Masks

July 9, 2020

BW photograph of a discarded face mask laying atop tree roots.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Last month, there was another post advocating for the wearing of face masks when in public as a means of reducing the spread of COVID-19.  This has been demonstrated to be effective in that capacity.  However, this continues to be another in a long line of divisive political issues…it is hard to image that responding to a global pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands has become so politicized.  Nonetheless, here we are.  Some continue the refusal to wear a mask as a demonstration of individual rights and a protest against an overreaching government.   Given that the president of the U.S. refuses to wear one, this should not be too surprising.  (With a nod to sociology, this is a perfect example of symbolic interactionism theory.)  Importantly, the president held an indoor rally in Tulsa, OK recently, which attended by his supporters-many of whom were not wearing masks.  The headline of this report is quite telling-please be sure to read the full article, though.

Viruses do what viruses do-politics are not a concern.  Individual rights are not a concern.

So, continue to wear the masks.  However, please do not discard them on the ground.  If they are dropped and you notice (if being worn, it would easy to tell if it was suddenly missing), please backtrack and pick it up.

Be safe and well.

Flying

June 30, 2020

BW photograph of a small plane flying into some large clouds.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Despite what I said about flying in the “Train, Train” post, every time clouds form, or the sound of a plane is heard, I look up and think about being in the air.  If you look carefully at the upper left of this photograph, that black spot is a small plane making its way to somewhere.

BW photograph looking up into a cloud formation.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

When watching movies from the 6os and 70s, air travel is depicted as (mostly) stress free.  Passengers walk up to the counter, are greeted by smiling ticket agents, purchase a ticket, walk straight to the plane, settle in, light up, and have a drink.  Quite pleasant and sophisticated.  Of course, that is what the airline industry wanted to present to the public to entice said passengers.  Still, absent the smoking, what is not to like?

In a post 9/11 era, though, such is not the case.  Tickets are often purchased months in advance in order to secure a lower rate, packing and dressing must be done with knowledge of the TSA regulations and screening process so as to avoid delays and other unwanted complications, and usually there are long (sometimes very extremely long) lines of fellow travelers.   Forget about just showing up and going right to the plane.  It is fortunate that smoking is no longer permitted on the planes.

BW photograph of cumulous clouds on a clear day.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

COVID-19 presents additional concerns at the moment.

I do still like the idea of flying.  When at 30,000 feet with someone else in the driver’s (flier’s?) seat, one can (hopefully) let go of the need to be in control.  Five hours to the West Coast sure beats multiple days of driving, but there really is a price to pay for that shortened transit.

Incidentally, if one wants a good look at the places in between, then a long, meandering road trip would be ideal.  Someday, I will make that kind of trip.

Be safe and well.

 

Expectoration

June 28, 2020

BW photograph of a church markee recommending the wearing of masks.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Please pay attention to the message contained in the above photograph.  Even if one is not religiously inclined, it is important to recognize that the wearing of masks is primarily for the protection of others.  Being concerned for other’s well-being, really, is not necessarily religious at all, especially when one considers how religions have been and are used by some to specifically separate, disadvantage, and/or kill others.   No, the message herein is much more spiritual in nature:  we demonstrate our care and concern for fellow humans by protecting them from our expectoration.

COVID-19 cases are spiking in Arizona, Texas, and Florida-Johns Hopkins University maintains an up-to-date tracking of COVID-19 cases locally, nationally, and globally.  The exponential rise in cases in those states can largely be attributed to the relaxing of what precautions were in place.  This report details the current global situation.

Given that the U.S. is in a time of extreme polarization and that there is not much which does not become politicized, the wearing of masks has also become a point of contention.  There are those who see this as a fundamental tool to prevent the spread of a contagion-others who view this as an infringement on their individual rights.  Please read this article.

There does appear to be a question of legality regarding a mandate to wear masks.  Effective, concerned leadership up and down the political spectrum could eliminate this, especially given that masks do help in reducing transmission.  Even without a legal standard, though, it would be beneficial to recognize the role each of us has with regard to the safety of others, especially in a pandemic.

Without a culturally-based, widespread sense of community, dealing with this and future pandemics, not to mention the chronic problems of racism and inequality, is made much more difficult.  It is only when we see each other as “us” and “we” that real progress can be made-that is a message of inclusivity which needs to begin with the president on down.  However, expecting that now is quite unrealistic.

Therefore, it is important that voices be heard, not only in protests, but through voting.

Be safe and well.

Train, Train

June 20, 2020

BW photograph of the Midland Railway running in a canyon of trees.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Trains have a significant place in culture.

There have been many songs written about travel by rail.  Moreover, many books have been written about railroads, rail travel, or have plots that significantly involve trains.  The same can be said for movies, especially movies that began as books.

BW photograph of the Midland Railway running in a canyon of trees.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The rails themselves convey movement.  That the rails appear to become closer together when one knows they remain parallel, this apparent convergence, is a fundamental distance cue.  It literally shows that one would be moving from here to there.

Travel by rail has long held a place in my wanderlust.  This no doubt began with the Lionel electric train that I received when a child-a train that I still have.  I can still smell the oily smoke the locomotive would release.  The idea of being in a rail car, rocking side-to-side, and watching as the scenery flows past has a calming sense to it that air travel never has.  On a train, there is the real sense that you are still connected to the environ-that you could open the window, reach out, and touch it…not that that would be a good idea.  You are still a part of, not zooming over at 30,000 feet.  There is also the freedom to get off at the next stop…on a plane, you are there for the duration.

Perhaps if I had more experience actually traveling by train, those sentiments would be different, less romanticized.  I have flown much more than I have been on trips by train, and that romance has definitely, perhaps irrevocably, been jaded by experience.

This reminiscing was initiated by the reading of this article.  While immersed in that, I could look up and see part of my collection of Paul Theroux books that center on railways of the world.  I have a couple of books about traveling by train across Siberia.

Having been largely restricted for four months most certainly plays a part is this wistfulness.

Be safe and well.

 

Appearances

May 30, 2020

BW photograph of storm clouds over some trees.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Photography catches a moment in time.  The above was taken just a bit before the rain began to fall.  Severe thunderstorms were forecast for the area, and these clouds certainly provided the appearance of delivering just that.  However…the storm did not materialize-not that that is a bad thing.  Some rain did fall, then the sky cleared, and the temperature dropped a bit.

Speaking of storms, the 2020 Hurricane Season begins on Monday June 1.  NOAA has predicted a more active season this year.  Climatic conditions are in place to create a bit more mayhem than usual-the linked report explains those factors.  2020 has already seen one named storm (Arthur) that developed earlier this month.

And speaking of weather, such storms add another complication to the COVID-19 epidemic-Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross acknowledges such in the report.  The displacement of residents and the need for emergency services produced by tropical storms and hurricanes makes an already complicated service delivery situation that much more difficult.

There is another connection between weather and COVID-19, one that is articulated in the theory that the coming of summer will kill-off the virus.  This is a concept known as “seasonality”, which is explained in this article.  It is important to also recognize, though, that summer often brings a change to human behaviour that accompanies the warming weather-this point, too, is made in the article.  In other words, there are multiple variables at work here, so it may take some time to sort out what interventions actually work with this novel virus.  Please do give the article a read.

Right now, the sky is clear and blue…there is a slight breeze, and the sun is shining.  Pretty nice.

Be safe and well.

 

Less?

May 22, 2020

BW photograph of a Morgan Run close-up.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

There are connections to be made between air quality and COVID-19.  One is that areas with higher levels of air pollution have experienced more complications from COVID-19 than those with less pollution.  The other is that the decreased travel necessitated by stay-at-home orders has improved air quality…somewhat.  It should not be surprising that with the explosion of online ordering, mass transit of goods has also increased-that means more trucks on the road.  The factory-level burning of fossil fuels has also continued during the travel reductions.  As pointed out in the NPR report, this does provide an opportunity to learn just how much more needs to be done to clean the air than cut back on automobile usage.

Photographer’s note:  the above image is from one of my favourite places to photograph water.  If I were photographing air today, it would have been a relatively blank image of pussy-willow grey overcast.  It is also useful to recognize the connection between clean air and clean water-runoff from hard rains can result in particulate matter contaminating waterways.  With regard to air, though, one generally needs smokestacks, exhaust pipes, or smog-covered cities to visually represent the pollution.  People wearing masks is another, but that is much more the norm now…

BW photograph of a pair of sunglasses left on the ground.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Trash is another matter-it is readily visible.  As a result of the lock-down, I have not been out-and-about nearly as much as is liked.  Still, the few times I have been to my favourite local places, there has been less trash.  Not so this time.

BW photograph of a small Utz potato chip bag left on the ground.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

As restrictions ease, combined with the coming summer and the hopeful decrease in COVID-19, it is anticipated that as more people get out, the trash levels will also, unfortunately, increase.

Be safe and well.

Repeat

May 12, 2020

BW photograph of a lost black glove laying next to a road.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

On Being has this intellectually deep interview/discussion with musician Devendra Banhart.  The topic centered around host Krista Tippet’s and Mr. Banhart’s impressions on how this book provides a useful perspective on the circumstances in which we find ourselves today.  One message they both referred to several times was the passage from the book:  that things fall apart, get better, then fall apart again, only to improve, and once again fall apart (this is a paraphrase).  The conversation explored the ramifications of this concept and how one can respond on a meaningful level.  It is worth a listen for the thinking it encourages.

BW photograph of a COVID-19 symptom warning sign on a medical office window.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Several of the previous posts on this blog described the connection between SARS, MERS, and COVID-19.  Listening to the program reinforced that connection for me.  Pandemics come, go, and come again.  It also (finally) resonated that this repeating pattern is, on a basic level, similar to Nietzsche’s “eternal return”-that one continues to re-experience events until the end of time.  As John Kaag states “…if one’s choices are to be replayed endlessly, they’d better be the “right” ones” (p 74).  “Right” is, of course, a value-laden term.  That is part of what makes the process of arriving at a decision complicated.  This is especially true when the decisions impact the many and not just the one.

BW photograph of an empty college parking lot.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

With regard to COVID-19, there are the competing issues of economic collapse and human risk, which are writ large.  States are beginning to “re-open” in the face of concern over another wave of infections.  Kaag goes on to emphasize that for Nietzsche, decisions are highly personal and that one must assume the total responsibility both for the decisions made and the resultant consequences.

And so…the issue of responsibility.  At the risk of stereotyping (and this is a stereotype-this also takes us out of the realm of an individual and into the collective), here in the U.S. we like to assign blame.  As such, that can become a means by which to avoid personal responsibility-“…it’s not my fault…”  This, then, is also a means by which to avoid taking action.  The politics of the day appear to be based on this pattern.  Indeed, our history is littered with politicians who have not taken responsibility for their behaviour, let alone apologize, until they literally have been caught with their pants down.  Scientific data is dismissed, and when things go badly, there is a search for whom to point the finger and shift responsibility.

Yes, choices must be made.  Those making them must also accept that responsibility.

As an aside, the concepts alluded to in this post most certainly do require further exploration and examination as there is much more that the authors intended with these works.  This search for meaning, for understanding, and the means by which to cope requires cultivation and stimulation.  It is important to gather data and critically think about the applications of that data-to examine past mistakes in order to not make them again…and again…and again.

States are beginning to re-open.  South Korea has some experience and data worth considering.

Be safe and well.

 

Melting

May 2, 2020

BW photograph of water currents in front of a rock.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Lost amid the coverage of COVID-19 is this most important report (well, not lost as the link attests).  This is not to say that COVID-19 is undeserving of the attention.  It is, though, another example of how chronic conditions continue outside of public awareness when more acute issues arise.

We really do seem to have a short attention span.  Once SARS dissipated, interest was lost.  Then, along came MERS.  Now, we have COVID-19, which highlighted the lack of preparation for such a pandemic. Meanwhile, the ice sheets have continued to melt and seas have continued to rise.

At some point, it is hoped that we collectively learn that it is in humanity’s best interest to be more forward thinking:  to fully engage in the research and development needed to address emerging pathogens rather than by cutting funding and eliminating programs once the crisis has passed.  To fully commit to funding the R&D to provide the needed adaptation/mitigation options as dictated by environmental conditions.  Climate change has long lacked that necessary attention.

Climate change, especially given the political administrations in place in much of the world and their interest in rolling-back environmental protection efforts, remains inexorable in its effect.

Take care and be safe.

Preparation

April 28, 2020

BW photograph of a number of shopping carts pushed together in at the edge of a parking lot.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

In 2015, Bill Gates provided this TED Talk, which addressed the lessons to be learned from the 2014 Ebola outbreak.  Listen for his recommendations for dealing with future pandemics, then think about where we’d be with COVID-19 if these ideas had been implemented.  Contrast that with this history of pandemic planning on the part of the U.S., which goes toward explaining where we actually are with regard to the current pandemic.  Short memories lead to longer lasting problems.

Finally, there is video and text of a recent presidential press conference and the attempt at clarification.

The warning labels on disinfectants are quite clear about the dangers of ingesting them.

Which brings up this extremely important point.  The ability to critically think about issues is a skill that requires nurturing and practice.  Fundamental to that is the need for literacy so one can access info from a variety of sources and have the knowledge and understanding to separate what is truly fact and what is political fiction.  A remarkable comment about our society is that students in Detroit had to finally win a lawsuit to have a “Constitutional right to an education”-please read this. Please also note that this verdict could still be overturned and that is does not address the many other areas in the country with similar educational deficits. It is also important to read the reasons provided for having ruled against the plaintiffs in other hearings. Putting this in the context of those at increased risk for severe complications from COVID-19, and the efforts made at compromising voter rights, creates a powerful indictment of the fundamental nature of our culture.

Be safe and well.

 

Earth Day 2020

April 22, 2020

BW photograph of a discarded full Sunny D bottle of juice.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Today is Earth Day-the 50th anniversary.  NPR had this report on the day’s meaning and current activities in the age of COVID-19.

BW photograph of a sycamore tree's roots.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This video is quite poignant and well worth a watch, especially on this day.  Please also be sure to read photographer Joe McNally’s description that accompanies the video.

Be safe and well.