26 October 2009

More on Influenza

Thanks to a surprisingly good TV show called The Doctors devoted entirely to the flu epidemic which I saw this afternoon, and some poking around on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) site I think I understand a little better what all the hullaballoo is about. A few days ago I posted a few notes and a chart or two about this current influenza epidemic or pandemic I think they are calling it. The latter simply means it is widespread around the world.

All the previous stuff I copied or wrote seems still to be reasonable but there is some more information that I didn't pick up on right away.

(1) Apparently this H1N1 flu started last spring, when the incidence of usual seasonal flu normally goes down, and almost all of the isolates since then have been this relatively new virus, or really a mutated virus because a lot of older folks have met up with this virus in some form or other in their salad days; and
(2) There has been an increase in the morbidiity and mortality amongst pediatric cases. That means a lot of kids are getting sick and some are dying from this illness, at a time when the normal or seasonal flu does not usually strike. A couple of charts might be helpful. They are from the CDC, which website I recommend. Sorry for the small numbers.

The chart above show the up and down incidence of pneumonia and influenza mortality the the last few years, showing an increase in the winter time and a decrease in the summer time. Note the spike in the winter of 2008, really two years ago as most of the winter of 2009 takes place in the early weeks of the calendar year which is how the above chart is set up. There is a worrisome upward squiggle at the end of the chart corresponding to the off-season increase of deaths. And that is more easily seen in the chart below.

This chart shows the uncommon but still usual number of pediatric deaths reported in this country from 2005 to the present. the problem is that the H1N1 deaths are occuring where there haven't been any for a long time, and the numbers look like they may continue to rise because of the timing and the lack of experience with this organism in the younger population. That is why the folks are getting up on their soapboxes and yelling at the top of their voices: Get vaccinated soon.

23 October 2009

Sanity and Shrink-Wrapping

I usually don't completely trust psychiatric analyses, unless of course, they agree with my deepest biases. But I regularly and religiously read this young lady's take on the political shenanigans going on around us. For a long time we have grown accustomed to our hopeful politicians not telling us the whole truth, so much so that we often ignore what they say because we know that they know they are just running for election by running off at the mouth.

Something has changed in recent years and more and more people are becoming worried. Our Washington commissars and czars and führers and gauleiters and dear leaders are becoming not so comical as we had thought. It actually looks like they are saying what they mean and meaning what they say.

Terms like "malignant narcissism" and "sociopathic selfishness" are being used by our friends of the psychiatric persuasion: these are nasty phrases, not just pet names for silly people, among the worst and most catastrophic diagnoses of public figures you will hear from our psychiatric friends. They are not used lightly. Check out Dr Sanity and ShrinkWrapped. Maybe it's too late to batten down the hatches.

22 October 2009

Have Cartoonists Always Been This Funny?

I thought this sort of humor went out with Al Capp—Schmoo? I dunno, What's Schmoo with you?

21 October 2009

So This Is What Viral Marketing Is All About

The picture to the right is a very cool non-invasive method of detecting fever in large numbers of people as in an airport or other crowded places. This one was in Greece and operates by thermal imaging. I am willing to bet it is not cost-effective.

I've heard this term, "viral marketing" for several years now, always not quite sure what the user had in mind. But after hearing and seeing various media talk about influenza, both the usual or "seasonal" form if there is such a thing, and the "swine" form, for what seems like months now, and then an article in today's Gazette about hospital ERs, walk-in clinics and doctor's offices seeing much larger numbers of possible flu-like illnesses, it finally dawned on me that "viral" refers to the way organisms like influenza viruses spread throughout a population, or in this case, worry about and perhaps mis-information about influenza viruses spreads throughout a population.

This is similar to the press and TV bombarding us with half-truths about our politicians running for office for months, then going out and conducting flawed polls on our understanding of the politicians stances on various problems. This is baloney in both instances.

Here is a useful table from a Wikipedia article on the 2009 swine flu pandemic

20th century flu pandemics
PandemicYearInfluenza virus typePeople infected (approx)Deaths worldwide (est.)Case fatality rate
Spanish flu1918–19A/H1N1[11][12]33% (500 million)[13]20 to 100 million[14][15][16]>2.5%[17]
Asian flu1956–58A/H2N2[11]
2 million[16]<0.1%[17]
Hong Kong flu1968–69A/H3N2[11]
1 million[16]<0.1%[17]
Seasonal fluEvery yearmainly A/H3N2, A/H1N1, and B5–15% (340 million – 1 billion)[18]250,000–500,000 per year[6]<0.1%[19]
For the chart-challenged this says that except for the Spanish flu after WWI which had a higher mortality, the rate ever since has been less than 0.1%, that 1/4 to 1/2 million deaths occur every year except for a few years, '57 and '69 specifically.

20 October 2009

Why We Don't Get a Lot of Visitors for the Fall Colors

I guess a grayish-tan is a color too, isn't it? When we got home in the middle of October from Ashland OR this is what we found. Can we get some of that stimulus money from our Washington friends to get a large domed stadium for this part of the state of Montana?

16 October 2009

Notes on Influenza

"Influenza (the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent seasonal flu is by getting a seasonal flu vaccination each year. Each year in the United States on average, 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu; on average, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu-related complications, and; about 36,000 people die from flu-related causes. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications. This flu season could be worse. There is a new and very different flu virus spreading worldwide among people called 2009 H1N1 flu. This virus may cause more illness or more severe illness than usual. See 2009 H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu) and You for more information."—lifted from the CDC website with my italicized emphases.

By the way the numbers above are guesstimates but apparently reasonable.

More recent data:

"U.S. Influenza and Pneumonia-Associated Hospitalizations
and Deaths from August 30 – October 10, 2009
Posted October 16, 2009, 11:00 AM ET
Data reported to CDC by October 13, 2009, 12:00 AM ET
Cases Defined by
Influenza and Pneumonia Syndrome* 15,696 2,029
Influenza Laboratory-Tests** 4,958 292

*Reports can be based on syndromic, admission or discharge data, or a combination of data elements that could include laboratory-confirmed and influenza-like illness hospitalizations.

**Laboratory confirmation includes any positive influenza test (rapid influenza tests, RT-PCR, DFA, IFA, or culture), whether or not typing was done.

This table is based on data reported to CDC by U.S. states and territories from a new influenza and pneumonia hospitalizations and deaths web-based reporting system. This system will be used to monitor trends in activity for the 2009-10 influenza season. This is a cumulative count beginning August 30, 2009. The table shows aggregate reports of all influenza and pneumonia-associated hospitalizations and deaths (including 2009 H1N1 and seasonal flu) since August 30, 2009 received by CDC from U.S. states and territories. This table will be updated weekly each Friday at 11 a.m. For the 2009-2010 influenza season, states are reporting based on new case definitions for hospitalizations and deaths effective August 30, 2009.

CDC will continue to use its traditional surveillance systems to track the progress of the 2009-2010 influenza season. For more information about influenza surveillance, including reporting of influenza-associated hospitalizations and deaths, see Questions and Answers: Monitoring Influenza Activity, Including 2009 H1N1.

The number of 2009 H1N1 hospitalizations and deaths reported to CDC from April – August 2009 is available on the Past Situation Updates page.

For state level information, refer to state health departments.

International Human Cases of 2009 H1N1 Flu Infection
See: World Health OrganizationExternal Web Site Icon."

If these numbers are reasonable and fairly complete then it appears to me that the number of deaths is actually lower this season than for the last 10 or 15 years. What's all the fuss about?

12 October 2009

Oregon Shakespeare Festival III

We listened to a little music in Medford on Sunday, after church of course, then decided we needed some cheering up after Cervantes comic look at growing old, so we got some tickets for Music Man, inside at the Bowmer on Sunday night, not worrying about arising at 4 am the next morning to catch that damn 6 am flight from Medford to Seattle. Good as usual, everyone of them, including the kids. Strong dancing. Interesting pit band with only a few horns, i.e. one trombone, one trumpet, one reeds and then percussion and piano etc, but it worked.

The last time we saw this was in Chicago, maybe 40 or 50 years ago when Robert Preston played Professor Harold Hill. OSF doesn't do that many musicals but it obviously knows how.

11 October 2009

Medford Jazz Jubilee II & OSF Too

More of the same good music as yesterday. Groups with names like Wally's Warehouse Waifs, Club 7, Queen City Jazz Band, Cornet Chop Suey, High Sierra, see their picture to the right, Midiri Brothers, Blue Street Jazz Band, etc.

Most of these were fairly traditional Dixieland groups, though Club 7 and Midiri Brothers were younger and differently voiced, e.g. Club 7 featured a marvelous clarinet leading the group and a super good guitar player along with the usual rhythm instruments. No trumpet or trombone or sax. As you can see in the High Sierra group to the right I tend to favor the traditional front line of trumpet, trombone and clarinet and behind a tuba rather than a string bass, piano, percussion and banjo.

I liked the QCJB, an outfit from Denver that has been around for 50s with changing personnel obviously, mainly because the trombone player was the best of the lot. The ensemble trombone is different from the solo and neither need to worry about imitating the clarinet in its licks.

Good food at the 4 Daughters Irish Pub and a new place called Elements, a tapas bar, a little unusual for a no-nonsense slightly blue collar town like Medford. As time has gone along, it seems that both Ashland and Medford are getting an increasing number of retirees from Oregon and especially California. These well off people are good for the restaurants and the theatre scene too.

We saw a version of Cervantes masterpiece, Don Quixote, in bits and pieces that were usually funny, but sometimes effectively hid the deeper meaning of what Mr C was getting.

I suppose the playwright/adaptor Octavio Solis could argue that the staging was rambunctious and loud because he was speaking to a jaded and deaf audience, kind of like Flannery O'Connor maybe. Only the genius of the backstage boffins of OSF could bring this off and even then it was sometimes a close call.

Worse yet, it was outdoors in the cool of the evening in the Elizabethan theatre. Never again in October. Maybe in July or August. I must confess I heard the songs of Man of La Mancha going through my head. Armando Duran played a splendid Don Quixote. His horse was good too, especially the one who played the rear part.

10 October 2009

Medford Jazz Jubilee I & OSF Too

For the last twenty-one years the city of Medford has put together a musical gathering, usually emphasizing traditional jazz, during the 2nd weekend in October. We have only gone to two of these, last year and because that was so much fun, we decided to go again this year.

There were several good big bands, including a group of talented high school kids called the Oregon Coast Lab Band, some very traditional Dixieland groups, and other more modern groups including some younger guys and singers, and a zydeco group. All very entertaining. Another thing that was emphasized this year was the dancing. Wow, that was impressive. See the picture from the Mail Tribune above left.

After listening most of the afternoon to the music in Medford we went back to Ashland to see Clifford Odets' Paradise Lost. As usual everything about this was high quality. Us old folks probably enjoyed it especially because we heard our grandparents talk the way many of the stereotypes did in this 1930s Great Depression era. It was full of the common bromides of the day. Not sure if any of these apply now to the Great Recession we seem now to be in. The title comes, I suspect, from Milton epic poem of the same name, having to do with the Fall of man, perhaps captured in this Blake image of Satan observing the caresses of Adam and Eve.

09 October 2009

Oregon Shakespeare Festival II

We saw William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, but really about Everything last night in the Elizabethan outdoor theatre. Why we thought this was a good idea in October in the mountains of southern Oregon I'm not really at liberty to say. We will not do this again.

The play was the usual well-done OSF production with David Kelly, Robyn Rodriguez and Sarah Rutan turning in superb jobs. But really the thing that makes these OSF things so good is that all, I mean all the players are good, and all the stagecraft and all the costumes are just perfect. Tony DeBruno was brilliant in reminding us all that "he was, indeed, an ass."

I'm not sure what this street sign means here. Probably something to do with pairing of cities in different countries, i.e. some reason for the local city eminentos to visit Guanajuato and vice versa and act important. That is a facsimile of the first printing of this marvelous play on the right.

08 October 2009

Oregon Shakespeare Festival I

That is a fairly new building at the airport in Medford above, at least I didn't remember it from the trip in the Spring. The whole airport looks new.

Because Billings is far away from the centers of population in this country we need to get up at
4 am in order to let the TSA do their thing to allow you to catch a 6 am flight to Seattle, and then change planes to catch another to Medford OR, arriving about mid-day on Wednesday.

We picked up some nice wine and cheese snacks from The Market of Choice. Oh yes, because of the Jazz Jubilee in Medford and the fact that I forgot to reserve a car we wind up with a fancy SUV from Hertz, but they did give me a 10% discount because I was old. We fall into bed early at The Plaza, our favorite hotel in Ashland.

05 October 2009

Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All Is vanity.

That nasty, mean-spirited George Will. I thought guys who tied their own bow ties were always kind and sympathetic and told the truth. Well, a .333 batting average is not bad.

03 October 2009

What Were You Doing When Rio Was Selected?

Is it possible that, at some future time, everyone over a certain age will remember what they were doing on October 2nd 2009? When Obama and Chicago were given the finger by the rest of the world? Will people wonder whatever happened to So-and-So, and to their chagrin discover that he died on or around 1-2 October 2009. I wonder if people in Chicago and Washington DC and perhaps other places too will remember things that way.

The picture, above left, comes from March 1960 in Appleton Wisconsin before this couple had ascended to the throne.

For years I wondered whatever happened to C.S. Lewis. Finally, it dawned on me when I happened to read his obituary some years later. He died November 22, 1963. Of course, he suffered the inglorious fate of those who happen to die or do something else noteworthy when Super-Celebrities do the same thing. Royal Figures like John Kennedy or Princess Diana or Michael Jackson simply dominate our media and thus our minds.

01 October 2009

Why Do We Use Pen Names

It turns out that Theodore Dalrymple is really Anthony (A. M.) Daniels, though not the British actor with the same name. I just found out as I was googling something else and stumbled onto this information by accident. The picture to the right is from The Brussels Journal a few years ago.

Turns out he sometimes is Edward Theberton and perhaps others as well. I immediately thought of some lady novelists of the 19th century, and men too—e.g. Mark Twain instead of Samuel Clemens—but the early 20th century was famous for Hollywood "stage" names too, and of course, both Christian and Muslim communities are famous for these name changes. When I googled the word "pseudonyms" I was reminded of many others of these being used by various people for a very long time, right up to the present, and for very many reasons, or none.

The Wiki article on Anthony Daniels says he "chose a name that sounded suitably dyspeptic, that of a gouty old man looking out the window of his London club, port in hand, lamenting the degenerating state of the world." He neglects to add that his laments are witty, truthful and really well written.

Concealing one's real identity for whatever reason seems to be the main reason we use fictitious names, though various traditions are another significant reason. It seems to be a human trait.

Downtown Billings in the SummerTime

Downtown Billings in the SummerTime
At The BrewPub on Broadway

Downtown Phoenix

Downtown Phoenix
Downtown Phoenix in the Winter Time

Good Cheese Here

Good Cheese Here
Vermont Cheddar & Minnesota Blue


Dehler Park, Billings MT, July 2008 This is what Bart Giamatti recommends for good mental health.

Me and Joan

Me and Joan
Early elderly and middle middle age: We May Know Something You Don't

Mrs America

Mrs America
Fortunately these girls had a good-looking mother

Rimrocks @ Billings MT

Rimrocks @ Billings MT
“In beholding old stones we may feel our anxieties about our achievements–and lack of them–slacken . . . Vast landscapes [and seascapes] can have an anxiety–reducing effect similar to ruins, for they are the representatives of infinite space, as ruins are the representatives of infinite time, against which our weak, short-lived bodies seem no less inconsequential than those of moths or spiders.”—Alain de Botton in Status Anxiety

Easter Sunday at St Patrick's Co-Cathedral

Easter Sunday at St Patrick's Co-Cathedral
12 April 2009

Pleasant Hillside at Hustisford, AKA The Grassy Knoll for you conspiracy buffs

Pleasant Hillside at Hustisford, AKA The Grassy Knoll for you conspiracy buffs
A Lot of Muellers Are Buried Here
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