Sunday, March 29, 2020

From my Coronavirus Diary

by Madeleine Kando

March 20, 2020 (1 week into self-isolation)

Today is a beautiful, crisp and sunny day. My husband and I decide to go for a stroll on the beach, to breathe in some coronavirus-free air. An hour’s drive is worth it. It is wonderful. The white foamy crests on the waves, as they fold themselves over like shy bearded giants, repeat themselves over and over again. It’s not like you miss anything if you look away. They perform for free, all day long. The fresh ocean air fills our lungs. We walk, hand in hand, flaunting our noses to the 6 feet distance rule. Aren’t we one and the same body after all these years?

I hold my puffy, sleepless face in the wind, squinting to protect my eyes from so much sunlight. Are we really living a nightmare? Or did I just dream it? Why are the clouds and the dunes, the sand and the seagulls so clueless? Don’t they know what’s happening? Where is the panic, the stress, the heart palpitations?

As I follow a trail of child foot prints vanishing in the distance, the moist sand under my feet sparkles with millions of glittering mica particles, like a universe filled with stars. It is mesmerizing. Just like the pictures I saw of the Corona virus floating in the air after a sneeze. Floating in the air, everywhere, invading our lungs and killing us one by one.

‘Stop it right now!’ a voice tells me. ‘Stop with this OCD nonsense. Enjoy the beach!Read more...

Monday, March 23, 2020

“Mother Nature”?

Let me try this: A good word to describe the coronavirus crisis is “biblical.”

Now I don’t want you to misunderstand: I don’t believe in God. A biblical interpretation of this crisis goes against everything my rationalist mind and education have taught me.

But the paradigm, or the metaphor, seems so apt. This is Sodom and Gomorrah all over again. God’s revenge, punishment for our sins, for our descent into greed and selfishness, for raping the planet, for excessive hedonism and materialism, for Wall Street, etc.

Okay, convert the term “God” into “Nature.” Then, the metaphor works better already: We are destroying the planet. Even so, a near unanimity of economists - left and right - still agrees that the solution to poverty, inequality and all other economic problems is GROWTH. It is almost universally agreed that a 1% growth rate is bad (that’s often Europe’s rate), a 3% rate is pretty good (something the US achieves occasionally) and that 6% to 10% annual growth, which China has often achieved in recent decades, is the envy of the world. Read more...

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Tried and True: The Best Travel Experiences in Europe

Dear People:

This is to let you know that I have just published a new book, with the following title: Tried and True: The Best Travel Experiences in Europe.

Here is a description:

Tom Kando has visited over thirty European countries and spent many years living in half a dozen of them. He has crossed the Atlantic a hundred times. In this travel guide and travel memoir, he shares eventful and often hilarious experiences in Europe, from Iceland to Russia and from Scotland’s Hebrides Islands to the Riviera and Sicily: Amusing, true stories about staving off pickpockets, braving chaotic Parisian and Roman traffic, dealing with train, airplane and hotel snafus. Secondly, Kando offers a wealth of practical information about errors to avoid, what to do and not to do, and what to see.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Confessions of a Googleholic

Googling has become my middle name. I am Googling every thought that comes into my head. It’s a disease. ‘Why is my iphone almost the same size as my reading glasses container?’ ‘Why does my sister not like me as much as before?’ ‘Will we ever travel to another star?’ As if Google were my psychiatrist, my mother and my best friend, all rolled into one. I know. It’s a clear sign of either having too much time on my hands, or not enough human contact.

I have replaced my brain with a digital monster. Not too long ago I was a normal person. I wondered and pondered about things, accepted the inevitability of not knowing the answer. That’s what’s fun about wondering and pondering. If there were an answer to everything, it would be the end of thinking, period. If I really really wanted to know the answer to something, I read a book, went to the library, or talked to a flesh and blood person.

I envy my mother. Ata was a natural ponderer. Until her dying day at the age of 103, she had questions, wondering about life after death, why birds can fly and humans cannot. She was almost blind, had been deaf for decades, but her mind was brimming with curiosity. She was not what you call a learned person. She had an artist’s soul that wanted to discover, like a 103 year old Magellan. Once she had a question in her head, she wouldn’t let go and urged everyone to participate in her quest, be it her children, her numerous friends, her orthopedist and the unfortunate handyman who was trying to fix the leak in her bathroom. Deep down, she knew she wouldn’t find a definitive answer, but the exploration was what made her tick. Googling was as foreign to her as a rotary phone to a Gen Zer. Read more...

Thursday, March 5, 2020

The Coronavirus

I have been monitoring the corona virus’ spread,  and I also just communicated with some friends  in Holland.  

As of March 5, 88 countries have been contaminated  by the pandemic. Of these, only 18 have experienced deaths. In 70 of these countries, no one has died yet. To be sure, a majority of these 70 countries are just beginning to be infected: In 21 of them, only  one case has been  identified  so far. Half of the zero-death countries (35) have only reported between 1 and 5 cases until now.

However, some of the zero-death countries already have significant numbers of cases, so we can start asking: What are they doing right? How do they differ from countries where the death rate is significantly higher? Can we learn from them?

I have listed  the countries which combine a zero-death rate with an already fairly widespread epidemic within their borders. The first table below shows the ten most notable such countries, and I compare their numbers with ours: Read more...

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Our Mighty Sun

The Oort Cloud is believed by astronomers to surround the solar system. It is the ultimate outer boundary of our sun’s domain. This cloud is believed to consist of icy planetesimals - cosmic dust/grains. It was named in 1950 after the Dutch astronomer Jan Oort, who worked on this hypothesis.

According to astronomers, the Oort Cloud is a belt which surrounds the sun and the solar system at a distance which begins at about 2,000 Astronomical Units (AUs) and may go as far out as 200,000 AUs.

This is an astounding size. If the Oort Cloud hypothesis is correct, it means that the domain of the solar system is enormous.

Consider this:
One Astronomical Unit is the distance between earth and the sun, which is 150 million kilometers, or 93 million miles. If the Oort Cloud’s outer edge reaches all the way out to 200,000 Astronomical Units from the center of the solar system (the sun) then its diameter is 400,000 AUs.

It takes light 8 minutes to cover one AU (to travel from earth to the sun). As mentioned, the inner rim of the Oort Cloud is 2,000 AUs away from us. So it takes light 16,000 minutes to travel that far, i.e. 11.1 days. The OUTER rim of the Oort Cloud is 200,000 AUs far, i.e. one hundred times further. So for light to travel to the Oort Cloud’s outer edge takes 100 times longer, i.e. 1,111 days or over 3 years. The sun reaches three light years out into space! Read more...