Daily diary and notes inside China during the COVID-19 outbreak of 2019-2020, sharing the story and collecting notes for a book project tentatively called ‘Year of the Rat’.
Jorah Kai Wood lives in Chongqing, a sprawling metropolis with 32 million people, only 800 KM West of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak of a novel coronavirus, dubbed 2019-nCoV or SARS-CoV2, or COVID-19.
Chongqing, Beijing, and Shanghai, in fact, most of China have been in a level-I emergency since Wuhan, a city of 11 million people and the surrounding province of Hubei (more than 50 million people) were locked down in an attempt to contain the spread of the epidemic. Starting at the end of February, some factories and companies have resumed work and production, yet, in Chongqing, and much of China, public gatherings are still banned. Some shops are opening, but customers must remain outside, and most restaurants provide take-out service only. Nonessential travel or outdoor activities are discouraged as people are still being advised to self-quarantine in their homes to control the spread of infection.
Jorah Kai Wood is a writer and teacher who lives with his wife, Xiaolin Wang. Since the beginning of the lunar new year, 2020, the year of the rat, he has kept a diary. He shares his dairy with iChongqing, a division of the Chongqing Daily News Group which publishes portions in English and Chinese, and CTV News in Canada.
Part II: Spring
Thursday, March 19th – My Apocalypse
Day 56. I wake up at 11:11 AM again. I must have slept for 6 hours and feel like a human again. I make some coffee, tidy up, and get right back to work. Xiaolin will come home today or tomorrow, and I’m going to try to get my manuscript polished by then.
Xiaolin calls to wish me a good day today. She’s getting baby Ethan ready to go downtown to Jiefangbei to walk around and enjoy the beautiful sunny Spring day. The sun is shining, it’s 20 degrees outside.
I heat up some carrots and rice she left for me the other day, and have a nice light lunch.
Ethan’s first scooter ride: https://source.ichongqing.info/2020/03/ethan-1584606997522966.mp4
Outside, he meets another boy, and they play for a while. He takes his first ride on a scooter, with a bit of help. Soon he won’t need it, and one day he’ll be big and strong, smart, and capable. With a name like “Xiang Ethan,” it sounds like “looks like a doctor,” I know he’s going to change the world. A grandfather always knows best.
It’s delightful to work with friends to polish my document. My beta readers hover around the pages of my manuscript like bees in my flowers, pollinating this, spreading that over there. We work hard, flowers and bees, to make honey.
My doggos bark, rap rap rap, until I give up on eating and dump the carrots and rice onto their dish for them to enjoy. When they finish licking their chops, they bask on a cushion near the window as a warm golden sun, lazily reminds them of the joy to be found outside of our four walls.
I’ll take them outside soon, to enjoy the fresh air and run around. I can only imagine how excited they are going to be, with old Ben Ben finding his running legs again, tail wagging, and Hachoo doing laps around him as the only the young can.
My good friend Andrea takes the bus over to visit. He’s always been a brave soul through this and makes me sometimes feel that I’m too careful, in my tower on campus, scrying and shouting at the world. I suit up to meet him outside the school, and this time I try using my microphone headset in between my masks, with the speaker strapped to my belt to amplify my muffled voice. He thinks I’m nuts, but in a good way, and he gives me eye drops and Vitamin D pills. My eyes have been so fried; lately, I’m excited to go home and drop them in my eye holes. We walk around in the sunshine together outside, and the lady baker snaps a few photos of us when we pass by her bakery.
I go back home and relax. I teach Lil’ Kim for an hour, and then I take the pups outside. They’re tentative at first, taking everything in. The smells inform them of all that they’ve missed, and Ben Ben gets up on his back paws to give a tree a good sniff before he urinates on it. We have our twitter and dogs, their pitter-patter. I yell, “come on,” and they both bolt towards me, tails wagging, excited to chase and bark and play. Except for my gas mask, it feels completely normal.
Today there are 220,000 documented cases of COVID-19, with 8980 deaths, and 85, 769 recovered. There are the countries where it is winding down, the countries where it is raging hot, and the places it is quietly booming, set to explode. Wherever it touches, it disturbs the very fabric of society, changing things that words and ideas and men could not. COVID-19, barely three months old, has brought about some form of socialism that pure politics couldn’t, by necessity. America and many countries around the world are experiencing healthcare for all, a reduction in pollution, working from home, and a form of universal basic income; all part of this new paradigm that is 2020.
In places like Chongqing, where we have fought it back, we must remain watchful, and so the requirements to come are stringent (a negative nucleic acid PCR test). Tourists must be patient (a mandatory 14-day self-isolation upon entry). One day we hope for a vaccine. Until then, we will stand vigilant, a beacon for the world.
I never heard back about the remote island of Ireland, but it seems like Chongqing will keep me here for another year. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (the more things change, the more they stay the same).
I make a tuna fish sandwich, with lots of garlic and a hint of peanut butter. At the same time, my Bluetooth speaker pumps the rhythmic trance-induced beats and riffs of cyberpunk synthwave industrial music. I flip my knives in the air and catch them by the hilt, spinning around and waving my arms to the beat as I chop and dice salad greens. If I can’t dance, it’s not my apocalypse.
Jay has been hurting since he landed in America. His family is barricaded in their remote village and does not want to join him in the United States. He is becoming increasingly critical and cynical, full of zealous fervor. I couldn’t think of anything more Christlike than reaching out in a crisis to send a stranger masks to protect his family and becoming wartime buddies. Still, when I wouldn’t agree to pray to Jesus, having already found Jeffy Spaghetti, he blocked me. I hope he finds his family again.
Shockingly, in the next 24 hours, Italy looks like it will eclipse China to have the largest recorded COVID-19 death count. I hope they are getting a handle on it over there. We see that these NPI (non-pharmaceutical interventions) work well, and it seems like the North Lombardy area is slowing down, the first place to go into lockdown.
A new Chinese study declares that those with blood type A were more ‘vulnerable’ to infection. In contrast, those with blood type O, which have both anti-A and anti-B antibodies, may have some protection, and a ‘significantly lower risk’ of getting COVID-19. Another revelation is that the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein is uncommon and is 10-20 times more apt to fasten to human cells. This could explain the virulent, accelerated spread across communities. The structure of these unique spike proteins is quite significant because they will form the basis for the formation of a vaccine.
I take the dogs outside, and they sniff everything there is to smell. They are tentative at first but soon run and play while I enjoy the brilliant glow of sun soak into my skin. The Aegean shine is creeping in like a guilty husband back from the bar, a little tipsy, but full of deep belly warmth. After a good hour, I go home and wash up, change my clothes, and relax.
Xiaolin calls to wish me a good day today. She’s getting baby Ethan ready to go downtown to Jiefangbei to walk around and enjoy the beautiful sunny Spring day. The sun is shining, it’s 20 degrees outside.
Her father’s garden is gorgeous, full of yellow spring flowers from the blooming pawpaw trees. Bees buzz around the flowers, pollinating, making honey.
A cat meows, and down below, a city buzzes too. Life finds a way.
I work until dark, and then take a break and work some more. There’s always more to do when you’re pouring your life and passion into a creative project. I know I will sleep well tonight, though, because I could really use it.
Tuesday, March 17/Wednesday, March 18 – Practical Optimism
Day 54. “We’ve been in some scrapes before, and we’re gonna get out of this one,” says Captain Dan Holland in a space opera called ‘The Black Hole,’ in 1979, the year I was born. It’s apt for today’s news cycle. As I hear my talking points from the past weeks recycled word for word on mainstream media, “this is a marathon, not a sprint,” and others, I can let my foot off the gas. The world is taking this seriously, and there is emerging a unified wartime measures response to this invisible threat, this invisible war. It might get messy, but we’re going to get the job done.
CNN: March 18, 2020:
I started the day tired. Forget lighting the candle at both ends. I’m tossing my torches into the fire, but I have a deadline. Today after lunch and a lot of coffee, Xiaolin and I have a 2-hour conference call with my team at iChongqing and the Beijing publisher interested in putting my book out. Although my old friend in Canada is a trusted colleague, I cannot throw away the opportunity to rush my work out this spring when it might be able to inform and contribute to a healthy, peaceful, and productive quarantine of millions of people around the world. You don’t get a chance to help so many people like that every day, and so I’m burning the midnight oil and working around the clock to finish this section of my work and rush it to the printers. The plan is for a digital release in May, although I will push to have my work ready as soon as can be and push for this to come out as fast as is possible. After the meeting, Xiaolin packs up and takes our egg cake to her family house. She knows I need to focus, and she’s looking forward to family time with baby Ethan and company across town. I work until late afternoon and go pick up four pizza’s she’s sent to the school for me, a new phone screen protector that arrives in the mail, and four giant jugs of water. After spending weeks boiling and refilling water for emergency purposes, I’m relieved our water person is back on the job, and 72 liters of spring water gets dragged up the hill and into our flat.
Many young people, ironically, after complaining about boomers all their lives, are the most resistant to staying in and flattening the curve. There’s a selfish tendency to ‘whataboutism’ it to the common flu and say that since they’re not old or sick, it’s not their responsibility to sacrifice for their society or their families’ most vulnerable members.
A study in Denmark showed half the people in ICU are under 50. One marathon runner, 37 years old, excellent shape no problems, was in for close 3 weeks of ICU. People on the ground have described many young, healthy individuals in Italy as suffering alongside their elders in the ICU as they struggle to draw breath.
The biphasic attack, a week or so after the onset of “Flu-like” symptoms will include a dry cough and shortness of breath, even if you’re between 30-50. Please seek help as oxygen concentration and other support can help support you. If you have a mild case and are unable to get medical help right away, making your own “nebulizer” by putting a towel over a hot bowl of water or ginger tea and deeply inhaling, can help when suffering from a bad cold or flu and might ease your early or mild respiratory symptoms. I am not a medical doctor, before taking any advice from me, you should consult your doctor.
As I’ve been saying for 54 days, wear a mask, wear goggles, and wash your hands! If you are exposed to the virus, not all infections are created equal, so anything you can do to mitigate your exposure is going to be helpful for your immune system. Accidental exposure to a small viral load (a few particles), such as some particles sneaking in the side of a surgical mask, or a half a fingerprint on a door handle getting smeared into your mouth, your body may have a chance to fight it off or at least will take a long time to develop a mild illness. A large inoculum, or viral load, for example, such as someone coughing right on you, will infect you with trillions of virus particles and your body is quickly overwhelmed before it can even respond. This explains why some young, healthy doctors and front line workers can develop such serious complications.
The most significant comorbidity factors: smoking and obesity. It’s a good time to lose a bit of weight and quit smoking.
A study shows over 50%-75% of people can be asymptomatic. This is good news and bad news. This means many people will carry the virus with no traces, and contribute to the rapid building of herd immunity. The bad news means these people represent a significant source of contagion, and everyone must take self-quarantine and wear masks, even the healthy, to protect those who will not get an asymptomatic version of the virus.
So one hundred million in Europe locked down, with more expected this week across Europe, Asia, and the Americas.
Italy, Spain, and France are now in lockdown. France requires paperwork to leave their houses for emergency use only. People are crowding grocery stores to stock up.
Some are still voluntary, such as in Argentina and Canada, and might be flouted by those who cannot see beyond their own nose, or feel any obligation to contribute as part of a healthy organism being more important than their temporary, erratic and often selfish desires. But war measures and emergency powers have been invoked in some regions, such as in San Francisco. They are considered in other places, such as New York City, or, all of Canada.
By nightfall, I take a short break and try to switch gears. I exercise a bit and take my work to google docs, where my friend Stephanie and I can work on it together.
Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau speaks live from in front of the cottage his family is self-isolating in, where his wife Sophie is under medical quarantine. He looks healthy enough and promises substantial aid is coming soon, even as lockdowns close restaurants, gathering places, and put the gig economy on their heels.
I speak with a friend, a tattoo artist, who isn’t sure what she’ll do for the next while, and we hope the aid will materialize soon in the form of cash payments, business loans, rent, and mortgage freezes, and other assistance.
Trump is making his own announcements about sweeping aid. His focus, as always, seems to be on the economy, but he offers to help the people too.
In the British parliament, I watch a real-time session where they promise the most radical benefits package in their history to keep businesses afloat and people fed and safe during this incredible wartime situation.
I’ve been watching this sweep across the world for two months, but it still feels surreal to see the vast consequences and interconnectedness we all share.
By early morning, I’m ready to call it quits for a bit as the first rays of new dawn creep through my heavy curtains. Still, I push a little farther and edit for another two hours while I listen to Bernie Sander’s fireside chat and call for widespread support for working families. It’s essential to have tools to cope with losses, be they economic or emotional, anxiety, fears, and depression. We should try to focus on our own resilience.
I recruit a team of beta readers and prepare to grant them access to help me polish my thoughts. I’m lucky to have such kind, caring, and capable friends.
Now is the time for patience and practicing kindness and empathy.
Stress during a disaster or emergency can include anxiety, worry, even panic about your health and your family, and financial situation and cause changes in sleep and eating routines, difficulty working, or the accentuation of chronic health problems. Other byproducts of increased stress are the increase in risky behaviors such as alcohol, drugs, and gambling.
Children respond differently to stress. Pay attention to irritation and crying, devolution to outgrown behaviors such as bedwetting, worry, sadness, or unhealthy hygiene and personal habits. Teenagers might act out or avoid the positive activities they previously enjoyed.
You should talk with your loved ones, reassure them that they are safe. It’s ok to be worried, but a positive attitude can increase the body’s immune response. Sharing coping mechanisms and limiting exposure to draining news coverage and social media is a good idea during a crisis. Try to keep regular activities and routines. If schools are closed, create a schedule for learning activities and fun and physical activities. Be a role model: get plenty of exercises, sleep, eat well, and take breaks. Use the benefits of tech such as Skype, Wechat, of Facebook to connect with friends and family.
Being a responder can take an emotional toll. Be aware of physical fatigue and mental signs, such as fear and guilt. Allow time to process and rest. Meditation and exercise are healthy, grounding rituals. Self-care activities such as reading, spending time with loved ones, and playing an instrument are very therapeutic. It’s ok to seek help when you need it.
It’s also normal, I know, for someone like me who is coming out of quarantine to have a mixed reaction when others I love are still in rocky waters. I may feel relief and guilt intermingled. Fear and worry for others is nature. The experience was stressful, and I will need to take time to recuperate. Sadness, frustration, and anger will bubble up. However, I will try to bring myself back to tranquility and acceptance each time.
Around 7:30, I make a coffee, eat a pizza loaded with four hot sauces and chia seeds, and refuel my drained batteries to push a little harder, a little farther.
In this challenging time, there are 4 M’s that can make a big difference to how we triumph and come out the other end more durable, wiser, and better than we go in.
The first is mindfulness. If we practice being grounded in the moment, we can eat, walk, and observe our breathing mindfully. Connect with our senses, pause between actions, and embrace our interactions with all of our attention. Meditate daily and find your flow state: get lost doing the things you love. For me, the RZA’s guided experience mixtape was the key to grounding my own inner turmoil and finding a place of peace to handle the chaos orbiting around me every day. I thank him often on Twitter for the gift that keeps on giving.
The second is the movement. Physical activity and exercise will boost the probability of successful social interactions and other increase other positive reinforcement. It’s an essential feature of coping strategies useful in treating depression. Movement, exercise, and staying active will improve your mental health, reduce negative thoughts and moods, improve your self-esteem, physical sense of your self and even your cognitive function, including better sleep.
The third is meaningful engagement. We should pay attention to reaching out to people as a positive influence in their day and productive use of our time. We can reach out to people all over the world with technology, and connecting over our own struggles and challenges and how we cope on the day to day, sharing tips and tricks can be a cathartic experience.
The final m is for mastery. The journey to knowledge is one that is open to everyone. When in your life, will you have another chance to dedicate all your waking hours for weeks or months on end to improving a skill or talent that you genuinely love? With enough effort and persistence, we can all achieving excellence in a focussed area. This will bring us intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. While a long path, this may be the springboard your soul has long cried out for and could be a turning point in your life after this experience is said and done.
Rather than focus on the material rewards that can accompany mastery, focus on mastery for the intrinsic joy, the practice of being your best at something you love will bring you. When you focus on a subject you are drawn to, your advancement will fill you with purpose and joy. In this flow state, you will be drawn to further hone your craft and stay on the path for years to come. You’ll connect with other inspired people, and have stimulating engagements. Your creativity will produce work that will bring you respect and acclaim. Four hours a day of focused, dedicated practice is conventionally seen to be an upper threshold for those pursuing a focussed mastery, such as playing an instrument, learning to paint, or writing a novel. However, as you expand your physical and mental endurance, you will tap into your core potential, and your capabilities will grow exponentially.
When choosing what to practice mastery of, consider your passions and skills. Draw upon your strengths. There are more opportunities to learn from the experiences of masters today than ever before. Many fields lack conventional obstacles, and you can become a self-trained expert with proper care, craft, and dedication.
I finally put my sleep mask over my eyes around 8 AM and surrender to the need for some rest. I wake up again, around at 11:11 AM, and realize that for now, this is the best night’s sleep I’m going to get.
The dogs sit and bask in the sun, and later today I’ll take them outside to enjoy the fresh air and run around. I can only imagine how excited they are going to be.
Xiaolin calls to wish me a good day today. The sun is shining, it’s 20 degrees outside and she’s taking the family downtown to Jiefangbei to walk around and enjoy the beautiful sunny spring day. Her father’s garden is beautiful today, full of spring flowers and we feel a sense of practical optimism.
“Become the best in the world at what you do,” says Naval Ravikant. “Keep redefining what you do until this is true.”
Monday, Mar. 16 – Difficult Choices
Day 52. The aliens are coming, silent and invisible, but we can trick them. Listen, I know the way. Stay home.
My mom has reported the island is moving into a state of emergency. Although the clinic has been set up for several days, the first case is a woman who works for veteran affairs who came back from a cruise and did not self-isolate. She worked closely with old military veterans for several days before her fever began. Now the contact tracing backward will occur. It’s a limited contact tracing focussed around symptoms, but it’s better than nothing.
The province is looking at online education options useful. Kids need to learn.
I speak with my father, with frustration, because my step mom’s family, and it seems, half of Canada, is going to work like it’s no problem. I helped my dad get ready, get work from home, and everything, but if they have risky business coming into the house every day, what’s the point?
Here’s my take: every country is getting ready to play dodgeball. You’re either on team smart, staying home and being safe, or team stupid, acting like nothing is wrong. If you don’t know what team you’re on, you’re automatically on team stupid. Difficult choices will have to be made. If people won’t listen to you to stay safe you may need to isolate yourself from them to protect yourself or a vulnerable loved one. Be kind, but trust yourself.
Looking at the data, the USA is about a week, maybe two, behind Italy and Canada about three. Considering the 7-14 days incubation, this is the week that will determine the explosion. So stay home, be a PJ hero. Binge Netflix. Use your sick/vacation days. You will save lives.
Some people see this coming a mile away. They have 2020 vision. Listen to them. Following Italy’s lead, I have a good feeling that mortgages, rents, and lines of monthly credit payments will be deferred and excused. And if you want to speed that along, let’s write a letter and sign it 50,000 times. We can make this happen and help those most vulnerable.
Why do people think all they will need in the apocalypse is toilet paper?
Eat a healthy diet! Get good food, people. I am worrying too much. I need to pull back a bit. I’m going to start meditating before and after I get into the social media realm, but I will remain through the chaos, and I will try to shine like the sun. Anyone can. Be the peace you want to see in the world.
Today, I’m preparing to hand over my manuscript in four days for publication by the spring. It’s the only way to get this message out in mass while people are still quarantining, and it can make a difference, so I believe this is the way.
I won’t be sleeping much this week, sorry, Xiaolin, sorry bed.
We went shopping today at RenRen. It was almost back to normal, it was nice. Just like regular life but we all wear masks and take temperatures anyway. This is the new world.
I talk with one of my smartest people I know, Myagi, for an hour or more. He’s buzzing with energy. His take on RNA viruses is that each one infected is a bioreactor. It’s extremely transmissible with a very long lag time. It can mutate a lot. He calls it the prom queen of viruses. It’s not amazingly lethal, but it’s so virulent … which makes it so dangerous. Does UV light and summer kill it? Or will the humidity spread it more easily through the air? We can only wait and see.
I’m going to try to start a zip grow system for home gardening. My damn Kanso “Magic self-cleaning” Kickstarter towels finally arrived, over a year late, to local CQ post office. Still, they want over $100USD in taxes. Damnit, Kanso, you’re drunk. We made another Egg cake. It’s delicious.
Trudeau speaks publically, 30 minutes late, people are waiting for some big news. He offers helpful platitudes, but it’s only hot air until it’s substantial, but it’s in the right direction. We need to work together now.
Watching the problems grow with European quarantines, I worry people are not thinking about their collective good, and that’s what’s needed now. Personal sacrifice for the overall good. They might be difficult choices, but the answers are simple. Stay home.
Sunday, Mar. 16 – Blind Faith.
Day 51. Anyone can dance to the beat, but it takes character to come to life during a breakdown. George Michael told us you gotta have faith, but real faith is blind; it’s complete confidence in someone or something without any reason to do so. You can’t teach this kind of character, but it can be demonstrated. Humans are fancy, adaptable creatures, and the ability to adapt and thrive in fast-changing environments has recently been emerging in business environments alongside IQ and EQ. AQ, or adaptability quotient, is going the save a lot of people in 2020.
An old friend told me he would always remember my role in this as ‘The Harbinger.’ I guess as apocalyptic nicknames go, it fits. A friend of mine DM’d me to ask if he really should go and buy things for a lockdown in his country and I told that if my opinion mattered, well, I’ve been yelling off the top of a mountain for more than 50 days to do that, so I guess my opinion is pretty settled on the matter. A dear old friend told me that because of my blog, her 74-year-old mother managed to get supplies before the chaos, and it meant a lot to her family. As the veneer of civility is chipped away and the angry beast of capitalism lashes out when threatened by chaos, I believe it will be the small stories of kindness that will shine the light to guide us through the long, dark night.
We get up, and I drink my boots full of strong coffee. I play a game of Hockey with my dad, and unlike yesterday, I whip him 10 to 0. I teach a class 1 to 3, playing some blood bowl in between. I am listening to some dark synth wave and the RZA’s guided meditation in one ear, but otherwise, 100% focused on the class, and it goes smoothly. I do it again after a break and a run to get some packages: (cleaning solution, finally! And lots of TP). Why is it by the way that in a disaster, white people (or Western people) want to go buy a year’s worth of TP? They care more about the toilet than having food?
2020 vision, the ability to turn the fuzzy blur on the horizon into a clear perspective of what lies ahead, is a measure of AQ and something that can be cultivated with nurturing. Wim ‘The Iceman’ Hoff believes that he knows things about the human body and our ability to withstand cold, viruses, and emotional stress that have baffled scientists. He is a Dutch extreme athlete noted for his ability to withstand freezing temperatures, with Guinness world records for swimming under ice and still holds the record for a barefoot half-marathon on ice and snow. I hope that as this story progresses, we as a species will adapt and grow our collective AQ. It’s going to be a rough ride. Still, through adversity, we can build up muscles and overcome obstacles. What stands in the way becomes the way.
Today is the 20th day since we’ve had a new infection in Chongqing. We are on the road to recovery. The last twenty patients got out of the hospital, and we’ve concluded our COVID-19 crisis if the precautions hold. All visitors to CQ will undergo 14-day self-isolation. If this process is not corrupted, I believe it’s enough that my city will be safe. I hope that other cities can learn from what we’ve done, a remarkable effort, and entirely possible if the public trusts their governments and institutions and will just stay home until it’s over.
I am terrified of the chaos that is building and cracking already strained relationships and systems. Most people literally cannot seem to process what they will soon have to do, the choices they will be forced to make as we as a greater organism trims the fat. It’s been about two days since Tom Hanks tested positive, the NBA got canceled, and Trump shut down the border. These were wake up calls that turned ‘that China problem’ or ‘that Italian thing’ onto the North American stage. Still, the average person still hasn’t adjusted to the fact their March break plans are canceled, let alone economic security disruptions and food and medicine supply chain displacement. They complain that this is the most significant inconvenience they’ve ever dealt with, but don’t realize they’re staring at the pinky finger of an elephant. People in restaurants are complaining about not getting tips this week, what will they do next week when the restaurants are all closed? What is coming will shake the western society to its core.
I have not given up hope. Even now, I’m working on assembling a team to draft letters to Canadian parliament and American parliament, delivered by friends with sympathies to the people they represent, asking for immediate compensation for working-class people, and deferred payment for rent and mortgages. If we can take some of the stressors off the table, people can find ways to feed themselves, and we can pull together to get through this. I’m trying to take lessons forged in 52 days of quartine here in China on broad topics such as decontamination of protective equipment and groceries and packages, online classes, meditation and stress reduction, and adaptability into a google doc that can be a living, breathing document to help those in crisis. We can all do so much in our own ways.
But others turn against the system, filled with distrust and contempt for the rule of law. Similar to the microcosm of the prison riot that killed close to 10 and injured many more when visitations were restricted in Italy, the quarantine across Italy is bringing widespread chaos. Burning sheets on the streets, crying for their loss of freedom in crowded riots and protests, the Italians have decided quarantine, despite being an Italian word, is not a comfortable fit at this time. I worry they won’t be alone. Spain has thrown their hat into the ring with widespread shutdowns and closures to public gatherings and a cry for self-isolation. France is not far behind, as the Louvre, Eifel tower, and many public gatherings are also curtailed. I wonder how Canada and the USA will react, and we’re bracing for a big announcement on Monday to see how far they will go past school closures and many people working from home. The big question will be, how will the gig economy and service sector, many of whom live paycheck to paycheck, hope with this colossal curveball?
Why does the COVID-19 spread outside china look like it’s an angry nanobot reaching for the moon? The current count: 174,604 across the world. China has 80,880 – that’s a lucky number who we can keep it there. My go-to data site, worldometrers.info, is crashing because of too many connections at once.
We receive a message, not from my school yet, but through the grapevine, a friend tells my wife Chongqing has a plan to get back to normal. March 17, public busses, and subways will all resume full service. My March 18, all markets and offices will be working. By March 22, all special places should be open. 25 highway, airports, trains, roads open. By April 6, high school and middle schools and universities will start. By April 20, we expect to open movie theaters and kindergarten and primary school.
“People sometimes say we need to be really almost on a wartime footing if you want to change. Our whole economy is based on burning fossil fuels, which is taking CO2 out of the ground and putting it up into the air.” – Elizabeth Kolbert
The day has arrived, when the U.K., much of Europe, Canada, and America have either declared a wartime footing or are on the verge of announcing their own state of emergency and wartime measures. As someone who’s been screaming on the top of a hill for 52 days, I’ve got to say, it’s about time.
In the U.K., there is significant controversy about how their current policy of essentially throwing bodies in the hungry mouth of COVID-19, hoping they somehow infect their entire population at once and get herd immunity before their economy tanks. That is entirely against the WHO calling upon all nations of the world and all citizens of Earth to work together to stay home and flatten the curve of infection, spread it out over months rather than all at once. Why? Why do we want to prolong this misery? Because it’s the difference between every patient having the dignity of a hospital bed and the care of a doctor and life-saving machinery (and a case fatality rate of 1-3%) and having everyone that needs critical care to live dying in their homes, in large camps, or in the streets (and a case fatality more like 10-15%). We’re talking about saving millions of lives here, so this is no small detail.
The U.K. has about 5,000 ventilators, which is enough at 5% for 100,000 sick people at any one time. If a million people get sick – they’re going to need 50,000. They are already asking all factories to start producing ventilators and oxygen compressors. Italy is working to create a unified European sharing of medical goods, but this can only work when there are epicenters to throw resources at, like when all of China sent medical supplies and teams to the frontline of Wuhan and Hebei. If it had escaped to all over China, or if it escapes to all corners of Europe, everyone will be fighting for themselves.
In places like Ethiopia, where this 1 doctor for every 10,000 citizens, the situation is even more grave, and the chances for the 10-15% of cases that need medical attention to survive are much lower if the WHO can not produce fast-acting and far-reaching resources to appear at critical epicenters.
In New York City, we’ve got 400 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Broadway is closed, but a 6 lane COVID drive-thru is open. They test 200 a day but hoping to get up to more than 3000 a day soon. You need an apt, if you qualify, you wait in your car, similar to South Korea. Hazmat covered health care workers come to the car, get a swab, and it’s sent to the lab they get a phone call in 2 days. Telemedicine is on the rise.
Canada has 145 cases 3 times what it was a week ago. With exponential growth, that number is going to rise fast, unless people stay home. I read that China’s outbreak would have been 68X worse, infection millions of people if we hadn’t done our quarantine.
Not everything is closing up. Some Rome churches reopen after angry pope steps in, demanding a place for the worshippers to go and pray.
As I process another day, teaching, relaxing, reading, and drinking too much coffee, I find out an old friend of mine from the east coast, Jacq McNeil, is missing. She was last seen leaving the Pearson airport in Toronto about two weeks ago. Her sister said she had some business to take care of with a violent and shady ex, and now she’s been missing. We used to be close friends. Jacq is a funny, understanding, smart, and talented young lady with a great singing voice and a great listening ear. Oh, Jacq, where could you be?
I order some Vitamin D3 off the internet. I hope it arrives soon. The WHO has now announced the global epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic to be in Europe, as the number of official new infections in China has all but been wiped out, and America and Canada are still testing and bracing for the true rate of infection to be uncovered.
For 3:30-5:30 class, our eyes feel fried. We’ve been teaching all weekend on screens, and I’ve been writing when I’m not teaching, so while the kids are watching a video via video chat, we take the chance to rest our weary eyes with some of my masks. Xiaolin uses my memory foam sleep mask, and I have a cybernetic futuristic warming face massager. I move around the room, operating on blind faith while sending my voice through the phone to deliver the English lesson to a handful of 12 -year-olds.
I am going to get a couple of contracts this week for my diary as a book. One from a friend in Canada to release one day in the near future, and the other, from Beijing, manuscript due this month, and to be out on Amazon in a matter of months. I’m still writing my story, but if I could get my quarantine methods to millions of people while they were trying to figure out how to fill their endless days, that could be a kindness. So I am tempted to go that route.
After the class, we are doing great. My focus has impressed Xiaolin, and we enjoy each other’s company in the silence of the break. We rest, and afterward, we have dinner. Xiaolin’s tummy is still miserable from the super buttery Johnny Cash’s Mum’s pineapple pie I made. She makes Chinese noodles. I make myself some wacky pasta with peanut butter, broccoli, tunafish, wasabi, and olives in a marinara sauce. It’s odd, but I like it.
I watch movies in bed, relax, and write. At the end of the day, we must all have blind faith.
Saturday, Mar. 14 – The Long Night
Day 50. The Long Night
Two ways veered round a grassy shrub, And knowing that I had to choose Far from the cities and the club, I gazed from inside the poisoned dub past time’s corners and rainbow hues.
A hill swapped condolences to die, And perhaps it could be time, But I, unready to say bye, into the dance, to amplify, My perspective and the sublime,
Poison beat, curse disenchanted,
I found the happening to lead,
no horror grips the lionhearted,
dancing with feet bloodied to mud.
Media, garden the roses; weed.
panic crested, surf must be made obstacle shines to virtue’s way; eyes wide as stars; a masquerade Fear flies like a bird’s cabaret I lean into the dance again.
Day 50. I’m no Robert Frost, but Robert Frost’s first draft was no Robert Frost either. I wake up, gutted, and numb. It’s 9 AM, and I have six hours of teaching starting at 10. Coffee beans grind, a kettle boils, the French press percolates, and I wait. I don’t want to listen to the news today.
I teach for two hours; my life’s moments dripping away like the tears of a syphilitic fiddler. I drink more coffee and play a jittery game of hockey with my dad online. We eat some noodles and I relax before I teach again. I don’t want to take notes today. I haven’t slept more than a couple of hours a night in a week, and the last 50 days and emotional turmoil of worrying if I’m doing enough to save the lives of the people I care about around the world is too heavy to carry one more step. So I stop to rest.
After the last class, at 8:30 PM, I decide I’m not going to write at all today. The warmth of a pre-spring Chongqing day is gone with the sun, and the remaining chill creeps into my bones. I close the window and crack a beer and then another. Xiaolin and I watch some movies and try to enjoy a night off. So often lately, I’ve been spinning too many plates and dropping the ones that matter most. Scattered, like ashes off a mountaintop, everywhere, and nowhere.
Part of me is terrified of what is to come. I want to leave the party early; focus on my life, head down, and try to keep on keeping on. If Chongqing and China’s precautions are good, then we’ve done it. 50 days and 80,000 infections later, we’re almost ready to get back to the business of living. If we keep a 14-day quarantine on anyone entering, we should be able to take our masks off and go to the movies soon.
I’ve always had my other foot in Canada, though, this squirrelly, cold numbness grips me, wondering how could I go back to any semblance of normal life? A pandemic plague is on the shores of my homeland.
I’ve already had friends from around the world message me. Some want me to speak to their member of parliament, or doctor, or mayor and share my data and Chinese methods for containment. Others write to me late at night when they can’t sleep, nerves frayed, panic rising. They want to know what they can do, where they can go. I reply I share facts, I debate with the angry and the scared and those in denial, and the more exhausted I get, the less I can field these questions.
Some wonder what they will do when their jobs close, and their rent checks bounce and their mortgage defaults. What can I say? How desperate will social media be when they are losing their homes and sick or starving?
It’s unthinkable. I’ve always preferred to ghost a party on a high note than to bother with a hundred goodbyes. I’ve drained my batteries trying to light signal fires;my movies and music and posts will speak for themselves in perpetuity. Isn’t it fair now to retreat to my mountain-dwelling and wait out the storm in some relative peace?
Mais cela me semble être la voie du lâche; c’est sa propre forme de petite mort (But this strikes me as the coward’s way; its own form of little death).
I lie in bed until early in the morning again, thinking, playing through every scenario I can think of, and trying to decide which one will bring me the most peace. None of them are easy, but some of them are kind.
I remember a dark night, long ago, with a good friend M. After our gigs were done, we had drinks and laughed, as we did merrily from coast to coast, year after year. It was the way. That night, someone had slipped something in our drinks, and slowly, a creeping cosmic madness had begun to settle in. It was an unspeakable, but fast encroaching awareness of an uncomfortable unfathomable void beyond ourselves. We gazed, stupefied, as the creeping abyss overwhelmed our motoriety. We shuffled off toward the bushes, and exchanged a look; is this how we die?
No, M, not today. I shrugged it away for a moment, as inspiration burned away the shroud; a ball of fire in a spiderweb. I clung to perspiration and charged into the dance. In the huddle of gyrating revelry, I sweated out the intoxication and creeping madness until only I remained.
I remember that morning, after the long night when that beautiful, damned blazing orange orb scattered the darkness and heated up my chilled bones.
When the night is long and the darkness deep, any spark can be a guiding light. If we are going to go mad, I will do it with dignity and grace. I must lean into the dance.
Friday, Mar. 13 – The Adjustment Process
Day 49. In Greece, they lit the Olympic flame at a special ceremony for the 2020 Summer Olympics. It will travel the world as is tradition until it arrives in Tokyo. Japan has spent billions of dollars and about a decade preparing for the Olympics. Instead of a crowd of 12,000, only 100 people were allowed to attend. The first stage of grief is denial. You may have heard people saying, “it’s just the flu,” or “the flu kills more people,” or something like that. Everyone’s heard it from someone. Even the talking heads on TV brought out experts who said it. My denial was short-lived, one day we just stopped going outside, along with the rest of China.
A man from Henan flew back from Italy to Beijing. He took six flights around the world, and then two trains from Beijing back home to Henan, where he rode the subway home. When asked where he came from, he hid his travel history to Italy, until he ended up in the hospital two days ago. If he had been honest, they would have quarantined him for 14 days in Beijing. Because of his lie, his building has been locked down. They are tracking down thousands of people he may have infected, and twenty-four people suspected of infection are already in quarantine. They are considering putting the whole 96 million people of Hunan back in quarantine for 14 more days. The man they call the poison king is looking at seven years in jail when he recovers for endangering public life. The second stage of grief is anger. You’ve probably had family members, or friends, in real life or on social media ask you to stop talking about COVID-19, stop sharing news. Maybe it’s you that’s gotten angry. I like to say if you have a problem with the facts, the problem is not with the facts, it’s you. I’ve felt angry, at the obtuseness of a world that lives in cognitive dissonance, deaf and dumb to the groaning of our melting ice caps and the burning forests and the acidic seas. Maybe my rage boiled up like a volcano and I wished for those who wouldn’t change to just leave the earth to us, those who would save it.
Some places are increasing their measures in hopes of slowing down the spread of COVID-19. Saudi Arabia requires a negative health test to enter. Romania, Mongolia, Russia are all using strict border immigration controls. We see a correlation between travel restrictions and the level of infections (despite what the WHO and public health workers in the West have said). Staggering work times to reduce public transit congestion is effective in China and South Korea and can be considered in other places. Ireland is bringing about mass self-isolation, school closures, calling it a partial shut down. Irish people say the partial preemptive shut down gives them confidence because it’s proactive; they’re not waiting until it’s too late to do anything. Italy had a big day. It was the most significant daily rise in new infections. All catholic churches in Rome are closed. All public gatherings are canceled. The Milan stock market had the biggest ever single day crash. Their health department is trying to organize a single European unit to coordinate the supply of life-saving medical equipment. They have some good news, though. In the 10 towns where the first quarantine was enforced, there are no new infections today. The minister says, “this is the way to beat the virus.” In Madrid, 100 COVID-19 patients are gathered in one hospital, but outside they have 1063 new infections. Medics are struggling. They believe they are only a week behind Italy and want to be acting to get ahead rather than just be reacting. Workers don’t have enough personal protective equipment, and front line health workers risking infection. New York City has declared a state of emergency; the military is deployed. The national guard marches on the streets of Manhattan, and Broadway is closed for a month. Disneyland shuts its doors, but they hope to open again in a month. The third stage of grief is bargaining. You know, when people try to make a deal, “If I just get eight hours of sleep every night, and take my vitamins, I’m going to be fine.” This is where I’ve lived for much of my quarantine. If I could only warn my family and friends, they will be prepared. If I could only fill enough tanks or water and cylinders of gas and stock enough gas masks, I will be ready for whatever happens. The truth is, we are never ready, really, but only in acceptance can we strip fear of power.
Xiaolin is horrified by the devastation in America, “but they’re a rich country,” she says. “But they don’t know how to save, they live beyond their means, and they tax their poor instead of the rich,” I say. When 60% of America lives paycheck to paycheck, no one can afford to quarantine. Their government might help. It’s startling how Bernie Sanders is trying his best to change the culture. Still, it is COVID-19 that might finally illustrate to Americans that socialized medicare for all is the only ethical and effective way to deal with a pandemic. With three weeks in the ICU costing about a million dollars, not many people have that kind of change lying around. BBC news says viruses can stay on public surfaces for 72 hours, but a meta-study of 22 studies says 9 days is a safer bet. Cherry-picked conservative numbers paint an unrealistic picture that doesn’t prepare people for the reality. American experts say that the stock market decline is the fastest since, no, faster than the Great Depression of 1929. They are predicting a worldwide Great Depression akin to or worse than a century ago. The fourth stage of grief is fear and anxiety. You may have seen it in the panic shopping of those that mocked you a few weeks ago for stocking up on your long term pantry items. They’re running around screaming that everything is collapsing and buying up all the toilet paper. On occasion, I’ve spiraled into grief, anxiety, and panic, for convincing a public obsessed with normalcy bias and convenience that the sky is falling feels impossible and I’ve wondered if it’s better to let people just live their lives until the virus strikes them down, for what good is all this hand wringing really worth?
We finally get some good news from Canada. “The coronavirus pandemic is moving so fast things are changing by the hour,” says Global News, but they have much to report from B.C., Alberta, and Quebec. New advice from public health officers: all public events involving more than 250 people are canceled. Avoid all nonessential travel outside the country, including the USA. Anyone coming back into Canada (including from the United States) should self isolate for 14 days. Now all they need is this to be formal like in China and Italy, where they are penalties for breaking the quarantine. Then they have a chance to halt the exponential growth of infectious disease. B.C.’s health minister, Dr. Bonnie Henry, after recovering from breaking down a few days ago during a press conference says: “What became apparent to me in the last 24 hours is the extent of the community spread in many, many, many different communities in the U.S. and I think it’s only become apparent to our colleagues in the U.S. as well that this is something that has gone beyond what they actually thought they were dealing with. It’s very challenging with the system they have in the U.S. to catch up.” Currently, there are 158 cases in Canada, with 53 in B.C., 23 in Alberta, 1 in Saskatchewan, 1 in Manitoba 1, 1 in New Brunswick, 59 in Ontario, and 13 in Quebec. Plus 20 new cases that haven’t been broken down into provinces at this time. For the first time in Canada, there are confirmed cases in children in Ontario and Alberta. Thankfully, most children don’t seem to suffer badly. Still, Ontario announces a 2-week school closure, or March Break extension affecting 2 million students in Ontario. Parents are scrambling to make alternate arrangements after finding out march break will extend into April. The final stage of grief is acceptance, and it’s a healthy coming to terms with all possible scenarios and where we strike out to realize our best possible outcome. This is where I want to stay, this place of cold peace that comes after a long night staring into the abyss and deciding after every scenario has played out that whatever does happen, will happen and we will be here to see it, one way or another, and that it’s ok. The world only gives us as heavy a burden as we can carry for if we’re crushed that is its own mercy.
How can we be prepared: lower your expenses, be adaptable, be ready to make do with less, be resourceful. Ask your grandparents for stories from their grandparents and take notes. People are telling me that they don’t have masks, and can’t buy any, so I share a few videos our aunt made where she used a baby diaper and a feminine pad and rubber elastics intertwined to make DIY masks. Everyone can use anything. If it can hold liquid in, it can keep respiratory droplets out. Quarantine, masks, all are proven to work. Do your best. A lot of people can find serious masks in hardware stores and odd places if they know where to look. Push for Trudeau to federalize a Canadian factory and produce them. It’s been done before.
ICQ wants to promote the diary I’m sharing with them, so we’re using “COVID-19 in Chongqing: The Invisible War” as a working title. It’s not bad. We don’t know how it will end, but so far, it fits.
Twitter has been interesting. I haven’t heard back from Donald Trump or the Surgeon General yet but got a reply from Tazo Tea & the RZA, and 2020’s first platinum meme queen Flora Fauna told me she’s not ready for a Youtube channel, as much as we’d love to see her.
After using the Baidu cloud to send a video of me driving around Chongqing to iCQ yesterday, a Beijing number is calling me asking what ‘strange things’ I’m looking at on the internet. I talk to my people at iChongqing, and they tell me it’s a scam phone call, so I won’t be answering any more of those.
I’ve been in touch with an M.P. in Canada and a Mayor in Australia regarding an opportunity to inform public policy and give good, up to date evidence-based data they can use to protect their people. It feels good to have this chance, so I draft a letter to other influencers and policymakers making myself available for Q&A and the direction of reliable and up to date information to break through the myths and wishful thinking that seems to cloud many of their talking points now.
I am not a doctor, but I’ve done 100’s of hours of research disseminating medial studies, watching every WHO and CDC briefing, 10 major world news networks a day and my own cabal of Ph.D.’s and G.P.’s who give me the latest advice, often a month ahead of the WHO’s pronouncements.
There is no question that many public policymakers in the West do not understand what a fundamental threat this is to public health, the economy, and society.
We all need to work together to flatten the curve. If cities can enact self-quarantines on new arrivals and travel bans, support hospitals, reschedule elective surgeries, and make many beds available, this will save lives.
We put on some Johnny Cash greatest hits and bake his momma’s famous pineapple pie. I hear that whistleblowing, to see if I still feel. I keep a close watch on this pie, the only thing that binds. And if I burn it, I’ll cry, cry, cry. It’s too late, minus to midnight, but Xiaolin’s face, when she takes a bite, is sweeter than the sugared deep-fried fruit in the middle. It’s only later when the buttery overload has left her cramped and moaning, that I wonder how it’s going to end.
Thursday, Mar. 12 – In Chongqing, We Trust
Day 48. My heart bleeds for Italy. Just seven months ago, we waltzed through dreamy Piazza’s as if we had all the time in the world, and now they are fighting an invisible war. Italian Medical Chief Roberto Stella Dies of Coronavirus at 67. RIP.
Some criticize China for moving slowly at first, but we had no idea what we were up against. What about the rest of the world who saw China lock down hundreds of millions of people in a herculean effort to contain the infectious disease? How many moved swiftly? Many said, “oh, that’s China.” Italy didn’t worry too much until the viral bomb, as their lead doctors describe it, went off, leaving them forced to make impossible decisions. Now America and Canada can look at China and Italy, and know what’s coming. Are they making the right moves? Or waiting until it’s too late.
Reports from Italy’s northern region paint a picture of hospitals at 200% capacity. Many patients sit in chairs with oxygen reservoirs, there are no beds available. Doesn’t it sound like Wuhan in the first days? If not worse. Patients over 65 are not being assessed. Let that sink in. In the posh, northern region of Lombardy, older patients, often wealthy and powerful in life, are left to gasp for breath and die because the doctors and nurses need to focus on those that have a chance. It’s battleground triage at its goriest.
Many doctors and nurses are falling ill yet keep working to treat the sick until they collapse. Only a small portion, 10%, of the hospitals dedicated to Non-COVID-19 patients are even screening health care workers. Forget about elective surgeries, strokes, and other emergencies, they are not being treated. This is what is coming and growing exponentially.
This is exponential growth. It’s why a ‘wait and see’ approach will doom you to disaster. How did it happen in Italy? Let’s take a look. On January 31, Italy had two people infected with the virus. By February 3, it was three people. A week after that, it was 17 people. Three days later, on February 24 it was 219 people. Four days later, Feb 28, 821 cases. A week later, March 6, 3916 cases. Four days later, yesterday, it was 10, 439 cases. Today, it stands at 12,462 cases. Can you guess what that number will be next week? Where is your country in this trajectory, and how long do you have before the boom? Experts say America is one week behind Italy. One week.
And yet people call me alarmist.
What would I do if I was PM? Stop all travel and isolate cases now. Entering a new city means a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Curtail all tourism and mass gatherings. Life is more important than money. Trudeau, Canada’s charismatic healthy young prime minister, said he didn’t want to make a knee-jerk reaction and ban travel or cancel gatherings. Today he and his wife Sophie have self-isolated. Word’s just in: Sophie Trudeau has COVID-19. By tomorrow we might know if Trudeau himself is sick and expect his knee to jerk after all. A knee jerk is a perfectly normal reaction to getting knocked onto your knees.
All Ontario schools are to remain closed for an extra two weeks after March break. Still, the buffoonish Ontario Premier Doug Ford, yes, the less competent brother of the famous crack-smoking Mayor of Toronto, encouraged people to go out and have a fun March break.
I wonder if, as his father did, Trudeau will have the guts to declare martial law and war measures to enforce an immediate travel ban on non-essential travel, close all gathering, and encourage people to stay home and work together as one to flatten the curve of infection. He’d get my respect back if he could say, “just watch me.”
Instead, he’s hiding away (self-isolation) as Canada goes into full panic mode and a national emergency. Who’s at the wheel? When the media tries to stop us from preparing for so long, the dam breaks, and people will go ballistic. It’s moving very fast.
Each person has a duty now to be responsible for the whole of us. This necessary action is the civic duty of all citizens and vital to allowing time for the hospitals to try to cope. This virus can leave critical cases in the ICU for 3 weeks or more, so those who get valuable beds will not be easily cured and recovered.
Some people in the west, sick of the limp wristed and glacially slow leadership, have started a movement called #Stayhome, and the website staythef*ckhome dot com, to teach people about the importance halting the exponential growth to save as many lives as possible. If we look back to the death rate of the 1918 flu pandemic in cities with different social distancing measures, we can see that St. Louis managed to spread things over the better part of the fall into winter, while Philadelphia spiked in October 1918. The seizure in the medical system led to people dying in their homes, in the streets, and it was gruesome.
What can you do? Work from home, dial back your expenses, fill your pantries, and stay home.
Xiaolin is getting ready to visit her parents. We are both exhausted.
My video is done, ready for release. I scrubbed every lurching camera angle from my phone into a 35 minute documentary of my life in Chongqing, essentially a fortified city-state that has taken extreme proactive measures such as self-quarantining everyone who enters for 14 days and monitoring their health, doing temperature checks at all public areas and residential compounds and active testing and contact tracing.
I use my band, the Root Sellers’ music catalog, to keep the energy up, but Youtube immediately blocks it. I am working with my friends, label owners, to get the video whitelisted. In the meantime, I feel raw, exhausted, and shaky.
I haven’t slept well because I cannot rest until I do everything I can to share my message; for the first time in 25 years in the music business, this is a mixtape with the power to save lives. “Last night a DJ saved my life” has finally come true.
I’m up until past 5 AM, yesterday? This morning? Days are blurring as I fight with Youtube’s legal AI, with the desperation of a weak fool who believes his drop in the bucket of good information will be enough to hydrate the Western world, in knee jerk denial of the looming threat. I can’t sit back and enjoy a good sleep and lunch knowing something that might inform a policymaker to take broad actions or a family to prepare for their elderly is banned on Youtube because I’m not allowed to use my own music until the legal AI god has their sacrificial lamb.
Am I delusional? Maybe, but when common sense is missing from the conversation, and the data is wrong, or outdated, anyone who’s awake and paying attention can save lives if you try hard enough. I am working feverishly, but luckily I am not febrile yet.
Some people have acted on my warnings in the last few weeks and thanked me profoundly for the heads up. A few tell me they wish bitterly they’d listened to me 21 days ago. In a bizarre twist of fate, I’ve gotten several bites from publishers that want to see my blog turned into a book or a movie. Usually, I’d be thrilled, but today I am stoic. I won’t revel in the chaos, but I can lean into it. For those of you still coming up, pay attention: the obstacle is the way.
Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson have tested positive for COVID-19.
A friend working in Vancouver on a film set is now quarantined after an actor from Riverdale has been confirmed positive, and shooting has stopped.
The World Health Organization has declared that dogs do no carry the virus. WHO let the dogs out.
Xiaolin is threatening to leave without me, and I’m still trying to get Baidu cloud to work so I can send this to iChongqing, and using Vimeo, Veoh, and Daily motion to try to get a western bounce online. Nothing is working. My connection and the transfers keep failing or timing out.
I drink a pot of strong black coffee, but the fog and persistent headache are real and throbbing.
Lin says she can leave without me and stay overnight if I need to stay home to work, but I want to see the baby and family. It’s been almost two months. Parents are getting old, and the baby is growing up. Plus, let’s get real, unless I tell Xiaolin not to come back, any risk she takes will become my risk by tomorrow anyway. For mental health reasons alone, I do not want to be isolated and paranoid, all alone in China, so this is a necessary risk, and we just have to be as safe as we can be. In Chongqing, we trust.
As we leave home, the guard hands us a paper, without gloves on, to show we have the right to be outside. A reusable paper, those other hands have touched. It’s no safer than paper money, capable of holding thousands of bacteria molecules, or in this case, the virus.
In Chongqing, we trust, as our guard is lowered.
Out of the taxi, I can enter the compound because an AI has verified I’m coded green: uninfected, and I have the app to prove it. We get to the family house for the first time in 50 days, baby Ethan’s father’s mother, Heima, comes to pick us up. She’s not even wearing a mask, and I’m shocked.
She sprays me down outside the door, six pumps with a handheld alcohol spray drizzled over my body. I’m ‘disinfected.’ In Chongqing, we trust. This is the disinfection her son gets every day after work? Ok, not so low risk. But it’s my family.
The NBA season is canceled, Hockey to follow.
America finally bans all flights from Europe, wait, no, Trump was wrong, just some of them, sometimes. President Trump has a plan to cut 700,000 people off of food stamps April 1, just as the nation braces for a global pandemic when many will lose their jobs and already live paycheck to paycheck.
Once I put away the paranoia and enjoy the family time, they’re adorable, my Chinese family. I love them.
Ethan is feeding me slices of orange from his hands, and that’s love, from both of us. In Chongqing, we trust. Eventually, I get the video up on Vimeo, it’s crunchy but it’s there.
What if COVID-19 was a way for us to embrace robot workers and AI because we realize it’s safer than human workers?
We have a lovely dinner until Heima, Ethan’s father’s mother puts some pork on my plate with her chopsticks. The gesture is friendly, but I’m a vegetarian who doesn’t want other people’s mouths to touch my food. Xiaolin thankfully eats it off my bowl for me, and I hope we’re ok. In Chongqing, we trust.
I do trust the precautions are sufficient, and the infections are low. However, I am vigilant because there are holes in even the most stringent precautions, like the permits we recycle that aren’t disinfected. If there’s another outbreak, I don’t want to get caught up in it.
Lin’s little sister starts sneezing. She’s about three meters away, that’s inside the zone. She’s sneezing right into the air. I hope it’s just pepper because if she caught it at a mahjong game, we’re all getting it right now in real-time. I hold my breath and go scrub my hands for a minute or two. Jeffy Spaghetti.
Tonight I need to sleep or something is going to break, my head is throbbing so bad.
Ethan is cruising in this pimped out little truck, driving around the living room, bopping as the radio plays, and the hydraulics bump and grind. He drives over and actually knocks me off my kneeling position. I play along, but he looks alarmed as his bumper rolls over my shoulder, so I push it back and laugh, give him a bow, and get back to work on the couch to write.
The family chases Ethan around the room for an hour, and I call my mom and chat. She’s well, grandma is well. Her church has stopped shaking hands, but her bridge group is a high risk, but necessary for her mental health. We all manage risks.
Having a family is great, but it’s also a lot of people eating together, breathing, coughing, sneezing, and kissing each other. Put a pin in today, if I’m fine in 14 more days, I’ll breathe another sigh of relief. I’m sure I’m fine, and better taking these risks than if I stayed home paranoid and by myself for the next year, but, mental health and family life has its own risk.
People are reacting very differently to the current crisis, and those who mocked me a month ago are now often quite afraid. It’s harvest time, and we’re gonna find out who’s wheat and who’s chaff. Stay home, stay safe, and adapt or die.
Xiaolin cuts my hair, in the living room. It looks nice and fresh. They say I look 10 years younger.
Hey Kai, you look great, what’s your secret?
Standing desk, global pandemic.
We brought fresh banana bread and a bag of sprouts I grew to her parents and they were happy, and it was delicious.
I watch my video again before bed. The mixtape is tight. Root Sellers’ apocalyptic bass music was ahead of its time, but it’s aging well. I feel satisfied that I’ve done what I can do today.
We go home around 10 PM. Pick up a couple of packages and break out my touch screen stylus like an old pro.
Go home, decontaminate and watch a couple of movies, have some wine, beer, and a cuddle. It feels fantastic to relax for once. I’ve done everything I could do today and this week to spread my news. I did what I can to inform and help those in positions of policymaking and individuals, so I feel some sense of peace.
Finally, against all odds, I enjoy a restful sleep.
Wednesday, March 11: Decoding The I’m Possible
Day 47. I’m going to let you know three impossible things before lunch. We never really die, we just change, and time is only an idea — it couldn’t hold a bucket of muck.
Today I finally slept decently and am striking a balance between trying to save the world and enjoy a hearty brunch. Have I mentioned I’m a big fan of coffee? It’s worth saying again.
I watch some Pathoma. I’m still trying to demystify the human body and how we get sick. I take a beautiful, hardcover edition of Dante’s Inferno off the shelf and spend some time relaxing in hell.
I send out a couple of letters. One is to share around to hopefully strengthen governmental policies based on the proven stringent methods employed in Chongqing, replicated in the rest of mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and South Korea. It really is a gold standard. If enough people in Canada and the West can take heed and push their leaders for more control, it can make a big difference. The second letter is for people who don’t want to get sick.
I teach Lil’ Kim for an hour; that’s hilarious and fun.
The sink is leaking! I fix it.
WOW the WHO finally declared a the pandemic a Pandemic! Fashionably late to the party!
Then, timelessly, I spin back into a video and music project. My goal is to scrub a 55-minute video for awkward, nauseating camera pans and try to trim it to 15 minutes. I end up at about 30 minutes, well, we can live with that maybe. Let’s get it online before midnight!
And before I know it, I’m digging through crates labeled “Shambhala,” “Evolve,” and “Burning Man.” The Root Sellers well, we’ve forgotten more fun than some people have ever had. I can’t believe I was only going to lay some tracks on when I could at least do a 30-minute mini-mix, so I go to town.
You better believe I danced.
I think that this weekend, I’m going to go back and revisit one of my best gigs from the ’90s or the noughties and supercharge my vibes by being there twice. The secret is finally out of the bag. It’s one of those things I’ve always felt, but I had to grow into. I hope for the same for you: a place without fear, a place full of love, and a never-ending merry go round. Today I’m vibing too hard on the music to write much, I think I accidentally caught a bit of a wayward gurn, a rascally curveball from the past, and my jaw hurts. Waves are like that, they recede, and they come back. I’m dancing in my bedroom while I mix. I have proof. Today is just a super colorful creative day.
With the anxiety gone today, this whole thing is one giant solo music festival or Burn event. Introvertapalooza 2020: 50 days by yourself.
Today the LEVEL 1 emergency status in Chongqing was reduced to LEVEL 2 because we haven’t had a new COVID-19 infection in 14, now 15 days. We are going to go to the parent’s house tomorrow! Amazing. This is big news for me.
We’re trying to register me for the “Antivirus App” that will grade me a green, orange or red depending on where I’ve been, how long I’ve been in CQ for. Since I’ve been at home 45 days hopefully I get green. I sort of wanted to avoid being registered at all and live off the grid as some kind of a Luddite hermit. Still, if I want to see the family, it’s the only way to get inside their area.
I got a couple of packages today, now that’s no sweat for me. One of them was my full face mask. I originally bought it in case I had to teach, now, I guess I’ll keep it for my trip back to Canada. Who knows, good to have. It took so long to arrive, I wanted to get a refund, but decided to hold out. Leap of faith. Maybe one day I’ll need it.
I’ll include both the letters I sent out today for posteriority. I made a loaf of really tight banana bread. Super grandma feels.
The first case of COVID-19 is in Ottawa. That hits home for me. I rush to call my parents, check their preps and vitamins and see how my family is doing.
I think my video Drive-By Jorah Kai X Root Sellers is done. It won’t be the last one.
I made a loaf of really tight banana bread today. Super grandma feels. Going to toast it with butter tomorrow morning.
I got green! I can travel freely inside Chongqing now.
To those that feel as I do, please share or copy/paste.
It’s incredible to see South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and China get a handle on the COVID-19 Outbreak by using proactive, aggressive methods and putting the health of their people above economic considerations and their stock market.
My heart goes out to Italy, Iran, and 100 other countries that are soon going to be swamped, and I hope your leaders have the guts to follow the gold star example the Asian countries have provided.
If you feel how I do, please share, or copy/paste.
It’s incredible to see South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and China get a handle on the COVID-19 Outbreak by using aggressive, proactive methods and putting the health of their people above economic considerations and their stock market.
My heart goes out to Italy, Iran, and 100 other countries that are soon going to be swamped, and I hope your leaders have the guts to follow the gold star example the Asian countries have provided.
How can you get this under control?
How you can get this under control:
1a- Halt inbound infections, self-quarantine arrivals from hotbed countries for 14 days
1b- Face masks for everyone (tight-fitting surgical masks to stop spreading, people can use N95 on top if they want, but you have to stop this from spreading first and foremost
2a- Aggressive testing program (China, South Korea, Singapore each do more tests in 1 day than the USA has done in two months).
2b- Make it easy and fast; local tests, same day. Fast, cheap, and plentiful tests. Test everyone with symptoms and their contacts.
3a- Rigorous contact tracing
3b- Pay for the tests
3c- Pay for quarantine, offer rent/mortgage rebates, subsidies to help
3d- Pay for treatment
3e- quarantine all exposed contacts for 14 days
4a Treat and collect the data and share it
Call your MP, MPP, and ask for some real measures before this sweeps your area – while there’s time. <3
Be well, be safe, be prepared.
How to avoid being infected:
- Avoid all gatherings, large or small. Just avoid gatherings. Once everyone is wearing a mask when out and about, this can be relaxed a bit.
- Treat sick people as if they are shedding aerosolized droplets of the virus. Why? Because they are.
- All sick people MUST wear a mask at all times. No excuses, no exceptions.
- Decontaminate all surfaces that might be touched before anyone can touch them!
- Trust yourself. Are your “spidey senses” tingling? Then heed them.
- Wash Your Hands! (Soap and water for at least twenty seconds, sing a song)
- Hate to say it, but many public officials are giving out (inexcusably) lousy information. Try to correct them if you can, when you see it, call them/people on it.
- Many thanks to Dr. Chris Martensen, Ph.D. Duke U, for his expertise.
Root Sellers 2020 CQ Minimix Tracklist:
20 Risings Root Sellers
Balkan Sandwiches Root Sellers
Otoro ill.Gates ft. Root Sellers & Mat the Alien
Heavy – Root Sellers ft. Steven MacDougall (Slowcoaster)
Pharma Sutra VIP – ill.Gates (Jacky Murda & Root Sellers VIP)
Je Me Souviens – Root Sellers ft. Stephane Vera
Comin’ Up – Rise Ashen ft. Ammoye (Root Sellers Remix)
Down – DZ (Root Sellers & ill.Gates remix)
Snake Bite – Root Sellers (DZ Remix)
Snake Bite – Root Sellers (Thrills & Rocky Horror Remix)
Snake Bite – Root Sellers (Myagi & Danish Remix)
Rock One – Myagi & the Root Sellers
My Special Place – ill.Gates & Danish of the Root Sellers
Tuesday, Mar. 10 – Drive-by Sneezing
Day 46. I wake up exhausted by the incredibly full day I stuffed into Monday. I have missed the blending of cycles from work that comes before sleep or appetite, that drive. Some strong coffee later, the cobwebs are wiped. I’ve got nothing on the agenda today before “D&D: 8 PM,” and that’s a great feeling. I get ahold of my editor, and she takes a look at the nearly 3000-word mess that was my Monday. We tidy for a while, and then I get to work on my “Drive By Jorah Kai” video, laying in tracks, ironing out titles, and rendering video.
Xiaolin gets a phone call, some community leaders for our condo area called. The woman was alarmed after seeing a foreign name on the entrance sheet yesterday.
“Who is this foreigner? Is he new to Chongqing? Why is this foreigner inside our building? Did he rent the condo?”
“No,” my wife says, “he is the owner, it’s his house. He is my husband.”
Unbelievable, but they seem to be concerned about foreigners coming back from hotspot areas. They’re really tightening up.
I go out to get a package, and as I turn to walk back, I hear a sharp intake of breath. I turn around, and a middle-aged man bends over, pulls his mask down off his face, and sneezes into the open-air twice. The sound echos off the nearby buildings like a ricochet. Everyone around freezes caught like deer on a highway in the headlights of this bioterrorist, this unfortunate man with criminal manners.
New studies show COVID-19 can transmit 4.5m in a closed air-conditioned environment.
I wanted to run back and tell him off, but I do the calculations, physics equations and numbers whirl through my mind’s eye, as I considered Pythagorean theorem and the matrix style 360 bullet-time effects as his disease-ridden mist sprayed the area. I was on the periphery of his sneeze-ease vector, so I job away, leaving the other unfortunate souls to their fate.
Back home, I decontaminate myself, but feeling the urge to sneeze next to Xiaolin, I got up and ran to the bathroom where I sneezed into my shoulder, not once, but five times. I scrubbed myself with soap and scalding hot water until I finished Bohemian Rhapsody in its entirety before I returned to our room.
I help edit my editor’s project she’s doing on the Coronavirus. A second set of eyes and all.
I wish I could see the happy dance of millions of introverts as all parties and public gatherings are canceled.
We head out to do some banking for Xiaolin. It’s a nice walk, 15-20 minutes. Sunny and warm. A few days ago, this would feel like a huge deal, but after yesterday, I’m feeling more relaxed about spending time in public, with precautions.
We get to the bank, and Xiaolin signs a form to go inside to make an appointment with a teller. They wave me away when I try to enter. They make it very clear they don’t want the hassle of having to report a foreigner inside their bank. I understand, after the phone call this morning. They’re all on edge, trying to keep things together.
I wait for about an hour, listening to the render demo, pacing around in the sun to get my steps in, and enjoying the funky grooves of my band’s music. Some police look at me weirdly as they walk by. An hour later, Xiaolin comes out. She said the whole staff was quite alarmed to see me. They couldn’t figure out how they knew I wasn’t Chinese with all my gear, goggles, and a mask covering everything up. They asked, “did he go back to his country?” And she said, “no, no, we’ve been here the whole time, 45 days…” and they calmed down again.
We’re walking back, but I’m sweating from all my clothes and the two masks and goggles after an hour of dance walking in the 25 degrees sunny weather.
In my mind’s eye, I’m back at that thing in the desert, after candy backflipping through the dust and spending a morning watching the sunrise at the temple and having champagne for lunch at the Champagne Lounge where we were playing a Root Sellers gig. By the time we realize we haven’t had water, it’s been hours, and we’re dehydrated, walking through the desert. Galen dragged his violin through the sand. We were lost for hours until we finally righted ourselves, got back to camp, and I collapsed into a heap of frozen margaritas.
We make it back to the school gate, and I leap back to the present, wiping my sweaty brow. Only then do I realize, that if I fail the temperature check, they might call the police and medical personnel to take me away before I can explain I’m only sweaty from dancing in the sun.
I take off my jacket, sweater, and long sleeve shirt, and mop my sweaty brow and hair.
We cool off for a minute, but then I head through, hoping for the best. He points the gun at me, and somehow I’m ok. We pick up a package waiting for us and head back home.
We take a rest, clean up, and change my clothes. Try to render the video again and dump it onto my phone and meet Xiaolin up on the garage, aka “the gym,” and get some sun. My face is glowing. I’m smiling, and life is good. I watch the video again, with titles.
My face has some serious “goggle burn” from all the gear. It’s uncomfortable and I imagine will get worse as the weather heats up.
We grab a quick dinner, some fresh greens steamed, and rice, and then I work on some writing for a bit.
At 5:30 PM I catch Xiaolin sitting on our bed with her outdoor clothes, on a video call with her sister. I yell for her to get those clothes by the door and spray down the bed with a strong alcohol spray. She’s letting her guard down after 50 days, but I won’t tolerate it and will protect us as much as I can.
I would literally kiss whoever invented blueberry yogurt if it wasn’t for COVID-19. Been too busy to eat lately, but this is hitting the spot! Squee!
So I had this weird conversation with myself. My agent / PR says, “Kai, you know this whole ‘I’m in quarantine, look at me’ thing was ok for a month, but it’s been getting old fast. Now Italy is in quarantine too, they’re the new hot quarantine to watch. What are you bringing to the table in terms of the story arc for Season two?”
“Well, evil me, I’m not really sure? I’m just trying to get by, you know, day to day, survive, keep a good attitude, stay healthy, write my diary.”
“BORING!” My agent scoffs, throwing his hands up in the air. “The audience wants to forget their troubles by focussing on yours! If you’re doing better than they are, what the heck are they going to read about you for?”
“UM, I’m not sure, really. Maybe they’ll be inspired by how I’ve managed to keep a positive attitude for 50 da—“
“BORING!” My agent screamed, louder this time. “Positive attitudes never won me no golden globes. I want to know what kind of misery you’re going to bring to the table, look, I can tell you’re a fawn in the woods here. I have an idea. Are you ready?” My mirrored self arched an eyebrow, and give me the kind of devilish grin that I know means trouble. Ah, I thought, this is why people don’t like me.
“Ready?” I mirrored back.
“Yeah, ok,” my agent rubs his hands together. “For season two, get this, we’re gonna give you COVID-19.”
“You’re gonna…give… ME.. the virus?” I responded weakly.
“Yeah, it’s great, isn’t it? We see people are invested in your journey. Still, we got to give them the pain to get them through the soggy middle, you know, raise the stakes, create some doubt about whether you’re gonna get back to Canada. Then, in the end, boom, you deliver an ending that’ll leave them stunned!”
“You want to give me COVID-19?” I repeated, shocked.
“Yeah, just a little COVID, we can sprinkle it on your food, painless.”
“No,” I said. “I make my own food.”
“Ok, how about you just let your guard down a bit… lick some subway railings?”
“How about you punch a few holes in your mask and go play some Mahjong?”
“Come on, a little COVID… and give it to your wife, too? Pass it to the whole family — that would be some drama! We’d definitely get you a book deal if you get COVID. As it is… I’m not sure we can sell this.”
“No, you know what, you’re fired. Screw you,” I mumble, and get up to help my wife make dinner. She’s banging pots and pans around, which is the universal symbol for wanting her husband to help.
All of Italy is now under quarantine (From the northern 1/3 yesterday). A lot of people are shocked, but it was pretty obvious if you were paying attention. You can’t let people run from the quarantine zone south and then be surprised when the disease follows. “The right decision is to stay at home. Our future is in our hands,” says their leader.
Reducing visitation at an Italian prison caused a riot that left many injured and seven dead. It’s a microcosm for the country. Italy is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. We had a fantastic summer vacation tromping around Italy. They’re economically suffering, slow-growing GDP, and now with tourism out the window, a population on edge and a collapsing health care system; this to a perfect storm. The rest of the west is watching to see how a less disciplined society will deal with the necessary draconian measures required to save millions of lives and contain the virus.
Big smiles today as the New York Stock Exchange opened. It didn’t last long. Trading was halted in 4 minutes after the dow fell 2000 points. This is the biggest slump since the financial crash of 2008. People have long wondered what would be the pin that popped our bubble or bubbles, but we found it today. COVID-19 was the giant golden needle in our haystack.
In Chongqing, the daily confirmed cases continue to decline since February 2. Of the 576 confirmed cases in Chongqing, 241 were imported. The other half, 247 second-generation cases were infected by close contact (mainly family and friends) with the first-generation imported cases. Almost one hundred, 88 cases were community spread in Chongqing, accounting for 15.3%, according to an expert named Yang. We are trying to get back to work and almost there, as long as we keep a tight lid on people coming into the city.
I grew another batch of sprouts. Tomorrow we’ll make some soup, banana bread and a pineapple pie. That’s a big agenda for a quiet day at home.
Xiaolin dials up another salsa dancing class on the internet. I ask her to go easy on her shoulder, and she agrees. I snap a photo and she seems to be having fun.
At 8 PM, I get into another session of our online Dungeons & Dragons came, channeling the bravery and coolness given by RZA to play my Afrosamurai Fis the Fierce. He’s one of my favorite characters from my books, and it’s fantastic to play him in a D&D game with my friends.
It’s fun, but we almost get into some PVP over how to shoo away some wolf cubs we come across. It’s alright, new party problems but we’ll be fine.
Finally, after a dozen or more technical issues, I manage to upload my video of yesterday “Drive-By Jorah Kai” to Youtube. It’s my drive-by sneezing, an hour of found footage to my old music. It’s got some tips and examples of a city thriving due to our strict measures. Maybe it will be of some value to my global tribe.
After the game, around 12, I head to bed and relax with Xiaolin.
Monday, Mar. 9 – Waiting in the Sky
Day 45. I awake in a deliciously liminal state, before awareness floods in. Home, loved, safe, and normal. Like a meteorite smashing into earth, everything hits me, and I take solace in a strong coffee and a delicious brunch. The tension between my cutting sarcasm for the farce of my existence and boundless empathy for the untold human tragedy I witness is the blade of a knife I dance on. Would you like some tea?
I summon RZA daily now, and his smooth cadence and guided experience ground me in my moment. Mindfulness meditation WuTang HipHop was the surprise hit genre mashup of 2020 I never knew I needed and would probably go insane without.
I tidy up, drink more coffee, and teach a class about daredevils.
My colleague Michael needs another file off his laptop. The fact that it’s no sweat for me to dial it up means I’m coping much better with life these days.
I do some laundry. I’m washing my space suit travel onesie.
The Grand Disaster Princess II is evacuating the sick first in SF so they can touch everything on the way out before the possibly healthy leave. This is a horrible procedure unless they have multiple exits planned.
My worst habit is how I wipe my hands on my pants. Chips crumbs, sticky fruit hands, whatever. When I’m making pizza or bread, that means it looks pretty gross afterward. So it’s hanging to dry, and I’ll have a new chance to break that one tomorrow.
I’m watching my bananas turn brown, but I’ve got a plan.
Banana bread is on the agenda for Tuesday. It would be fair to say that in my life, everything so far has happened quickly. Hell, even crawling ice caps melt quickly these days.
Ok, VR techs, this is your chance to shine. We have stubborn trade show managers saying, “we can’t cancel this, people are coming from all over the world!” If you don’t see why that’s why they should be canceled, you’re not paying attention. I wonder how I got here, on my mountain, spitting distance from the Himalayas, watching the world burn.
The choices that I made to get me here, each one radical, in retrospective “2020 vision”, seem inspired or at least lucky. I won the lottery of late decade life choices. I live here in a house with no rent, provided by a school that I work at in small doses online classes from home. My second and third jobs also pay me for remote work, with door to door delivery.
It highlights what I’ve been saying for years: don’t’ caught with your pants down, shot on the shitter.
My cousin writes to me about the first case in Minneapolis. She wants to double-check her prep list. I’m happy to hear from family and happy they are prepping. Half the states in the USA have at least cases, if not the other 2 C’s. The 3 Cs in our life these days are cases, clusters, community spread.
In Chongqing, we hold a live broadcast of medical professionals via remote work online meeting software. I’m so proud of how we’re handling this.
Flights out of Northern Italy (quarantine zone) are flying in to the UK, with no screening. The global containment is painfully lackluster outside of China, and I just can’t figure out why. Public health England advised them to self-isolate for 14 days. I wonder how many are asymptomatic and at work now just chatting away. I hope my dad can keep his folks 2 meters away in his office. Why does everyone try to flee quarantine? Don’t they know that’s a bad idea? “If I come to a land that has a plague, I don’t enter. If I’m in one, I don’t leave.” This quote has been resonating with me. Do the right thing.
Eighty percent of cases will be smooth, 15% rough, 5% life and death. What city can handle putting 5% of its population into ICU? It’s going to be a hairy spring. Health care demand already surging, reports read, but models predict a total collapse of the American health care system by May. What are they going to do? What is anyone?
I forgot to note this down, SXSW is canceled. So is the Ultra Music Festival, and lots of festivals already saying “nope.” Leslie and I are teasing Burning Man, but who knows. Maybe we’ll all have to burn 2 meters apart and keep masks on for the whole thing.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C’s provincial health officer, broke down and cried on tv at a briefing, and it’s getting a lot of play. some ppl say “What empathy” others say “if our big guns are weeping on tv this is scarier than we know.”
A Youtuber I know, Barret from Shenzen, took his mask off in the back of the Didi (Chinese Uber) for a minute, feeling safe because of the driver’s plastic sheet. Still, they passed through a tunnel, and all the guards started freaking out.
They’re on high alert for foreigners reintroducing the virus to Chinese cities, “calling it back-wash.” So they pulled him over and took him for 3 days of testing before they let him go back about his life. He tested negative.
We pack up for our spacewalk, and I’m going to need to summon the RZA and prepare to Kill The Noise.
((Welcome to the exploration.))
We call the DIDI as we walk towards the gate. So far, so good.
(( Today we will set our sights on a familiar adversary: distraction.))
Cool. As we reach the gate, I realize how far we are going on our spacewalk today– usually, is this my destination, the packages at the gate. Today, this is just the beginning.
We get a paper to track our movement or something and get outside the gate. We order a car, and I shoot a video of children playing and people ordering food and just …living until 5 minutes later it arrives.
Xiaolin tries to hop in the front against my advice because she gets motion sickness in cars. But the driver says no, get in the back. The car is clean, no smell of smoke. There’s a plastic sheet like in the movie contagion, separating the driver from the back seat. There’s a little bottle of spray cleaner handy. So far, so good.
((Together, we will begin our quest to kill the noise. Before we take off, we need to ground ourselves.))
I breathe really slow, in my nose, out my nose, trying to keep my breathing slow and shallow and measured. I don’t’ want to contaminate my mask with my garlic breath.
I take some pictures, and Xiaolin encourages me to make a small video. I’m resistant at first “I need a picture, not a video” but then I think..video… yeah, that could be cool. Look at these streets, so empty, yet, so busy by my standards of recent isolation.
((I want you to find a chill environment. Sit down in a very comfortable position. Plant both feet squarely on the ground. Place your hands together or rest them gently on your knees. ))
It’s incredible to see the streets of the world’s biggest metropolis, a city with a population larger than Canada, 34 million people, moving in its own liminal state. It’s not a ghost town – people are doing their thing, some shops and restaurants have opened, and some people are going to work, but it’s different, and we’re wary, and there is just so much room. On the roads, on the streets, between everyone.
((Now close your eyes. Now we breathe… Continue with patience. Match my flow. Feel every inhale. Every exhale. Flow in. Flow out.)) And we drive across town from Jiulongpo to Yubei, where our condo is. We get out, I keep calm, and we find our building. And find one door to the compound sealed up.
((Distraction. For some, it’s a rare burden. For many, it’s constant.))
Ain’t that the truth. Preach.
((Think about the distractions that surround you and stifle your creativity. Sometimes it’s the people or things around us–you know, family issues, or crazy coworker, or phone that’s blowing up in your pocket. Sometimes the distractions pop up inside your own head from your own poison thoughts.))
So many thoughts. The hardest one I had to weigh over the past two months was that if this thing was a Kai-killer, where do I want to die? With whom? But I’m glad in the end I faced my fear and stayed put in Chongqing. Both because my family unit is strong and we’re great, and because running from fear is no way to treat your brain. FAcing them and realizing it’s not so bad is its own reward. Things are going to be ok, I know this.
We go to the main gates, and a security guard is confused b me, “who’s the foreigner?” “My husband” “why’s he here?” “He owns a house here” “I don’t recognize him” “just let him in.” I sign a paper with my information, and they hit us with the temperature guns and record our info on their sheets.
We meet a guy from the rental agency downstairs, and we do the foot tap. It’s cool.
We go up to the 20th floor, and I use my stylus to open the elevator and push the button, feeling prepared and competent. The lift has a tack board of chopsticks for this purpose. Everyone is ready, in their way.
(( We create chaos, and at times, it feels like we’re completely surrounded. I’m not gonna tell you that you can escape or ignore the chaos. That’s fiction. I’m gonna show you how to embrace it.))
It’s my first its sin the elevator with anyone, but we’ve all got masks, and the place smells super clean, and RZA’s got me feeling mellow. We open our condo, and it’s a-ok, a bit messy, but not dirty. The young guy leaves, and Xiaolin and I take our PP off and spend an hour or two sweeping, wiping, and mopping until it’s ready to rent.
I listen to a great interview on a hip hop show with Neil deGrasse Tyson. He’s great, even when he repeats his best two lines from Colbert.
The woman who is renting our condo works for the local government here and is coming tomorrow morning from the north of China, Hubei. It’s quite cold there, with Canadian style winters and it’s common to see 6-foot tall women. They also make great dumplings. She will do a 14-day quarantine in our place tomorrow before she stats work, as anyone must do when they arrive in Cq.
((My approach to life has been to find order in chaos. ))
Damn RZA, me too.
((I think of myself as the sun at the center of the universe. And in my solar system, I’m surrounded by distractions. All that shit is just planets, asteroids, and comets–spinning around me or flying past me.))
It really works. I took some Aikido for a while a decade ago, it’s the same idea. Rumi taught me this with the Guest House too.
Later, we head down to the street and take a car back. This guy doesn’t have a sheet yet, he says he just got the info and is going to set it up this week. It’s a new mandatory thing, but not everyone’s got it dialed yet. Still, he’s got a mask, we’ve got masks and windows are open. My stress level is low.
((Think of the thing in your life that stifles progress or heightens your anxiety. ))
That’s easy enough, innit?
((Observe what crashes into your orbit: noise, work drama, negativity. See them all as little planets, asteroids spiraling towards you. They feel like they have an impact, but remember, you are the sun. You have the power to put all that peripheral shit on notice.))
We get dropped off a half-hour later because there’s actually rush hour traffic, at the corner, and Xiaolin uses the bank machine to transfer money for her health insurance for the year.
Then we go shopping: loaf of bread, pineapple, 2 lemons, Oreos, a snickers bar, an ice cream cone, two honey pomelo drinks (my favorite for teacher’s throat), and then we pick up two packages (box of avocados and some metal thing to keep the pots from shifting on our gas stove) and then Xiaolin picks up some hot pot stuff at the restaurant outside (restaurants are only doing takeout)
((n this moment and in the moments ahead, when your mind wanders, I want you to pause and identify the nature of the distraction. Irritation? Anger? Humor? Curiosity? Recognize each time something enters your orbit. Acknowledge it. Note it. Categorize it. And let it return to its own orbit. ))
As I’m walking home, I can only see flickering blinking lights that they put up around the spring festival. My goggles are so foggy. Still, I’ve been practicing, I close my eyes and navigate home, put the bags away and wash up. The dogs are so excited to see me and are patient for me to change and wash up before I give them a proper hello.
((Now as we return from our exploration. I want you to think about remaining in the center of your solar system. Stay as the sun. Maintain the planets around you. Now open your eyes.))
We eat hot pot and pizza for dinner. It’s great. I drink some juice. Then, do some news editing, chat with my friend Jett Black, who’s got a new special about samurais’ coming out on Netflix, and that’s exciting. He’s been prepping well too, and we’ve been sharing some useful tips. He liked my stylus idea (I might have got that from Cadence or given it to her, would have to go back and check to be honest been sharing so many ideas with a few alert friends lately)….. but he’s got a sore throat. Prepping, for one thing, walked right into an open mouth cough of some mouth breather in Toronto a few days back. We hope it’s just a cold.
A friend of a friend got COVID-19 in Seattle. She went to a party, no one seemed sick, and a few days later, half of them had horrible flu-like symptoms. She got tested, positive, but she managed to avoid hospitalization and breathing problems. She used a lot of Sudafed and a Netti pot to clear her nose.
((You have the power to act on it later, but for not just take notice. Again, acknowledge the distraction. Not the emotion that it causes. Then watch it drift away.))
I am working on this video project until 1 AM… oh it’s so late. And now, I have to write my blog too. Ahh, I love the creative freneticism .. I miss all-nighters making tracks. Xiaolin thinks I’m nuts, but she’s cool with it.
((Let it be that asteroid that fizzles out or the planet that floats in the distance. This is how you exert your gravitational force on the chaos around you, take note of it, and then just let that shit just keep on spinning alongside you.))
Thanks, RZA – you got me through it today. Are we cool? Will you be there tomorrow?
Sunday, Mar. 8 – Never Fear
Day 44. Today is International Woman’s Day. I make Xiaolin a whipped milk sugar latte and toast up our homemade egg cake for breakfast. She loves it and takes a few pictures for her peeps. I drink strong black coffee and eat some boiled eggs with guacamole toast. Xiaolin looks lovely today. We are both happy and peaceful. I’m glad we worked through our tensions of the past weeks.
We’ve had almost 50 days inside since I finished teaching my fall semester. We didn’t get a nice winter vacation this year, but it’s been relaxing in its own way, once you remove the anxiety, fear, unknown, panic, prepping, and hoarding. You never know when you’re going to wake up, and everything will change, so enjoy every single minute.
My favorite astrophysicist Neil Degrasse-Tyson was on Colbert. He was great, as always. “We are in the midst of a massive experiment,” Neil said, speaking about the response to COVID-19. “Will we listen to scientists; take their precautions and instructions to heart?” We will; out of respect or fear of the consequences if we don’t. “But we shouldn’t be too afraid to live. “A life lived in fear is a life half lived,” Neil said. We can be aware, and we can be alert, but we should not let fear consume us.
In the pursuit of a life of virtue, I look way back to the ancients sages of the old world. “If a person gave away your body to some passerby, you’d be furious. Yet you hand over your mind to anyone who comes along, so they may abuse you, leaving it disturbed and troubled – have you no shame in that?” – Epictetus, Enchiridion. We protect our possessions and our money. Yet, we give away our time and our mind to any that press upon us. It’s essential when being a creative person, or an entrepreneur, to learn how to say no. When the virus comes to my door, I’m not opening it. I won’t allow myself to think about it all day, either. I’m still interested in learning, but there is an acceptance growing within me. I must learn to balance my energies to make it through the long term unscathed.
There are 108,000 odd cases of COVID-19 in the world today. Many people are alarmed over Italy, quarantining 16 million people. Italy calls this a “soft quarantine” because Milan’s airport is still partially open. There are too many cases in more than 80 countries now to list them.
The CDC tells us to hide our grandparents in the attic to protect them.
The colossal debate on the use of masks keeps arising between Asian countries and Western countries. Asian countries believe they cut down the spread of infection by making everyone wear them on public transportation. Western countries say, “masks don’t work unless you’re a doctor.” I can’t understand it. I’ve engaged with Donald Trump, the Surgeon General, and Elon Mask this week to try to figure out what they’re thinking. Still waiting for an answer that makes sense. At least here, in Chongqing, our procedures are working well. It’s been almost two weeks since our city has found an infected person.
Before we teach our 1-3, I play a game of hockey online with my Pops. He whups me, which is a nice change for him and I’m a good sport.
I found my “hefty” three-Pronged Mac adapter, and feel more ready to handle a pandemic now. Pandemics are hefty.
Yesterday, the Xinjia Express Hotel collapsed in Quanzhou, a city in the Fujian province. Chinese CDC was holding people under observation, potentially exposed to the coronavirus. More than 10 are dead, and 25 are still missing as the rescue effort continues.
A COVID-19 patient attended the same conservative conference as Trump and other high-profile Republicans, before seeking treatment. Put a pin in that.
Our first class is easy and fun. We have a four-year-old student named Aisla, and she’s a joy to teach.
The second class is challenging. I have 11-year-olds who struggle with basic words, and they forget everything by next week.
Rather than be tormented by a frustrating class, I imagine they are just lackluster demons, doing a terrible job of torturing me in a pathetic circle of hell. I will emerge unscathed.
After a 10 minute break, I switch from some reading to our textbook, and things go smoother. I need to keep things simple. It turns out I’m an idiot. It’s easy to criticize something when it’s not going well but takes a real leader to step up and fix them. This is a universal lesson.
Late last night, we saw “All the Bright Places” on Netflix. The film was well cast, well written based on a novel. It’s terrific, although a bit sad. I suppose you can’t have happy endings anymore, somebody thinks the kids won’t believe in them. After work, we ordered some pizzas and Xiaolin made dumplings. I toasted the pizza to be safe.We relax, read and watch some movies for the rest of the night. Tomorrow is a big day, with lots of errands far from home, but we’re not afraid.
Saturday, Mar. 7 – The New Normal
Day 43. I wake up tired but excited for the day. I check my socials, dial in some prime news, and make some strong coffee.
104,000 COVID-19 cases today! 104,000 COVID-19 cases today! Did the lucky 100,000 infected person get a balloon drop? We see breakneck growth in more than 80 countries. I scan the numbers, and it looks like a 15% severe or critical rate so far, which is good news, previously thought to be about 20%. It looks like a 6% case fatality so far, but so much is unknown. The WHO says 3.4%, and America says 0.5%. Italy’s numbers are a bit heavy, could they have another mutation? Or is this the more vicious L strain? How about Iran? South Korea seems to be under control, new numbers all emerging from documented clusters.
By 10 AM, I slide into my first of three two hour classes today. Everything’s great until I spill a massive mug of black coffee all over Xiaolins’ decorative bedroom ornaments. Xiaolin rolls her eyes. I clean it up, and it turns out I’ve had enough coffee.
Dr. John Campbell said that now there are cases in his town, he expects to get infected in the next few weeks. This breaks my heart. His models predict about 75% of the world population will get the disease, and it’s inescapable.
I don’t understand why more people outside of China aren’t cocooning or taking extreme precautions when they go outside. Am I an alien?
Dr. Campbell says he’s happy with mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore for their screening, social distancing, self quarantining, which have gotten control of the spread of the virus. He’s critical of the American CDC’s faulty testing. Countries like South Africa, where 20% of the population are living with HIV/AIDS, are a bit of a concern. Patients who have immune-suppressing diseases are much more likely to have severe outcomes when fighting COVID-19.
In exciting news, a new study shows infusing zinc into the body seems to slow down the spread of COVID-19 Virus. I take zinc immune-boosting vitamins every day. I eat lots of zinc-rich foods, such as shellfish, legumes (chickpeas, lentils, and beans), seeds, nuts, dairy, eggs, whole grains, and potatoes, green beans, and kale. Also: chocolate.
In another study, using a mask around people with respiratory infections is show to be 80% more effective in blocking transmission than not wearing a virus. This is, of course, obvious in anywhere except the Western world.
Subways in Toronto are getting sprayed down as the latest case exported from LA was found to have been riding them before they went into quarantine.
Japan: Nobody is ever going to let us forget about the disastrous way we handled a Princess cruise ship quarantine. USA: Hold my beer.
Yup, it’s happening again. Another cruise ship off the coast of San Francisco, this time the Grand Princess, is quarantined, and the 1000’s onboard are being tested. So far, over twenty crew is infected and some passengers. I hope they learned something from the Disaster Princess, but I am not hopeful.
I go out for a package. My rubber gloves go on then mask, goggles, second mask, jacket, and hat. It’s my new stylus. I no longer have to touch buttons and screens. The stylus fits great in my jacket’s “pen pocket.” Things are smooth outside. I’ve done enough research on how to not contaminate myself. My anxiety is down. I’ve made an effort to be prepared, I’m as disciplined as I can be, and I do my best. That’s all I can do. RZA helps, I cannot overstate how much his guided experience puts me in the warrior mindset every day.
Today we have delicious noodles for lunch. If you’ve never had a chickpea in your mouth, you’re missing out. My hummus is top-shelf stuff.
I realize my dad has heaps of Amazon stuff showing up next week, so I send him a message. He’s got to disinfect his packages as they come in. I share my protocol: I use gloves, and open the package outside the house, leaving the box outside. I took the things inside and put them somewhere low traffic (a special shelf). I wipe them down with a 1% bleach spray bottle, or I can leave them for 9 days to cool down. I take the gloves off, wash my hands, easy peasy. Already one Amazon worker in Seattle is in quarantine, so you could be getting that overnight COVID-19 if you’re not careful. That’s a prime joke.
I put cushions down for the dogs in the sunbeams next to our bed.
Today is 20 degrees and brilliantly sunny. My protective gear gets a summer remix. Exposed hair and skin mean more frequent showers. We head upstairs to the garage, or ‘The Gym’ as I’m going to call it from now on because cool nicknames are kind of my jam.
Up at ‘The Gym,’ the whole area is shimmering. Serious beach vibes. Xiaolin and I sit for a minute, on the little stools we lugged up. I’m turning into a raisin, so I stand and lean against the railing like James Dean in the pre-digital era. I catch some breeze and read a few pages of Gibson’s new book about a post AI fantasy world.
Lin gets up and begins to stretch, and I strip down to my undershirt. Today she doesn’t complain. I take my mask off too, and hang my hat on a potted tree branch. Exposed, soaking up that Vitamin D. I read another chapter. It’s terrific. I mean, of course, it is, it’s William Gibson, but I’m thrilled to be getting sun on my face and reading some premium cyberpunk fiction. I’m grinning ear to ear, a real shit-eater. My editor is out drunk at a cabaret tonight, so there’s no filter, and I’ve got a lot to say.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see someone creeping next to me and jump back – how did they get so close? No, it’s just the tree branch, swinging in the wind, wearing my hat. We’re cool.
I put the book away and do some exercise, pacing in the sun. As I rack up some steps for my Fitbit, Xiaolin switches up her routine.
I use the stool to stretch my legs good and long, and then practice my kicks. Bruce Lee said, “I don’t fear a man who can do 1000 kicks once, but a man that can do a kick 1000 times.” That will be my new goal, as the warm days pile up. Front kicks, sidekicks, roundhouse kicks, hook kicks, and back kicks.
Back home, I put my gear away, and I wash my hands and sing Bohemian Rhapsody. Twenty seconds isn’t long enough. I find myself joyously washing for a minute or more.
After an hour of being plugged in, my hot water tank gives me about 5minutes of comfortable water, long enough. I practice this blind, imagining, as I did when I walked back to my house, what it would be like to be blind. After my shower, I look in the mirror and swear I see a bit of Aegian shine I had from the summer. I want a suntan, I want a sunburn. I can do this.
I don’t believe in god, but I bet you Jesus was one hell of a Buddhist. I put my talismans back on: black obsidian, blessed by a Mayan medicine man, and a horseshoe with a blue topaz stone. A little magic never hurts.
A nurse in the USA, part of “National Nurses United” is pleading for sane and logical steps to handle the COVID-19 outbreak. It seems many questionable decisions are happening at the top levels. A friend sends me a sensationalist newspaper article that I’m sure will usher in a new chapter in COVID awareness. “US hospitals are preparing for 96 MILLION coronavirus infections, and nearly HALF A MILLION deaths, leaked documents reveal. Almost half a million (480,000) Americans are expected to die from coronavirus. 4.8 million will be hospitalized, and 96 million infected.” This information comes from “leaked slides” from a Dr. Lawler, during a health and hospital specialist convention.
I run it by my people, and while they roll their eyes at the headlines, they agree with me, the numbers look low. Half a million is based on a 0.5 % case fatality rate. I can’t understand why they don’t just cocoon- it seems to work pretty well. “They show the spread of the deadly disease could be far worse than officials claim, with the crisis 10 times greater than a severe flu season.” I guess the “what about the flu” people are going to roll over when they see this one.
“The shock figures fly in the face of claims made by President Trump, who has maintained on many occasions that the risk to Americans is ‘low.'” Well, that’s one silver lining. I hate being right about all this.
There’s some financial clown on TV advocating to offer up 2% of the population as a sacrificial lamb to keep the economy chugging along. As disgusting and appalling as he is, I’m sure he also doesn’t realize that’s a fantasy world where everyone gets a bed and the best care. In our world, it’s all about delaying and slowing down the infection for the sake of the health care systems, or that number ends up a 10x.
As for Chongqing, we’ve had 576 confirmed cases. According to local health records, we have 50 patients currently hospitalized. Three are in severe condition, and one is in critical condition. We’ve sadly lost six people. On the positive side, 520 have been discharged and are recovering or have recovered at home.
We’ve had no new cases for the 11th day in a row, and eight more patients have recovered and been released from the hospital. Masks work to reduce the spread when everybody wears them. If you don’t have a mask, wear a scarf, or a sock on your face. Anything is better than nothing.
We are at Level 1 emergency response still vigilant, but things are looking good here. We are concerned about the second wave of human mobility and the return to work and production. Still, life is getting back to some semblance of ‘normal.’
We go out and get some milk tea. It’s not crowded, but there are like twenty people around me on the street, and it feels super weird. At least all have masks on properly, except for one delivery guy that rolls by on a scooter with his nose sticking out, and I reel back in horror. He’s like, half a terrorist. Get that honker back undercover, buddy.
On Monday, we are going to go to the bank to pay Xiaolin’s health insurance, and then take an Uber over to our condo to rent it to someone for the year. On Tuesday, I’ve got to go to a tax office and buy receipts for my writing job so I can get paid through to next fall. #RZA helps me. I’m not ready for errands.
I am the sun, surrounded by planets, floating space junk, and chaos. I am the sun.
We have this electric frame with 2000 of our vacation pictures on it, family photos, our life before the quarantine, and it brings me solace and comfort every day. We’ve been to ten countries together and seen a lot of the world on multiple continents, and I believe one day we will get to travel and enjoy again. For now, we must be resolute.
We make pancakes for dinner because we’re adults, and we do what we want.
I’m trying to stand still waiting for pancakes to bubble. I want to multitask into four directions and jot down some notes on my laptop. Xiaolin is expecting mindfulness and joyous cooking with heart, so I create a new exercise for patience.
I’m an old man, at the end of my life who’s traded all his wealth for a single minute to come back to my prime, and look around. To breathe air into my strong, healthy lungs, to feel my strong body tingle. To reach out and grab my beautiful wife’s hand and to give her a kiss.
So now I’m no longer impatient.
As the days wear on, our protocols get tightened up. Considering I’m fighting what is essentially an alien invasion, this is the correct response.
I am the sun, and I thrive in chaos.
After our last class, Xiaolin encourages me to go hunt down new linens for our bed, and we change the pillowcases, sheets, and blankets. It feels like a huge hassle when I’m trying to write, but afterward, it’s quite pleasant. As she munches on some sweet potato while watching a Chinese singing show, I sit with my laptop desk beside her and type away. I can’t help but admire how sane, trusting, stable, and just totally together she is. She compliments me well.
Everything I do, from my vitamins and some ACV in my water, staying hydrated, laundry, and even putting on my space suit and moisturizing after a nice clean shower, is a joyous activity. It’s maintenance. My goal lives in my heart: a summer trip back to Canada, see my 90-year-old grandma and spend time with my family and friends there. Until then, I can handle the new normal.
Friday, Mar. 6 – It Takes a Village to Catch a Virus.
Day 42. Today marks the first case of COVID-19 without travel history or contact tracing in Canada. Health officials struggle to find some connection. It’s the beginning of community spread in British Columbia and Canada. Today also marks the largest amount of cases in one day, 13, and the widest spread, as cases appear in four provinces: B.C., Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta.
Two Vancouver schools have closed as a student was identified with a presumptive case of COVID-19.
The first case of COVID-19 is confirmed in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, prompting school closures.
Toronto has another case of COVID-19, a traveler who was infected in Las Vegas. The USA is exporting cases, and travel history is irrelevant.
“We’re not in containment anymore,” says Canadian expert Dr. Colin Lee, infectious diseases specialist. “What that means is that the virus can now spread invisibly without us being able to identify people that have traveled.” Calling it a sentinel event, Dr. Lee said the switch from containment mode to delaying the spread means significant changes to preparation and daily life. People should expect cancellations of mass gatherings, school closures, and an increasing number of cases. “(Let) your family, friends, neighbors, know you can lean on each other. Look at your household and try to get your supplies ready for the next couple of weeks. We still have time.” This is a significant change from “it’s not as bad as the flu” from a few weeks ago, but the writing’s been on the wall for anyone paying attention.
As major supermarkets run out of everything from toilet paper to spring water and frozen pizza, I’m not sure how much time we have, but at least new orders are still coming in. China has done an excellent job of keeping fresh food in cities during our lockdown, and I hope Canada and other countries can follow suit.
My dad, an enthusiastic Trudeau supporter, is finally annoyed with him. When asked why Canada doesn’t restrict travel from hot spot areas, Trudeau said, “we’re going to keep the things that actually keep Canadians safe. Uh, there is a lot of misinformation out there, there is a lot of ‘knee-jerk reaction’ that isn’t keeping people safe, and they are having real challenging impacts on communities and on community safety. We’re going to stay focused on doing the things that actually matter.” So, I guess he’s not worried, bigger fish to fry with his oil pipelines and blockades, or maybe worried about the economy more than the people, but by the time he gets scared, things will be petty bad.
South of Canada, the USA, is still struggling. The WHO offered the USA a correctly working test, but they insisted on making their own. It turned out to be faulty, their tests are a mess, and weeks later, they have no idea where the disease is. “We have no idea where this thing is,” said their talking head expert on T.V. “This thing is everywhere.”
Tonight we teach a class, so I want to chase the daylight hours. I do some research on this game’s wiki, so I can tie my story arc into as many threads as possible.
As long as I’ve got avocado toast and strong coffee, I can handle a quarantine with dignity.
Xiaolin is flipping through Tiktok. I work on my Amos book a bit, but not enough.
Texas Coronavirus Prevention: wash your hands like you just got done slicing jalapeños for a batch of nachos, and you need to take your contacts out.
If you’ve got money in stocks and such, I suggest you invest in 3M, maybe Netflix or Amazon. Cocoon industries, but real wealth would mean some land, a cottage maybe, with a lake or a well instead. That’s my dream, anyway.
The sun shines in, breaking up my boredom. I ask Lin if she wants to go outside, she doesn’t. I go exercise a bit more. She creeps up and tells me she’s going out, so I join her.
We sit on our chairs, under a tree, and I read a page of William Gibson’s new book, The Agency. It’s so good, I’m not sure why I’m taking it so slowly. I think because with my mask and gear and the soundtrack to my life right now, I feel like I’m in a William Gibson novel. I’m focused on the 24 hours news, cycling between Chinese, Korean, Indian, Singapore, Italy, French, British, Canadian, American, CDC briefings, WHO briefings, my favorite Dr.’s who discuss the new medical articles and studies of the day. Just being aware of what’s going on has become an almost full day job, and I am a supreme multitasker.
As the sun starts to erode my anxiety with its warm caress, I strip down to a muscle shirt, leaning my jacket against the guardrail.
I take a picture. Xiaolin looks up, noticing me. “Put your clothes on, it’s not summer yet.”
I slip my jacket over my shoulders, savoring the sun on my skin.
“Put your mask on, you’ll scare the people
“The people?” I look around. We are alone.
She points to the building across from the parking garage.
I look over. No signs of life. “There’s nobody here,” I say. “We’re fine,”
She shakes her head. “All the people will be scared if they see you without a mask.”
I peer into windows. Are there people there, currently alarmed by my laissez-faire attitude?
I don’t see anyone lurking around. Xiaolin means it, though. I think about the debates I have with my friends in the west and laugh. I can’t take my mask off for five minutes here, alone and in the sun, without getting heckled. I put my mask back on and keep reading.
After a while, Xiaolin wants to go back up and bake a cake.
I check my phone and am reminded of a conversation I had with my friend. She had gone with a friend to pick up a pizza, at this lovely little Chinese-Italian place. Since you have to get takeaway now, they hide away from locals, masks down, and ate it on the street. Later they found a local underground bar to have some beers at. They’re like, Weimar cabaret level cool. It sounds wild, like .. something I would have done 10 years ago.
I have friends in Canada flying to Las Vegas for work, to Seattle for fun, even starting a new job on Diamond Cruises. Am I the crazy one, to be at home?
I sing Bohemian Rhapsody while I wash my hands. They’re so clean. They’ve never been cleaner. Galileo figuro magnifico.
My school sends a message: Foreign teachers are suggested to return until the school opening day is determined. To return, I ask? Not to return, they clarify.
Xiaolin is gung ho on this cake. I distract her with a minute of ‘let’s smell the fridge’ for something odd while I struggle to get my ideas down before I forget.
We crack our eggs, whip them up, stir in some flour and powder. Later, after the class, we try it, and it’s excellent, like a cheesecake sans the cheese.
We make a salad and pasta for dinner tonight. The real crisis I’m dealing with today is four ripe avocados. Tomorrow I’m gonna do something crazy for breakfast. Omelets and avocado smoothies.
After a few emails back and forth with Maria from Airinum, an upscale Swedish mask company, I work out a deal, since they have no more air filters for me to buy until July, they’re going to replace a broken one with 10 replacements for free. Each one is good for 100 hours, and I have one and a half left, equalling 1150 hours of protection. Considering I go out for about 30 minutes a week, I should be stocked for 2300 weeks or 44 more years if I keep to my current schedule. That may sound crazy, but I’ve committed this far to not getting COVID19, so if I have to wait a couple more years until there’s a vaccine, I guess I’m okay with that.
After dinner, I edit some news and take a rest. My colleague Marcel wants to get comprehensive health insurance before he flys back from Germany. Our simple work plan doesn’t cover pandemic viruses. It’s expensive though, Xiaolin suggests I stay inside; it’s cheaper. Xiaolin had a sore throat and a sore shoulder last night, but today she’s feeling better.
I’ve been trying to decide how far to pursue this video game writing job. On the plus side, it’s in writing, I can make video games, the money is excellent, no lazy students or angry supervisors harshing my chill. It’s very creative work. The cons, well, I’d lose my four months a year vacation, and my free house at the school. I actually make more money now and have more free time for my creative writing if I can focus. I want to be writing my own books, not other people’s video games. It’s tough to turn down what sounds like a dream gig, but I’m leaning towards keeping up with what I’m doing. Xiaolin tells me my hair is starting to turn white at the back. I guess this virus is taking its toll. I look out the window, and the streets are empty. I can’t believe I have friends still traveling these days. Don’t they realize, if they just stay home they won’t get sick? It takes a village to catch a virus.
Thursday, Mar. 5 – Not Easy, it is to a Jedi Make
Day 41. Our Philips Air Purifier is flashing the ‘change filter’ indicator light. Having just bought a new filter, I google the problem. I unplug it, strip it down, use Q tips, and cotton balls to scrub it down, and a mini dust devil to vacuum up the dust balls. I wash the dust catcher and air out the HEPA filter. Later I put it all back together, easy peasy, problem solved. I’m growing into my role as ship engineer.
We drink coffee and honey water while downloading hundreds of kids’ stories for our tutoring classes. I listen to the news and take notes, multitasking between hope, and children’s stories, and breaking news about the spreading plague.
Many foreigners fled China when the outbreak started. Lots of people asked why I didn’t leave. I stayed because of my wife and my dogs, my life is here. Today, Beijing Kids announced that the central government is requesting foreign teachers and students to stay away temporarily. In private groups, teachers joke about how it’s actually safer in China than wherever people fled to. Eight Chinese food restaurant workers who left Italy returned home to China, all tested positive for the virus after exposure in Italy. China’s top priority seems to be to reduce the “backflow” cases, as the news is calling those who now re-introduce the COVID-19 disease back to China.
Chongqing has not recorded a new confirmed case in nine days.
In economic news, many countries have injected billions of U.S. dollars and interest cuts into their economies, with the aim of helping small and medium enterprises (SMEs) stay afloat. Some critics say this is premature.
I make a playlist called Covid Choons, and #1 with a bullet is RZA & Tazo’s brand new release, ‘Guided Experience’ (meditation). I listen on repeat, and it’s exactly what I’ve been missing, it gets me into the warrior flow, where I can handle any chaos that comes my way. Later, I download the entire WuTang clan discography, 22 albums. Legend of the 36 Chambers is re-rocking my world.
An expert in COVID-19 virus testing compares the different approaches made by some major countries. He said China is using about 1.5 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests a week, by far the greatest number. South Korea has used around 100,000 tests so far. Italy has used 20,000 tests. He didn’t know how many Iran had used. By comparison, the USA has only used about 500 tests. I don’t know how many Canada has used, but it does seem that you need to test for COVID-19 to be able to find it. I worry about the places that aren’t testing; it might be right under their nose.
I’m enjoying finding time to stretch and lift weights, while I work. Life has a rhythm, it hums along.
A new study from researchers in Beijing and Shanghai have confirmed two types of SARS-CoV-2 (the disease that causes COVID-19). According to the study, 70% of infected patients have a more aggressive and contagious strain. A virus that is very aggressive may burn itself out by landing patients in the hospital quickly, while a less aggressive strain can spread more easily before the patient seeks treatment. The S strain is the older strain, less aggressive and spreading slower, resulting in milder symptoms. It continues to infect patients at a steady rate. The mutated L strain is more aggressive and spreads faster, causing more severe symptoms symptoms, but seems to be running out of people to infect. At this time the news is reporting 97,000 people infected globally, with more than 3,300 deaths.
Big news today in medicine and supply chains. The Indian government, in response to several clusters in Agra and other places, announced restrictions on the exportation of many key medicines and 26 API (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients). These are used in painkillers, antibiotics, and other medicines. These can’t treat COVID but can be used to treat opportunistic infections that can attack the body after COVID-19 has been fought off, while a patient is weak and recuperating. Add this to China’s halted supply chain for APIs, and I hope people have already stocked up a few months worth of medication.
Seattle is a ghost town. Like Daegu a few weeks ago, the city is hiding and pensive, waiting, as the clusters grow into an outbreak. All Italian schools will take a 2-week break, and the U.K. has decided to change from daily specific reporting as the numbers of cases grow, to a weekly report. Dropping news on Friday is a sign that they want the news to slide under the radar. This is a shame as people would like to know which areas to avoid when cases are breaking out. That would be helpful information. I’m thankful for my Chinese apps that show real-time infection information, where to avoid and what are the local hot zones.
A Dutch outbreak plan was leaked, and it looks a lot like China’s response. Things are heating up across Europe, behind China but ahead of the curve in the Americas. If they will follow in China’s footsteps, I hope they can contain the pandemic on their soil.
Iran, so overwhelmed by their outbreak, has temporarily freed 54,000 prisoners! Good luck getting them back inside their jails.
If this all sounds a bit heavy, take heart, theoretical physicist Sean Carroll says clues in the small-scale structure of our universe point to the existence of numerous parallel worlds, so there’s somewhere out there where you’re going to have a great summer vacation.
Many countries are fear-mongering that masks are bad and dangerous. This is a huge debate now in the West, with even the U.S. Surgeon General tweeting that people should not be using them. In Asia, we’re taking a different approach. Having a mask decreases your risk of contracting a disease. It’s like having a sweater in the winter, it may not be enough to protect you from the cold, but you’ll take the sweater instead of a T-shirt. In China and South Korea, everyone wears surgical masks to limit the spread of the virus.
I heard a great quote today about approaches to COVID-19 treatment, “when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” I low-key order a stylus for public touching devices ( but now wish I’d gotten one for my phone too), gloves that can be decontaminated, and a mask I can also use for teaching if need be. I’m excited to try my microphone with the new helmet, and I hope it’s big enough for my head. It only comes in one size.
An unidentified man wore a gas mask on a flight from Dallas to Houston. He was removed by the airline after other travelers got upset and panicked. Again, it seems like people’s feelings are more important to authorities than public health, and that disappoints me. If you can’t guarantee the guy beside me isn’t sick, then let me wear a mask. I predict that in the next few years, airlines will start using separate pressured pods in first class with each row’s own recycled air.
Today, AOC calls for Warren to back Bernie to unite the progressive movement in America. I hope she does some soul searching. Fingers crossed. We could really use good, responsible leadership, environmental policies, and free public health care everywhere.
Xiaolin and I have been getting along very well. I’m as patient and kind as I can be. RZA has my back, and my anxiety and grumpiness melt away. We prepare classes happily, eat happily, and relax happily. Our big plan for today is to make sweet potato fries. Over several hours, we call our niece, Meito, for her expertise, wash them, boil them, powder them, freeze them, and have fun frying them.
According to an official response from China’s Foreign Ministry, China is unsure what the origin of the virus is. This suggests some are considering it possible that it came from somewhere else. I suppose one day we’ll know more about that.
A video going around today shows Chinese police employing thermal imaging helmets to be able to scan crowds for people with high temperatures and fever. I love technology.
I go a bit crazy and mix hummus and salsa into my pasta tonight, and make a wasabi mayo for the fries.
The World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the case fatality rate is 3.4%, higher than previously thought.
Our home may not be fancy or huge, but it’s optimized and clean. It’s our space ship, and there’s no room for nonsense. Xiaolin is a good astronaut. Some people, including my mom when she first met her, felt Xiaolin might be a bit hard on me sometimes, but it’s important to constantly better yourself. Think about Luke when he first met Yoda in that backward swamp on Dagobah. Yoda sure was hard on Luke, but not easy, it is to a Jedi make.
Wednesday, Mar. 4 – The Usual
Day 40. A real Italian quarantine. I wake up, make some coffee, and check my news stream. I send out a message – live stream coming up. I try it out and get to chat with some friends, which is nice, but my connection isn’t stable. A friend asks me about whether they can still order things from China and I say sure, we’re starting to run our factories again, but try to get airmail, because there might be a big bottleneck of ships waiting to sail at Wuhan. I get kicked off and it takes me a few times to realize Facebook doesn’t want to me mention Wuhan, which is a bit of a trip, especially since I’m trying to tell people that things are getting back to normal as far as I know. It’s still nice to connect with people.
After an hour, I find Xiaolin is up and relaxing, and we eat lunch together. I tune into Super Tuesday, and it’s shocking to watch Biden creep up on all those states. I find it disappointing. I’m more upset Americans are voting against their interests, such as healthcare and progressive environmental policy, an existential threat of our generation, than I am about the viral pandemic sweeping the world.
My colleagues are all fretting about whether or what we will receive our salary. One legal notice says we are guaranteed a minimum of 70% of the minimum wage, but that seems to be pretty low. I’ve been told that works out to 1250 RMB or about $250 Canadian a month. It’s good to keep some money in the bank for rainy days.
Last night’s D&D was super fun, but now I’m kind of tired. I feel restless, and an inescapable, creeping ennui is strangling my joie de vivre until the sun peeks out, and it melts away.
I ask Xiaolin to join me for a walk or sit on the roof and get some Vitamin D. She’s not into it. I tell her I’m going for a walk anyway and she suggests we go to RenRenLe supermarket. I don’t love the idea, but I agree anyway. We get suited up and take a walk. Things seem like they’re getting back to normal, minus the temperature checks, paperwork, and obligatory face masks. The streets are still quiet, but more shops are opening up, and there’s a hint of a bustle as some people act like they… have something to do. Must be a few of them with jobs they’re coming from.
On the way out of the school, we run into my friend, Patrick, vice-principal of campus B. He’s pretty sure we’ll be back at school soon, and it sounds good, but as I walk away, I have mixed feelings. I’m so excited, honestly, at the idea of getting out of the house. I’m a bit paranoid about doing it, too soon. I mean, it looks good, but all it would take is one student with a fever to kick us off again.
I feel excited, with the hope as we walk around that things are going to be normal, and in fact, a great, beautiful, spring soon. This makes me feel a bit weird when I get home and look around for new facemasks and respirators that I could wear back to school next month.
I download RZA’s new Guided Explorations EP, and really enjoy the experience in being chill in face of adversity. This is relevant.
At RenRen, we see mushrooms are back, which must mean supply chains are running strong. We get some greens, some blueberry greek yogurt, and some cheese. Xiaolin uses the touch screen to self check out (ew), so I low-key order a stylus we’re going to use for that purpose in the future.
We even stop for our favorite bubble tea, although they only allow one customer to approach at a time, the others must wait 1.5 meters apart, and feels a bit like ‘airport security procedures’ have become normal for even small purchases, like snacks and beverages. I notice the man paying for his drink has taken his mask down to pay and my eyes almost bug out of my goggles.
On the way back, I feel happy and productive, but we disagree over how to walk home. I want to cross the street so we don’t smell the public toilet. Is that paranoid? Well, as the rank air of a public toilet travels into your nostrils, it moves over your nasal concha. These bony ridges are located in the upper part of the nasal cavity. Smells register in our noses when microscopic molecules, molecules such as nitrogen, oxygen, methane, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide. When you inhale these, you possibly bacteria contained in airborne, bacteria-laden droplets of poop, which could contain the dangerous aerosol virus particles of COVID-19. If I can smell it through my mask, that means it’s getting through my mask, doesn’t it?
On the way back, I feel happy and productive, but we disagree over how to walk home. I want to cross the street so we don’t smell the public toilet. Is that paranoid? Well, as the rank air of a public toilet travels into my nostrils, it moves over my nasal concha, into the upper part of my nasal cavity. Smells register in my nose when microscopic molecules, such as nitrogen, oxygen, methane, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide, containing airborne, bacteria-laden droplets of poop, which could contain aerosolized virus particles of COVID-19. If I can smell it through my mask, that means it’s getting through my mask, doesn’t it?
In contrast, she doesn’t want to cross on the left side of the street since it’s closed off by police. Some ‘Do Not Enter’ tape, possibly a closed-off building or some kind of contaminated area, we’re not sure why. So I hold my breath, and we hustle home. You know, the usual stuff.
On the way back, I feel happy and productive, but we disagree over how to walk home. I want to cross the street so we don’t smell the public toilet. Is that paranoid? Well, as the rank air of a public toilet travels into your nostrils, it moves over your nasal concha. These bony ridges are located in the upper part of the nasal cavity. Smells register in our noses when microscopic molecules, molecules such as nitrogen, oxygen, methane, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide. When you inhale these, you possibly bacteria contained in airborne, bacteria-laden droplets of poop, which could contain the dangerous aerosol virus particles of COVID-19. If I can smell it through my mask, that means it’s getting through my mask, doesn’t it?
In contrast, she doesn’t want to cross on the left side of the street since it’s closed off by police. Some ‘Do Not Enter’ tape, possibly a closed-off building or some kind of contaminated area, we’re not sure why. You know, the usual.
Tuesday, Mar. 3 – If You Fail to Plan, You Plan to Fail
Day 39. COVID-19 is now in 70 countries, and more than 92,000 people are infected. It’s been raining heavily for days, and the air feels fresh. I pick up two packages: five pounds of bean sprout seeds and some organic apple cider vinegar. I had asked Xiaolin to order the ACV, and she gave me a 5-minute spiel about how my weird food is weird, but then she ordered it anyway.
Although I can’t be sure from inside my little home, it seems like things in China are getting under control. On Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “In the last 24 hours there were almost nine times more cases reported outside China than inside China.” This shift shows quarantines work to reduce the rate of infection (ROI or R0).
I want to go to the mall soon, walk around, watch a movie, then have a coffee on the scenic cliffs of Hongyadong and watch the sunset over the river. I will do this again soon. Chongqing is waiting to be rediscovered.
We make delicious pancakes. I watch the news with a strong pot of coffee. At 2 PM, I do a tutoring class. Eight-year-old Kim is so funny, “Hi fishy, nice to eat you!” I laugh a lot, it’s a good class.
Afterward, I consider shopping online. Do I want to get more immunity boosters or a P100 respirator or super anti-fog goggles? The “Hail Mary” vitamins Andrea wants to help me get are coming from the USA and may or may not arrive at all.
Xiaolin and I relax, and we video chat with the family, including our grandson, baby Ethan. Ethan loves to say my name, “Kai Kai,” and smile and clap when we sing.
In other countries, the experts are disagreeing. The most concerning argument comes from the central health Czars saying one thing, and their experts painting a different story. The French government says COVID is not passed asymptomatically. In contrast, our brightest minds say that COVID-19 exists on a continuum between respiratory droplets and full-on aerosol/airborne.
This means you should be making changes in your area before the clusters become an outbreak. Practice social distancing, avoid crowds, especially poorly ventilated areas. Stop shaking hands, elbow bumps are in. Cough and sneeze in your sleeve, avoid people who don’t respect or don’t have good hygiene. Avoid touching buttons and shared screens: use gloves, or a tissue, and hand sanitizer, and regular hand washing. I suggest a scratching fork for itchy noses and keep your hands off your face in public.
With more than 850 new cases in South Korea today, they are changing tactics from containment to triage. The most severe cases that need oxygen and life support will be treated first. As the number of cases blooms in other countries, you will have to make similar changes.
Say comorbidities 5 times really fast…mor-dibities-dibities-dibites.. ugh. I get tongue-tied easily these days, but my studies in Pathology, thanks to MIT and Pathoma are coming along.
I have this crazy dream of commentating the horse race of global infection spread, with my burlesque host circus old-timey announcer voice – cabin fever?
If you listen to your health department briefing, they will tell you they are ready. Ask them two questions and watch their poker face crumble: on a given day of the week, what % of beds are free? Could they accommodate 1000 new patients? 10,000? 100,000?
Harvard epidemiologists modeled 40-70% of the world will get COVID-19 this year. If 20% need hospitalization, fuggedaboutit.
Don’t panic. But we need to be aware. This scenario is the most persuasive argument that China did not overreact. The ‘draconian’ quarantine measures are what all countries may soon impose.
A recent study shows the phylogeny of the cases in Washington state. Over 6 weeks, the RNA strand of the COVID-19 virus hadn’t changed significantly from the first case of a person who traveled back from Wuhan to the most recent case of a teenage boy. This shows the virus is fairly stable, which is good. It also means it’s been circulating in the area under the radar for 6 weeks. Washington State appears to have community spread. Judging by the empty shelves and visible paranoia in the streets, this makes Vancouver pretty nervous.
That’s how it happens, a case, a case, and a briefing warning the public to wash their hands, then a few more cases, a cluster, another cluster, and then an outbreak. What level is it where you are?
I make myself a peanut butter, honey, and banana taco (one piece of bread, unsliced banana).
Sixty percent of Americans live paycheque to paycheque, and 20% are uninsured. Half a million people go bankrupt every year for medical bills. We can’t expect people to self-isolate or pay $1500 (10,000 RMB) for a possibly faulty test.
If this scares you, realize only Bernie Sanders and his medicare for all will make these tests free, and treatment in hospitals free. The Democrats Abroad primary is happening this week for Americans around the world, and you’re allowed to vote online. Don’t sleep!
After dinner, we relax for a couple of hours, and then I set up my computer to play some Dungeons & Dragons on WeChat. It’s wild to video chat with a half dozen friends after 40 days of solitude. We’re all excited to socialize with someone that’s not been locked with us in our homes for over a month. We laugh, we make lame jokes, then we play and roll dice, and it’s glorious. We try not to split the party and take it slow at first. It’s good to have a plan.
Despite the overwhelmingly calm and downplayed demeanor from many developed countries health organizations, many doctors and experts are crying out on social media. They say a dangerous amount of incompetence and misinformation is circulating from their highest sources. In the Netherlands, for example, they are saying washing hands works best, not to use masks, goggles, or gloves. The German CDC says you disinfectant in ineffective! The inference that can be drawn is that since they did not source these goods in advance, they don’t want to be competing with the general public for the scraps that remain.
In America, two California health care workers have tested positive for COVID-19 after using proper respiratory droplet protocol with an infected patient at an airbase. Four days later, they were told they should have used airborne/aerosol protocol. One hundred and eighteen more doctors and nurses are in quarantine. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
Monday, March 2 Fender Bender
Day 38. After a strong pot of coffee, I’m like a jacked-up workhorse. Memento Mori, Carpe Diem!
I write a letter to help the most talented student I’ve had in six years get into Stanford. It makes me feel excited to think forward to a time after COVID-19 when we have dreams and goals.
I work up the courage to read my boss Judy’s reference letter. She was the best boss I’ve ever had, and for the longest I’ve ever had the same job (six years). It’s a beautiful letter. If I ever need another job, I’ve got some great references.
Tom Cruise decides to cancel the new Mission Impossible movie. He doesn’t mind jumping out of an airplane, but he’s not crazy enough to breathe the air in Italy these days. That should say something. France closes the Louvre to protect the Mona Lisa from COVID-19.
I scan chapter two from my textbook because none of my students brought their books home before the quarantine. I download a video about “risk-taking” and send some more materials. It’s a great class. It’s so clear, it’s perfect. A perfect call.
Andrea and I play some Shadowrun online, get my character “Bo,” a Native American Navaho cowboy gunslinger from Arizona 2058, get ready to bodyguard a Yak prince as he meets with a dockside gang called the Cutters. Of course, everything is about to go sideways, so it’s all about preparedness. That’s a popular theme these days. I send some IELTS books his wife can use to study and check-in – they’re going to be ordering some supplements for me.
After, Xiaolin and I buzz around to clean up clutter and tidy.
Xiaolin, tells me I need to rush to building eight to get a package before they start charging for storage. They’re in a signal dead zone, which makes that hard to pay, especially with sweaty foggy goggles, gloves, and stifling masks. I rush over, see a Fender Bender on the hill up around the corner. A car has smashed into a minivan. I guess they weren’t used to traffic after all this peace and quiet. Two families are squatting and calling for help.
I notice water dripping from the crunched radiator and dream back to one hot day in the desert…
It’s a scorching hot summer’s day, towards the end of August in Northern California, past a town called Klamath. It’s 2011, and I’m on the way to Burning Man in the Black Rock Desert. After three grueling months on tour with my band, The Root Sellers, and the recent accidental death of a close friend weighing my heart down, I’m a bit numb. The little old lady driving a Civic in front of us slams on the breaks, and we have no chance to slow down – we smash right into her with the sickening crunch of metal.
I stand, baking, on the side of the road, on the desiccated body of a mountain goat. Our radiator’s burst, and there’s water everywhere. By the time the tow truck comes, they can only take two, and Galen and Schelly need a night to relax… I stick out my thumb and hitchhike, through the desert, into the most magical, temporary city on the planet. I used to think that was crazy.
I snap a photo, get my package, and head home. There are two more packages waiting at the gate! I get ready again. Thankfully, I’m using reusable masks I can cycle through (no waste) and go to the front gate. I find not one, but two packages waiting for us. We have nuts, tofu jerky, and a big box of plump oranges now.
After hours of procrastinating, I take my steamed chickpeas out and make very good hummus. I’m an emerging hummusmancer.
Do I need all these precautions in CQ today? Maybe, maybe not, but good habits will come in handy if there’s a resurgence of infection here.
Tomorrow night looks like we’re on for D&D, which means Wednesday morning. I’m going to be doing the 40-day live stream party on Facebook! Fantastic. My week is looking good.
I make tasty pasta, and we enjoy a delicious dinner.
Today the news here in Chongqing is great. Chongqing has only 120 confirmed cases of COVID-19 currently hospitalized. We have nine patients in severe condition and two in critical condition. We’ve sadly had six deaths. Four hundred and fifty patients have been discharged after recovery, according to the Chongqing Municipal Health Commission. All those cases have totaled 576 confirmed cases infected with COVID-19.
Sunday had no newly confirmed case for the sixth consecutive day, and twelve more patients recovered and discharged from the hospital. A total of 23,563 people who had close contacts with COVID-19 patients have been traced, 23,192 people have been released from medical observation, and 371 people are under medical observation. ♪This is how you do it ♫ Chongqing is getting back under control!
Now we just have to make sure to screen those coming back, from 65 countries, including Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Iran, Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Kuwait, Bahrain, The UK, Malaysia, America, Canadia, Iraq, Austria, Sweden, Israeli, Lebanon, Croatia, Greece, Ecuador, Mexico, Indian, Denmark, Pakistan, Algeria, Czech Republic, Iceland, Qatari, Romania, Belgium, Russia, Switzerland, Afghanistan, Belarus, and many more from reinfecting us! What does that say to me… this is a global menace. Temperature checks will hopefully keep us safe. Well, from the ones that aren’t asymptomatic. Yesterday a British man return to Shenzen via HongKong, passed a temperature check and the next day fell ill and tested positive for COVID-19. That, plus the risk of reopening factories and the risk of coming out of our cocoons, are our biggest concerns now, after our 40 days of quarantine, we need to make sure other countries don’t bring this virus back into China. We don’t want to waste all this hard work.
The biggest concerns globally are India and some African countries where immune inhibitors and co-morbidities are present such as tuberculosis and AIDS, which will almost certainly combine with COVID-19 to create a lethal cocktail.
Xiaolin had this idea that the fridge might not be closing because of ice forming at the back — but maybe the ice is forming because it can’t close properly. Later, I sneak up on it with a hammer, remove the shelves and just whack that ice until it shatters and I clear it out. The door closes perfectly. This is fantastic.
We watch some TV in the evening and relax. Tomorrow is going to be a great day. Dungeons & Dragons! How do you want to do this?
Sunday, March 1, Beans, Bullets, and Bandaids
Day 37. Three days until my quarantine party. That was a joke this morning, but a focus tested plan by evening. Today it is 21 degrees and sunny. It’s a T-shirt kind of day, and the air is clean.
“A Coronavirus Movie” (#coronavirusmovie, @still_a_nerd) on Twitter retweeted my blog today, I guess my role as the crazy journalist warning everyone to buy “beans, bullets, and bandaids” is official. I asked them to cast anyone but Jude Law to play me. He’s too close to the fire, in my humble opinion.
Ben Ben looks at me, wondering why he can’t go outside; why I don’t go outside much or for long. He’s happy we spend so much time together in his old age but doesn’t get why we don’t go out to play like we used to. I hope I can take him out soon when it’s safe.
I make a tuna sandwich, using a custom handmade Damascus blade. The cucumber is crisp and delicious, the bread warm and toasty, and the tuna Xiaolin had delivered reminds me of weekend picnics when I was young.
We have four hours of teaching today. I do my best to ignore my distractions. Although I’m not perfect, it goes a lot smoother than last week. This cements the idea that I am a horribly flawed person; but also able to improve, albeit slowly. Many writers in my circle are producing new novels. This quarantine has been great for creativity.
I find an insane survival list of goods on Amazon. I would buy so much of this if Xiaolin wouldn’t leave me for being a crazy hoarder. I wonder how much a storage shed goes for.
A solar and crank power charging box would guarantee music in my ears. A UV lightbox would clean my gear.
If you’re still using cash, stop, and don’t touch pin pads. At least get gloves and a Victorian-style scratching fork.
We’re starting a video class. Xiaolin calls out “Lucy, Lucy,” as the children connect. I smile and close my eyes, I’m back in my class two years ago, calling out, “Lucy, Lucy, you got some ‘splaining to do,” and everyone laughs, especially Lucy. They never knew Ricky Ricardo, but it was funny anyway. Time is a Möbius strip.
This year I finally changed from the hefty road-warrior MacBook adapter to the short, dainty cable. Then this happens. The world is too uncertain for dainty adapters.
China represents a third of global trade and production, a huge uptick from SARS in 2003. We hope to get back to full production soon. Economists all over the world wring their hands. We should have been saving for a rainy day. Now the storm is here. Whether you’re a person or a company or a country, you can’t live paycheck to paycheck. Economists call this a ‘haircut,’ aka “China will get a haircut, the USA might be looking at a haircut.” Small haircuts are ok, but we hope to avoid large haircuts. I look in the mirror. It’s been two months since I got a haircut.
In California, one hundred front line workers are in self-isolation because the CDC gave them a patient on droplet protocol for four days before instructing that aerosol was needed. I find it shocking how from a bird’s eye view, it looks like so many balls are getting dropped.
Iran’s former ambassador to the Vatican has died of COVID-19. Pope Francis has canceled three days of events because of a bad cold. There are unsubstantiated rumors he’s got COVID-19. I’m waiting for an official confirmation or denial.
During the classes, I move around, stretch my body, and add a few plates to my weight bar and do some off-camera reps.
The CDC is discouraging us from buying masks, saying they will not help protect us. In an unrelated argument, they say they need to save the masks for frontline health care workers.
This a black swan event. We must control ourselves, be stoic, and resolute, not panicked. It’s all happening in slow motion on social media. It’s surreal, bizarre. Nothing like this has ever happened before. Want investment tips? Sell your stocks, buy raw goods. I listen to a Peak Prosperity podcast with Government Preparedness Expert James Wesley Rawles. He’s got lots of good advice, but one thing resonates: how retail level sellouts will work. First, we’ll run out of basic masks, goggles, gloves, and sanitizer; then medications; next non-perishable foods, bottled water, toilet paper, essentials for the home, such as cleaning products; and finally, perishable foods to freeze. I’ve seen pictures all over the world of empty shelves in supermarkets and pharmacies. In China, the government and farmers are working super hard to keep groceries where we need them.
My friends want advice. It’s a good idea to get ahead of the curve. You don’t want to be caught shopping in a cleaned out supermarket with a frenzied crowd that will make Black Friday look like Thanksgiving. This tip’s about as fresh as a winter fart in the car.
Your stock portfolio? Cocooning up, travel down. Anything that involves online ordering will do well: Netflix, Amazon, etc.
In the short term, travel, tourism, and entertainment will tank.
I’m restarting a private tutoring class. This gives a minimal weekly allowance for things my wife doesn’t think are important: extra protective gear, immune boosters, heirloom seeds. This is the balance of married life, at least in China.
Season two of Altered Carbon dropped. It looks so good (and produced in Canada). For now, I’m writing, and Xiaolin is watching a touching documentary on Chongqing porters, aka bang bang men.
I’ve been drinking Golden Milk before bed. Traditionally known as Haldi Doodh, it’s an Ayurvedic elixir, balancing to all doshas. It’s easy to make, it’s just warm milk, with turmeric, fresh ground pepper and a put in a small spoon of honey. Turmeric has some amazing antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-allergic properties. It helps in preventing as well as curing several diseases. The pepper lets the body absorb the turmeric 2000% more efficiently, so don’t skip that. It helps me sleep and tastes great if you don’t mind a yellow tongue.
PS. Today’s PostScript is pretty substantial.
I’ve had a few friends ask me, what if the outbreak gets bad in an area, what’s the worst that could happen? I say to hope for the best and prepare for the worst, so we have peace of mind. If you’re reading from Canada, The UK, Europe of the USA, and are worried, ask your local MP/MPP/Congressman:
- How can they ensure the district/city will maintain power?
- Does your local power company have the necessary replacement parts needed to fix problems (with current supply chain issues)?
- If public utility workers stop coming to work, will the national guard fill in to keep the lights on?
- If the power goes down, does your water treatment have an emergency solar power self-sustaining system, or will the water stop running?
- What can you do to help guarantee power and water to the public system?
If you can’t get a good answer, what are you doing to prepare for power out situations? Do you have a gas stove? Bbq? Extra gas? Solar power to charge phone and USB devices? Are you prepared for no water situations? You can buy water filters, a purifier system, etc. from many places such as Mountain Equipment Co-op for camping or emergency situations (grid down SHTF). How long can you be completely self-sufficient if need be? During a snowstorm, etc. you might be on your own for a week or so, and if quarantine gets bad and your area doesn’t have China’s infrastructure, you might need to have a month in your pantry to be ready.
Prep and store!
These two sites have lots of great info, check them out: www.survivalblog.com
www.peakprosperity.com/wsid (What Should I do)
Two things that might make a difference if treating COVID-19 at home:
1) A nebulizer (steamer for your face), can imbue with colloidal silver, or ginger. You can actually make one of these using a hot pot of boiling water with ginger. Take it off the fire, put a towel over your head, and breathe it in. It’s good for bad colds too.
2) If that’s not enough, you’ll need an oxygen concentrator. If you have older, sick relatives, they may have one at home. This can be very helpful for patients that need more oxygen but not sick enough to require hospitalized mechanical ventilation.
It’s impossible, try as I might, not to sound alarmist when trying to prepare my family and friends for a complete breakdown of society. At least I can look as calm and measured as possible. Get what you need, and a little extra for barter and (anonymous) charity. Get your “beans, bullets, and bandaids” in order.
Saturday, February 29. Good Medicine.
Day 36. Leap Year! What a lucky thing it is to have an extra day.
I wake up at 9, make coffee, and teach 10-12. It’s a fun class. While I’m making brunch, Xiaolin gets suited up and goes out to get a package by herself. I’m shocked, a worried dad who’s waiting for a teenager out on their first date. She returns with our new stuff, no big deal. It feels like a big deal.
As the warm sun peeks in through the windows, we let the dogs sunbathe on some cushions, and we change from heavy PJs into sleek, light ones. Although Spring technically starts on March 20, it already feels like a cool spring day. They say in Chongqing we only have two seasons: summer and winter. For most of the year, the furnace of China chugs along about 40C.
We teach another class from 2-4. We work well together, and the kids are happy and fun.
Today the number of cases new cases outside of China again exceeds the new cases inside China. COVID-19 is on every continent except Antarctica, now in 59 countries. Today Abu Dhabi, Amsterdam, Azerbaijan, Iceland, Lithuania, Mexico, Nigeria, and Wales reported their first cases. France, Italy, Iran, South Korea, and Japan are exploding with new clusters.
The counts we are seeing in the US are statistically improbable. A whistleblower in the US calls quarantine measures “corrupt,” claiming health officials at both Travis Air Force base and March Air Reserve were untrained in quarantine procedures and flew commercial flights out of the area.
Reports suggest the crashing stock market could cost Trump reelection. This tradeoff sounds tempting, but we don’t know the damage COVID-19 can do yet. It may be more expensive than you think.
Xiaolin and I have a nice Chinese food dinner with lots of green vegetables and rice. As the day wears on, I get frustrated by the last class, but I get through it.
I call my father and get the news back home. Costco in Ottawa is giving out Lysol wipes to everyone before they enter, but some people don’t want to clean their hands and hold up the line to argue. Darwin awards or public health menace? Some shoppers are wearing masks already. Empty shelves are common; water, cleaning products, and other critical supplies are sold out. In Hamilton, a good friend reports shoppers at Walmart’s push around carts full of toilet paper, soup, and pasta. Masks are long gone.
Some countries are under-reporting, others hiding in semantics. Perhaps they hope to avoid some of the economic damage and stigma of infection. Thailand has frozen its COVID-19 case number, but the number of ‘viral pneumonia’ cases looks like a hockey stick. Italy, already the slowest growing GDP in Europe, has decided to no longer count the positive test results that aren’t showing symptoms. We must presume these people are still contagious.
Around Europe, people are selling masks for 30 euros or 200 for five. Some experts have suggested it would be safe to rotate 10 masks. Ten days should be enough to kill any virus that might remain.
In front of congress, the head of the CDC reports they aren’t recommending prepping. Their website tells a different, more reasonable story: people should mentally prepare for closed schools, a limit on mass gatherings, self-isolation, and non-essential jobs to be furloughed.
As the stock market slowly weeps, many analysts expect a freefall in the next few weeks, and supply chains will be disrupted. Buy what you need now, including things for headaches, colds, and fever. Unless you’re critically ill, you will want to stay home.
With all this dark news, this headline left me gasping for breath: “Coronavirus outbreak at cyber goth rave kills zero.” At least the industrial crowd and the burners already have enough gear to get by. I always felt like those desert parties were preparing me for something.
Midday, I switch gears from doom and gloom news to Critical Role, a four-hour Dungeons & Dragons podcast. I’m going to start an online game with some friends, and that keeps my mind on hobbies for most of the day.
At night we watch ‘Carriers,’ which feels like 5D in this climate. Before bed, we watch Blades of Glory, and we laugh our guts out. That’s good medicine.
Jorah Kai Wood, Editor, iChongqing
Read COVID Diary Part 2 (Spring) here: http://jorahkai.com/covid-19-spring/
Read COVID Diary Part 1 (Winter) here: http://jorahkai.com/covid-19-winter/
iChongqing: China fights COVID-19 https://www.ichongqing.info/special/fighting-against-2019-ncov/