Saturday, April 11, 2020

A Big Storm Blew It

“This was a big storm and he might as well enjoy it. It was ruining everything, but you might as well enjoy it” ― Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls

Praying through the storm… – Fuel for the journey

I don’t easily buy into conspiracy theories; anyone with a creative mind and active imagination can connect dots and propose a plausible theory involving good guys and bad guys.

The internet can take something that is simply the result of wrongheaded people making bad decisions and turn it into an elaborate theory overnight. On the other hand history provides ample enough evidence of absolute evil to justify keeping an eye out for human conspiracy to commit mischief. 

With all that on background I have had a nagging feeling over the past few weeks that we are somehow being played. And I will say the appearance of Ezekiel Emanuel’s article, U.S. Must Stay Locked Down For 12-18 Months Until There’s A Vaccine, set off my sensors. But still, it’s hard to tell the difference between a conspiracy to do harm and an opportunistic “never let a crisis go to waste” maneuver. The shutdown of the American economy due to COVID–19 - whether due to a grand scheme or simply the result of human foibles in the face of imperfect information - is almost irrelevant at this juncture; the damage is real. Trying to fix the damage inflicted on us by statisticians posing as epidemiologists by continuing to follow their advice is a mistake. Try running your business strictly on the stats without factoring human behavior into the equation and see how quickly the enterprise will fold.

What if the epidemiologists are wrong? What if this massive shutdown is nothing more than a delay of the inevitable? What if they are trying to manipulate and outfox the course of nature and they’re wrong? What if you really can’t fool Mother nature, as some of their fellow epidemiologists suggest. For instance, Stanford University epidemiologist John Ioannidis, co-director of its Meta-Research Innovation Center, who makes this startling claim: 

If we had not known about a new virus out there, and had not checked individuals with PCR [virus] tests, the number of total deaths due to ‘influenza-like illness’ would not seem unusual this year. At most, we might have casually noted that flu this season seems to be a bit worse than average.”

This was not written by some right-wing crank claiming coronavirus is a conspiracy to deny President Trump a second term, or an excuse to bring down capitalism.

It’s from a sobering and illuminating essay by Stanford University epidemiologist John Ioannidis, co-director of its Meta-Research Innovation Center, published in the life sciences news site STAT.

And then there’s Knut Wittkowski, formerly head of the Department of Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Research Design at the Rockefeller University in New York City, who has this to say:

(Knut Wittkowski,) a veteran scholar of epidemiology has warned that the ongoing lockdowns throughout the United States and the rest of the world are almost certainly just prolonging the coronavirus outbreak rather than doing anything to truly mitigate it…“[W]hat people are trying to do is flatten the curve. I don’t really know why…if you flatten the curve…it takes more time.

“With all respiratory diseases, the only thing that stops the disease is herd immunity. About 80% of the people need to have had contact with the virus, and the majority of them won’t even have recognized that they were infected, or they had very, very mild symptoms, especially if they are children. So, it’s very important to keep the schools open and kids mingling to spread the virus to get herd immunity as fast as possible, and then the elderly people, who should be separated, and the nursing homes should be closed during that time, can come back and meet their children and grandchildren after about 4 weeks when the virus has been exterminated,” he added.

If the future of the country is to rest on the shoulders of epidemiologists at least let them be epidemiologists who actually do real science:

Asked about Anthony Fauci, the White House medical expert who for weeks has been predicting significant numbers of COVID-19 deaths in America as well as major ongoing disruptions to daily life possibly for years, Wittkowski replied: “Well, I’m not paid by the government, so I’m entitled to actually do science.”

Dear Mr. Presient: we the people are getting dangerously close to taking up our pitchforks and torches.

Please fire the “experts” and get America back to work.

NOTE: I know Raj would appreciate it if I acknowledge that he was most probably right about this from the start.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Good Friday: Remote Viewing Only

The days all blur together into a monotonous similarity now that life’s pre-COVID 19 routines are gone. What day it is barely matters and yet here it is Friday again. Wasn’t it Friday just a day or two ago?

I am firmly in Attorney General Barr’s corner: End 'draconian' lockdown by May 1.

We can't 'just tell people to go home and hide under the bed'.

The attorney general said he trusts the American people to adhere to social- distancing guidelines on their own.

This unconstitutional lockdown has brought out the tyrant in every two-bit tin-horned politburo chief across the country. In Utah we remain in lockdown until May 1st under order of the *expletive deleted* County Health Director, more familiar with issuing sewer orders and restaurant violations than lockdown orders, but perfectly happy to do all of the above.

Michigan on the other hand is subject to Governor Grunhilda’s lockdown order which she extended yesterday through May 1st. She further ordered her subjects – with very limited exceptions – to quite literally stay home: they’re no longer able to jump in the car — or go across the street — to visit friends and relatives inside the state, or to go to their cottage Up North. If you think these officials (some not even elected in the case of our Health Director) don’t enjoy exercising such power over you, you would be wrong. Very wrong.

Remember: for every would-be dictator there are at least a hundred more.

So bring it AG Barr: I for one am growing very weary of this tyranny and am appalled at how easily and completely Americans have become compliant; agreeing to shut down our economy and surrender their liberty to a pandemic. I don’t care if it is conspiracy of grand scale or simply the result of people from top to bottom succumbing to fear, it is un-American…and unconstitutional.

Petition · End unconstitutional, mandatory lockdown due to COVID ...Not just my opinion

And with that you are now free to go about your usual Good Friday observances – as long as you do so alone, in your home and don’t even think about entering an actual church. You might wish to reflect on that as well.

Good Friday Service | Rev.D.Mohan | 2nd Service | 10th April 2020 ...Remote viewing only this year

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Throwback Thursday and I Have Things To Do

While I was looking around for something else I stumbled upon this joke that JtE left over 6 years ago:

Janice the American Elder6 years ago

There was a man stuck in a traffic jam on the freeway, and his car hadn't moved in half-an-hour. Suddenly, someone knocks on his window. He rolls down the window and sees a man standing there next to his car. He asks "So, what's up?"

The standing man says "There was a news alert on the radio. Terrorists have taken all of congress hostage. If they aren't paid ten million dollars, they will throw gasoline on all of the congressmen, and set them on fire. I'm walking from car-to-car getting donations."
The man in the car says, "Wow. How much are most people giving?"
The standing man says "Most are giving about a gallon

Come on people, we’re better than that – we should all be able to give two gallons these days.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have things to do.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Passover 2020

This evening at sundown marks the start of Passover, commemorating the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt, and their transition from slavery to freedom. The main ritual of Passover is the Seder, which occurs on the first two nights (in Israel just the first night) of the holiday — a meal that involves the re-telling of the Exodus through stories and song and the consumption of ritual foods.

The Seder's rituals and other readings are outlined in the Haggadah.

Seder Plate

  • Zeroah, a lamb's shankbone symbolizing the ancient Passover sacrifice
  • Beitzah, a roasted egg symbolizing the temple sacrifice and the continuing cycle of life
  • Haroset, a paste of fruit and nuts symbolizing the mortar used to build the pyramid of the pharaohs
  • Mar'or, a bitter herb (like horseradish) to represent the bitterness of slavery
  • Karpas, a green vegetable (usually parsley) representing spring
  • A bowl of salt water to dip the karpas symbolizing the slaves' tears

While Raj is not officially Jewish, family lore has it that his paternal grandparents were Ashkenazi Jews from Germany; 23andMe seems to concur. I do love a good ritual but it seems somehow sacrilegious to culturally appropriate someone else’s religious custom - although that never stopped the Lightbringer.  So while we don’t do a Seder we do mark the start of Passover by watching The 10 Commandments.

Years ago this Cecil B. DeMille classic was broadcast for free each year around Easter; with all the attendant commercials it took about 10 hours to watch. But in our new “enlightened” age such obviously bigoted religious propaganda has no place on public airwaves, commercials or no. Fortunately we purchased the DVD eons ago and can now watch it unencumbered by commercial propaganda and class action lawsuit pitches in pursuit of the latest victims.

Even so the epic feature still runs 3 hours and 40 minutes, requiring an intermission and disc change.  This gives me time to refill our bowls with kosher popcorn without missing a moment of the action. And there’s plenty of action. Like when Moses parts the Red Sea to allow the Israelites to escape Pharaoh's slaughter

Scientists Find Proof That Moses Parted The Red Sea - YouTube

and then releases the wall of water, drowning the Egyptian army. Is there a petty politician alive who doesn’t dream of having that kind of power?

DeMille’s epic tale of promises made, promises kept serves as a not so subtle reminder that human rights come from God not some pompous, self-important ruler or bureaucratic state. It is an inspirational story of a good people who escape tyranny and eventually secure their freedom. The Exodus of the chosen people is a very good story indeed to retell in this age of coronavirus “emergency health department orders” that changed our world virtually overnight without so much as a cry or whimper.

Tyranny is not an option for a God-fearing, freedom loving people. I just hope there are more of us than them.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

A Tuesday Thought

The Struggle is real.

The outcome uncertain.

The same is true of minefields.

Try harder.

NOTE: JaneCh has graciously offered to make a cloth face masks for any of MOTI who would like one. Email me and I’ll pass you info on to Jane. Obviously she has limited capacity but will make as many as she can and prioritize people who really need them (medical conditions etc.) or live in a place where they are mandated. Although elastic is in very short supply, please note preference for elastic or ties. Send me your request and I’ll pass it, along with your email, on to Jane.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Hitsville: We Got It, You Need It.

Monday: day 23 of the shutdown for some of us. Most strikes don’t last this long.

But let’s forget about pathogens, pandemics and politics for the day. I have something much better for you to focus on, music and movies. Or to be more precise, a movie about music – Hitsville: The Making of Motown is a nearly 2 hour documentary film that explores the founding of Motown in Detroit in 1958. We just watched it last night.

Hitsville museum, a simple house in Detroit where the legendary Motown sound was created

It’s not without its flaws but all you need to know is that this remarkable story about the founding and development of the legendary Motown Records is a joyous, nostalgic look at a great American success story. The bad bits tend to be left out in favor of the upbeat story of how Barry Gordy – failed boxer and record store owner went to work on Ford’s assembly line which inspired his concept for making hit records. With just $800 and a sense of entrepreneurship instilled by his parents he founded the internationally renowned Motown Records – his Hit Factory. The rest as they say is a dazzling history that we are privileged to share in this documentary.

The bulk of the story is related by legendary Barry Gordy himself – 89 at the time of the film’s making – and his best friend and associate Smokey Robinson, a kid by comparison at 79.

Hitsville: the Making of Motown - a thrilling celebration of the ...

The stories (Martha Reeves was a secretary at Motown just filling in at the Mic when she was “discovered”) archival footage (the Temptations, Four Tops, Supremes etc. etc. etc.), the “sound” (the echo chamber was the upstairs bathroom in the 2 story “Hitsville” house), the song writers (Gordy and Robinson themselves as well as legendary team Holland-Dozier-Holland) the artists (Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, etc. etc.), development (there was dance class and  “charm school” in the Hit Factory’s schematic), and of course the string of hit tunes that 50 years on still sound great. There are a few downbeats including tales of how Motown stars on the road encountered segregation and discrimination which was till common in the mid 60s South – not so very long ago really - but the film doesn’t dwell on it. It’s just part of history now, which is a lesson in itself.

There’s even a small side story about the incredible Funk Brothers, musicians culled from Detroit jazz and blues clubs, to form the back up band that performed on more hit records than anyone in music history. They actually have their own documentary from a few years back that is also awesome. It’s available in full on Vimeo.

If you like music, musicians, business or just back stories you will love this documentary.

A fun film about a bunch of beautiful, talented people making some awesome music in an era of massive change both musically and socially. Unlike Rap and Hip Hop the music of Motown has the kind of staying power that will ensure it lives on in peoples’ personal playlists as well as movies and even commercials.

1986 California Raisins commercial: heard it through the grapevine

Available now:

Sunday, April 5, 2020

News From Planet Wobegon

It’s Palm Sunday.  Who needs a break?

I thought so. These times are not conducive to much of anything. I mean seriously, my major accomplishment yesterday was perfecting Instant Pot popcorn. I followed the directions to the letter but added 2 tablespoons of melted butter to the huge bowlful it produced, as well as an extra half teaspoon of Flavocol, sprinkled from on high. There was still a small bowl left this morning that I ate with my first cup of coffee so it’s all gone.

Raj made something a bit less ethereal - homemade kielbasa.  We’ve discovered kielbasa is the perfect “garlic sausage” to include in an authentic cassolette which we are now rather committed to making. In Michigan you can reliably find a good fresh, not smoked, Polish sausage just about anywhere. Here, nobody has ever heard of it. So we were on our own. Raj used a recipe he’s made before; it’s from an old Detroit cookbook.

He used the meat grinder attachment on the Kitchenaid – Blonde Gator would be proud of him – rather than the processor.

It’s also easy to find sausage casings in Detroit, our neighborhood Italian market carries them. Here, especially in the Time of Coronavirus, I wouldn’t know where to start looking so we’re going to make hand formed patties or links today. This batch has paprika in it as I had forgotten that “if you add paprika to polish kielbasa you turn it into Hungarian sausage” until it was too late. Hence the added note, in the event we are forced to make our own again. Don’t worry though, “Hungarian sausage” is also very garlicy and good.

Today there is a winter’s worth of leaves-half-turned-to-mulch on the patio that need to dealt with, along with the making of the cassoulet, so it should be a fairly productive day here in our post-apocalyptic times bunker.

About 3# of Polish-Hungarian garlic sausage

And that’s about all the news this week from Planet Woebegone where all the women are strong, the men are all wrong and the children are all A students.