Mom! Why is My Skin Red?

Mom wasn’t an anti-vaxxer, she was distracted. I received my smallpox vaccine at school in Texas. I remember lining up in a huge lunchroom, but after that we moved back to the small rural town in Alabama where she and a few more generations of my family grew up. I really don’t know what happened, but the ball was dropped somewhere and the rest of my vaccines didn’t happen at school, or the health department, or the doctor’s office. My vaccine card was also missing Polio, maybe something else as well, but Measles and Polio are the ones I remember.

I was in the 5th grade when it happened. I noticed the rash in the bath at home. I don’t remember how quickly the shift from “not that sick” to “nearly dying” happened or how long I was sick. I remember lying on the sofa in front of TV (no remote, black and white) drifting in and out while Mom was at work. I lost 40 lbs. I remember Mom telling me if I didn’t eat they’d take me to the hospital and stick a needle in my arm. For a long time I remembered the weird hallucinations I had, and the delirious nonsensical conversation I was told about later, but those are lost to me now. I remember my hair falling out like a cancer patient, but only about half of it. Some of it never came back. I wore my hair in braids back then and they were never as thick again. No one else in my class got it. I’m guessing they were all vaccinated. I ate a lot after I got well and became chubby for a couple of years afterward.

I remember Mom telling me I had a really close call, but just how high my temperature got was a little fuzzy. The mercury was up in that tip of the old glass stick thermometer where the numbers end and just a little bit of tube allows the liquid to continue to expand into the twilight zone of guessed the temperatures. As an adult, I wondered if there was a way to figure out how high it got. I looked up the symptoms and things that happened to me to see if they happened at a specific body temperature. It was disquieting. The phrase “denatured proteins” was in what I saw and it wasn’t very far from the temperature range I’d been led to believe my body and brain might have reached. The article likened denatured proteins to scrambled eggs for those who aren’t familiar with the term. In fact, the only reason I’m sure my temperature didn’t get all the way to that level is because I’m alive.

Shortly before I had my first child, I read an article about an unvaccinated farmer who contracted Polio when his daughter was vaccinated. When I took my son in to the pediatrician to get his Polio vaccination, I asked the Dr to vaccinate me as well. I told him about the article, and about getting the measles after missing that vaccine. He laughed and gave us both the drops. I didn’t mind the laugh. I wasn’t going to get Polio from taking care of my child and that’s all that mattered to me. We don’t give Polio drops in the US anymore. This article from the CDC explains that the liquid drops Polio vaccine can lead to what happened to the farmer in the article and that’s why those drops are no longer allowed in the US.

Catching the measles isn’t quite straightforward. There are some after effects. I wonder sometimes what new research could mean diagnostically to my health, so I look it up every now and then. The linked article talks about a loss of antibodies to other illnesses after having the measles and uses chicken pox for an example. There’s a relationship between chicken pox and shingles. If you had chicken pox, you take one shingles vaccine, if not the other. While waiting for my Covid vaccine, I remembered that the age recommendations had changed I was now overdue for shingles.

My grandfather had shingles. The last 20 years of his life were marked by pain. He didn’t have the opportunity to take a vaccine. I owe it to his memory to do my best to avoid the pain he suffered, I almost took it first, but felt Covid was more critical (and there needs to be time between vaccinations). At a time when so many people were comparing Covid vaccine reactions, mine was practically nil, but when I got around to the shingles vaccine, I had the strongest reaction I have ever had to any vaccine. I rarely have side effects, but this was enough of an exception that it had me rethinking which vaccine I should have taken. I had the measles after chicken pox, so what if the immune reduction affected me? I finally decided I was ok. When my children got chicken pox, I didn’t get sick, so I must have had enough residual immunity to keep me from catching it again, therefore, the vaccine for people who had chicken pox was the vaccine for me.

In high school chemistry, the professor told us to look around the room at each other, then said “Before vaccines, all but two of you would be dead.” I have personal experience to what missing mine almost meant to me. From time to time, when someone teases me about being distractible or forgetful, I wonder if I did experience some brain damage. I don’t really remember if people started teasing me about my distractibility before that illness, and no one else does either. In some respects it doesn’t matter. This is the one life I have and it’s had some pretty awesome moments that I’m grateful for.

I don’t want to dwell on this, but I do want to learn from it and avoid as much sickness and pain as possible, and I do tell the story fairly often. Measles is dangerous and the effects can compound. All the diseases that have been worth developing a vaccine for are better avoided. I don’t want what happened to me to happen to others. I hope that sharing my story will help people to avoid it.

How Much Could a Bike Ride Cost Anyway?

I’ve spent over a thousand dollars on major bike repairs and gear recently. It sounds like a lot, but some of it was way overdue. I hope I’m good on that for 6 months or so. Time will tell, but I’m hoping I can keep gear and maintenance to a $200 per month level. That will be more of a challenge as weekly mileage increases.

Transportation is the rest of the cost. This project is on a trail for the beauty and comparative safety. On trails, you only find the drivers who would be killers at intersections with roads. The only downside is driving to get out to the trail.

Some people think of the cost of gas as the cost of going somewhere and then never really figure out how much gas it took, especially on local trips. The cost of the car itself seems to get put in some other mental category called “having a car”.

Paying something closer to accurate attention to the cost of driving somewhere is a natural for me though. My father used to calculate the actual per mile cost of every car or truck he owned. Because of that influence, I usually figure that going to a fast food place costs about twice the menu price (ones I like are 15 minutes or so from my home). I’m more attentive than most, but still not as committed to an exact figure as Dad was. For a project like this though, I need to know.

I briefly worked for a company called National Opinion Research Center, (NORC) headquartered at the University of Chicago. They’re famous for opinion surveys, but they collect and analyze all kinds of soft and hard data. They did mileage calculations for the IRS in a manner to make the allowance adjustable. Have you noticed that the deductible allowance changes more often than it used to? Most of that change is due to fluctuation in gas prices because other costs do not fluctuate as often nor as much. The other part of the figure is calculated on the average cost of a car and maintenance. The cost of my car is 20% above average. (I’ve always driven economy cars, but now I sometimes need to carry 5-7 people, two of them over six feet tall). So the IRS figure is what you use if you want to take their average on business mileage. Keeping records and supporting a higher price is what you do if your car is more expensive than average. For this, I’m looking for the best approximation I can get without digging in my files.

The training rides I currently make are quite a bit further than my original plan. Now a ride requires a 96 mile drive round trip (RT) or $56 at the current IRS rate of 57.5 cents per mile. If you add an extra 10% because my car is 20% more expensive than average, that comes to $63.25. I’m currently attempting 3 of those a week, which is $189.75 per week or $796.95 transportation per month, plus the $200 in maintenance and gear for $996.95 total per month. While it is easier on my body to spread it out right now, actually sitting down to do the math increases my resolve to fit my training miles into 2 rides per week instead of 3.

As often as I tend to estimate the cost of transportation as being higher than other people do, the numbers were a surprise to me. And those numbers care about me like the virus does. None. At. All. The numbers and the virus simply exist. What the numbers mean to me though underscores the conflicting feelings that I can’t do this project now, and that I must. It took shelter-in-place to make it necessary to drive 96 miles for a “socially distant ride”, and it took spending time sheltering isolated from my rides and my fitness center to get me over my initial rejection of the idea that I could drive so far to ride. But, it only took that first short ride after sheltering-in-place, to make it pretty clear to me that riding was more important to my immediate health and wellbeing than anything else I could be doing with that same time and money. There’s always a rub isn’t there? I hope I can provide some entertaining footage to people who can’t make the trip.

How to be a Karen Without Being a Karen

That is the question.

It is really a big question, in some ways the question of a lifetime, certainly the question of our time. What it means to be a Karen, a Bad Karen, has morphed from simply the “May I see your manager?” type with a bad Posh Spice/Victoria Beckham bob complete with brash highlights, to a broader caricature that is offensive to a larger number of people (with a racial/racist component that kind of blindsided me because I didn’t realize it was a part of it all until the whole birding in the park incident). See this Guardian Article (or countless others) for more on Karen evolution. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/may/13/karen-meme-what-does-it-mean.There  

Posh, BTW, does seem like a more fitting moniker for a Bad Karen than Karen. Just think about it, from its elitist origins, to its current choice for an ungendered name. What other word ‘come name has a Snopes page about its etymology AND can apply to men and women equally? Because you know deep down Karenhood really isn’t a girls only club.

The first “Karens” I personally noticed were not older women, they were teens of both sexes. I used to volunteer in a local high school, and there were some kids who would say whatever phrase (to the principal if they had to) that got them what they wanted. It was never a true statement. It was simply saying the words that made the exception that got around the rules, an unscrupulous manipulation of the system for the purpose of having one’s way. The very epitome of entitled Karenhood, and yes, they probably learned the skill from their Boomer parents whose decades of egocentrism was peaking, or, at least I thought it had to be peaking. Not. The. First. Time. I. Was. Wrong.

“May I see your manager?” can be a fun question if you have something good to say. I once asked to speak to my postmaster, and afterward my letter carrier beamed smiles at me for a year. She smiled bigger than big when she saw me right up until she was given a new route. It can be an important question if you have the right motive. Or, it can be meme worthy if you want a refund, privilege, reward or result you don’t deserve.

 “If you see something, say something” is where the real challenge comes in. We’ve been “Together-Apart” in so many ways since long before the pandemic. Doing your part to be part of a community is a challenge. Sometimes talking to the manager does need to happen when things need fixing. The phrase “If you see something, say something” was promoted by Allen Kay of the New York MTA after 9-11, and it resulted in a real reduction of crime.

We’re about to switch off of “Karen”. I can tell because there are so many articles out there on Karenhood. One of them suggested to just not be a jerk. That is nobler. We need to be involved, talk to a manager, or a representative, or a businessperson when it’s time. We all know there’s a lot that’s broken, and together, as well as apart, we have to fix it.

Just try not to be a jerk.

Ooh, Ooh, That Smell: Safety Planning for the Long Haul

What’s “safe”, or relatively safe, makes a pretty big difference to me and my partner as we look at how best to be healthy while planning and completing this 2 year cycling and video project in Georgia and Alabama during the pandemic.

The original basic plan was to make the project goal on 8 paved miles of the Big Creek Greenway in Roswell and Alpharetta, Georgia. We would ride both directions 2 or 3 times per week for 32-48 miles with the near certainty that we’d get 30-60 minutes of good video for every week with rideable conditions and hopefully capture the occasional spectacular wildlife sighting. Big Creek is the shorter drive from home and the gently curving trail along the streambed is pretty with good habitat for wildlife viewing. It was perfect for the smaller basic plan, “was” being the operative word.

With the Shelter in Place order came change. The bike shops were deemed essential and they sold out. The people who bought all the bikes (and those who didn’t) showed up on trails everywhere straining park staff and facilities and crowding green spaces. The Greenway was filled with people not following social distancing nor mask guidelines, sometimes they even look at us a bit funny when we do. It seemed like we would have to postpone or cancel the project. After a couple of months of staying home, we realized that the project was more important than ever.

By definition, there’s no long standing science specific to a particular novel pandemic. There are guesses based on similar diseases, and a developing knowledge base that changes as we learn. Mistakes are made in haste and under pressure. Good information takes effort to find and it is hard for people without a science background to interpret or distinguish the good from the bad. People get burn-out, especially with the politicization of the subject. Some are too overloaded to even try to sniff out any answers.

What I’ve been able to find says 20 yards of separation is probably safe cycling. But, there are all kinds of variables. As Russ and I discuss what we will or won’t do, we’ve had some pretty detailed discussions, and even though we both have science backgrounds, we haven’t come up with the same safety parameters all the time.

One day, I was riding a remote section of the Silver Comet with, maybe, one trail user per mile. A guy passes me easily and when he’s around 30 or 40 yards beyond me I catch a whiff of “he’s been riding for a while”. Body odor or perfume is not something you pay much attention to until there are people dying and you’re trying to figure out how not to be one of them. Smelling smokers and other odors through my mask, especially when riding to, and through, Brushy Mountain Tunnel has caused me to wonder all kinds of things.

The tunnel is really damp. There is usually water trickling down the exterior sides at the entrance, and unless we’re in drought conditions, there are puddles on the tunnel floor. Air passing through the tunnel has been moving eastward since I started paying attention. So, as I come up to the tunnel from the east, I feel cool, damp air with a slight headwind well before I get there. Recently, I smelled a smoker on the far side of the tunnel while I was still at least 50 yards away. The tunnel is 800 ft long (about 267 yards). So I was able to sense particles, some of which came from inside someone else’s lungs, in the air 300 yards away and I was really questioning that 20 yard figure.

It makes me all the more wary of sharing crowded trails with unmasked hikers and bikers who think 6 ft (or business as usual) is fine. Russ says “But smell particles are so much bigger than virions…” Well, you know I had to look that up. Turns out he was correct related to smoke, but incorrect about most smell particles. But, here’s the thing. Does size really matter? I really don’t know that much about the fluid dynamics and aerodynamics of nano or micro-particulates. I do know virions, like humidity, the kind the south is known for, the kind the tunnel is filled with. Drying Covid-19 virions is one reason the virus dies faster on some surfaces than others. Should I be paying attention to smell and humidity? I often take several deep breaths as I approach a trail user, hold it as long as possible while passing and exhale slowly afterward. I have varying levels of success depending on my level of exertion and how soon I saw them.

Am I being ridiculous? I don’t know. There are enough variables to drive a girl crazy, even one who’s comfortable with science.

We don’t know that we can be safe, but we do know that strong and healthy is better than weak and stressed. So, as I’m looking at the project and making choices, I’m looking at three things. 1.) If I do get sick, my chances of a complete recovery will be better if I’m healthy and cycling regularly. My health and mental health were going downhill fast during “Shelter in Place”, so, I’m going to do everything I can to get out there and build my health back up, even take it to new levels. 2.) There are fewer people, and fewer unique people on the trail out in the rural areas of the Silver Comet Trail and Chief Ladiga Trail, so the basic plan needs move out there, even with the extra time and cost. 3.) Much of the stretch plan is already possible. There’s a good chance of a vaccine or better treatments as time goes on, so there is also a good likelihood that the whole plan will be possible.

The stretch goal was (and I hope still is) riding the entire Silver Comet and Chief Ladiga Trails in Georgia and Alabama in each direction weekly. Rides on the Greenway would then reduce to 1 or 2 recovery rides per week. As we work toward the full plan, the hours on video multiply and the chances of capturing some of the more thrilling wildlife experiences will increase. Putting in the full 250+ miles per week should allow me want to catch some the really cool wildlife sightings. That makes all the difference.

Karen Goes and Goes

After changing careers a while back, I was thinking about “What next?”. My sysadmin (also my son) recommended Karen Goes as a url that would easily be relevant to whatever I might do next, then next, and then after that. It was just before “Karen” became synonymous with the mother who wants to speak to the manager, and well before the name morphed into the world’s most heinously entitled woman exemplifying everything wrong with people who have “First World Problems”.

So, now that I’m off again. My next project is underway and the title “Karen Goes” is particularly appropriate, but I still thought about leaving “Bad Karen” behind until I remembered Dad’s favorite Jim Croce song. I had other favorites, but his liking it made me notice what a really nice song it is.

Like the pine trees linin’ the windin’ road
I’ve got a name, I’ve got a name
Like the singin’ bird and the croakin’ toad
I’ve got a name, I’ve got a name
And I carry it with me like my daddy did
But I’m living the dream that he kept hid

Movin’ me down the highway, rollin’ me down the highway
Movin’ ahead so life won’t pass me by

Like the north wind whistlin’ down the sky
I’ve got a song, I’ve got a song
Like the whippoorwill and the baby’s cry
I’ve got a song, I’ve got a song
And I carry it with me and I sing it loud
If it gets me nowhere, I’ll go there proud
Movin’ me down the highway, rollin’ me down the highway
Movin’ ahead so life won’t pass me by

And I’m gonna go there free

Like the fool I am and I’ll always be

I’ve got a dream, I’ve got a dream
They can change their minds but they can’t change me
I’ve got a dream, I’ve got a dream
Oh, I know I could share it if you want me to
If you’re goin’ my way, I’ll go with you

Movin’ me down the highway, rollin’ me down the highway
Movin’ ahead so life won’t pass me by
Movin’ me down the highway, rollin’ me down the highway
Movin’ ahead so life won’t pass me by

Like the pine trees linin’ the windin’ road
I’ve got a name, I’ve got a name
Like the singin’ bird and the croakin’ toad
I’ve got a name, I’ve got a name
And I carry it with me like my daddy did
But I’m living the dream that he kept hid

Movin’ me down the highway, rollin’ me down the highway
Movin’ ahead so life won’t pass me by

Like the north wind whistlin’ down the sky
I’ve got a song, I’ve got a song
Like the whippoorwill and the baby’s cry
I’ve got a song, I’ve got a song
And I carry it with me and I sing it loud
If it gets me nowhere, I’ll go there proud

Movin’ me down the highway, rollin’ me down the highway
Movin’ ahead so life won’t pass me by

And I’m gonna go there free

Like the fool I am and I’ll always be
I’ve got a dream, I’ve got a dream
They can change their minds but they can’t change me
I’ve got a dream, I’ve got a dream
Oh, I know I could share it if you want me to
If you’re goin’ my way, I’ll go with you

Movin’ me down the highway, rollin’ me down the highway
Movin’ ahead so life won’t pass me by
Movin’ me down the highway, rollin’ me down the highway
Movin’ ahead so life won’t pass me by

 

I always thought that was written by Jim Croce, but it was actually written by Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel and I’m a sap for it.

So, about that name change? Nah, it’s my name. And, I’ve got a dream.