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RIP RBG

When I heard RBG had passed, I had three reactions in this order:

1.) Sadness.  Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an icon well worthy of admiration for women everywhere.  I love that an elderly intellectual woman became such a popular hero.

2.) Worry over her replacement.  Democrats may win the battle to delay appointment of a new justice past the election.  Honestly, I think the travesty was the failure of Obama’s appointment of Merrick.  However, I think Trump has an excellent change of being reelected.

3.) Anger.  RBG was 87.  Why the hell didn’t she step down during Obama’s term?  She said that her greatest wish was to have the next administration appoint her replacement, but words are empty.  Actions are what count.  RBG absolutely had full authority to ensure a likeminded replacement.  RBG was an incredible woman.  But are there not other incredible women who could have filled her shoes?  Kagan and Sotomayor are doing a great job!

I honestly feel like RBG tarnished her legacy significantly by failing to step down sooner.

Yes, it will be hypocritical if the Republicans appoint someone now.  But RBG easily could have died any time in the last four years.  And Trump may be reelected.  To assure her succession, she needed to step down five years ago, at age 82.

I’m curious if others agree with me.  All I see in the news and social media are people talking about how great she was.  Am I the only one also angry with her?

However, I loved these two articles on hyprocrisy.  Genius.  One.  And two.

schools rant

I voted straight ticket Republican for the first time in my life in August’s primary.  Historically, I’ve voted without regard to part affiliation in local elections (which are often non-partisan anyway) and begrudgingly vote Democrat at the state level and higher.   But the forced closure of all schools locally, including private schools, pushed me over the edge.

My kids’ school spent the summer jumping through all the local DOH hoops to prepare for school.  Some of the guidelines made a ton of sense, like ensuring sufficient distance between desks and masking.  Others, like truly excessive handwashing and a disinfectant spraying machine, seemed performative.  But, whatever.

However, I knew –  I just KNEW – that the optics of public schools all closed while private schools opened would not be allowed to stand in this state.  I told my husband this, and he said it would never happen.  But, of course, I was right.  A couple weeks before schools were to open, it was announced that the local DOH strongly recommended all private schools close.  A couple have opened in defiance of the recommendation, but the vast, vast majority have fallen into line.

To put this into perspective, my own city just went nearly a month without a single Covid case.  In the county, our hospital Covid levels are at or below 2%.  Positive tests are between 2 and 3%.   “Re” was 0.6 at least report.

It. Is. Nuts.

The governor is the most important position.  Inslee got about 50% of the votes in the primary, but there were 30 candidates.  I really like the phsyician who I voted for, but sadly, he didn’t get the nomination.  Instead, this guy did.   I don’t love him.  Nevertheless, I plan to vote for him anyway.   Here’s what he has to say about Covid:

I believe that state government should be involved in encouraging and supporting public health. However, I believe that its proper role is to educate people as much as possible on the mechanics and risks posed by communicable diseases—and then trusting Washington citizens to make the best decisions for themselves, their families and their local communities. After all, no one cares more about your health than you.

I believe Washington’s current Governor has drastically overstepped his proper and Constitutional role during the COVID outbreak thus far. He has twisted the emergency powers that Washington State law gives him. Rather than focusing on educating the people, the state agencies under his control have withheld good data and information! And he’s focused on making legally-dubious proclamations to create the illusion that he’s “doing something” or “acting decisively.” This is outrageous and demonstrates the type do-nothing government Washington citizens are tired of seeing from their elected public servants.

That is much more in-line with my views than the continuing Inslee dictatorship.  Unfortunately, we are a single party state and Inslee will almost certainly win again.  Maybe there are other people getting as mad as me.  We’ll see.  If it weren’t for Covid, I’d almost certainly vote for Inslee again.  I can’t be the only one deeply unhappy about ongoing closures.

The good news actually is that if Biden wins, Inslee will possibly / likely be off to Washington.

According to the New York Times, elementary and middle schools should be fully open here, and high schools partially open.  I’ll be shocked if any public schools in my county open this school year.  We shall see, I guess.

Melbourne

I’ve been following the situation in Melbourne, Australia with great interest.  If you haven’t been following along, Australia was initially shielded from an early Covid surge, presumably by its geographical remoteness and low population and population density.  (Australia has a population of only 25 million, less than California or Texas.)  Australia went on lockdown and effectively stamped out Covid.  A couple months ago, however, the state of Victoria, where Melbourne is, experienced a resurgence.  The government instituted another lockdown, comparable in severity to what’s been done in more conservative states like Washington and Pennsylvania.  When that lockdown failed to be effective, they instituted a second lockdown for six weeks that I can compare only to communist China.  This lockdown, not surprisingly, has been effective.

It’s worth noting that the second outbreak was seeded by Australians returning from the USA who were staying at quarantine hotels.  It’s a little unclear to me exactly what happened, but there were rules violations either by the hotel residents, workers, or both.  I think both.  Their quarantine hotel system is pretty severe, and it’s interesting / depressing how a limited number of violations touched off a major outbreak.  The US’s honor system quarantine rules don’t have a prayer, in my opinion.

In any case, here’s a graphic of Victoria (Melbourne) cases.  Victoria has a population of 7 million.  That’s about the same number of people as we have in Washington.

To put these numbers in perspective, in Washington state, numbers peaked at about twice these levels in June / July.  And Washington state has had maybe half the cases per capita at peak as compared to Texas or California.  So, Melbourne experienced a very real surge, but nothing like US hot spots.

For reference, you can see here that initially, they had very few cases (though I suppose we don’t know how effective testing was), and they were effective stamped out.

The draconian lockdown Victoria residents are currently under includes, as a sampling, restrictions like the following:

  • Very limited list of essential businesses which people can leave the house to work at.  (The US has a very broad list of “essential businesses.”)
  • One person may leave the household per day for groceries or essentials
  • No one may go more than 5 km from their house.  This is enforced with checkpoints.
  • Playgrounds are closed.
  • You may not leave the state without a permit from the government.  One person who had such a permit but failed to quarantine upon their return to their state has been sentenced to six months in prison.
  • No demonstrations or protests of any kind.  One woman was arrested for posting about a protest on social media.
  • Playgrounds closed.

As you can see from the chart above, the lockdown has been successful.  Some analysts are saying that if the lockdown is continued through the end of *October*, they could eliminate Covid completely from Victoria.

The government is supposed to announced a plan this Sunday for leaving lockdown.

Now, it’s hard to say whether this kind of management makes sense.  My personal opinion is, given the severity of Covid, absolutely not. However, maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe Australia will eliminate Covid.  Lockdown will end, and Australians will be able to go about their normal lives with kids in school, sports, parties, jobs, etc., all back to normal by the end of the year while we in the US are still home schooling (or at least those of us in Democrat-run states).  To achieve this, Victorians will have spent many months on lockdown, including six or more weeks as virtual prisoners in their homes.

If it doesn’t work, and they can’t stamp out Covid and have to either resort to more lockdowns, or give up, then this will have been a colossal disaster for Australia. If it does work and they can go back to their normal lives, maybe it will have been worth it.  It will be fascinating to see how things pan out.

I don’t think this approach was ever a possibility in the US due to culture, larger population and population density, much more extensive spread in CA and NY before we knew what was happening, lack of strong federal leadership, lack of enforceable state borders, and on and on. I am very glad I don’t live in Australia, but for a more severe illness, this is exactly the right sort of approach.  And I don’t think the US will have the will or ability to implement it, no matter who is president.

 

experimenting with hair color

I had my hair highlighted for the first time shortly before becoming pregnant with S.  I wasn’t quite ready to dye all of it, and I hoped highlighting might help with the gray.  It really didn’t.

Then, at about 7 months pregnant, I had my hair colored.  The stylist, who I really liked, recommended that I use a sem-permanent dye so as to avoid potential harm to the baby.  (In theory, the risk is nearly nil regardless, but I liked the idea of semipermanent dye in general.)  I was extremely pleased with the result and happy to have the grays hidden.

Before:

After:

After S was born, there was just no possible way I could get my hair done again.  Then Covid hit, and getting my hair done was out for a while more.  This led me to thinking about doing it myself.  At this point, I think getting it done professionally in Newcastle would be very low risk, given that we haven’t had a single Covid case here in nearly a month, but the idea of saving money also appeals to me.  I think I spent about $130 on having my hair done last time.

So, here I was before my attempt at coloring my own hair: 

And after:

It’s definitely not perfect.  While it looks very natural, to the point that I can’t tell it’s not my natural hair color, I didn’t get all the grays.  I think I would choose a darker shade next time.  It was quite difficult, actually to assess the right shade to get.

I used this hair color, in Chestnut.  I chose it because it’s the same stuff my salon used, though I’m not sure about the shade.  The hair color must be mixed with processing solution, which I bought off Amazon, but isn’t currently available.  Then, I simply used a brush to apply the dye.  It wasn’t too messy or difficult and took about 90 minutes end to end.  I think I will be able to do it in an hour next time.  All in all, I’m satisfied and will try it again in a few months.

extracurriculars

I spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about my kids’ activities, and Covid is not helping.  Last year, L took ballet one day a week and jazz dance one day a week.  Then, during the summer she did swim team, after a Covid delay.  I also have been teaching her piano since school got cut.  So, in summary, during the school year, she did dance two days a week plus piano.  In the summer, she did swimming four days a week plus piano.

L’s ballet school promoted her from pre-ballet to Level 1.  (I’m sure this is standard unless the child is really struggling for some reason.)  Level 1 ballet meets twice a week for an hour each time.  They are doing virtual classes this year, but it’s still a really big commitment.  L used to want to be a ballet dance but has been rather lukewarm on it lately.  I’m not a huge ballet fan myself, but I don’t want to influence her interests and choices.  I initially thought she should stick with ballet this year since twice a week isn’t too much time and the online aspect makes it much cheaper (cost cut by more than 50%) and saves us a lot of driving.  But L said she doesn’t want to do it.  I am 100% sure I could convince her to do it  – not make her, but make her want to do it, but I haven’t done so.  I feel like if she tried it one more year, she’d start learning more advanced skills and maybe like it more.   L has been more enthused about swimming lately, which I think has a lot to do with the fact that swimming is in-person.  We had been talking about having her do swim team for a couple months in the fall, but they meet five days a week, so I think it is really not feasible in combination with ballet.  But what do I know?  And she could go to swim three days a week or something.  (There are no meets, so I don’t think it’s a big deal to not attend all the practices.)  However, because of Covid, swim lots are very limited, so it’s harder to be casual about it – planning and financial commitment is called for.  L is already signed up for contemporary dance at another dance school where she originally studied ballet, but that class is on hold indefinitely, until the governor moves the county to Phase 3.  My assessment is that this will not happen before the new year.  But again, what do I know?

I have all these conflicting desires for my kids.

  • I don’t want them to be overscheduled
  • I want them to participate in the arts – dance or music being the most obvious choice
  • I figure if you’re going to do something, you might as well do it well, which means time commitment
  • I am turned off by ballet, the obsession with thinness, what it does to women’s feet, and generally I find the traditional ballets uninspiring
  • I feel like ballet is a really good basis for doing other types of dance
  • I don’t know enough about dance to provide any kind of support at home, like I can with piano, soccer, swim, etc.
  • Team dance (the alternative to ballet) requires a five hour a week time commitment.  I think that’s too much at age 8/9
  • I want L to experience team sports, but she’s really turned off by any sport in which she might get hurt, like soccer or basketball
  • I think it’s really important for the girls to be involved in athletic / fitness activities.  My kids, especially L, would much rather read or sew than move their bodies.  L takes so naturally to things like piano, sewing, reading, origami – things that involve focus and sitting still.  She doesn’t seem to have as much natural aptitude for soccer, dance, etc.
  • I think you can become very good at anything, including things for which you have no natural aptitude, with consistent practice over a period of years
  • But it’s nice to do things at which you naturally excel and enjoy

Bri did soccer once a week for a few weeks last fall.  I was hoping she’d be able to do junior swim team this summer, but between the baby and Covid, I just wasn’t able to get her into lessons to make that final leap in skill level.  She took swim lessons twice a week this summer, and she appears to be ready for junior swim team.  (She can swim a length of the pool freestyle fairly comfortably.)

Right now, I’m leaning towards signing up L and B for swim for September.  That would be 3:30 to 4:30 for L, five days a week, but I figure we’ll give her at least one day off.  I’ll continue to teach her piano, and we’ll hold off on dance (unless the dance class she’s signed up for starts) until October or November, at which point we’ll sign her up for some kind of virtual dance class.  L will do swim twice a week from 5:30 to 6 through September.  I worked very hard with Bri, in addition to her lessons, this summer, and doing at least a month of junior swim team should solidify the skills she learned.  The swim place is ten minutes from my house.  It’s an outdoor, heated pool.

I’m just tempted to put L in ballet.  It IS remote, and with no school, I do think she has time.  Such a hard call!  The tough part about ballet is that you’re committing for the whole year.  In a couple years, I’m sure L will make up her own mind about what she wants to do, and I won’t have enough influence.  But for now, I feel a lot of responsibility because she still listens to me.

I’m sure this is more detail than any of you cared to read, but I’m curious if anyone else is struggling with these types of decisions for their kids, and what you’re doing.

covid deaths and New York

I feel like not enough time has been spent asking, “What the hell happened in NY?”  Lately, there has been a lot of attention focused on high case counts in CA, TX and other states, but I feel like this is a bit of a red herring.  The deaths per capita in these states continue to be low or in family with Western Europe, Canada, etc.  Also, while case counts can give you a feel for what’s happening in a specific area, what really counts are deaths.  Deaths-wise, the US is in family with the harder hit countries in Western Europe, but the US is so large, it’s not really fair to compare it to an individual country in Europe.  Comparing it to Europe as a whole is also problematic because I don’t trust the numbers coming out of many Eastern European countries, including Russia.  So I think there’s value in looking at individual states.  So, let’s do that.  Here’s a ranked list of some states and countries in terms of deaths per capita.  I think it reveals that New York and New Jersey may have been the hardest hit places on the entire planet.  To which I ask again, why?

Consider the following table.  The only place that remotely matches the devastation of New York State is Lombardy, Italy.

Location Deaths Per 1M People
New York City 2813
Essex Co (Newark) 2640
New Jersey 1801
New York State 1692
Lombardy, Italy 1673
Massachusetts 1283
Connecticut 1249
Belgium 857
London 766
Spain 612
UK 609
Italy 586
Sweden 573
USA 524
France 466
Harris Co (Houston) 388
Texas 345
King Co (Seattle) 316
California 285
Canada 239
Washington 234
Australia 16
S. Korea 6
New Zealand 4

Seriously, what the hell happened in NY?  And how can we stop that from happening anywhere else?

As a side note, I find it incredibly ironic when Cuomo or De Blasio offer advice to any other state or city.  Those two presided over an incredible loss of life, and they should probably be doing a post mortem and asking themselves the same question as I am – what the hell went wrong?  They should probably, honestly, given how poorly things went, be considering submitting their resignations at the very least.

Covid vs car accidents

I was curious how Covid compares to car accidents in terms of impact.  I think car accidents are an interesting comparison because, like Covid, you can prevent accidents by staying home.

On the surface, it seems like Covid has been way worse.  After all, we have had 169,275 Covid deaths but “only” 36,120 people died in car accidents last year.  Seemingly, Covid is 4.7 times worse . . . and counting.

However, I don’t think this captures the true story – years of life lost.  Median age of death due to Covid is 78.  Life expectancy at 78 is 10 years, so we have lost 1.69 million years of life due to Covid.  This is obviously a broad estimate.  It neglects the fact that the spread in age under 78 is likely larger, thus leading to more years of life lost.  However, it also neglects the fact that people dying of Covid are less healthy than the general population, therefore leading to fewer years of life lost.  I think it’s a fair estimate for this comparison.

I couldn’t find a median age of death for car accidents, so a little more math is required.  Data is from 2018.

  • 0-4: 443 deaths, 77 years lost = 34,111
  • 5-14: 765 deaths, 69 years lost = 52,785
  • 15-24: 6434, 59 years lost = 379,606
  • 25-44: 12281, 45 years lost = 552,645
  • 45-64: 11368, 27 years lost = 306,936
  • 65-74: 3996, 15 years lost = 59,940
  • 75+: 4117, 9 years life lost = 37,053

Total years life lost: 1.4 million

So, in summary;
1.) Years of life lost to Covid so far: 1.7 million

2.) Years of life lost to car accidents in 2018: 1.4 million

My guess is that by the time this is over, Covid will claim around twice as many years of life in its worst year (2020) as compared to car accidents.  It is worth noting that car accident death rates in the 1970s were about twice what they are now (per capita).   Should people refuse to work at the office / classroom because driving there is too hazardous?