I just finished my last tour of duty on the COVID-19 units – not because the pandemic is over (it’s not) but because I have 5 more weeks to work and will not have another rotation in that time. (Dog willing.) When I hang up my PAPR (Powered Air-Purifying Respirator) this week, I hope never to pick it up again.
We want this pandemic to be over, people are beginning to act like it’s over. We can pull the wool over our eyes or we can face the music. Numbers are down, but ask the dying what they care about numbers.
I started the week with someone who went to a family gathering for Easter. A guest invited by one of the family had driven halfway across the country to join them, picking up COVID-19 along the way. The whole family is now infected. I think they will all survive. Another patient went on palliative care that first day. While COVID-19 will not be the only cause of death, it will certainly be a contributing factor.
Another patient told me they felt “crappy” but could not explain further – not painful, not short of breath, not nauseated, just crappy; also disappointed in their lack of progress from the orthopedic injury in addition to COVID-19. I went in to work the next morning to find they died 16 hours later – 20 minutes before my arrival to work.
A fourth patient told me of a near-death experience. They had a heart arrhythmia and were about to undergo DC cardioversion (pretty much the same as defibrillation of a newly-dead person, or as Miracle Max might say, mostly dead). As doctors were preparing, my patient announced they were receiving a phone call from a (long-dead) parent. As they tell it, the doctor began the procedure instantly, not waiting for the anesthesia to take effect, later explaining to my patient that he thought their death was imminent. The patient says the doctor told them that, should they get calls from dead relatives, they should not answer.
The story was told, not to be entertaining, but in a tone of terror. This person was terrified of death and still fears their death is imminent. With COVID-19, I am in no position to doubt. I received my fourth vaccination at the end of my shift.
We bid a not-so-fond farewell to 2020. Links are to previous mentions in these pages.
Losses include: Political innocence (if we had any). When else has a losing president refused to accept the results of an election? If that wasn’t bad enough, most of his party supported him. There was apparently a vast conspiracy which included Google, YouTube, Facebook, the Democratic party, election officials in all states and municipalities, polling organizations, and local pollworkers throughout the country; yet they were too incompetent to oust Mitch McConnell, Lindsay Graham, or a bunch of state officeholders that should be gone…or they were so sophisticated they managed to falsify only a single line on all of those ballots to fool us.
Green Bay Packers Willie Wood, Willie Davis, Herb Adderly, and Paul Hornung. Chicago Bear Gale Sayers. Harlem Globetrotter Curly Neal.
MusiciansJohn Prine, Toots Hibbert, Jerry Jeff Walker, Johnny Nash, Little Richard, Ennio Morricone (composer), Spencer Davis, McCoy Tyner, Buddy Cage (pedal steel guitarist who replaced Jerry Garcia in The New Riders of the Purple Sage), Joseph Shabalala (Ladysmith Black Mambazo), Ellis Marsalis (jazz pianist and father of Branford and Wynton), Peter Green, Charley Pride, Tony Rice.
Poet, priest, revolutionary (and personal hero) Ernesto Cardenal (former Nicaraguan Minister of Culture).
ActorsDiana Rigg (The Avengers), Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther, 42), Carl Reiner (also writer, director), Ken Osmond (Eddie Haskell from “Leave it to Beaver”), Jerry Stiller (half of Stiller and Meara). Max von Sydow (many Ingmar Bergman films), Kirk Douglas, Terry Jones (of Monty Python’s Flying Circus), Buck Henry (also screenwriter). Writer-Director Stuart Gordon.
Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Shirley Abrahamson (WI Supreme Court), Congressman John Lewis
Engineers Takuo Aoyagi (inventor of the pulse oximeter), Larry Tesler (a key developer of the Graphical User Interface – if you’ve used the commands cut/copy/paste, thank him), Bill English (inventor of the mouse), computer scientist Deborah Washington Brown (a pioneer in speech recognition), who left the New England Conservatory of Music and earned a doctorate in Computer Science at Harvard.
Journalist Jim Lehrer
345,000 (CDC) dead from COVID-19 in the US, 1,816,000 worldwide (Johns Hopkins)(rounded to nearest 1000 for ease of reading); 19% of deaths are in the US, which has 4% of the world’s population; for portion of population dead, US is 4th worst. Figures as of 12/31/2020
Aaron Danielson (killed during “Trump Cruise” rally) Ahmaud Arbery (killed for jogging while Black) Anthony Huber (killed during rally after Jacob Blake shooting) Breonna Taylor (killed by police for sleeping in her bed) Garrett Foster (killed during rally to protest George Floyd killing) George Floyd (killed by police while lying on the pavement) James Scurlock (killed during rally to protest George Floyd killing) Joesph Rosenbaum (killed during rally after Jacob Blake shooting) Michael Forest Reinoehl (killed by Federal agents; an extra-judicial execution that Donald Trump praised as “retribution”.) Rayshard Brooks (killed by police for falling asleep in a drive-through lane) 1066 people have been killed by police in 2020 (as of 12/15/2020). According to the Guardian, 25 people were killed during protests or other incidents linked to political unrest (as of 10/31/2020). I have not located all of the names.
This is an entirely subjective list of losses for the year. Your list may vary.
I met Ernesto Cardenal during the US tour to promote his newly-released epic poem “Cántico Cósmico” (“Cosmic Canticle”), a poem that begins: “In the beginning, there was nothing no space no time. The entire universe concentrated in the space of the nucleus of a single atom, and before even less, much less than a proton, and before still less, an infinitely dense mathematical point. And there was the Big Bang.” (translation by Half-fast Cycling Club) The history of the universe in 581 pages of verse – but think for a moment – this is a poem by a Roman Catholic priest, who does not say that in the beginning, god created the universe in 6 days.
Before he entered the priesthood he wrote a book of epigrams (one of my favorites is at this link), mostly love poems. After he became a priest he wrote a book of psalms, many of them political. In Psalm 18, – Las galaxias cantan la gloria de Dios – (“The galaxies sing the glory of God”), he puts us in context – an ordinary planet circling an average sort of star which orbits through the constellation Sagitarius. A universe in whose vast, empty spaces “hay campos magnéticos que cantan en nuestros radio-telescopios” (“magnetic fields sing to our radio telescopes”). Galaxies speak in a language without words, but not inaudibly, in a universe containing billions of galaxies spinning like carousels or musical spinning tops.
In psalm 21 ¿Por qué me has abandonado? (“Why have you abandoned me?”) he sings of people being tortured, straitjacketed, gassed naked (with their clothes given away), tattooed with numbers, abandoned in nursing homes and hospital contagious disease wings, drowning in oxygen tents, crying in police stations; but he ends with “the poor will have a banquet/our people will have a grand celebration/for the birth of a new people”.
Added to the lexicon: *contactless *contact tracing *coronavirus *COVID-19 *face covering *PAPR *PPE *social distancing
The good news: With snow in the forecast, I put the studded tires on my bike over the weekend. On the ride home from work Tuesday I saw a young bald eagle. It landed in a tree near me. I stopped to take a picture but it was camera shy and flew off into the woods. On Wednesday, with 8 inches of new snow, I rode in on empty streets, arriving at work at 5:35 AM. I had to be in early to cover for someone who couldn’t make it in because of the snow and to prepare for a long day covering for the other folks who wouldn’t be able to drive in because of the snow. I rode only on bus routes since they were already plowed (and the bike paths and side streets weren’t). I had the streets to myself. I allowed extra time to get in but it actually took only about five minutes longer than usual. On the way home I saw a flock of tundra swans swimming near shore.
New Year, New Ride
I started the year out with a morning ride around the lake, via the scenic route so it ended up about 1 mile per degree (F) of temperature; or about 20 miles. I rode past the house where I was born, past the house whose front yard I once had to crawl up after delivering their newspaper (due to ice), past the state capitol. The lake house (second picture) used to have a house in front of it, so the house you see in this picture was not visible from the street. By the time I took the first sip from the water bottle, it was nearly frozen. I’ve been home for 20 minutes and still waiting for it to thaw.
I had a difference of opinion with the rehab hospital to which we used to send a lot of patients. I found out another local hospital gave $500 bonuses to all of their employees; $700 to those who care for COVID-19 patients. Needless to say, we did not get said bonuses. Then a patient ruined my day by saying, “It’s obvious to me that you love your work.” Yeah, I had to admit that I love what I do during the time that I am face-to-face with patients. So far, that has sustained me. But, as I left work on the last day of the year, I told my co-workers, “Maybe I’ll see you Tuesday” after playing this for our management.
They didn’t hear it, as they are working from home.
“We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” John Fitzgerald Kennedy June 11, 1962
“The objective fact is I believe Trump probably did actually carry Georgia. …” Newt Gingrich December 7, 2020 (Just to clarify: While it may be an objective fact that he believes something, his belief is not an objective fact. But really, even that he believes it is not an objective fact. It is at best empirical [“depending on experience or observation alone, without using scientific method or theory”] and certainly not objective [“intent upon or dealing with things external to the mind rather than with thoughts or feelings”]. We only know he believes it because he tells us he does, or because we observe him to act as though he does.
“Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1746, I declare and verify under plenty of perjury that the facts contained in the foregoing Verified Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief are true and correct.” (emphasis added.) L. Lin Wood, December 18, 2020 (From a court filing seeking to declare Georgia’s Senate runoff election unconstitutional and seeking changes in procedures. Wood used the same arguments to attempt to throw out Georgia’s presidential election results. He claimed further that Donald Trump won 70% of the US votes.)
In honor of the 80th birthday of Charlie Watts next summer, the Rolling Stones are hard at work on the set list for a birthday tour. They are reworking many of their greatest (and earliest) hits. Some of the details have been leaked.
The set will open with the anthem of suburban curmudgeons everywhere, (Hey! you!) Get Off of My Lawn! (original 1965) Where else do you yell that from but your front porch rocker, with the ode Let it Rock? (1971).
The infirmities of aging get a workout. Arthritis of the thumb makes even simple activities difficult and painful. The problems of working the TV remote are detailed in Under My Thumb (1966). Falls and hip fractures are covered in Rip This Joint and rehab after hip replacement with Shake Your Hips (both 1972). Nobody likes uncontrolled flatulence, least of all Jumpin’ Jack Flash (he’s got gas, gas, gas) (1969). And with age comes erectile dysfunction, covered in (This could be) The Last Time (1965). Viagra is extolled in Start Me Up (1981). They sing of Type II diabetes in No Sugar (How come ya taste so good?) (1971), and, of course, hearing loss with Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’ (1971). Good caregivers are hard to find and keep. We hear about that in Mother’s Little Helper (1966). And someone has to hear our complaints, even if it’s only Dear Doctor (1968).
The Stones did cover tunes early in their career and end the same way. After a litany of the troubles of aging, they counsel us to have fun before it’s too late – (Get Your Kicks When) You’re 66 (1964). End of life is explored in Time Ain’t on My Side and It’s All Over Now (1965, 1964).
Remember, you heard it here first. Get your tickets while you can still remember.
I should be waking up early in an inn in Hope Valley, CA and riding the Death Ride today. Instead, I’m waking up just as early, and going to work.
When I was a kid we looked forward to the arrival of the big mail-order catalogs from Sears and Spiegel. We referred to them as “wish books” and pored over them to figure out what Christmas gifts to ask for.
Nowadays (I never thought I’d be using that word) catalogs seem to arrive on a daily basis. Some companies (you know who you are) send catalogs every week.
I was looking for a suitable image (hoping to find a Norman Rockwell-esque image of kids lying prone on the floor, feet in the air, looking at a catalog) to go with this thought but, instead, came across the gift I wanted for years and never got (and it’s not a Daisy Red Ryder carbine action two-hundred shot range model air rifle). It was a fake car dashboard so I could pretend to drive – one with working horn, turn signals, and windshield wipers. My parents thought it inappropriate. Kids shouldn’t drive ’til they’re 16, and driving is not a game, but to be taken seriously. Funny that I hardly ever drive now.
Anyway, last week I found myself looking, not through Christmas catalogs, but through listings for cross-state bike tours. While I know it will be years (if ever) before I can ride across the country again, maybe a state or two would suffice. A couple of riders from the Twin Cities last summer wore a variety of jerseys from South Dakota rides. South Dakota had some great riding, so I’m looking there. (Greg and Dawn, if you’re reading this, tell me what you think of some of those rides. Or were all your jerseys from Nebraska? You’ll have to do some fast talking to convince me to join you for that one.) The Finger Lakes and Adirondacks were great fun, so I’m looking at New York rides. One of these days I’ll do the GRABAAWR (Great Annual Bicycling Adventure Along the Wisconsin River) and I’m thinking about RAW (Ride Across Wisconsin), a one- or two-day ride across the state. And maybe it’s time to return to Cycle Oregon, which I rode in 1992.
My summer 2019 travel budget will be taken up by nieces’ weddings out west, so I’m already thinking about 2020, with 2019 spent on day rides around here. Of course, 2020 is also the next Cycle America ride, which I won’t be on, though I may either join them across Wisconsin or buy them all a beer in Baraboo. If you’ve had a great (or terrible) experience with an organized cross-state or regional ride, tell us about it in the comments.
I know I linked to this before, but it’s time again. In 2011, my friend Keith Greeninger wrote the song “Hop in the truck”. It is sung from the viewpoint of a contractor looking to pick up casual labor to build a wall. Since our president has announced that he would be proud to shut down the federal government if congress doesn’t allocate several billion dollars to build a border wall, the half-fast cycling club dedicates this to the man of orange (not to be confused with the man in black):
So this post was written a couple of days ago and waiting to go up tonight…I’m listening to Astral Weeks by Van Morrison and realizing what this time was like musically 50 years ago – fall 1968 saw the release of “The Beatles” (AKA the White Album), “Beggar’s Banquet” by the Rolling Stones, “Memories” by Richard and Mimi Fariña, and the aforementioned “Astral Weeks”. Oh, and “Electric Ladyland” by Jimi Hendrix. An embarrassment of musical riches. And that’s just off the top of my head from stuff I’ve listened to recently.
I have one standard for Christmas music – it has to be something I’d listen to even if it wasn’t Christmas. So I’ll leave you with this from David Grisman’s Acoustic Christmas (not from 1968, but 1986):