TWL: piano and peach cobbler

We were so close. At the end of June we dared to be optimistic when our weekly case counts were the lowest in 18 months. But our chance of ending the pandemic was doomed by the Delta variant and unmasked unvaccinated spreaders, and now we’re back at weekly caseloads as high as they were in February: more than 600,000 new US cases this week, a 48% increase over last week. We’re well on our way to another exponential growth in the spread.

We were so close. The hope of in-person lectures and some normalcy for the fall semester has been snuffed and we must all be prepared to go back online again. While cases are surging, my state legislature is challenging our campus-wide mask mandate. If we don’t cower to their demands, they’ll take our funding. Interesting balance: trade a few lives to keep our funding–all based on a loose interpretation of a new “law.” The whole thing makes my heart hurt.

Thinking about numbers, even scary ones, calms me down a bit. It’s data. It’s facts. Nothing emotional here. One simple trend that I track is how long between millions.

For example it took the US 15 weeks at the beginning of the pandemic to reach 1 million cases; 7 more weeks to reach 2 million, then in only 3 more weeks we got to 3 million.

We roughly maintained a 2-3 week rate for each next million up to 9 million.

Then, for 14 consecutive weeks we kept up 1-2 million cases each week to get us to 27 million, easily maintaining our lead over every other country on the planet both in cases and deaths.

Then, in February 2021 we took almost 2 weeks to jump from 27 to 28 million, and then 12 more weeks to add the next 5 “millions” while we were all scrambling for vaccines.

The beautiful lull lasted 8 weeks to add the next million to get to 34 million.

Then delta kicked in; we added another million in just 3 weeks to reach 35 million this week. By simple models, we’ll reach 36 million by mid-August and then start stacking millions per week again just like last winter. Another tidal wave.

And we were so close. We have the vaccine. We have masks. We have brains. Use them.

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To cheer myself up, after I finished drafting my course syllabi, I played the piano and I made peach cobbler to soothe my soul. Here’s the piano and here are pictures of the cobbler in progress and complete. The music was lovely and the cobbler was delicious. I hope you find ways to take good care of yourself through the next months.

Plopped on some ice cream, closed my eyes, and breathed. I used this recipe by Lauren Allen: Old Fashioned Peach Cobbler – Tastes Better From Scratch

Try it!

TWL: snake story

You hear about fish stories and how the fish could never actually have been THAT big. Well, the snake we killed in our backyard today would have reached from my toes to my shoulder if he had caught me lying on the grass in the sun.

As it was, I was reading in my rocking chair on the patio when my DH called from the hill behind me, “Laur, big snake in the yard.”

It slithered by ten feet from me. I was barefoot. DH got the shovel as I chased it (still barefoot) down the hill with only my Kindle in my hand.

While the beast slithered into my daisies, we had a ridiculous conversation about letting it crawl away. If it went to our neighbor’s yard, it could live. It was a “good” one that ate other pests. While the snake coiled in my flowers listening to us, it became clear he did not understand English–so I insisted on its demise.

DH wanted to throw a heavy stone down on it from the wall by my garden. I wanted my shoes. He waited while I found my sneakers and brought him two giant rocks.

I took the shovel and he hit the coil with the first rock. Missed with the second. I went in with the shovel and the snake leaped up at me. (DH ran.) I hacked a hundred times.

In the end we prevailed and the enormous reptile is no longer loose in my yard. Nature can be scary as hell. Take Covid for example. That virus held us helpless while we waited for the vaccine. The snake? No wait. Sneakers, rocks, a shovel, and some fury. Done.

To end this exciting day we went out to dinner for the first time in 17 months. We ate on the deck and a waitress with the same name as our daughter brought us champagne and food NOT COOKED BY ME.

Not a bad day.

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In COVID news: this week the US had the fewest new cases (~104k) in 14 months. Vaccines are working. Get yours NOW.

TWL: holding steady

This week the number of new COVID cases in the US was close to the same as last week, just under half a million. No decrease, but no increase in the rate of infection. We are on the plateau. As we increase our vaccinated population (56 million), somehow others are still spreading the virus at the same rate as last week. Logically one would expect a decrease. Maybe next week.

The current total number of confirmed infected Americans in 64 weeks of the pandemic? Thirty million eight hundred forty three thousand. One in ten Americans have caught this disease.

Rather than updating my standard bar graph, here is a graph of total COVID US cases as a function of weeks of the pandemic. The slope has decreased since 10 weeks ago. We want the slope to reach zero, for the curve to flatten, for the spread the stop.

If you’d like to read more data and trends about cases, hospitalizations, deaths, and vaccinations, check out the CDC COVID data tracker weekly review.

TWL: do what you know is right, even when it’s hard, even when nobody is watching

On this Tuesday with Laurie, I have to admit this: Texas worries me.

I worry about my friends in Texas. With the pandemic far from over, Texas is wide open. Poor decisions can hurt people, but not when smart people fully comprehend the idiocy of such decisions. After more than a year of pandemic we have all suffered too much and are all smart enough to take the intelligent path without being told to do so.

I should point out this was the first week with fewer than half a million new cases since October 20, 2020. The decline in new cases in America this week was tiny, still a decrease from last week but not by much. We’ve been here before: on a fragile plateau right before the next surge. We have to watch and worry about states like Texas because they will lead our country to yet another horrifying surge unless their people refuse to follow dangerous advice.

TWL: simple math of 56 out of 85

Only 17 Republican senators need to vote with their gut to do what they know is right and convict Donald of inciting an insurrection. Only 17–if all are present for the final vote. Today six showed their hands, so who are the other 11 going to be? They say there are 15 more Republicans who have not officially shown their hands. If those 15 stay home for the final vote, the Senate will convict as they know they must. If they absolutely cannot stand against the Donald, if all of them truly fear him still, by staying home these 15 will silently, (gutlessly), yet effectively do what they know they must–what we all know to be the right thing to do: prop up the fraction by diminishing the denominator; aka #convict.

Donald, the superlative lover, was the worst (the most terrible) president in the history of this nation. He was also the most small-minded, the pettiest, and the least ethical man to ever hold the highest office in the land. He was the biggest embarrassment. He was impeached the most. He lied the most. He will be remembered as the most everything, except the best. For four years we suffered, worried, screamed in anger at the TV (“hoax” “hydroxychloroquine” “bleach” and on and on), and rolled our eyes at his ineptness, his tweets, his boorish ignorance. Finally he is gone because we loudly voted him out. We did it. We beat him. He lost.

On his way out he intentionally and directly incited violence directed at our lawmakers while they were formally carrying out the final stroke on his demise. In the crosshairs of that violence incited by Donald, people died. Watching the recap video today of January 6, 2021, and then listening to Donald’s laughable lawyers, we all relived the horror of that day and now realize no one with a grain of intelligence will stand beside Donald anymore–they cannot do so and be able to look their children in the eyes. Upon the final vote in this trial, any senators who stand with him are publicly siding with violent terrorists against our country. There will be no place to hide. And they will be voted out.

Donald should be impeached a third time for his horrendous mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic that has killed almost half a million Americans. The man was an ugly stain on America and our only hope to wash away the stench of him is to convict and put this behind us.

Good news: this week the COVID numbers dropped again, down to about the levels we saw back in late October 2020, right around when Donald lost his first debate with President Biden. Remember those weeks? when Donald held a super spreader event in the Rose Garden, and tested positive? Ahh, the stench lingers.

It seems many who lost someone to the pandemic can now add a lucky person they know who has been vaccinated. A nurse. A mom. A teacher (well, not in my state, but in others). Plans for the next school year are underway and optimistic for a full in-person return to instruction with full classrooms of students. With that goal in mind, we better power through these vaccinations, double-mask, stop the spread of the mutation, and get this pandemic under control. We don’t have a great track record so I’ll be surprised (but pleased) if you all can pull this off.

In the meantime, let’s convict Donald. That’ll give us all a jolt, a pleasant surprise, and maybe remind us to focus on of the fragility of our country and the strength of our people.