The Freedom to Be a Selfish Fool

There’s nothing quite like a complete nut job with a dedicated following to make you wonder how anyone can question our relationship to other primates. (Spoiler alert: I’m feeling rather inflammatory today.) Case in point: a complete psychopath named Lenka Koloma.

Her Facebook page makes the following claims:

“After making herself a millionaire, healing herself of cancer, and a near death experience, Lenka learned to create healing miracles for herself and others. Let her help you transform your health, wealth & relationship issues into a life of unlimited abundance and happiness.”

She also claims to be an International Best Selling Author of a book called “Unleash the Supernatural”. As of this writing, it has an Amazon Best Sellers Rank of 1,609,092, so this author is looking at “best selling” through an extremely broad lens. But then, making false claims seems to be a recurring theme with Ms. Koloma.

Her Facebook page is all sizzle and no steak. She makes promises but doesn’t keep them. She claims to be a motivational speaker, but I got about 2 minutes into the 13 minute video she posted of herself and realized she was never going to get to the point. So I felt motivated to stop watching.

Incidentally, she made that video while driving. In Southern California. Which tells you all you need to know about how much she cares about the lives of her fellow human beings.

But if that isn’t enough to convince you of her irresponsibility, then hop on over to her website for her Freedom to Breathe Agency. (That is, if it’s still there. Several versions of this site have been taken down. I’m sure this one won’t last long either.)

The main takeaway from this site is that you should exercise your personal liberty, your freedom of speech, your freedom to choose, and your freedom to pursue happiness by refusing to wear a face mask.

The website, which is full of misspellings and awkward grammar, states:

OXYGEN IS No.1 NUTRIENT for every living organism including humans.

Wearing a face mask is an unhealthy obstruction of oxygen flow that can lead to hypoxemia (low oxygen level in the blood) and hypoxia (low oxygen level in the tissue). Both of these conditions are health threatening and can permanently damage the brain, lungs, heart and about any other organ.

​Wearing a face mask has also very important effect on our psychology. It is a psychological anchor for suppression, enslavement and cognitive obedience. When you wear a mask you are complicit in declaring all humans as dangerous, infectious and threats. How long do you think it will be before your social engineers tell you that talking spreads the virus farther ….and they forbid talking?

​How long before your human farmers trick you into believing that it is better you stop breathing altogether….as to stop the spread of a virus?

​All sold as being for your health and safety. You are being conned and your compliance makes the con a reality.

REJECT THE MIND CONTROL AND UNSLAVE

It also provides you with a PDF file that allows you to print out a fraudulent card that claims to exempt you from any ordinance requiring face mask usage in public, claiming that this is an Americans with Disabilities Act violation. It also fraudulently uses the seal of the Department of Justice, and the ADA logo. Apparently this card has been quite popular of late.

But if you go to the ADA website, one of the first things you see is a disclaimer from the Department of Justice. It states:

The ADA does not provide a blanket exemption to people with disabilities from complying with legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operations.

And, incidentally, “human farming” as mentioned above by Ms. Koloma is the most lunatic fringe theory that I’ve heard in many a year. The ultimate in paranoia is to imply that we’re all such slaves that we have been reduced to the level of livestock. Yes, the rich and powerful are taking advantage of us, but to imply that we are operating under a system of slavery as we order our pizzas and binge watch our Netflix is a tad extreme. And forbidding talking? Forbidding breathing? Yeah, that’ll happen.

So who are you going to believe? Some crackpot woman who is telling you what you’d love to believe, or the truth, from legitimate sources?

Well, here’s the bugaboo. We take our freedoms very seriously in this country. So seriously, in fact, that some people extend them to the freedom to be a complete jerk. Evidence the world over demonstrates that wearing a mask saves lives. Your freedom to not wear a mask should not impinge on my freedom to not freakin’ die.

If your lack of a mask only impacted you, I’d say have at it. We need fewer selfish people in the world. But you are part of a society, and your irresponsibility puts others in danger. It endangers your loved ones most of all. You have no right, none whatsoever, to endanger others.

Wearing a mask has nothing to do with politics. It’s just basic common sense. And it’s one of the responsibilities we have right now, in exchange for all the benefits we experience from living in a civilized, albeit overcrowded, society.

I suppose sticking your head up your butt is another way to protect the rest of us from you, but I think the mask option is a better one.

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Ignaz Semmelweis and His Cadaverous Particles

On this day, 202 years ago (July 1, 1818). Ignaz Semmelweis was born in Budapest, Hungary. Because he was born, billions of us are alive to celebrate that fact. That makes it all the more astounding to me that maybe only one in 10,000 of us even know that he ever existed.

Semmelweis became a doctor in 1844, and specialized in obstetrics in Vienna. As the chief resident at the Vienna General Hospital, he began to notice something very strange and disturbing. There were two maternity clinics at the hospital, and women were dying 2 ½ times more often at one clinic than at the other.

These deaths were attributed to puerperal fever, or childbed fever, which had been around since the 1600’s. (It’s a horrible way to go, involving a great deal of pus. I’ll leave it at that.)

Women were more likely to survive if they gave birth in the street than if they went into the hospital. That reputation was not lost on the public, and women used to beg, on their knees, to be admitted to clinic 2, if they had to be admitted anywhere at all.

Why was this happening? No one knew. And that bothered Semmelweis more than a little.

He began comparing the two clinics, trying to determine the difference between them. The first, more deadly, clinic was staffed by medical students. The second was staffed by students of midwifery.

The second clinic was the more crowded of the two, so these deaths couldn’t be due to crowding. And the discrepancy had nothing to do with climate, because that was the same on both wards. For a time, he was even desperate enough to try to blame it on religious differences, but he got nowhere with that theory.

Then one day in 1847, Semmelweis’ good friend and colleague, Jakob Kolletschka died, and his autopsy showed that what killed him looked identical to puerperal fever. How was that possible? He had been accidentally cut by a med student’s scalpel during a post mortem exam, and he died not long thereafter. What did that have in common with childbirth?

That made Semmelweis realize another difference between the two clinics. The med students often would perform autopsies in the morning, and then interact with the pregnant women in the afternoon. The midwives, on the other hand, did not do autopsies. Semmelweis began to wonder if puerperal fever was the result of some kind of cadaverous particle that was being transferred from the corpses to the pregnant women via the medical students.

It is important to mention here that germ theory was not accepted in Vienna back then. No one understood the importance of sanitizing the wards or washing one’s hands. Women often lay on soiled bed sheets, and doctors would treat them while still wearing aprons bloodied by autopsies.

Semmelweis instituted a policy of washing one’s hands in chlorinated lime, mainly because he noticed that this removed the autopsy odor. No more putrid smell of infection. Perhaps this would remove the cadaverous particles, too.

Lo and behold, the mortality rate dropped by 90%, just like that. He set out to tell the medical world about this. You’d think a drastic reduction in deaths would have everyone jumping on the bandwagon right away, wouldn’t you?

But no. His theory was considered radical. How could a particle from a corpse turn you into a corpse? And it was an insult to doctors everywhere, who did not want to think of themselves as dirty.

Semmelweis’ breakthrough was ignored, rejected, or ridiculed by the medical community at large. During all this, and amidst a heaping helping of political turmoil, he was dismissed from his job and finally was so harassed that he moved back to Budapest.

He continued to achieve positive results everywhere he worked, and yet he was not taken seriously. This, understandably, did not sit well with Semmelweis. He began to fight back, by writing openly hostile letters to obstetricians, calling them irresponsible murderers. He fell into a depression and started drinking.

People began to think he was going nuts, and perhaps he was. In 1865 he was committed to a lunatic asylum after trying to convince people of his breakthrough, to no avail, for 20 years. How heavily it must have weighed on him, watching women die for entirely preventable reasons that whole time.

One of his friends lured him to the asylum under false pretexts. When he realized this, he tried to leave. He was severely beaten by the guards and thrown into a straitjacket. Two weeks later, he died of septic shock, most likely from the wounds he obtained during that beating. What a bitter irony. He was 47 years old.

It’s hard to believe that people were willing to overlook the fact that, after he left each one of his clinics, mortality rates skyrocketed again. A few decades later, Louis Pasteur further developed the germ theory of disease, finally explaining the actual science behind it, and people began to realize that perhaps Semmelweis had a point.

The home where Semmelweis was born in Budapest has now been converted into a museum and library to honor him. A university was named after him in the same city, as was a clinic in Vienna and a hospital in Hungary. His face is on an Austrian commemorative coin. A minor planet was named after him. He has his own Hungarian postage stamp. He has even become a Google Doodle.

Per Wikipedia, there’s a name for “a certain type of human behavior characterized by reflex-like rejection of new knowledge because it contradicts entrenched norms, beleifs, or paradigms.” It’s called the Semmelweis Reflex. How’s that for a legacy?

Anyway, I was thinking of this tragic man as I washed my hands for the umpteenth time today. How proud he would be of all of us who are continuing to battle against our current pandemic. How surprised he would be that so many people are turning those efforts political and resisting these efforts to save lives.

Next time you wash your hands, say, “Thank you, Ignaz Semmelweis!” He struggled his whole adult life to get us to see the importance of these things. Please don’t let his efforts be in vain.

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Let’s Hibernate

By now, this Shelter in Place/Quarantine/Lock Down, whatever you want to call it, is driving most of us up the wall. Fewer and fewer of us are complying, which makes it even more frustrating for the rest of us, because at this rate we’re never going to flatten the curve. If we don’t ensure the health of the more vulnerable amongst us, none of us will ever truly be safe.

I wish I could just go to sleep and wake up when all of this is over with. I wish I could hibernate like a bear in winter, or even better, Æstivate, which is a kind of hibernation during the hot months. That would be awesome. But then, sleep is one of my favorite things in the world.

I was thinking about this when I stumbled across an article on one of my new favorite websites, Eurekalert. I’m learning so much from perusing all the science articles on this site. It helps me believe that we are making progress after all.

The article in question is entitled, “Hibernation in mice: Are humans next?” It describes a fascinating study that came out of the University of Tsukuba, in Japan.

As with all scientific inquiry, this study started with some questions. Why do some animals hibernate while others do not? Do all animals have the potential to hibernate?

When a creature hibernates, its metabolism slows down, its temperature drops, its heart beats more slowly, it breathes more weakly, and there is less brain activity. And yet, when they wake up, they’re still healthy, albeit thinner. (Another plus, in my opinion!)

Mice do not normally hibernate, but this study shows that if you activate a cell in their brains called the Q neurons, they would do so for several days. They were able to produce these results in rats as well, in spite of the fact that they don’t even normally go into a daily torpor as mice do.

The implications of this study are rather interesting. If humans could hibernate, this could ease their pain during emergency transport. It could do wonders for space travel, as the amount of food and oxygen would be reduced, and there would be psychological benefits of “sleeping” through long journeys.

But if I let my imagination run wild, I think of people taking “hibernation vacations” (you heard it here first) to lose weight, or during times of upheaval and great stress. Sign me the heck up, is all I’m saying.

I could also see how having a reduced need for oxygen would be a wonderful thing for COVID-19 patients, who are struggling for every breath they take. It very well might buy them time to let the virus run its course. I’m no doctor, but I’d say this is worth investigating. It certainly couldn’t be worse than injecting oneself with bleach. (Do NOT inject yourself with bleach!!!)

As long as human hibernation was a voluntary thing, it could be quite beneficial to mankind. I hope this study continues. I look forward to hearing more about it.

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Personal Responsibility

I am really proud to live in the State of Washington. I’m impressed at how we’re responding to the pandemic. I listen to Governor Inslee’s press conferences every chance I get, and he’s doing a terrific job keeping us up to date. We are not rushing to open things back up. We’re prioritizing lives over profit. I know that that is causing people to suffer, but in the end, staying alive is more important. This is a time when we all need to make sacrifices, even to the point that it hurts, in order to protect our fellow citizens.

I understand why some states are opening back up too soon. To do otherwise is probably political suicide. People are sick to death of being locked down. People are desperate to get back to work. Those things are tangible. The air is thick with impatience and frustration. Whereas this virus is invisible. You don’t actually see it until someone you love dies.

So I admire Governor Inslee for taking the moral high ground. He’s putting the people first. That’s not something you see many politicians doing these days.

The irritating thing about his press conferences on Facebook is the comments that stream past as he speaks. “You can’t make me wear a mask.” “Who are you to decide whether I open my massage parlor back up?” “Contact tracing is unconstitutional!”

In kindergarten, along with the concept of sharing your toys, it seems that we need to teach children about personal responsibility. While it comes naturally to many of us, it appears to be something that needs to be taught to others. In short: The world does not revolve around you.

You’re absolutely right. No one can make you wear a mask. And no one should have to tell you when to open your business. And while I’m pretty sure you may have to reread the constitution, I’ll admit that contact tracing is a bit of an invasion of privacy.

But you are part of a civilized society. And if you are going to take advantage of the benefits thereof, there are certain sacrifices that you need to make. That’s the contract you’ve entered into. You don’t have to like it.

Just as you shouldn’t shout fire in a crowded theater just because you think it would be funny, and you shouldn’t kneel on someone’s neck for nearly nine minutes simply because you have superior firepower, you also should not do anything else that increases the risk that people around you might die.

You’d think that would go without saying, but apparently not. Every single day that I’m at work, I sit in my bridge tower and watch the pedestrians, joggers, and bicyclists go by. Fewer and fewer of them are wearing masks. More and more of them are out and about. There seems to be a general feeling of, “It can’t happen to me, and I don’t particularly care if it happens to you.”

What these people seem to overlook is that their actions don’t only affect them. If they engage in risky behavior, they also risk bringing the virus home to their loved ones, or to their coworkers, or to the innocent schmuck who happens to pass too close to them on the sidewalk, or to the health care workers who have to risk their lives to care for us. Those are the people I worry about.

If you want to act stupid, that’s your prerogative. But you’re also making bad choices for everyone you come into contact with, and that’s unconscionable.

How American it is to think that just because we’re tired of this virus, we can ignore it and move on. Boo hoo. It’s not fun. It’s a hassle. We want to think about something else. But this virus only has legs if we give it legs. In cases like this, moving on isn’t an option.

Every day, at the beginning of my shift, I sanitize everything in my work space that I think could have been touched by coworkers. I do this for me, and for my husband, and for anyone else I might encounter. And at the end of the shift, I sanitize again. I don’t do this for me. I do this for my coworker who is about to occupy this same space. I think about his son and his wife as I clean. I think about the fact that a 10 year old boy needs both his parents to be healthy to take care of him.

No one can make me do the right thing. No one can make me do anything, technically. I do these things because I know I’m personally responsible for holding up my end of the contract of civilization. I do it because I’m an adult. I do it because I care about my fellow human beings.

personal-responsibility

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I’m Glad I’m Not a Lima Bean

My husband came across a recipe that called for dried, not canned, garbanzo beans. He asked me if I could pick some up since I was making one of my increasingly infrequent trips to the grocery store. “Sure!” I said.

Silly me.

The dried bean aisle of my grocery store was completely empty, with the exception of 3 bags of lima beans. (Apparently, I’m not alone in my dislike of lima beans.) So yeah, America is hoarding beans now.

I can sort of understand the instinct. Beans are reasonably priced. They store well. They’re filling. They’re the perfect food for the end of times. But lest we forget, they can be a pain in the butt to cook, frustrating for all but those who are into delayed gratification. A lot of people I know buy them with good intentions, and then never get around to actually cooking them. So there’s that.

But I do love a good garbanzo bean, I must admit. So when it was my husband’s turn to brave the contagion, I reminded him to look for them. He was going to a different store than I had. Sure enough, there was an empty aisle, inhabited only by a few bags of lima beans.

I kind of feel sorry for those lima beans. Abandoned. Not even deemed suitable for panic beaning. I’m glad lima beans don’t have feelings. I’m also glad I’m not a lima bean. Then nobody would love me. Waaaah!

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Be Careful What You Wish For

I understand why some people are longing for some rose-colored memory of what the past used to be like. A time when no one had to lock their doors and all the birthday cakes were made from scratch. A time when we were all content in our respective places, supposedly.

The present, for many of us, sucks. I can see why people would like to think that all of society’s ills could be cured by going back in some time machine to a period of former glory.

Nothing ever seems as awful in retrospect, after we’ve survived it. No one can truly remember the pain of childbirth, for example. If they could, we’d be a planet full of only children.

So many people wanted to Make America Great Again that they didn’t stop to think about the consequences. Now the past has rushed up to smack us in the face. We’re experiencing a pandemic not unlike the Spanish Flu of 1918 with no end in sight due to an utter lack of leadership, and 108,000 Americans dead at the time of this writing. We’re seeing unemployment like the Great Depression of the 1930’s, and are embroiled in riots like those of the 1970’s.

All those things were bad enough on their own. We get to go through them all rolled into one. Yay us.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired.

good old days

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Bezos, Smalls, and Bray: A Microcosm of Capitalism

Jeff Bezos, richest man in the world, is my neighbor (give or take a dozen miles). Not that I’ve ever met him, or ever will. I don’t travel in those circles, and I wouldn’t want to.

Another fun fact about Bezos is that, according to this article, as of April 15th, he had made 24 billion dollars (yes, with a B) more than he normally does, off the COVID-19 pandemic. Since we’re all stuck in our houses, we’re doing a lot of ordering on Amazon, and that lines Bezo’s pockets. Heaven only knows how much greater his earnings have been in the past month, since that statistic came out.

I would say good for him. It’s not his fault we’re bored silly and impulse buying online to remain socially distant. He deserves to profit off his company just like any other capitalist.

But.

He’s thriving while all the mom and pop stores are struggling and/or going belly up due to this virus. And I don’t see him stepping up to make any kind of a difference there. And his warehouse workers are treated abysmally, and they’re not being adequately protected in the workplace.

Enter Chris Smalls. He was a former manager assistant at an Amazon Warehouse on Staten Island. He saw that workers were not getting proper protection. He saw they weren’t being informed of active cases of COVID-19 in his building. He requested that work be stopped just long enough for the workplace could be properly sanitized. He led a protest. Not only was he fired for his trouble, but also a memo was leaked that was encouraging Amazon executives to lead a coordinated effort to say that Smalls was “not smart or articulate.” As if that means he doesn’t deserve to have his health protected. Insane.

Check out an interview with him here. He may not be a toastmaster, but I think he gets his point across just fine. And he’s not the only employee to have been fired from Amazon for organizing.

And then, enter Tim Bray. This former Amazon Vice President quit on May 1st. The final straw for him was the firing of workers who were organizing regarding their poor working conditions during the pandemic. He said there was “a vein of toxicity running through the company culture.” He said he’d “neither serve nor drink that poison any longer.”

Read more about his reasons for quitting in his blog post here.

So there you have it: three men who represent the three typical tentacles of capitalism the world over:

  • Bezos, the heartless capitalist who will squeeze every ounce of value out of the little people who make all the money for him, and then cast them out when they become a nuisance.

  • Smalls, one of the little people in question, who gives his heart and soul to a company and only wants safety, decency and reasonable pay in return, but rarely gets it.

  • Bray, the middle man, uncomfortable with what’s going on both above and below him. In this instance, he chose to take a stand, and I admire him for it. It’s people like him, those middlemen with a moral compass, who often cause companies to change whether they like it or not.

I just don’t get why Bezos can’t see his way clear to throw a couple of those billions at the problem, to improve working conditions, health, and safety, and increase morale. He wouldn’t even miss them, and in the end, he’d benefit too.

But he’s like a racoon caught in a loose trap simply because he won’t unclench his fist and let go of that crust of bread. Greed is like that. So in the end, Bezos is the biggest loser. He’s pathetic. At least Smalls and Bray have integrity.

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I Miss Concerts

In this age of social distancing, I’m beginning to wonder if I will ever be able to attend a live concert again. That makes me sad. Where else can you scream at the top of your lungs in public and not be taken away by the men in white coats? That’s a valuable release, and one I find increasingly necessary in these tense, strange times.

I also feel the need to goof off rather than blog today, so please hop over to read a post I wrote long ago, entitled Concert Therapy, for more on this subject. In the mean time, stay safe, stay sane, and scream if the spirit moves you.

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A Bridgetender Thanks Frontline Workers

About two months ago, I decided to blow my bridge horn every night at 8 pm, to thank frontline workers for all they are doing in the face of this horrible pandemic. I’ve been doing it every time I work swing shift ever since. I’ve blogged about it in more detail here.

I’ve gotten some positive feedback from people in the neighborhood. And often, when I blow my horn, some of the larger vessels in the area join in. It’s all very gratifying.

But the sound of my horn only goes so far. And mine is a humble little blog, only read by a limited number of people. And I really want to thank all the frontline workers that I can. It’s the very least I can do.

So I made this video and posted it on Youtube. You can tell I wasn’t exactly made to be in front of a camera. I’m nervous. The words aren’t  flowing smoothly. Hitchcock and Tarantino would not exactly be jealous if they saw this thing. But hey, it’s heartfelt.

Please, if you know any frontline workers at all, whether they’re in the healthcare field or are first responders or are considered essential workers in any way, it would mean a great deal if you would share this video with them.

Thank you. Stay safe.

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Spring Fever in the COVID Era

I just watched two people get into a shoving match on the sidewalk of my bridge. Apparently the masked one felt that the unmasked one had gotten too close. But now the cautious one just touched the incautious one with his hands. That was probably not the best idea.

I’ve also seen two women get into a shouting match over the last bag of flour at the grocery store. I thought they were going to throw down right on the spot. I beat a hasty retreat before the flour had a chance to fly.

I’ve had several absurd misunderstandings with friends on social media this past week. Some were a matter of me losing patience with ignorance that I’d normally let slide. In some cases I suspect alcohol was involved, and there’s no reasoning with that. Still others were the result of me shooting off my mouth and having to apologize afterward. It’s as if everyone’s nerves are on the surface of their skin.

This year’s spring fever is more about the fever and less about the spring. The usual excitement this time of year has turned into restlessness and frustration. Social distancing is turning into emotional distancing. People are really starting to lose the plot. I don’t know about you, but there’s only so much I can take.

We have to remember that we’re all afraid. Some of us fear for our lives, others fear for their livelihood. Many fear for both.

Many of us realize that the scary statistics only relate to confirmed cases, and not very many of us have been tested. Have you? I sure haven’t. That, and a lot of countries are under-reporting because they feel that the truth would make them look bad. And a lot of people are dying at home, and the health care system simply can’t keep track. No one really has a clue as to how flat the curve actually is.

No matter where you stand on the issue, one thing is certain: we all want this to be over. If only wishing could make it so. If only declarations from our so-called leaders would make COVID disappear. But there’s no happily ever after in our immediate future. This will not be a sprint or even a marathon. It will be a long, heavy slog.

We’re just going to have to make an extra effort to be patient with one another. We’re going to have to avoid shoving matches and flour fights. We need to engage in radical self-care. We need to realize that there’s no force on earth that will make the deniers do the same, so we’ll just have to give them a wide berth and hope that the fittest will survive.

And for those of us who feel we’re not coping by intestinal fortitude alone, there are resources out there, and I strongly urge you to take advantage of them. A longtime reader of this blog (Hi Lyn!) sent me a very useful link entitled COVID-19 and Your Mental Health, and it’s full of a ton of helpful advice and lists of organizations that are waiting to assist you. Please don’t hesitate to reach out.

We can do this. It may not be pretty and it definitely won’t be fun, but we can do this. I promise.

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