harder to find and requires frequent moving of the solar panel. Work, work, work.

The park has miles of paved roads. There is a shoreline road that goes to all the places that tourists want to go, and a bunch of interior roads that “don’t go anywhere”, so no one drives on them. I spent the next day exploring those roads and think I covered every mile of the park. The first photo above is from that day.

Since there is no WiFi and no cell service in the park, you won’t see this until I get home. Poison Ivy is ubiquitous in these parts. It likes recently-disturbed land. This spot was just outside the back door of our tent. Needless to say, we didn’t use the back door.
For the literalists among you, “poison ivy” is a metaphor here.

A week without news or internet and I didn’t miss either. My cell phone had no purpose. A surprise text arrived when the wind blew the right way.

Roller Coaster/Cuomo/COVID/God

Wednesday night’s ride was a roller coaster. We climbed 600 feet in the first five miles. That may not sound like much but, extrapolated over the distance of the Death Ride, it was the climbing equivalent of the Death Ride.

While the Death Ride goes

this ride went

Few people showed up for the ride. Maybe it was the tornado the night before. Maybe it was the dewpoint of 75 degrees F (24 C), which means even your sweat is sweating. Evaporative cooling only works when sweat can evaporate. Maybe it was the tornado watch in effect.

The sky started darkening several miles in, but I could see lighter sky to the west of the dark area. No big deal. It got darker. I flipped my cue sheet from the long route to the short route and checked to see where the turnoff was. Thunder rumbled in the distance. I saw the Highway JG sign and figured that was an even shorter cut. I made the turn. Lightning flashed in the distance. A few drops began to fall. I hit the steep downhill into Mt Vernon as it began to look like real rain. Back at the meetup point, a few people who had gone out earlier than I (or arrived later and didn’t bother to get their bikes out) were having a beer. I joined them and we had a good 15 minutes before the rain really started and we headed home. As I turned into my driveway, the tornado warning came. (It was miles away and weakening fast, so really was no big deal – unlike the night before. We got neither wind nor rain at my house.)

Roller coaster reminded me of a Doris Day song from 1960 – “No” – by Lee Pockriss and PJ Vance. Together they wrote Perry Como’s hit “Catch a Falling Star” and Bryan Highland’s “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini”, so you can tell they were contenders for the Nobel Prize that Bob Dylan won. Of course, they were also responsible for “Leader of the Laundromat”, a parody of the Shangi-Las’ “Leader of the Pack.”

This video, while starring the Shangri-Las, is a parody of itself. Note Robert Goulet trying (and failing) not to laugh.

“No” appeared on a Doris Day album that I think was thrown in when we bought a console stereo. Those free albums were where I learned of the “classics” like Hugo Winterhalter and learned not to like musicals. I also learned of Harry Belafonte and The Chad Mitchell Trio from those early albums, so it wasn’t all bad. I can’t find a recording of “No” online (or even many references to its existence), but it (along with “Baby It’s Cold Outside”) celebrates rape culture and excuses conduct such as that alleged by (former) Governor Andrew Cuomo. Even as a child I recognized something wrong with this song. Lyrics include:
“Every time I let you kiss me, kiss me
My heart goes on a roller coaster ride.
And every time I let you kiss me, kiss me
I get those little butterflies inside me.”
From this verse we learn that kissing is not mutual and does not involve consent, but is something a woman acquiesces to; something a man wants and a woman lets him have.
If that was too subtle, the chorus says:
“Don’t you know
That a girl means yes
when she says no.”
Maybe Andrew Cuomo took this to heart.

Martha wrote of Covidiots today. Another person made the news for dying after thinking that COVID was a hoax and another died thinking God would save him. It reminded me of a story from Hurricane Katrina…

A woman sat alone in her house as the floodwaters rose. A boat pulled up to her window and offered to help her evacuate. She said, “No thanks. God will save me.” The floodwaters continued to rise. She climbed the stairs to the second floor. A boat came by, evacuating the neighborhood. She said, “No thanks. God will save me.” The waters continued to rise. She climbed out on her roof. As she clung to the chimney amidst the rising waters, a helicopter lowered a basket to her. She yelled up, “No thanks! God will save me!” As the water rose up to her chin, she cried out, “God! What have I done? Why won’t you save me from this flood?” God answered, “I already sent you two boats and a helicopter. What more do you want?”

The COVID census is rising in the hospital where I work. My next tour of duty comes as soon as my intern graduates (in two weeks). Stay tuned. Happy Friday the 13th.

Corn to the left of me…

It was a dark and stormy night, and we were all seated around the campfire, when the Captain turned to me and said, “Antonio, tell us one of your stories.” And so I began…

It was a dark and stormy night, and we were all seated around the campfire…

Heat lightning…all light, no thunder. Like fireworks without noise, or northern lights without color.

We sat outside at some friends’ house last night, eating dinner in a thunderstorm. It felt like camping in the city. When the storm passed, the air turned cool. Due to staying out late, I didn’t make the start of the group ride, and rode out alone. That way I could ride out my driveway and not have to drive somewhere to meet people. It was a “choose your own adventure” ride, with no real plan except to ride to Cottage Grove and see what happened next. The road was closed before I got there, so the adventure began. It was cloudy and humid. I had a vague notion of heading east (East!?! – private joke, sorry), but here I was headed south already. After passing by Deerfield, I decided to head east to Cambridge for an espresso and pastry. The coffee shop I’d stopped at on a prior ride was closed. The only open place I found was crowded, so it was a quick snack at a gas station convenience store and back on the road, headed toward Stoughton and back home. The laundry I’d hung before the ride was dry. The sun was out, it was getting hotter, and I was glad to be done with the ride by noon.

Riding alone, songs tend to drift through my head, inspired by whatever I see (or wherever my mind has wandered). A Great Blue Heron appeared before I left town, sitting at the edge of an urban creek. Riding through corn and soybean fields (and remembering a story from yesterday about the Insane Clown Posse) a Stealer’s Wheel song from 1972-3 came to mind…for those of you who don’t like to click the video links (and aren’t old enough to remember), the chorus says, “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right. Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.”

Don’t go quoting research to me…

unless you actually read it. And I don’t mean an article about it in the popular or the propaganda press. Those articles were clickbait even before the term came into existence. If it’s sensational and it’s new, it gets press. If it’s later debunked by half a dozen other researchers, it gets much less.

Remember cold fusion? (Fleischmann and Pons, 1989, Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry) A great scientific breakthrough, until it wasn’t.

We should all know the great autism/vaccine hoax. It was first proposed that autism was caused by the MMR (measles/mumps/rubella) vaccine. (Wakefield, The Lancet, 1997 – later retracted). When that was debunked, it was proposed that it wasn’t the MMR vaccine but thimerosal in vaccines that caused autism.

While it is true that mercury (thimerosal is metabolized to ethylmercury and thiosalicylate) is toxic (mercury was used in the production of felt for hats -hence the term “mad as a hatter” and the character The Mad Hatter in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland), autism continued even after thimerosal was eliminated from many vaccines.

Then it was proposed that vaccines in general cause autism, and the rise in the autism diagnosis was posited to parallel the rise in mass vaccination in the 1950s and ’60s. Somehow that was proposed as proof. Conveniently left out of that argument is that the first treatment center for autism was established in 1953 and the first epidemiological study of autism was published in 1966 (The Foundations of Autism, Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 2014). The reason the diagnosis increased in the 50s and 60s is that it was accepted as a diagnosis and studied beginning at that time. (Also see “Vaccine Myths Debunked”)

I could argue with equal fervor that autism was caused by the Cold War. I could construct a compelling argument that the childhood fears brought on by “duck and cover” drills and the fear of nuclear annihilation caused mass psychosis that we came to know as autism, but it would be a waste of my time and yours because, no matter how compelling, I just made it up. Correlation does not equal causation, and two things happening in similar times don’t have to have anything to do with each other.

So no, reading an article about an article, and one intended to sell ads, is not reading or understanding science.

And I don’t mean that if you read the abstract you know what you’re talking about. The British Medical Journal published “Parachute use to prevent death and major trauma related to gravitational challenge: systematic review of randomised controlled trials” (2003). The abstract indicates that no randomised [the article uses the British spelling] controlled trials were found. Their literature review found that “The perception that parachutes are a successful intervention is based largely on anecdotal evidence. Observational data have shown that their use is associated with morbidity and mortality, due to both failure of the intervention1,2 and iatrogenic complications.3 In addition, “natural history” studies of free fall indicate that failure to take or deploy a parachute does not inevitably result in an adverse outcome.4” [Look at all those citations! It must be credible!]

In plain English: we think parachutes work because we’ve heard they work, but in our literature review we found that some people who use parachutes die and some people who don’t use parachutes survive.

As a result, a randomized controlled trial was undertaken. In 2018, the same journal published “Parachute use to prevent death and major trauma when jumping from aircraft: randomized controlled trial” (Yeh, et al BMJ, 2018). [For some reason, these authors used the American spelling.] From the abstract:

Intervention: Jumping from an aircraft (airplane or helicopter) with a parachute versus an empty backpack (unblinded).

Main outcome measures: Composite of death or major traumatic injury (defined by an Injury Severity Score over 15) upon impact with the ground measured immediately after landing.

Results: Parachute use did not significantly reduce death or major injury (0% for parachute v 0% for control; P>0.9). This finding was consistent across multiple subgroups.

Conclusions: Parachute use did not reduce death or major traumatic injury when jumping from aircraft in the first randomized evaluation of this intervention.” [Yeh, et al, 2018]

I could write a sensational article based on that abstract. Or I could read farther: “However, the trial was only able to enroll participants on small stationary aircraft on the ground, suggesting cautious extrapolation to high altitude jumps.”

In case any doubt remains, here is a photo from the article (copyright 2018, BMJ)

The article isn’t merely a joke […though as a joke, it is great. I recommend the article to anyone who reads scientific literature on a regular basis. It uses all the lingo you’re accustomed to and includes statistical analysis of the findings. It analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of the trial in apparent seriousness. If you like British humour, read it. Available at without a subscription. Search by title. I didn’t link to it, in order to make you do some work.]. It warns that: “When beliefs regarding the effectiveness of an intervention exist in the community, randomized trials might selectively enroll individuals with a lower perceived likelihood of benefit, thus diminishing the applicability of the results to clinical practice.”

The crux of the issue: “The PARACHUTE trial satirically highlights some of the limitations of randomized controlled trials. Nevertheless, we believe that such trials remain the gold standard for the evaluation of most new treatments. The PARACHUTE trial does suggest, however, that their accurate interpretation requires more than a cursory reading of the abstract. Rather, interpretation requires a complete and critical appraisal of the study.” (Yeh, et al, 2018) (Emphasis added)

Note: Any relationship between this posting and current COVID-19 hoax and conspiracy claims is purely intentional. Be careful out there!