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The Diary of a Reluctant Social Distance Extrovert Prisoner: Part XLIII

422 Days of Social and Physical Distancing
Steve Soreff, MD
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Hello, it Friday, May 7, 2021 and I am in my 422th day, end of my 64th week and the middle of 15th month of distancing. It marks my 44th day since I received my second shot of the Pfizer vaccine.  There have been a number of hints that things are getting better.  The flowers are blooming. Trees are bursting out their green leaves. There has been some rain and the Pawtuckaway Lake level is slowly rising. We played Mexican Train with more than two people. And, I played golf again. Let’s look back at the last two weeks. 
  
The big news from yesterday is that I am doing my OLLI Course, again.  As its website proclaims, "OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) at Granite State College is a member-driven, volunteer-based membership program offering an open invitation to adults age 50 and better to enjoy lifelong learning, social events and volunteer opportunities in accessible and safe locations. Come for the classes, stay for the friends!" 
 
For over a decade, through 7 iterations, I have taught a class called Madness and the Movies.  We view the entire movie to see how it portrays mental illness, how it works cinematically and what its clinical implications are.  I love it because students are there to learn, share and discuss the film, mental illness, and the relationship of those two. Yes, there are no tests nor term papers. To me, it is the joy of teaching and leading a class that enjoys sharing and being engaged. And, it is yet another sign that the end of the pandemic is coming.
    
Good day, it is Saturday, April 24, 2021 and the spirit of Earth Day is alive and well. How so?  This morning, the Pawtuckaway Lake Improvement Association (PLIA) did a road clean up on its Adopted Section of NH Route 156 in Nottingham.  I was proud to do my share in helping to clean, making things a bit better for ou planet. The amount of litter on a small stretch of an active highway was amazing.  I picked up about one million cigarettes butts. These are one of the many forms of micro-trash on the road.  And, yes there were a lot of beer and soda cans and just plain trash.  New Hampshire, in the spirit of its slogan, "Live Free or Die,” does not have any remuneration program for turned in bottles or cans.  What was new in this year's clean-up was that we were able to separate the trash from the aluminum cans.  We were getting closer to the meaning and message of Earth Day. And, it did show; we left the road better than we found it.  Repairing the earth one road at a time. 

Cleaning the Earth one road at a time

Taking a step back, before the clean-up, while exercising, I watched one in my geology lecture series.  This episode focused on the rock of Gibraltar and its geologic and human histories. While seeing it, I leaned about Operation Tracer.  I'd never heard of it. What is it?  During WWII, the Nazi's attempted many times to take the fortress. The British planned to entomb six officers alive in a secret chamber within the Rock, if the enemy took Gibraltar. These hidden folks could spy on the Nazi operations.  Wow, we are still discovering things about WWII.  And I am glad to fulfill my goal to learn new things every day.
 
After road clean-up, I attended Torah Study. Must keep learning. Then Peggy and I went kayaking. It is great to have Pawtuckaway Lake as our front door. 
 
I heard and saw a loon!
    
Hello and welcome to Sunday, April 25, 2021.  I walked down to get the mail. I discovered you can do Forest Bathing even while walking down a dirt road.  I heard the birds sing, saw the trees sway in the breeze, and inhaled the woods fragrance.   I am entering a new world called 2 shots and 2 weeks.  It translated into the CDC guide getting together with others who have been vaccinated. Another small step forward, while the COVID world is surging.  
    
Good morning, it is Monday, April 26, 2021 and it is very windy. I have two pandemic thoughts for today.  Easy question, what is the effect of COVID-19 based on your economic class? The answer is that it has accelerated the old adage: the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.  This represents a painful global reality.  For example, the part of some American cities will determine your life expectancy. Look at the Texas city of Houston. which can vary up to 20 years depending on where one lives.  COVID-19 has made the gap worse.  And, the all too familiar pattern continues worldwide, relaxation of restrictions followed by surging of new cases and deaths.
    
As I take cautious steps beyond my distancing world, I am starting to reflect on the lessons learned from my 411 days of isolating.  With that in mind, I walked to get the mail, and bushwhacked my way home through the neighborhood wilderness.  The setting sun provided my guiding point as I worked my way home. And that hike represents my first lesson.  It is an appreciation of my own immediate environment.  I am lucky to live with the lake as my front lawn and the woods behind me. I got see in detail the changing of the seasons. 
    
Spring feels like it's here today. Tuesday, April 27, 2021.  We all know that by the calendar Spring began March 20, 2021.  April, 2021 appeared to be unaware of that fact. April is all about showers bringing May flowers. And, yes, what do May flowers bring? The answer is Pilgrims.  Sorry - this one of my favorite puns/jokes/riddles of all time.
 
Back to discussing April.  April pursued unevenly a series of cold days and neglected to provide the necessary rain, to the drought-plighted region. However, on the afternoon of Tuesday, April 27, 2021, Spring finally arrived.  I hiked to my beloved White Birch Corridor and found the tree leaves on the edge of bursting forth.

Leaves are on the verge of popping. 😊

Returning to the theme of what did we learn from the pandemic, my next vote is for an appreciation of Zoom and other Internet video platforms.  And, yes, here too, you can rightly add to lessons this refrain: the world will never be the same post COVID-19.  In my life, Zoom has been a lifeline, sustainer, and adventure.  It has allowed me to attend meetings, go to synagogue and go to classes like Torah Study and Talmud sessions.  It has also meant I could have a family Passover Seder with family around the world.  I will use Zoom in the future as I slowly rejoin some activities.
    
Hello and good morning, we were back to April showers and it is Wednesday, April 28, 2021 and the forecast is for rain for the next two days. That is good news since with drought we need the rain. But like in Camelot, the weekend looks like great spring weather.
    
I continued my quest to find lessons from the pandemic with my Tai Chi gang. I had given them a homework assignment to reflect on what they had learned from their distancing.  Spoiler alert -- they all said having survived and not having gotten COVID-19 was their reward and lesson from practicing distancing for over a year. Beyond that, one member cited the appreciation of just being with others.  Yes, things like what we had always taken for granted such as being with others, are now treasures. Another member cited the joy of solitary reading.  She noted just having the time to just read books was very important.  She said the volumes transported her to other worlds.  It reminded me of a quote in Emily Dickinson’s poem,” There is no Frigate like a Book, to take us Lands away….”  A third member talked about how important a real hug was.  She indicated a good hug for 20 seconds or more not only makes you feels good but also raises your level of oxytocin. Oxytocin is called the cuddle hormone and promotes the maternal-infant connection. 
    
Here is one more thought for today.  Next week marks the 50th anniversary of National Public Radio (NPR) and the program called "All Things Considered."  I am a radio person and love it.  I prefer to listen to the Red Sox on the radio rather than watch the game on television.  In Worcester, I had my own radio show called the Worcester Health Team and produced a program called Senior Speak: Worcester’s Mature Voice.  And, I am listening to NHPR as I am writing. Three cheers for radio and NPR on its 50th Anniversary
    
Good morning it is Thursday, April 29, 2021 and my 13th observance of National Cribbage Day. Right now, my computer adversary Bill is winning now but if he does, I’ll challenge him again.  Here are two thoughts for today. Last night I watched Biden's 100th day speech before Congress. Even before he spoke, he made history because behind him for the first time in America history seated were the first women Vice Present and Speaker of the House of Representatives.  And, he noted this would not be the last time it would happen.  He said "America is back," outlined his accomplishments such as more than 200 million Americans had received at least one vaccine shot and his ambitious plans for the future.  As I listened, I heard echoes of the FDR speeches in the depths of the Great Depression.  It was history repeating itself.  Then, as now we faced a national crisis. Biden, like FDR, urges federal government intervention. It was a challenge to Ronald Regan’s ideology that Washington was the enemy and that trickle-down economics does not produce the hoped-for results.

Biden first 100th day speech April 28, 2021 before Congress

The other thought came from a new PBS Frontline two-part series entitled, The Virus that Shock the World.  It describes itself as "The epic story of how people around the world lived through the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, from lockdowns to funerals to protests. Filming across the globe and using extensive personal video and local footage, FRONTLINE documented how people and countries responded to COVID-19 across cultures, races, faiths and privilege.” Its painfully chronicles through individuals around the world the impact of the pandemic. It puts into a global context what this Diary hopes to accomplish.
    
Hello and it is Friday, April 30, 2021 and I have mixed news to share. As a sign that things are slowly returning to what was once called the normal, Disneyland re-opened after a year of being closed. At only 25% of capacity and for only California residents only, but that is the good news. Two sad news items: The stampede in Israel. What should have been a festive holiday turned to tragedy.  The 50-day period between leaving Egypt and the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai is called the counting of the Omer.  On the 33 day of that sequence, there is a festive day called Lag Boomer. As the website says, "This minor holiday — known for bonfires, weddings and haircuts — takes place about a month after Passover.” In the midst of joy there was such pain. And in India COVID cases and, deaths are dramatically rising and the system of care is overwhelmed.
    
Good morning, hello and some hope. It is Saturday,  the very first day of May, 2021. I began by exercising and watching PBS AMERICAN MASTERS FILM Margaret Mitchell: American Rebel. I found her story captivating and fascinating.  Her life serves as a reminder of how much determination, luck, one’s experiences, and one’s social and historical context contribute to how and what one writes. One neat detail I learned from program is that she secretly funded an African-American College as well as medical students in Atlanta. 
    
Another indication of life getting back to Before COVID 19 was that I played golf for the first time in over a year. Yes, my golf buddy and I both had been vaccinated, wore masks in the club house, went in separate vehicles and kept 6 feet apart.  One change was the holes were filled in with hardened foam.  This meant the ball stayed on top next to the pin and did not go into the now non-existent hole.  Sorry, this calls a quick joke. Why did the golfer take an extra pair of pants with him? Answer: in case her he got a hole in one! It was great to be outside and have the challenge of each hole to approach par.  Yes, golfers are dreamers. I will also admit I was exhausted at the end of 17 holes.  I passed on the 18th, but the newspaper said. "a good time was had by all."
 
The hole filled with hardened foam

Good morning, it is Sunday, May 2, 2021. The sun is shining and the wind not holloring.  There is competition between several major forces occurring locally, nationally and globally.  The first is a record number of people are getting vaccinations.  That brings us closer to herd immunity.  At same time, there is growing concern about the number of folks who refuse to be vaccinated.  And the third is surges in COVID cases.  One way to put these all together is in too many people’s minds, the pandemic is over. And, they act on that assumption. Despite the loosening of restrictions, vigilance, masks, and distancing are still required and important going forward.
    
Hello and welcome to a new week on Monday, May 3, 2021 with some good news and some news of concern.  The good news is we played Mexican Train with a vaccine protected group. Another small step in moving out of our distancing world. Now, here is the bad news.  From a Tai Chi group member, I learned of a landmark Danish study published in the Lancet . If you want to be intimated here is the article’s tile: "Assessment of protection against reinfection with SARS-CoV-2 among 4 million PCR-tested individuals in Denmark in 2020: a population-level observational study.”  It concluded those younger than 65 years of age had an approximate 80% likelihood of protection against COVID-19 reinfection.  But, for those older, like me, there was reinfection rate 53%.  What does that mean? COVID-19 and its variants will be here for a long time.  It is not measles, where once you have it, you will not get it again.   I still need to protect myself with masks and precautions, even after getting vaccinated There will be need for booster shots in the future. Or as the old cliché goes, the opera is not over until the COVID lady sings.
   
Good morning, it is about to rain and that is good news. It is Tuesday, May 4, 2021 and a day which started with my connecting the dots.  All these connections came about because of what I watched while exercising.  First, I saw a Hiroshima survivor campaigning against nuclear weapons.  Then, an interview with Malcolm Gladwell about his new book, The Bomber Mafia.  In it, he talks about carpet bombing in World War II especially the use of napalm on Japanese cities.  Next, I went to Tokyo with Joseph Rosendo’s Travelscope. He showed the results of the fire-bombing of it during WWII.  Finally, to loop back to Gone with the Wind which showed the destruction done by Sherman’s March to the Sea.  The common theme is the horror, death, despair, and destruction brought by carrying the war to civilians to end the war.
    
After writing all morning, I went kayaking in the afternoon.  The anticipated rain once again eluded us and the sun danced across the waters. Two loons welcomed me.  Many of the bushes and trees are about to bloom and produce leaves.  I also saw many trees uprooted by the recent attack of heavy winds. But it felt good to be out on the lake again.

A loon on Pawtuckaway Lake and Mount Pawtuckaway in the distance

Hello. It is Wednesday. May 5, 2021 and it is raining 😊. Here are two thoughts for the day.  One is the new battle or decision: whether to get vaccinated or not? That is the question. Much of the debate hinges on individual rights and "no government is going to tell me what to do!”  The same argument was voiced against wearing masks. I go back to the Epping Fire Department sign: "Wear a mask; "Save a life”.  And the live saved is both yours and other peoples.   I am pleased to report when I do go out, at most of the places I go most folks wear masks.  The second idea is based on my geology course. It is the profound and real power of nature.  Examples of the effects of plate tectonics, earthquakes, volcanoes,  and meteors striking the earth show how much of our planet and history have been shaped by huge forces beyond our control.

Good morning, it is Thursday, May 6, 2021 and the sun is shining, the wind blowing, and hope is in the air. Broadway is set to open in September! Wow. While exercising I saw PBS American Experience - The Chinese Exclusion Act. This program reviews the background, origins and history of the 1882 law. It excluded Chinese from coming to the United States and denied citizenship to those already here. It showed how the Opium Wars, trade with China, the Gold Rush, the building of the trans-continental railroad, ethnic cleansing, and racism played roles in the creation of that law. Some of our history does not reflect the spirit of the Declaration of Independence. That law was in effect for 60 years. And, that law can be linked to the current levels of violence shown towards Asians during the pandemic. 
    
I did go to Concord today.  The sun did shine, the birds sang, the water was calm. All is good. Let’s have some laughter.
 


Did you know?
The term "weather breeder" is an old expression for an unusually clear, calm and warm day which precedes a storm.

Horse racing in the United States is run counterclockwise as a protest against the English custom of racing clockwise.  The Greeks and Romans also ran racing events counterclockwise.
 
In most cases, life is sexually transmitted.
 




Regular Humor
 
A chef likes to steal utensils from his job. The first time he does it, he steals a big wooden spoon. The second time he steals a plastic spatula. The third time is a nice chef’s knife. His boss notices him pocketing the utensils and says, "Next time I catch you stealing I will have you fired!” The chef doesn’t say anything but thinks to himself, "Well that is a whisk I am willing to take!”
 
Why did the student eat his homework?  Because the teacher told him it was a piece of cake!

Shrink-wrap - definition: a meeting with your psychiatrist.
What do you call an ugly dinosaur? An eyesaur
Did you hear about the first restaurant to open on the moon?  It had great food, but no atmosphere.
What did one ocean say to the other ocean? Nothing, it just waved.
Why is Peter Pan always flying?  Because he Neverlands.
How does NASA organize a party?  They planet.
 
COVID-19 Jokes

Where do sick boats go to get healthy? The dock!
What did the sick parent make their kids for lunch? Mac and sneeze.
I ran out of toilet paper and had to start using old newspapers. Times are rough.

What do baseball catchers do during the coronavirus pandemic? They stay home!
Who did Snow White kick out of the house during the Coronavirus pandemic?  Sneezy.

What did the mother say to her aardvark son after weeks of a Coronavirus shutdown?  Why the long face?
What did the cashew say during the Coronavirus pandemic? Quarantining drives me nuts.
Which root vegetable makes staying home during COVID easier? An up-beet.