The Emperors New Virus

So how long until we can ask if everyone has lost their fucking minds?

Another week?

Another month?

Let me set out my logic early so you can decide beforehand if you agree or disagree without having to read a lot of words and then going through the pain and stress of rationalizing your opinion.

 

  • Closing shop for a short time was a good move. We knew very little about the virus and there were some very serious implications around it that would have dire consequences.

 

  • We can’t stay closed forever. That part should be obvious. The reason that we enjoy civilized life is because of how specialized and connected we are. That is already at risk and staying in the cave longer just pushes it that much closer.

 

  • People demonstrated to be at-risk should be our utmost priority. They should be protected and not forced into any kind of return to licking doorknobs.

 

  • Our president didn’t suggest injecting disinfectants. Not directly. But he did look over to his advisers with a twinkle of hope in his eye and ask questions about if it was a viable solution and that should be scary enough. It was not sarcasm. Most of his statements could be made around a watercooler with a close friend as small talk and they would giggle and say “man that old Donny T is crazy”. Most of his statements are not exemplary testaments to strong and powerful leadership at the Presidential level.

 

  • We are obsessed with death models and that keeps us from asking the right questions. I click on the CDC link at least twice a day. It’s a train wreck rubberneck reaction. How bad will it get. Morbid curiosity. But it isn’t the only decision tool. And it is related to testing which has been shown repeatedly to underestimate actual infections. This has been likened to a war. Battle decisions aren’t made on death toll alone. They include strategic advantage.

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  • Our political parties are confused. We have the party of individual rights and freedom mandating private businesses to close. We have the party of socialism raising up individual safety as a reason for the herd to sacrifice. I’m not picking a side but you have to admit it is weird. I don’t blame them. I’m confused by this mess too.
  • The reason for flattening the curve was the objective of not overwhelming our healthcare. It was never intended to get back to normal life more quickly. If we wanted to get through this quickly we would put everyone in the same room and have a virus sharing party. Everyone share beverages and cough in each other’s faces. We would be done with it in 21 days. Disastrously, but true enough. This rollback was a move to avoid the situation in Italy where people were turned away and left to die. We’ve blunted the curve but we are at the other end of the spectrum, healthcare workers are being furloughed and fired because nothing is happening. We are now losing healthcare capacity from an action with the sole intent to protect healthcare capacity.

So those are the facts that fuel my thinking. If we are misaligned then don’t bother correcting me because I am just as hard headed as you and we will just waste energy in a comment section. If all that makes some little bit of sense and you can tolerate it as a base of discussion then let’s move to the next half.

 

  • We are not seeing the right numbers on actual infections, transmissivity, and mortality. The testing has not materialized and we are operating under the Italy assumption; the idea that mass death and chaos will ensue. All the while we are getting hints that infections are way more prevalent and that this has been here since maybe November of last year. For the purpose of the final question let’s assume these mortality and transmission numbers come out somewhere around a bad seasonal flu.

 

  • Some experts are suggesting that a vaccine for a corona virus is a pipe dream that has been tried for many years with no success in sight. It is the common cold. This is a deadly strain. Should we still pursue it? Absolutely. But I would like some reality conveyed to the masses about just how likely it will be to create one. For the purpose of the final question let’s assume this answer is something longer than two years to create one.

 

  • The media thrives on controversy and sensationalism and breaking news. Hopefully that is recognized as fact. Take all of the news with a grain of salt. When the lead headline of the day was fear about a second wave next fall I tried to find what they were basing it on. It was an interview in the Washington Post. The guy said that this virus will likely be seasonal and would likely coincide with flu season along with colds and a hundred other things. From that statement we got a day full of dire warnings about a second wave killing millions. Maybe it is true but we are struggling to assess the present situation. It seems irresponsible to start freaking out about the future. But for the sake of my final question let’s assume they are right and this is an annual event.

 

So… if everyone will catch this thing over some time period, we have no prospect of a vaccine, and this will happen annually in a seasonal pattern. Why are we crushing our economy, our healthcare capacity, and dismantling our way of life?

Its because we have a risk-averse culture who believes that no matter what something must be done. Safety first.

Sometimes the bravest thing you can do is nothing at all.

So here is my final question that I ask myself every morning…

What the fuck are we doing?

It looks like panic and it needs to stop. But it won’t. No one will put their neck on the line because you can’t prove what didn’t happen and safety is the safest thing. More infections will mean more death and no one wants that hanging over their head but in the end it may well be the lesser evil.

I’ll add a caveat that if a vaccine is on the horizon and/or if the true mortality rate is 1-3% or higher and if I’m wrong about the overall current stress on the healthcare system then we are doing the right thing but I don’t know that we-the-people are seeing the data to make that decision. And we should be involved in that decision. The two things that are rampant in government are tedium and micromanagement. The desire to control every single decision along a flow chart because the general public is considered too stupid to do the right thing.

This whole ride is a daily rollercoaster. I suspect that right and wrong decisions are an illusion because we are where we are and we’ve done what we’ve done. And what we do next won’t hinge on anything you or I think. I’ve never been so unsure and internally divided on an issue.

So, if you were trolling the internet for a random person’s internal dialogue and misguided opinions, this post is for you. You’re welcome. Share with caution. I could be a ten-year-old in Taiwan for all you know. It’s the internet. Anything is possible.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Bakers Dozen Jane

I often wish that I could take a new understanding that I get from watching my kids and bottle it up and then pour it into their head. To show them what I see.

This weekend we welcomed Jane into the realm of the teenager. I haven’t been ready for the past thirteen years and I’m still not. The things I have taught her over these years could fit in a small pamphlet but the things she has taught me have helped fill me out as a person, on the inside. Doughnuts have helped me fill out as a person on the outside. I’ve had to wrestle with myself on what I believe and how I want to be seen in the eyes of others. I’ve softened how I interact with the world. We have learned to support the underdogs and enjoy the weird things in life. I’m definitely a better person because of her.

Several years ago she wanted to draw something. If I remember correctly it was horses. We had discussions on art and her frustrations with not being able to draw the thing that she had in her mind. I told her the secret that I wish someone had told me, “No one is naturally good at anything but peeing and pooping and everything else is learned.”

Everything. Else. Is. Learned.

When you drop out of the womb you learn to breath air. You learn to nurse to get food. You learn to cry with the new air in your lungs and you learn to enjoy human contact. Babies aren’t born with the ability to talk or sing or dance or draw. Somewhere along the way we try these things and mostly suck at it. Babies are terrible at almost anything but undeterred by anything. That is the magic of babies. They will try to the point of injury to do the thing that cannot yet be done.

I told Jane to keep drawing. To take one thing and draw it really well. Learn why it looks like this or that. Practice shading. Practice shapes. Draw the same damn horse five million times. Use every sheet of paper and all of your markers to make a pile of terrible drawings. Then take the things you like and put them together in a new drawing. Throw the rest away. Keeping doing it. Practice with anything that you might ever want to draw. Then one day, you will look up from the scribbled bodies strewn around your floor and you will realize not only can you draw but you are an artist.

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She has been into drawing Anime characters in the latest drawing phase. She is an excellent artist. She has found several apps that help develop the drawing process and shading and even time-lapse her work.  She has even started teacher her sisters some art basics.

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I fancied myself an artist back in the day but I wasn’t nearly as talented.

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Jane has always made me proud. She has always known what she liked and been brave enough to be herself. From an unprompted Lord of the Rings fandom to making more money that I expected from competitive goat showing, Jane is always chasing a new passion.

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She always looks to me to smile or give a thumbs up of approval. She brings her drawings to me when she finishes and I always take a picture on my phone. I have a running record.

The truth in a bottle that I would love to pour into her head is that we are both seeking each other’s approval. I want to be sure that I am a good father and she wants to be sure that she meets my approval as a daughter. The funny part is that as long as we are both trying our best, the other will never be disappointed.

I hope that the next thirteen years are just as fun and interesting and amazing as the last round.

Happy Birthday Jane!

If you have kids growing up way too fast, this post is for you. You’re welcome. All of my kids are awesome but they weren’t all born on the same day so this one is for Jane.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Life Lessons

Check on your teacher friends. They are having a rough one today. School closures were extended through the end of the semester.

I don’t want to kick off with the wrong tone but I recall a specific feeling from my younger years. I lost a friend unexpectedly and it was surreal until the funeral. Until that moment there was an outside chance that the hanging dread would turn out to be pointless anxiety. There was a finality in the ceremony that made the truth feel real. It gave me permission to accept reality and to grieve.

At the risk of being hyperbolic, today had a similar dark and final feeling. Our state cancelled the rest of the semester and children will likely report to their next grade level in the Fall. In a moment, the kids and their teachers experienced a sudden loss of hope. Hope that things would return and maybe they would get a few weeks with this class before sending them off to their next adventure. A change to say goodbye.

We will probably all joke about getting extra long spring breaks or some other nonsense. I’ve already made a joke about saving money on laundry detergent and school uniforms. It is to cover the raw feeling that life is a little different and there is another thing that can’t be undone.

There are friendships and relationships that are gone. Social networks that exist only at work and at school. There are burdens being carried by parents that they are unprepared to carry. We are scrambling to schedule zoom and log in to the correct remote learning apps. Six of us in my house all doing something internet or phone call related.

Uncertainty is eating at all of us. Sometimes it bubbles out as bold exclamations that “we can’t keep this up forever!”. Sometimes it is denial and I hear things like, “This is an overreaction!”. Some call it supernatural. Some call it sinister. Who knows. We all cope in different ways. I try to take note.

For the teachers I’ve watched, the reactions are just as varied. I’ve seen some try to maintain sanity and community through light-hearted hang-outs. Making sure that middle school kids in the prime of social butterfly timeline have a chance to poke fun and crack jokes. I’ve seen some pour their hearts into personalized effort for each and every student. I’ve watched some take to Facebook Live and YouTube to create content that makes the students feel like they are close to the teachers they love. Sometimes as simple as reading a book. Others are working to keep up requirements and assignments and try to keep some structure for the students. To give them a point of focus and a goal for the day.  I’ve not seen a single teacher throw up their hands. They have continued on doing different things because of what they have in common. They love the children they teacher.

I know that the decision to stay home for the rest of the school year was not made lightly. There were tears shed in our house. Not just because Supermom just got a job as a teacher in four grade levels. We shared a minute of sadness. I just wanted to take that minute and capture it in time to acknowledge that we lost the most precious thing we have as people; time with one another. Shared experience.

Seniors are missing their milestones of graduation and prom. I imagine everyone posting graduation memories isn’t super helpful for their mood but it highlights the emotional energy that we put into our memories. There are weddings and reunions and hundreds of other social gatherings that fell victim to COVID-19. That’s just the way it is. We will get back to normal sometime but we will remember the ghost-of-before.

If you are feeling a little down again today, this post is for you. Me too. It happens. This probably wasn’t all that helpful but you’re welcome. Tomorrow is a new one and we will wake up and look ahead.

To the teachers… THANK YOU! And we feel you. I’m sure I will see you from the background of a zoom call but if not, I’ll see you around in the fall. Until then, don’t lick any doorknobs in public places.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Coon Whisperer

Well folks… when I’m wrong I say I’m wrong and until you prove it I will simply say I was mistaken.

I need to print a retraction from a previous story. It seems that in my last post when I suggested that Papaw’s little brother ended up in the hospital from getting run over by a tractor, being kicked by a mule, and by swallowing a whole bottle of Tylenol; one of those was not entirely true. Turns out, he didn’t bust his stomach from being kicked by a mule. He ruptured it from falling out of a tree and then Papaw carted him back to humanity on the back of a pony. My memory just adjusted some of the facts. His brother also did not go to the hospital after being run over by a tractor. His parents inspected the wounds made by steel blades that churn the earth and determined they were probably superficial. He did get his cuts treated with “blue medicine”. I will also assume that he got a standard issue “ass whipping”. Whiskey is the only other country treatment known to man that is three times more prescribed and fifty percent as effective as an all-purpose Ass-Whipping.

I’m glad I got that error corrected. While I am at it, I have some new additions. While we were discussing the facts around childhood injuries I got more depth for this already colorful history.

Fun fact: The pony that saved Papaws brother by providing medical transport also saved Papaw at a different time and in much the same way.

Papaw had a little red pony that he rode everywhere. He grew up in the early seventies and loved watching westerns. What is better for a child who loves westerns than his very own trick pony? Papaw regaled us with his agile adventures that border on parkour. For instance, he told us about trying to leap from a galloping pony into an open bedroom window. This was how Papaw learned about Newtons First and Third Laws of Motion.

Newton’s First Law: Object in motion tends to stay in motion…

Newton’s Third Law: Each action (force) has an equal and opposite reaction.

Papaw’s Second Law: If it doesn’t kill you, you’ll be better in a second.

The girls laughed and laughed at that story. He also added, “You know when they ride a horse through a glass window in the movies? That doesn’t work.” We all laughed at that too.

Then he told us about the pony saving his life. Apparently, he wanted a pet squirrel. One day while running around and not breaking his ribs on jumping through windows he rode his pony to the edge of the woods. A squirrel scampered up a tree. Papaw tied the pony to the tree and commenced to climbing the tree. You might ask, “What will he do if he catches the squirrel?”. I would reply, “Wait for the racoon story.” After about forty feet up the tree a limb broke and sent Papaw flailing to the ground. Luckily his head broke his fall and after a few moments of being unconscious he woke up and crawled to his pony. He managed to drape himself across the back of the pony and tied the rope. The pony walked him to the front door of his house where his mother scooped him up and carried him inside. What really speaks volumes to me is the fact that his mother didn’t question how or what or even if he was going to live. This was such a regular occurrence that she would simply lay these boys in the bed until their bodies healed enough for them to go run headlong into another injury.

The racoon story.

Papaw finally got a wild animal pet. A female racoon with a sunny disposition. He said she was tame “most of the time”. I asked how he tamed her and he said, “I just got in the pen with her and let her bite me until she got tired of being so mean.” I verified that his method for befriending a wild racoon was just sitting still and letting it attack until it was exhausted. He nodded. While I understand the reasoning I cannot match the will power and tolerance for pain. What reference do you have to possess for pain to think a raccoon attack is just something to be tolerated for the one-way affection that you will enjoy on the other side?

Sweet Baby Jesus shine your loving light on this leathery soul.

Most rough and tumble boys would have stories about fist fights in the school parking lot. But I can’t imagine the suicidal playground bully who would hear his stories of self-inflicted pain and think, “Hey I’ll fight that kid.”

He sounds like he lived the perfect action hero backstory. The brave tales of Swifty McTwotoes and his trusty coon sidekick. They rode the high plains fighting crime on the back of a blood red steed.

So if you have more time to sit around and share family legends, this post is for you. Tell all the stories and whatever you do, write them down. And for my daughters who are ready this… this is why women live longer. Nothing in a woman makes her yearn to climb trees after squirrels or leap from moving animals into unmovable structures.

Underdaddy to the rescue.

Ah-Sen-Chuel

Our hometown has a stay-at-home order. Most hometowns have a stay-at-home order. Safer at home. Shelter in place. Quarantine. Humans telling other humans what to do to keep the virus from spreading. Then the second group of humans feels confined or chided by the first group so they buck the trends. They stretch the truth. They shelter in cars on the road around other second group humans. Doing important things. Critical things. Essential… things.

Essential activities start to expand at the edge of hypothetical where it meets hyperbole.


I need food to live.

True.

I don’t have food in my hand.

True.

Chicken sandwiches are food.

Still true.

Food is essential.

I like where this is going.

Chic-Fil-A is essential.

Boom. Masterful.

 


ACT ONE

 

Me: Give me a sweet tea, twelve piece nugget, large waffle fry, and one Polynesian and one Ranch.

Peppy 17-year-old Taking My Order Curbside: Large fry only or large size the whole order?

Me: Excellent catch. I see why they hired you. Large size the whole combo.

Peppy 17-year-old Smiling So Hard His Eyes Are Squeezed Shut: My pleasure.

Me: *Teleports to the end of the line and finds my order in the seat beside me and my shoulders feeling relaxed from a massage that I can’t recall ever happening.*

 


ACT TWO

I’ve been to Target.

Essential. Life or death shit.

Stop three on my first day of house arrest. I am walking back to my car that is black but somehow yellow from the solid layer of pollen. It should have bees having a bee orgy and snorting up that sweet yellow powder like Tony Montana did on his desk. Instead there is one lonely wasp directly on the driver’s door. Probably hogging all of the proboscis candy to himself.

My hands are full of essential Easter gear that we ordered online. I am wearing my daughter’s sunglasses that are two grey circles that make me look like a steam punk villain. My oversized blue t-shirt with a yeti in a sweater that says “Yeti to Party!” really outweighs the sunglasses. As I approached the car pondering what to do, the wasp had his own agenda. SCHINNGG. He whipped out his razor wings and slid his attack flight goggles in to place. I barely had time to react as he launched towards me with intent to kill. I swung my bags of candy and Easter baskets. I retreated and circled the car and bought just enough time to leap in the driver’s side. The wasp bounced against the window for a few minutes as I sat back and let my heart regain a normal rhythm. The panic fog cleared from my eyes and I reached for my hand sanitizer. As I rubbed it in on my already dry hands I notice a young couple across the aisle. They had a good laugh at my assault and I realize the absurdity of the whole thing. I went shopping in a funny tshirt that I had on for two days wearing children’s sunglasses and fought a wasp in the Target parking lot and my hands smell like Christmas Cupcake because I stole this sanitizer off my kids backpacks that they probably aren’t using again this year. My sweet bakery aroma probably attracted the damn wasp.

What am I doing with my life? Has it come to this?

Time to head home relax so I can be prepared to not do anything tomorrow.

Exhausting.

You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.