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July 17th, 2022

Not Quite The Anxiety Of An HIV Test…But Still…

With so many people I follow on social media saying they’ve tested positive for COVID-19 I decided to use one of my test kits before it expired, just to see the result. Thankfully everyone saying so isn’t experiencing bad symptoms…some in fact aren’t experiencing any at all. Those tested as a precaution to some coming event and discovered unpleasantly that they had it. The worry is more about long term impacts, but otherwise these are in good health.

So I ran both tests in my kit and both came back negative. I have one more kit that is due to expire soon and I’ll use it too, then go buy some new ones, use one new one immediately and save the others.

One reason for being apprehensive in my case is the constant fatigue I am feeling, and which so I’m told is one of the symptoms. But that can also be due to my age, the heart meds I’m taking, and too little physical activity.  I am working on the activity part twice weekly at the hospital fitness center, and I can feel it helping, so there’s that.

I remember the stress waiting for results from an HIV test I took decades ago, after having had lovely but unprotected sex with strike three. It came back negative and the doctor who gave me the results looked at me like a guy who appreciated being able to give a patient good news every now and then, leavened with a weary look of Please Now Be More Fucking Careful When Fucking…Please… I got the unspoken message.

Called strike three afterward and told him I’m fine, we’re fine. He had no comment. Another unspoken message, but that one sadly went right over my head.

by Bruce | Link | React!

December 27th, 2021

Unvaccinated Men Walking Proudly Over That Rotten Covering

Let me start out by reminding my readers here once again, that I am an atheist. And also, that my atheism isn’t a knee jerk reaction to any specific religion. I realized that I’d drifted into atheism once I was ready to admit to myself that belief had stopped making sense to me quite some time ago. Your mileage may vary, and I’m fine with that, as long as it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

I say this all up front, because I have to tell you that sometimes I find myself wondering. Like when I read this, about the new COVID variant…

With omicron, it may be harder to tell if you have covid, the common cold or flu

Unlike earlier variants of concern, like delta, omicron has a higher affinity for the upper respiratory epithelium, said Landon: “It’s more likely to make people sniffle more, sneeze more or be congested.”

The mildness of omicron’s symptoms for vaccinated people in particular may give them a false sense of confidence that they have a cold rather than a highly-transmissible variant of covid-19.

Go read the whole article from the Washington Post. The takeaway I get is that in those of us who are vaccinated the new variant can present like a common cold. Adding to that is it looks like the variant has a preference for the upper respiratory zone. It is more likely to give you the sniffles and sneezes and nasal congestion. So you think it’s just a cold and it isn’t.

There’s also this Twitter thread from an ER doctor…who says…

Every patient I’ve seen with Covid that’s had a 3rd ‘booster’ dose has had mild symptoms. By mild I mean mostly sore throat. Lots of sore throat. Also some fatigue, maybe some muscle pain. No difficulty breathing. No shortness of breath. All a little uncomfortable, but fine.

Most patients I’ve seen that had 2 doses of Pfizer/Moderna still had ‘mild’ symptoms, but more than those who had received a third dose. More fatigued. More fever. More coughing. A little more miserable overall. But no shortness of breath. No difficulty breathing. Mostly fine.

Most patients I’ve seen that had one dose of J&J and had Covid were worse overall. Felt horrible. Fever for a few days (or more). Weak, tired. Some shortness of breath and cough. But not one needing hospitalization. Not one needing oxygen. Not great. But not life-threatening.

And almost every single patient that I’ve taken care of that needed to be admitted for Covid has been unvaccinated. Every one with profound shortness of breath. Every one whose oxygen dropped when they walked. Every one needing oxygen to breathe regularly.

So. Four years of Trump…a thief and a sexual predator celebrated by various American religious right figures including Franklin Graham almost as if he was the second coming…wildly popular with grassroots white culture war evangelicals…one of many such all over the world burning democracies wherever they can while waving their bibles…

…or whatever religious idols they venerate. Suddenly a plague of…well…Biblical proportions appears, almost out of nowhere. And for a couple years it strikes terror and hardship all over the globe. 

But the helpers, as Mr. Rogers called them, come forth, as they do, and taught us how to protect ourselves and our neighbors until a vaccine could be produced. And then a vaccine was produced. And we wore our masks, and we kept our distance, and got our shots because that is how decent people behave in a plague.

…and the despots pushed back against all of it, the rich and powerful and the cul-de-sac kook pew deplorables alike, because that is how the wicked traditionally behave all the time. And we are all still suffering this plague because they won’t take one simple little iota of responsibility for doing their part to fight this plague if it means they have to be inconvenienced, or worse, admit the helpers were helping where they themselves could not be bothered in the least.

I was raised in a Baptist household. I take pains these days to specify a Yankee Baptist household, and while most of us didn’t thump a racist pulpit (which is why there is a Southern Baptist Convention), lots of us still warned each other darkly about crossing an angry vengeful God. You really needed to experience the theater of a tent revival to know what genuine fire and brimstone pulpit thumping is. But mostly, in the pews I sat in when I was a kid, I heard about a God of Love. Yeah you could make him angry at you, but the God I was preached to about loved all the children of the world, red brown yellow black and white, and just wanted us to be good to each other, love our neighbors, and love Him back.

So never mind my atheism, everything in my wiring does not really want to see an angry vengeful God in the fact that after two years of plague, and about half the county and too much of the rest of the world is furiously fighting any steps to mitigate the spread of this virus, because they’d rather hundreds of thousands of their neighbors die then admit to any sort of social responsibility, let alone work toward the common good, suddenly there appears a variation on the horrible theme. And it spreads even more rapidly. Only this time it is gentle on those of us who did our part and got the shots, and still very Very deadly to those who did not. Almost as if it is passing us by.

So I take a deep breath. I do not believe in such a God. Or any God. And calling it karma feels too much like washing my hands of responsibility. So I keep wearing the mask where appropriate. And I’ve ordered some home rapid tests. I don’t need to believe an almighty God exists to know my neighbor exists. And you can’t judge a book by its cover. I want to look in my bathroom mirror and see a helper, not an angry god.


by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Unvaccinated Men Walking Proudly Over That Rotten Covering

August 5th, 2021

Guess Which Headline Is Fox

My morning Google News page. Can you spot the difference between how these various news sources are covering this story?

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Guess Which Headline Is Fox

March 18th, 2021

The Anti-Vaccination Industrial Complex…And How To FIght It

Cracking good article in Nature about the scope and reach of the Anti-Vaxers, how they are funded, and how to fight them…

When we see anti-vaxx misinformation on social media, we must resist falling into the trap of engaging with it, however tempting it may be to point out obvious flaws and falsehoods. Engaging with misinformation online spreads it further: if we scratch the itch, we spread the disease. It is far more helpful and effective to instead share good information about vaccines from trusted sources. And when we each have our turn to be vaccinated, we should tell our friends and followers. Photos and clips posted on social media of the early recipients of vaccines encourage us all and show there is nothing to fear.

For the public-health organizations involved in developing and rolling out the vaccine, it is vital that they study the anti-vaxxers’ plan to prevent it from succeeding. Every anti-vaxx message can be boiled down to a master narrative of three parts: “COVID-19 isn’t dangerous; vaccines are dangerous; you can’t trust doctors or scientists.” Instead of attempting to rebut every silly conspiracy theory, practitioners should inoculate against those three central claims. And they must do so in every corner of the internet, meeting people where they are. For example, doctors and scientists should join their local community’s Facebook group and offer to answer any questions their neighbors have about the vaccine against COVID-19…

Go read the whole thing.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Anti-Vaccination Industrial Complex…And How To FIght It

March 16th, 2021

A Year Ago…(continued…)

A coworker posted on Facebook a couple days ago about how they saw it a year ago, when things started getting serious regards the virus. It brought back a slew of my own memories, which I should probably set down here while they’re still somewhat fresh.

I’d come back home from California, and the protocol at work already was if you were out of state you had to self quarantine for two weeks. So I was already in work at home mode when the news came down that they were scheduling a mass work at home day for everyone at the Institute except critical staff, to basically run a test to see how well we could manage if it came down to it when someone inside the building tested positive.

I already figured we’d do okay. For well over a decade we were allowed to designate one day a week as our telecommute day and we were already up to speed with supporting offsite work. So for me it was just a routine self quarantine day. But it was a good thing we’d been doing it for years by then, because a few days later the Institute became off limits to everyone but the workers disinfecting everything, because someone who was in the building later Did test positive.

It’s a few days more than a year later, and I’ve basically not spent a regular week at the office since I left for my California visit over a year ago. As time went on management developed various protocols for staff entering and working in the building when it was absolutely necessary…usually for supporting JWST testing in the MOC, which simply cannot be done remotely. So I’ve been back inside on a case by case basis. But it’s not just that masking up is mandatory now. You have to request entry days ahead of time, the request has to be approved by the health and security folks, you get a temperature check before you’re allowed inside, and now we have to each wear these proximity detector things to enforce keeping a safe distance, and to aid in contact tracing just in case.

I feel so very lucky to be working for an employer who seriously takes the safety of the staff seriously. Also that I have a job that I Can still work from home and draw a paycheck. 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Year Ago…(continued…)

Please Keep Safe

I learned a couple days ago that a fellow member of the LGBT BBS I was a part of once upon a time passed away due to COVID-19. I hadn’t heard anything so I went looking on his Facebook page and there it was, but I was dreading it for a while.

What scares me is how fast it happened. Three weeks ago he was in our usual Friday happy hour Zoom and looked his usual self. Then I heard he was in the hospital intubated. Then I heard his kidneys had failed. It seems soon after his heart also failed and that was that. I think he was maybe ten years younger than me. Not all that old, but not young either. But he had no health issues. He was fine. And then suddenly he wasn’t.

I’m so sorry this happened to him. There’s an impulse to ask if anyone knows how he caught it, and I understand completely. You want to know what happened so you can refine your own calculations of risk. But as any of us who lived through the time of AIDS, before the virus was as well understood as it is today, before the treatments and PrEP, in all those calculations is an irreducible element of chance. Yes you may have taken this or that precaution, and yes it would have improved your odds. But the fact is if you survived the plague, you were lucky. There is going to be a lot of free floating survivor’s guilt after this thing has largely passed (HIV is still out there by the way…), and all I can offer for it is turning grief and remembrance into activism, and not to let the usual suspects try to sweep what happened under the rug, like they will, because god forbid we ever learn that taking care of one another is actually something we the people can do via government, and should do, to keep civilization going when the going gets really really bad.

And as for myself, maybe next time some anti-masker sneers at me for wearing mine, and for getting my vaccination, I’ll punch them in the face in memory of those who aren’t there to do the job themselves.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Please Keep Safe

A Year Ago…When It Was Only Just Dawning On Us How Everything Was Going To Change…

A friend posted on his Facebook page the other day about how a year ago he sat down for his last meal inside a restaurant, though he did not know it at the time. He was on the way home from a road trip and stopped for lunch. By then panic buying of basic supplies was already in the wind.

What I remember is a last dinner and drinks at Old Juan’s Cantina in Oceano, which is a favorite spot when I’m out there, the day before I left for home. That would have been a year ago plus a week perhaps. While on the road the stories I heard on the radio frightened me enough that whenever I stopped for the night, instead of dining in somewhere I always got carryout and took it back to my hotel room.

Panic buying of cleaning supplies and disinfectant wipes had already set in at Oceano before I left. I figured I was safe enough alone in my car, but every time I stopped for anything I washed my hands furiously. I had a small stack of disinfectant wipes I’d brought along to California that was part of my travel kit, intended mostly to prevent catching a flu, like I had during one Disney World visit that nearly ruined the entire vacation. I rationed them very carefully on the trip home, using the wipes only to wipe down my hotel room right after checking in. I had one left when I got back home.

I’ve not seen any on any store shelf since. Another friend tells me that they’re only just now starting to reappear on some random grocery store shelves.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Year Ago…When It Was Only Just Dawning On Us How Everything Was Going To Change…

April 29th, 2020

Ominous Signs In The Data

This from the New York Times came across my screen this morning…

U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Is Far Higher Than Reported, C.D.C. Data Suggests

Total deaths in seven states that have been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic are nearly 50 percent higher than normal for the five weeks from March 8 through April 11, according to new death statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is 9,000 more deaths than were reported as of April 11 in official counts of deaths from the coronavirus.

The new data is partial and most likely undercounts the recent death toll significantly. But it still illustrates how the coronavirus is causing a surge in deaths in the places it has struck, probably killing more people than the reported statistics capture.

Since our testing capabilities are basically maybe a half-step about non-existent then…yeah…this is almost certainly the case. Go read the whole thing. The included graphs alone tell an alarming story. 

Some of this increase may be due to people just not going in, or not able to get in, to their health care providers for things that arise and then they get fatally worse. But that should be balanced out by a much lower rate of traffic fatalities, and the sort of accidents that happen outside the home. The fact is we don’t even know how many of us have or had the virus. We’re flailing around in the dark here. But this is ominous.


by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Ominous Signs In The Data

April 22nd, 2020

How COVID-19 Gets A Silent Start On You

There has been talk for a while now about asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19. This New York Times article came across my Facebook stream the other day and it contains within it an understanding of how that might be…

The Infection That’s Silently Killing Coronavirus Patients

Even patients without respiratory complaints had Covid pneumonia. The patient stabbed in the shoulder, whom we X-rayed because we worried he had a collapsed lung, actually had Covid pneumonia. In patients on whom we did CT scans because they were injured in falls, we coincidentally found Covid pneumonia. Elderly patients who had passed out for unknown reasons and a number of diabetic patients were found to have it.

And here is what really surprised us: These patients did not report any sensation of breathing problems, even though their chest X-rays showed diffuse pneumonia and their oxygen was below normal. How could this be?

Read this article if you read nothing else today about the virus! Apparently due to the way the virus invades the lungs you don’t notice any discomfort for a while, as you would in the usual course of a pneumonia infection. But doctors can see it when they measure the amount of oxygen in your blood. That’s the tell that something is wrong with your lung functioning.

There are simple inexpensive devices you can buy at the pharmacy or online to measure blood O2. I bought one of these after I had the heart attack last October, along with a home device for measuring blood pressure. There are also, so I’m told, clever smartphone apps that use the built-in light. Normal O2 should be between 95 and 100 percent as taken from one of these.

Stay safe people…


by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on How COVID-19 Gets A Silent Start On You

April 20th, 2020

This Thing Is A Nightmare…

From Science Magazine. In case you’re still in doubt about how dangerous this new virus is…have a read…

How does coronavirus kill? Clinicians trace a ferocious rampage through the body, from brain to toes

As the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 surges past 2.2 million globally and deaths surpass 150,000, clinicians and pathologists are struggling to understand the damage wrought by the coronavirus as it tears through the body. They are realizing that although the lungs are ground zero, its reach can extend to many organs including the heart and blood vessels, kidneys, gut, and brain.

“[The disease] can attack almost anything in the body with devastating consequences,” says cardiologist Harlan Krumholz of Yale University and Yale-New Haven Hospital, who is leading multiple efforts to gather clinical data on COVID-19. “Its ferocity is breathtaking and humbling.”

Go read the rest. This new virus is the stuff of nightmares. If you ever find yourself getting frustrated with the quarantine…and I know I do from time to time…read it again. Then go wash your hands and rededicate yourself to safe distancing, and staying home unless it’s absolutely necessary to go anywhere.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on This Thing Is A Nightmare…

Disturbing Echos Of The Past

This came across my Facebook news stream this morning…


A friend posted this with a comment about how it reminded him of that iconic photograph of the solitary Chinese man standing in front of a line of tanks during the Tiananmen Square massacre. And if you think that’s hyperbole recall how in Charlottesville Virginia a neo fascist drove right into a crowd of people peacefully protesting the Unite The Right rally there killing one and injuring 28. These were more of Trump’s Very Fine People in those cars.

These healthcare workers were risking their lives here. Which, yes, they do anyway. But they shouldn’t have to do it like this.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Disturbing Echos Of The Past

April 4th, 2020

Keeping An Open Mind About It

After the heart attack, the cardiologist told me it was normal to be worried that every tiny little twitch and odd feeling in my chest was a precursor to another one. Everyone feels that way he said.

So now we have a plague virus that in some ways acts initially like a cold or flu. And every little sneeze, runny nose, dryness of throat and cough, makes you wonder…is this it? And oh by the way, it’s allergy season here in lovely central Maryland.

Also, I was informed recently that one or more of my daily heart meds can cause dry coughs as a side effect.

I keep thinking these days more than others about something I read long ago in one of Bill Mauldin’s books. He’s one of my heros of the political cartoon form, served in WWII and is known most of all for his Willie and Joe cartoons. I can’t find the exact passage just now, but he related how during his service in WWII he’d asked an infantryman once how he handled the constant stress of being on the front line and knowing he might take a bullet at any moment. The man said the trick was keeping an open mind about it. He told Mauldin that if you became certain you were going to die, or certain you would make it out alive, you’d probably end up doing something stupid and then getting yourself killed and maybe everyone around you too.

So…that advice from a man in the worst sort of harm’s way, keeping an open mind about it, keeps tapping me on the shoulder whenever I start getting anxious about anything. It may seem strange, but it’s what I kept in mind way back when I was interviewing for my first real job as a software developer for Baltimore Gas and Electric way back when. I had no degree and no expectation that it would amount to anything at all. Surely there were lots of other better qualified people than I competing for this position. But I went through with it keeping an open mind about it, and to my complete surprise it paid off. And now here I am.

Keeping an open mind about it every cough, every runny nose, every sneeze. It is allergy season after all. There is too much uncertainty now, but there are things the experts generally agree work and are preventative. Those recommendations keep getting updated so we have to keep paying attention to the latest updates. Just don’t get fatalistic about it in either direction. That isn’t helpful to you or anyone else.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Keeping An Open Mind About It

March 29th, 2020

We Can Do It!

Via Tom Tomorrow. Lotsa WWII Posters about travel and rationing and pitching in at the home front are suddenly getting dusted off and shown…


Now just replace the photo next to the fan with one of a son or daughter in scrubs and you have a COVID-19 poster.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on We Can Do It!

March 22nd, 2020

Tales From The Plague…(continued)

My car is a diesel, a Very Nice three litre V-6 bi-turbo Mercedes-Benz diesel sedan. I bought it for their legendary longevity and fuel economy, which is nice for road tripping. But diesels don’t like being parked and not running for very long. Last time I let that happen when I did take it out it threw a check engine light and went into a kind of limp mode, that I was able to trace to a possibly stuck exhaust gas recirculation valve. After driving it a while the problem went away and hasn’t returned. Since I live within walking distance of work, and to most everything I need on a day to day basis, not letting the car sit for extended periods is something I have to manage. Usually that’s a nice weekend day long pleasure drive in the countryside. Now that we all need to stay indoors as much as possible due to COVID-19 that’s not really do-able.

The car has been sitting since last Tuesday afternoon when I took my house sitter to the train station for his return home. So today I figured I’d take it for just a short drive up I-83 to Shawan Road and back while we’re still allowed to leave the house. The idea was simply to at least get the engine up to temperature, and give it enough of a drive that if the Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) needed a cleaning cycle it could get a full one. I can always tell when it’s been doing that right when I turn it off because it smells like something’s burning. Which…it is. But it’s supposed to be.

My street is more full of parked cars this morning than last, which I guess is good. Out on the highway traffic was exceptionally light…nearly non-existent…which is also good. The big electronic traffic billboards were all telling us to Stay Home, and it seemed this morning that most people were.

I felt reasonably sure that I wasn’t causing any problems by taking the car out for a routine maintenance drive and back as I never left the car until I got back home. At some point we may be officially told not to leave our homes at all and then I don’t know what I’ll do about the car. You folks with all electric cars you can charge at home have it pretty good right now, though I suppose gasoline burners don’t suffer as much from just being parked for extended periods like diesels can.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Tales From The Plague…(continued)

March 21st, 2020

Tales From The Plague…(continued)

Krugman this morning…


This is what I’ve been thinking the past few days. All week long the street has been full of parked cars during what are normally business hours. My neighbors on either side of me have to work. One is a nurse, the other works in a homeless shelter. Some neighbors further down are retired, but the rest normally drive to work in the morning. Last week they all stayed home. Just this morning my end of the street is nearly empty of cars. Saturday morning is a typical time to go grocery shopping. People at the other end still look like they’re staying in.

A friend posts on Facebook…

“My introvert gene is saying, ‘Now you know why I am here. I saved countless numbers of your ancestors from plague.” This is just another step in ongoing evolution.

Heh…yeah. It’s almost spooky how well I’m taking the new reality. My employer has mandated work from home for the time being, and I’m content to stay home, but I need to at least get out and take a walk around the block periodically. It’s good for my mental health though I’m sure, that I can still continue to do my usual workday work even if it’s here at home. Work from home is easy for me to do…mostly. I have an office laptop here at Casa del Garrett, with the secure VPN software installed, and I have good broadband internet via the Comcast borg. There’s coming a time however, when I will have to go into the office to do system testing that cannot be done remotely. But that is being deferred for now.

My introvert gene is coming in very handy now. I’m lucky in that my winter stocks are still pretty good and I don’t actually need to go shopping and won’t for weeks. I have a house with things to do, deferred housework, work in the art room, film to develop and scan. I recently subscribed to Disney Plus and Curiosity Channel.

Plus I am an only child, and we onlies are almost preternaturally good at keeping ourselves company. When I need human company for the duration, social networking is fine by me. It was a lifeline when I was a young gay man, and I was an early adopter. I can definitely get through this without going mad. But I worry what Krugman there is worrying about. We need to flatten the curve for now, as much as possible.

I’m a heart patient. I’m fine, it wasn’t nearly as serious as it could have been, and I’m taking my meds. But if my heart starts acting up again, it would be nice to have an opening at Union Memorial. I probably won’t need it considering how good I’m doing…the stents seem to be settling in nicely. But it is a worry.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Tales From The Plague…(continued)

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