A stewardess’s folk remedy

A few years ago, one of my sisters talked to a stewardess about viruses on planes. 

The stewardess said she and her colleagues fended off viral infections by using a cue tip Q-TIP (thank you, gasstationwithoutpumps!) to apply Ayr Saline Nasal Gel with Soothing Aloe to their nasal passages. My sister has been using that advice for flights ever since.

Our urgent care center told Ed that saline gels help prevent nose bleeds. I have no idea whether it also creates a barrier to viruses–or, if it does, whether it does so for COVID 19 specifically.

But I’m passing it along.

Let’s go to the dictionary

C is coming to stay with us for the duration. We have two bathrooms and an extra bedroom, so he’ll quarantine there for 14 days. 

I’ll feel better having him here, but he’s a big guy and he’s going to need food. 

Uh oh

I was figuring our bread flour would last another month, but now probably not.

Flour is a challenge, seeing as how my King Arthur order seems to be permanently delayed, and Amazon is out of stock. Looking for information, I found this yesterday in the Washington Post:

“I can absolutely and unequivocally say there is no shortage,” said Robb MacKie, the president and CEO of the American Bakers Association, whose members include packaging companies as well as makers of flour and yeast. “What we have is a demand issue.”

People are baking bread like crazy, and now we’re running out of flour and yeast
By Emily Heil – March 24

Too many customers, not enough stuff…. 

When Ed pointed out that too many customers/not enough stuff is the definition of a shortage we both burst out laughing. Supply-and-demand humor: this is the kind of thing we now find hysterically funny.

Just 4 weeks ago I was talking to a neighbor who grew up in the Soviet Union. I had brought her a loaf of bread and she told me stories of not being able to buy or bake bread in the USSR. She has a memory of her mother one day finding a hard, dry loaf of rye and how happy they all were to have it. 

This morning I’ve heard from a friend who has one friend dying, another with a fever of 104 who is staying home because the hospitals are full.

So … I’m going to follow my new rule of appreciating each day while I have it.

Cell phones? Did someone say cell phones?

I was planning to write my final post about collecting cell phones in the classroom when coronavirus hit.

Now, mulling the possibility that I may not be in the classroom at all come fall, when the second COVID wave is apparently scheduled to commence, I’m having trouble remembering the urgency I felt on this front before everything changed. Those days when cell-phone saturation was so bad I thought of leaving my job: those were the good days.

It’s not always easy to recognize a good day before it’s gone. 

The one good coronavirus day I’ve had–meaning: a day I knew was a good day while it was happening–was March 14, the first Saturday after NYU sent everyone home. I woke up that morning feeling joy that I was alive and well. 


It was amazing. 

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Coronawinter, part 2

More notes from Joe Rogan’s interview with Michael Osterholm:


  • Primary mechanism for transmission of coronavirus is “just breathing” [ed.: Scott Gottlieb says the virus is “sticky” – sticks to surfaces more than previously thought]
  • Trying to stop influenza virus transmission is “like trying to stop the wind”
  • People are highly contagious before they develop a cough
  • We’re not going to have a vaccine any time soon
  • Kids are like “little virus reactors” [6/22/2020 UPDATE: As I recall, he was talking about kids and the normal colds and flus we experience each winter]
  • Christmas break has a “dampening effect” on flu transmission
  • Infectious Hepatitis A outbreaks in daycare: kids test positive but aren’t sick; parents and day care workers test positive and are sick

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Welcome to the new world



Lecture One

Content: I look in the camera and say, “Is this on? Is this on? Oh, I think it’s on! Wait, it’s not on! No, it is on! How do I share my screen?! I don’t think this is on.”

Ed taught his first online course this morning, preceded by about an hour of troubleshooting the what-ifs.

What if their sound goes off?

What if their video goes off?


Big and little

Reading The Economist this morning:

Then, on March 18th, the Fed announced it would start buying short-dated commercial paper, to provide direct support for big companies.

There is no reason for the Federal Reserve to help the bigs but not littles.

For that matter, there is no reason for the Fed not to create new money and distribute to individuals:

Still, an often muddled (even politically hidden) truth is that, when called upon, the same [money-printing] computer that works for large banks is there for Main Street as well. But the Federal Reserve needs specific instructions before typing up dollars for the rest of us.

Those instructions come in the form of legislation: When a bill becomes a law, the government is, in essence, telling the Fed how many dollars it is ordering up to cover health care expenses, child care costs or replace lost wages, and so on. And — this is crucial — all spending, whether or not it is offset by tax increases, is covered by the Federal Reserve. –Stephanie Kelton

For the record, I disagree with the claim that the Federal Reserve must wait for legislation before it sends money to Main Street. Technically, that’s true, but I’m pretty sure that during the financial crisis the Fed took all kinds of actions that hadn’t been specifically legislated. 

If the Fed were to decide to “use the computer to mark up the size of [individual] accounts,” who would say no?

I can imagine someone asking a court for an injunction against the Fed. I guess I can also imagine a court issuing such an injunction.

But asking a court for an injunction against saving ordinary people and small businesses from financial ruin would be massively unpopular, and courts are influenced by public opinion.

If you’re going to save the bigs, save the littles, too.

More good news: weeks not months

Most hopeful piece I’ve read on COVID-19.

Two choices: mitigation or suppression

On one side, countries can go the mitigation route: create a massive epidemic, overwhelm the healthcare system, drive the death of millions of people, and release new mutations of this virus in the wild.

On the other, countries can fight. They can lock down for a few weeks to buy us time, create an educated action plan, and control this virus until we have a vaccine.

Governments around the world today, including some such as the US, the UK or Switzerland have so far chosen the mitigation path.

That means they’re giving up without a fight. They see other countries having successfully fought this, but they say: “We can’t do that!”

What if Churchill had said the same thing? “Nazis are already everywhere in Europe. We can’t fight them. Let’s just give up.” This is what many governments around the world are doing today. They’re not giving you a chance to fight this. You have to demand it.

Suppression takes weeks, not months, once you can do testing on the scale of South Korea.

In the meantime, man the helicopters.

Does Coronavirus blow up windows?

Sticking with the theme of writing from the sentence up, pretty soon I will be too stressed to get a complete sentence out.

I was just sitting here, writing a post about Duolingo, not thinking about Coronavirus for five seconds, when my front window exploded.

2020-3-17 - Broken window

Felt like apocalypse now.

Had to have been the dogs, who were at the window when it happened and came screeching back to the kitchen area immediately after. (Our house is open plan–hence kitchen area as opposed to kitchen.) 

These dogs need to live outdoors for a year or two or three.

Just to give us some peace and quiet.

Silver lining: repairperson, a neighbor who works in the city, tells me he’s getting off work in an hour (an hour! it’s 1pm) and will stop by our house on the way home.

6/22/2020 UPDATE: two-month wait for tempered glass pane, which we obviously need

Duolingo progress report

This is pretty amazing, I think.

I now have a 2-year streak on Duolingo; plus I worked my way through the entire Lingvist French sequence.

I’m also 2000 words into a Memrise French vocabulary list and have done a few of the regular French lessons.

I can now read this tweet efficiently, without looking anything up:

For a while now, I’ve been studying both French and Spanish every day, so we’ll see how that goes. (Spanish is the language I studied when I was young — don’t want to “lose” it while I’m studying French…)

Nearly all of my progress comes from language apps. I’ve done a bit of reading: two graphic novels and some Twitter posts.

I’ve also, at times, delved into grammar explanations, primarily on French Today and Lawless French.

But basically I owe my progress to Duolingo & Memrise, both of which use “forced-choice” information-integration learning.

Coronawinter: Michael Osterholm on Joe Rogan Experience

Joe Rogan Experience #1439 – Michael Osterholm

Joe Rogan’s interview with Michael Osterholm is the best thing I’ve heard or read about coronavirus so far, so I’m posting notes.

After 9/11 I read his book Living Terrors: What America Needs to Know to Survive the Coming Bioterrorist Catastrophe October 9, 2001 (Michael T. Osterholm Ph.D. MPH (Author), John Schwartz (Author). It was terrific.


  • Coronawinter, not coronablizzard: this first round will go on for 3 to 7 months
  • In Italy doctors report serious cases in 40-somethings
  • But primary risk factor is old age & underlying conditions
  • Obesity is a major risk factor for serious coronavirus illness – that’s what infectious disease specialists are worried about in the U.S.
  • R0 (the time for cases to double) = 4 days
  • Conservative estimate: >480,000 deaths in next 3 to 7 months

Continue reading


Earlier today I had an alert from the college where I teach: a colleague has been diagnosed with Coronavirus. (I’m not teaching this semester, but I went to a small meeting there just yesterday.)

Twenty minutes later Ed walked in and said one of his colleagues has pneumonia and is awaiting test results. Probable coronavirus.

So …. getting closer. 

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More homeschooling, please

I’ve been reading tweets about school closings as a means of containing epidemics. Turns out they’re highly effective.

Presumably, more homeschooling ought to mean slower contagion of whatever is going around. Another point in its favor!

Speaking of kids and contagion, my brother-in-law, who has been taking care of his new granddaughter one day a week, tells us he’s been chronically sick ever since his daughter went back to work. His granddaughter spends two or three days a week in daycare, and he gets every bug the children get.

This thread is good, too.