I had hoped to be done with 5G. The New York Times recently hinted that the 5G towers, sprouting from New York sidewalks like some billionaire’s dream of space flight, are UGLY, but about 5G, NYT still insists on inserting their own bias that “some have expressed unfounded fears“.
5G is a big topic, and I’ve been there more than I like, but 5G safety isn’t really that complicated. Since there hasn’t been any long term continuous exposure to 5G, long-term studies of continuous exposure to 5G Radiation don’t exist. 5G hasn’t been around that long. No evidence. Good or bad. Zilch.
If anyone tells you 5G is safe—or not safe—they are making assumptions.
Next, media that engages in gigantic million-dollar partnerships with people or corporations (such as the one between the New York Times and Verizon) should advise the reader of the potential conflict of interest in its reporting. The appearance of association damages believability and truth.
Dear New York Times, Good journalism, with an honest, unbiased phrasing, would look something like this:
“…some have expressed fears of as yet unproven health issues with 5G”.
(For the sake of transparency, The New York Times acknowledges it is engaged in a 5G joint venture with Verizon.)
Lastly, If you have strong political leanings, skip the next paragraph so we can remain friends.
Doctor Davis and the Pharoah of Fallacy Another “negative association”: Dr. Devra Davis of Environmental Health Trust, who I respected, chose to participate in a one hour interview with Fox News “host” Tucker Carlson in Dec. of 2021 to discuss the dangers of 5G. (I will not include a link to Fox.) TC’s sensational drama-mongering and promotion of whacko conspiracy theories, support of Putin specifically, and fascism in general, have done more to harm truth and Democracy than any other media personality. (Sorry Bannon.) Dr. Davis’s Fox interview makes EHT look like a league of tin-foil-hat conspiracists. Too bad.
Times were hard. We were about a year into settling back at the office in New Jersey, 2008 – 2009, just in time to see the world economies stumble, waver, and in parts, collapse into the Great Recession.
It started of course, in the USA, where the greed-crazed finance sector was addicted to mortgage-backed-securities. The “sucker was going down” to paraphrase our now-much-more-appreciated President Bush.
Keep in mind, “boom and bust” cycles were all too familiar in the ever-changing-if-not-improving IT world. One year the whole sales force has to have Blackberries. Train. Staff up. A few years later the Executives want everyone to switch to iPhones. Then there’s a merger. Layoffs. Every few years we had to shrink, eliminate waste, clean house, prove our value to the rest of the company. One President wants to make his mark by putting the whole business on SAP, sells the company, and the next CEO pushes to change the entire mail system. Next merger, or spin-off, the cycle would repeat, and before everyone is laid off again and the dust has settled, we have to migrate to the new parent company’s different Quality system, or mail system, or operating platform. It didn’t matter how many millions of dollars were spent so long as the current Man in Charge could lay claim to a big change before moving on to his next takeover.
But the Great Recession was worse than the typical boom and bust. Without dwelling on it too much, there were many layoffs. At the amazing, incredible shrinking New Jersey office we even lost a few people from our relatively small and mostly essentialbasement IT team.
These losses were called “synergies”—insensitive, euphemistic business jargon used to create a positive spin on FIRED—where people are told they no longer have a job because the company has to cut costs somewhere and YOU are one of the places we are cutting.
“At least you still have a job!” Was a common refrain. If you did. And in the hallways and lunchroom and restrooms, people speculated when is the “next wave” of layoffs? And who would still be there in a month or two?
Those who remained were expected to be grateful, and not complain if they were supposed to now work harder, take on more responsibility, perform “lower level” tasks, and so on. Which in some bizarro fashion, was really no different than what was expected of the worker bee class (in IT, at least) during “normal” times! If you already worked late, if you already worked on weekends, if you already took late night support calls to assist some executive who forgot his password, or dropped his laptop in a Palm Springs swimming pool, what more could you do? Well, as we shall see, for starters, you could be grateful that you were still able to do all that fun stuff, and maybe? Take out your own trash and use less toilet paper?
Still, after our successful installation journeys to Japan and Taiwan, word got out about those lucky colleagues in the Pacific Rim with their magnificent coffee machines, and for those managers who remained in New Jersey, and as a distraction from the growing crisis, a certain amount of nationalist rivalry ensued. Which brings us finally to what might be re-named, the Decline of Coffee and Toilets in the USA in the Time of the Great Recession.
Not to be outdone by international rivals, our New Jersey Manager of Office Operations, “Nick”, looked for a solution to provide an equivalent coffee service, a way to let the surviving employees know they were appreciated, and that if they needed access to stimulants to stay motivated and carry on with their additional responsibilities, then the COMPANY was behind them.
Before this time, in the U.S. office anyway, there had been no coffee. Strange as that seems. Many years before, we had an old-fashioned “Mister Coffee” in our roomy cafeteria, which was okay, but that had been gone for years. It disappeared about the same time that the large cafeteria was converted into office cubes, and the small locker room was converted into a smaller cafeteria. (Nick was the mastermind of that conversion.)
Some managers discouraged people from leaving the bland, monotonous, grey walled, industrial building with its chemical smells and noise during work hours, but they also considered it “excessive” to provide coffee just to entice employees to stick around. As a result, whole teams, small groups, and individuals frequently escaped on breaks and lunch to get both fresh air and coffee at the local Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks.
Nick was respected by upper management for his cost-cutting. Shortly after the first painful reduction (this is another euphemism, it means job elimination, lay off, mass firing) of one third of the workforce at our location, Nick famously introduced a number of innovations.
• First he canceled the subscription to a bottled spring water service, replacing the bottle-topped coolers with headless “water stations” that filtered the chlorine, and killed the bacteria with UV light. If the employees wanted Spring water, they could find their own spring, but at the office there was tap water that was free of bacteria! No big bottles, no expensive deliveries, no monthly fees for the corporation!
• Nick cut the custodial staff in half, which meant there were two custodians left, who, due to that reduction, discontinued vacuuming floors—except for the offices in the “Executive Suite”—four of which were now conveniently unoccupied from the layoffs. Nick’s improvement also eliminated the daily emptying of trash and recycling receptacles in offices, (except for the Executive Suite). The Director of Operations posted happy little signs around the building reminding the demoralized employees, “It’s your trash, you take it out! 😃” Executives approved.
• Next Nick went after the paper towels in the restrooms, replacing them with a much lighter, thinner, flimsier, and cheaper paper towel. Unfortunately, since the new towels tended to disintegrate on contact with water, two or three times as many towels were required to dry hands, and shredded towel remnants littered the floor. But no worries, the “custodial staff” – she could clean those up.
“Cheaper towels” was praised by Country President, Jureet Wariri, at an all-staff meeting which could now take place (with room to spare) in the small cafeteria, as a brilliant, “outside the box” solution! Wariri challenged the surviving employees to come up with their own ideas and submit them to Nick.
One employee dropped into Nick’s office and suggested that a modified toilet with bidet attachment, or a “Bidet toilet” was not only technically innovative (setting a good example for a high tech company), but also required fewer flushes, much less toilet paper and could save money. The conversation included explanations of the public toilets at the Tokyo office, and the Superlet and similar toilets at the hotels in Taiwan. This unsung employee even pointed out that although the bidet was invented by the French, in fact the “bidet toilet” was invented by an American—and Americans being a fussy, uptight Protestant bunch—it never sold in America, so it had been licensed to a Japanese company! Wouldn’t it be great to bring this American invention back to America?
“Toilet paper? Toilet paper?” Nick thought.
Pointing out why this “bidet thing” would not work—too much investment, too much work, too much change to be asked of any American—Nick dismissed the employee but lingered on one small scrap of the idea. “Toilet paper??” Nick zeroed in on the toilet paper. Riffing off his other paper-themed successes, he hit on theleast popular cost-saving effort yet with the workers, and another “ball out of the park” with management: the switch to a low grade toilet paper. A toilet paper that was coarse, rough, abrasive to the touch, so stiff that it resisted crumpling. It was so cheap and so uncomfortable that spoiled employees would rather wait than use it!!
Once again, this “improvement” was implemented everywhere (but not in the Executive washrooms). The executives continued to use softer toilet paper until their private supply was exhausted, coincidentally, just about the time the financial crisis eased. Among the remaining employees, there was much grumbling about the change, but the abrasive policy persisted. Employees found their own workarounds. Years later it was not uncommon to discover a smuggled roll of soft and durable high quality toilet paper in the back of a filing cabinet or stashed in a bottom desk drawer.
The international challenge was declined in the restroom, but in the lunchroom? Into this newly lean, newly empty lunchroom, Nick introduced not a Keurig, not a Nespresso, and definitely not a “Mr. Coffee”, but in fact a mechanical coffeemaker, similar to the French hotel version, that looked and operated much like the jukebox you might find in the Greek Diner up the road on Route 22. For the first month, employees were offered this stale, bland, watery coffee for FREE. After the trial period, the employee was required to insert coins and pay $.85 to $1.15 (depending on choices made and buttons pushed) for the brown dishwater-like concoction.
On the first potentially fee-producing day, Nick proudly walked into the cafeteria at lunch time for a promotional chat with the staff. Before anyone mentioned the coffee machine, Nick (not a coffee drinker by the way) enthusiastically asked, “Have you tried it? Cappuccino for $1.15! It’s great for our employees! Go ahead, try it!! There is NO REASON to go to Starbucks!!”
Nobody said anything. They wouldn’t want to be ungrateful. People stared at the ground, nodding insincerely. Nick returned to his office to sit in his big chair and look at his bulletin board. He had printed and posted the latest “Email of Praise” from President Wariri, proclaiming Nick a “Thought Leader and True Champion of Company Cost-Cutting, determined to save the company and lead it successfully into the next decade.” This was Nick’s legacy, and he was proud.
Once Nick had left the cafeteria, the employees shuffled out the back door as they always had, piled into their SUVs and drove to the local Starbucks, about two blocks away, to speak freely and have a decent cup of coffee. Neither the Starbucks nor the Dunkin’ Donuts seemed to suffer in the least from the Corporate Coffee Jukebox. If anything, the stores gained some new and regular customers.
And you know the rest. Business gradually returned to the normal boom-and-bust-and-takeover-and-migrate cycle. Some new people were hired, some old employees returned, others were retired. It was pretty much the same. Until Covid. But we’re not going there.
On that first Japan visit, I stayed at the Tokyo Hilton in Shinjuku district. The commute to the office was by shared cab. After a quick breakfast at the hotel, the four of us, shepherded by our new manager from Singapore, piled into a cab procured by the hotel’s taxi valet, a tall, eager young woman in a long grey coat and cap, and zoomed off to the office. Where cartridge coffee was available.
Four in a cab, with little time for the privacy this introvert craves to stay sane. And coffee that was just not so good. Early the next morning, I managed to evade my workmates and happily discovered the reliability and solitude of a Starbucks within walking distance of the hotel. What a relief!
Yes, there are Starbucks in France. Although, not many. I looked for one so I could buy a souvenir mug. Seriously. I’m not big on souvenirs, but having a Starbucks mug from Tokyo, or Paris, or Taipei, I confess, it’s a thing. Anyway, I did get a Paris mug, not far from Notre-Dame, but I never drank Starbucks coffee in France. Still, I don’t have a problem with coffee at Starbucks.
Say what you like, many scorn Starbucks as an American plague like McDonald’s. Whatever. I never drink a “Grandé One Pump Half-caf Soy Pumpkin Latte”. (Though even in the USA I sometimes have to accept a substituted “Café Americano” to get decaf.) I can say that at most Starbucks around the world I order my favorite “Half-caf Iced Coffee” confident that this will be a drink of the same quality and flavor regardless of location, whether the barista is Japanese, Korean, German, or French.
That’s the coffee. Be careful, or you may painfully discover, as I have at least once, the milk, cream, or whatever else you might put in your coffee, is a completely different matter, with special risks.
As I said, I never tasted Starbuck’s coffee in France. Because when I visited Rennes in 2011 and Paris in 2012 a request for a café crème at just about any brasserie or café resulted in a rich, flavorful cup of coffee served with steamed milk or cream, sometimes brewed in an espresso machine, but sometimes in some other mysterious fashion. But always good. I thought. Did I believe this just because I was in France? I’m not sure.
“Well, you know… coffee in Paris is really not very good.”
Really?! I thought, how can you say that? Okay, maybe not the coffee served in a paper cup at the De Gaulle airport, but otherwise I’ve always been pleased with my café creams!
Alas, the decline of coffee and the rise of the machines in France is evident and largely attributable to the ubiquitous prevalence of Keurig-like coffee machines in restaurants and hotels. Especially in hotels.
If they don’t use Keurig-type cartridges in their breakfast buffets, they establish these horrible self-serve, push-button grinding machines. The machines contain a plastic bin of probably stale, low-grade beans, ground on demand, dumped onto a rolling paper filter (reminiscent of the cloth roller towels once prevalent in public restrooms). Tap water pours over the grounds and depending on the buttons pushed, various powdered or liquid additives are mechanically injected into the waiting brew to convert it into a mockery of espresso, cappuccino, or làtte. This unfortunate situation was true of our 2017 stay at hotels in Paris, in Arles, Avignon, and Nice.
We are not fooled.
Though I normally prefer a simple brewed cup, it seemed the only way to get “real coffee” was to explicitly order espresso or cappuccino.
You would think, one might saunter into a café and feel some relief to see a “classic” espresso machine behind the bar. A beautiful work of craftmanship in brass and copper, a small golden eagle perched on top, its wings outstretched. Maybe you’re looking at a Vesubio, a Gaggia, or a La Pavoni. Surely the sight would give you the confidence to order that cappuccino? Beware. Proceed with your order, ONLY if you may observe its actual production. Because to my horror, in a little ocean front café in Nice, in exactly that situation, I did that, ordered, and watched the waiter walk into the kitchen, punch a few buttons, and produce a so-called “cappuccino” from one of those infernal cartridge-loaded, machines while the Gaggia sat idle, cold, unused.
Keeping that in mind, we might even have created a small redemption for buying your coffee at Starbucks, in France. Because at least, it will be real, not cartridge, coffee, and if it’s expresso, you can watch them make it. That’s just about it for coffee in France.
All that’s left now is the question, “Quel genre de toilettes ont-ils en France?” a topic that seems to have attached itself to this long essay like a remora on a Blue Shark. I’ve previously mentioned the ancient urinals that have vanished from the Champs-Élysées. I won’t comment on the weird, uritrottoirs street side, red urinals placed around Paris in 2018 (as far is this memoir is concerned, that’s in the unknown future). Oh sure, in your desperation, you might happen upon a café toilette just off the Rue Mouffetard on your way to the Jardin Des Plantes with nothing but a hole in the floor in a tiny tiled closet, I did, but that’s uncommon. France gave the world the bidet, the precursor to the Superlet and other Asian innovations, and most hotels and many apartments and residences sport bidets, really as something to be taken for granted, not remarked upon.
We flew to Taipei in the morning, and took a cab direct from the airport to the office. Taipei was hotter, more humid, busier, more crowded on the streets and sidewalks, older, less westernized, and appropriately somehow more relaxed than Tokyo. It’s hard to see a country when you spend most of your visit in a corporate office, but those were my first impressions anyway.
My Taiwanese IT counterpart, “Roger”, closer to my age than Tashiki, in glasses, and dressed comfortably for the steamy Taiwan summer weather in an open-collared, short-sleeved yellow plaid shirt and jeans, walked us from the small elevator to the office lobby, where we paused at an empty reception desk. On the wall behind the desk a giant red plexiglass logo reassured us of our unity as citizens of the one same corporation. Roger officially greeted everyone and introduced those who had not yet met. Then looking serious, told us the first important thing.
Explaining as best he could in English, and with the unending patience of someone who has repeated it for the millionth time, that it may seem strange to us and how we do things in America, but if we insist on using toilet paper, it is essential to place the soiled paper in the little trash can, next to the toilet, and not flush it down the toilet. This practice is important because Taipei is a large island city with an old sewage system never designed to handle toilet paper, which should be disposed of in the same manner as regular office paper waste.
Staring at our feet in the lobby, holding suitcases and clunky Dell laptops, and feeling a bit displaced, our team made note of this explanation with a few smirks, and for my part, naïve disbelief. After all, Roger and I had shared several international calls and previous team meetings in New Jersey, and I knew he had a dry sense of humor. I hadn’t traveled much, hadn’t yet taken my first surfing trip to Costa Rica—with its similar infrastructure—and had never traveled anywhere where this requirement was verbalized so clearly. Was he kidding us? I just didn’t know.
Having quickly covered this necessity, Roger was joined by our second local IT host, Mary, with shoulder length dark hair, trim in a blue button down shirt and cotton vest, sleeves folded back, jeans, and deck shoes, she seemed genuinely pleased to see us. After more greetings and introductions (absent the greeting card ritual), she ushered us past the logo and into the main office, a smaller and more informal operation than the one in Tokyo, with a conspicuous number of empty desks—then she respectfully presented the second important announcement.
Clearly, tea preparation was a simple matter, she explained, mastered over several thousand years by this mature culture, but coffee? This was a mystery that required a modern solution. For their staff, and honored coffee-consuming-Western guests, the office had acquired a Chinese—not Japanese—solution to that daunting problem faced by so many non-Americans, that is, how to make a decent cup of coffee. Offering this introduction as she led us to the little kitchen lounge, Mary proudly unveiled a stainless steel mechanical coffee maker next to a steel rack of little gold and red cartridges, which we could access any time that we required or desired our chosen American beverage. Mary demonstrated how the machine worked, telling us with a smile, “Whenever you need coffee, it’s here! You just come and make it!”
Without discussion, our team agreed that this was a clever invention. We pretended to have never seen such an innovation, and expressed our astonishment at the freshly produced cup!
While Mary prepared a second cup, my thoughts drifted. As the IT expert required to manage and edit our email “directory”, I was familiar with every name of every one of the one thousand or so employees globally. Americans, Brits, French, Japanese, Korean, Chinese and Taiwanese. I could usually identify the user’s nationality by their name, but with the Chinese and Taiwanese colleagues it was different.
In Japan, I didn’t think too much about Tashiki’s name. At least, I was pretty confident that was his name. An American in Asia should know that the Japanese introduce themselves, in proper Japanese, first stating their “Family Name” (what Americans call “Last Name”). Except sometimes, in polite deference to English speakers, the Japanese might reverse the normal Japanese order, and present themselves first by “Given” (what Americans call “First Name”) and then “Family” name. In that case—an American, believing he understands the proper and polite Japanese ordering of names, might then refer to his colleague in the opposite fashion, by “Family” name, when trying to refer to him by his “Given” name.
Without making this more confusing than it already is, let me just say that for a year or more I referred to Tashiki as Wakamatsu, until with his usual kindness, he explained that I should probably call him “Tashiki”.
Our Taiwanese colleagues also have formal names, which sometimes appear on their business cards but which were rarely used with English speakers. As a student of T’ai Chi Chuan, I had some understanding that their presentations of names was similar to the Japanese, that is, “Family” name first. Thus T’ai Chi Chuan Master “Jou, Tsung Hua” is respectfully referred to as “Master Jou”. Which may sound like the informal western “Joe”, but is not the same. So, how, I wondered, do our Taiwanese (and Chinese colleagues) acquire first names like “Mary” or “Roger”? Are these their real names?
That evening, our hosts took us to a local seafood restaurant. Seated almost comfortably on a porch, an ocean breeze fanning the palm fronds; my mind stuck in a distant time zone, lulled by twinkling lights and cold beer, I chatted with the colleagues. Placed in front of each guest, a pot of black volcanic rock roiled with boiling water. The wait staff delivered trays layered with a colorful array of fresh, cleaned and prepared—but uncooked—local sea life, vegetables, and herbs. Using metal tongs we selected and dropped the shrimp, fish, octopus, or some other ocean denizen into the pot.
The slow cooking process encouraged conversation and served as a friendly icebreaker after our first day in the office. When cooked to satisfaction, we removed the food, placed it on the plate, added condiments or sauce, and ate—myself creating a minor stir with my unexpected dexterity with chopsticks. (I’m just full of surprises.)
After some back and forth, I decided to query Mary politely, “If it is not rude for me to ask, was “Mary” her “given” name?” (She smiled at this.) “Or, how did she come by it?”
She explained, these names are an accommodation because most Westerners have difficulty (by which she meant, make such a mess of) trying to speak Chinese. At some point late in their professional education or early in their international careers (if they are to work with English-speaking-Westerners) she and her colleagues acquire what they call their “American names”. They are usually ‘christened’ with their “American” name by a “coach” or employment counselor who is engaged in recruiting countrymen for work with foreign companies.
Most of my American colleagues accepted those “American” names without much thought or sensitivity, but to me it always seemed a bit weird, or awkward, like a “stage name”. As if you worked with and were maybe even friends with Reg Dwight, but only ever called him “Elton”. Or when, did you call him “Reg?”
Dinner concluded, our American and British team traversed humid downtown Taipei, now dark, the streets still rushing with the noise of car and scooter traffic. Checking at last into our nearby hotel, exhausted, I noted that although the office loo had what might be called a “plain vanilla” toilet, nevertheless my hotel bathroom sported a very sophisticated model (was it the Superlet?) with at least as many integrated functions as the “add-on” ones in the Tokyo offices.
There was also, of course, a small, classy brass-lidded container for soiled toilet paper, a reminder of the information provided, but as yet unused, much, much earlier in that very long day.
Although to this point I had only a bit of a “sensitive stomach”, I discovered the next morning after arriving at the office, that clearly, I was unaccustomed to something—seafood, radishes, or some unknown spice. Possibly even the cream I used to temper the Iced Coffee from a Starbucks we had discovered nearby.
With two days’ work left in the office, my digestive system initiated a full revolt.
Excusing myself abruptly from numerous meetings, I spent an embarrassingly long amount of time contemplating that first important announcement, “the use and disposal of toilet paper”. From my long, seated meditations, I was grateful for the breeze that continuously blew fresh air into the open window of my seventh floor private office. Now and again a colleague might make his way to the men’s room to ask a technical question about migration of a mail file, or query me on the wording of a memo. Several times I tried to rejoin my colleagues only to excuse myself again and again for another visit to the lavatory. Eventually, I just remained in the stall.
After a long interval, someone brought me an Immodium, which I took, re-appearing briefly to obtain a cup of water, and then trying not to run, I returned to my Fortress of Solitude awaiting relief.
In my stall, things were not so busy. It was peaceful. I became overly familiar with the chiming tower clock at the church behind the office, the cooing of pigeons that landed in the shade of the window ledge, and the playful laughter of the students at recess in the yard of the Catholic school next door, which as far as I could discern from my porcelain throne, could have been the laughter of children anywhere in the world.
Relief came eventually, and I was able to move about, slowly. The next day, I didn’t drink the coffee, tried to stay out of the toilet, and yes, finished installing the new email system.
This time with me working “remotely”, or at least intermittently, we completed our IT Magic. Our migration team returned to the USA, where the economy was teetering, and the local New Jersey Executives grew disturbed with tales of great advances in the creation of coffee in Asia – something that was sorely lacking in our office in New Jersey.
🦠Info and updates for friends and Loved Ones. It’s April 2022. In “Covid Time” that would be: Omicron Variant something-or-other and 2nd Boosters approved. Hospitalizations and deaths falling, infections rising, and most public places and many people giving up on masking and every other safety precaution. I’m watching Shanghai, where the Chinese have tested the entire population, locked down the city, and are about to re-test. What is going on over there??
Speaking of tests, I’ll keep this one very short—
STOP!! Before you throw out that expired Covid test and add one more piece of un-recycled garbage to the overflowing landfill. Take a moment to recall how far we’ve come in the last 2+ years, when we were all washing our hands like crazy, debating the efficacy of masks, and there were no tests, much less vaccines. Read this New York Times article (link below). Because…the expiration date on the test is an estimate. If it is close to the expiration, the test is probably fine. Sometimes it will be fine months after the expiration.
😷 Back to Covid… Surprising at this point with the Delta Variant surge that so many companies are still timid about “mandates” to vaccinate. Microsoft does, most of the other big tech companies only encourage vaccination or require vaccination for people to return to the office. This seems to assume that people want to return to the office, which I think is wrong.
Covid is now a disease of the unvaccinated.639,000 dead at this writing. Fox Media morons are advocating violent overthrow of the government because of masks and vaccines and “the other side” can’t take a stronger stance on enforcing vaccinations and mask mandates? Turn off your TV, get off Facebook, and wake up!! Public Health is not the same as fascism. People are so deluded about what freedom and responsibility and government truly are. There is no “alternate truth”. Freedom is about responsibility and consequences.
Just get vaccinated. If you are in a position to require people to get vaccinated, then do. If you choose not to, that is your choice, and you must deal with the consequences of that choice—your “freedom” may mean losing a job, illness, isolation, and death. It’s not about endangering those around you, and leaving them to pay for your bad decisions.
🦠Info and updates for friends and Loved Ones. It’s May!—April was all about vaccines: J&J single jab on hold, now restored. People neglecting to get their second jab, others still resisting getting their first. Hotspot Michigan wants more vaccine! India overwhelmed and desperate for vaccine and supplies. The GOOD NEWS, with so many vaccinated, most of the USA appears to be waking from the nightmare. States are opening up and the CDC guidelines allow for FVPs to go maskless together, or if outdoors. If you are vaxed, know the rules! (See “Masks” below— When in doubt, wear a mask…you know the drill!)
It’s not over. 695 died today in the USA from Covid.
What You Need to Know About Your Covid-19 Vaccine Card – The New York Times For now, the best way to show that you’ve been inoculated against the coronavirus is a simple white card. Here, your key questions answered. — Read on www.nytimes.com/article/covid-vaccine-card.html
Just sayin’, my second Moderna jab was uneventful.And as many people have expressed, I felt RELIEF. Try not to judge those who have NOT been vaccinated, due to their own fear, caution, ignorance, or misinformation. They are your brothers and sisters, your children, your parents. Maybe you are one of them? Consider getting the Vaccine. Be patient and keep yourself safe and healthy.
Find peace. Seek stillness. Practice your T’ai Chi.
Hang in there!! Stay Healthy #GetVaccinated, and #WearAMask
Info and updates for friends and Loved Ones—It’s no joke, things are getting better! The older folks socially distanced, jibber-jabbering across two tables at the café this morning: A doctor, a fund manager, a former teacher, all retired, all extroverts. They have lots to say. Loudly. Covid and vaccines. They’ve all had at least one shot, most are fully vaccinated. Now they’re comparing notes about their children and grandchildren. Who got which vaccine? J&J? Pfizer? Moderna? “The stuff’s all the same,” says one fellow. “We’re hoping to get back to Europe in the Spring,” says another. “Not looking good for that,” says the female former pharma exec. They briefly debate why New Jersey’s infection rate is so high, why “certain people” won’t or can’t get vaccinated. Is there a genetic susceptability to Covid? “They’re gonna make you laminate your vaccine card, and then when you get the booster, you’ll get an official ‘passport’.” And so on. The tone is cautiously optimistic. Everyone agrees they will still wear masks, especially in public places, and with the important stuff covered… they move on to discussing Major League Baseball and the unusual architecture of Fenway Park.
551,638 (USA) dead at this writing.
Everything Has Changed, Sort of—At last! I’ve received an “invitation to schedule” my vaccine from every site where I was able to get on a list. Remarkably, even the pathetic, trundling, NJ StateProgram offered to schedule me. Some sites are even smart enough to make it easy to cancel, to free up the slot for someone else. There’s enough vaccine. Everyone I know who wanted the vaccine has received the first shot, or is about to. Next week the state makes even more groups eligible including Age 55+.
Communication has improved dramatically—We now have Newsletters, web site, blogs, Twitter feeds, and vastly improved tracking on pages of most major media. I won’t even list them here. (If you need help, see my previous posts.)
Which means, I can step back, I think, and stop trying to curate everything! Is it possible to get back to one page posts? I hope so!—Christo
Many ‘Long Covid’ Patients Had No Symptoms From Their Initial Infection – An analysis of electronic medical records in California found that 32 percent started with asymptomatic infections but reported troubling aftereffects weeks and months later. 03/08/2021— Read on www.nytimes.com/2021/03/08/health/long-covid-asymptomatic.html
Find peace. Seek stillness. Practice your T’ai Chi. All you need to know is in my previous Covid updates: wash hands, (properly) wear a (multi-layer, well-sealed) mask, social distance, isolate, and quarantine if you’re sick or exposed to someone who is, and test – but don’t rely on tests because you can be sick and contagious for 3-5 days before you test positive.
Hang in there!! Stay Healthy and continue to #WearAMask!!
Your goal is to get vaccinated. Mine too!! Call me a “WV” (Wannabe Vaccinated). I am “1B” qualified, and so far am on a bunch of lists, but have not received my first shot. If you aren’t offered a vaccine through your work, and no one else has contacted you to offer you one, then expect to be last on every list. If you don’t want to wait, you can try to get vaccinated. You probably know people who have done this, successfully. Right now, as I write this, it’s unlikely that any vaccine distribution site will actually schedule you, immediately, at the time you contact them. However, if they know what they’re doing and want your business, they will have a waiting list.
This process is in constant flux. It will change. Here’s how:
In a few weeks or a month, not only should there be more vaccine, hopefully slots will open up because the vaccinators have over-estimated the demand because so many of us have signed up on multiple lists! That’s good.
But, it might turn out a few weeks or a month from now, that ALL the people who are trying to get their second shot will be the priority at all the locations, and there still won’t be any appointments for the rest of us. I know, it’s a frustrating mess.
Caveat Lector—The information below will undoubtedly change. Sites will be improved, processes streamlined, all good stuff, I hope. I won’t be chasing those changes. (It’s too much work!!) If you stick to the basic guidelines, you’ll be fine…
To be clear, apply only at sites that will:
🗒 Put you on a waiting list and
📞 Reliably contact youwhen they do have vaccine or
📅 Schedule a vaccination appointment immediately. They should also make it easy to…
📆 Schedule your second visit preferably when you schedule the first visit, or at least, when you get your first injection. (Until the J&J Vaccine becomes available, full immunity REQUIRES TWO INJECTIONS). You want to sign up with a site that is smart enough to schedule you for both. They should not expect you to go through this whole quest all over again for the second shot.
Got it? You can go with that, or read on for more details. We’ll start at the “top”…
The CDC Guidelines— The CDC has set guidelines to prioritize vaccinations for the most important or most vulnerable groups, people who ought to get vaccinated first. Unfortunately, states and distribution sites are inconsistent in applying the guidelines. And, a lot of states have “opened” up vaccinations to lower priority groups long before they’ve received or distributed enough vaccine to the groups that were supposed to be vaccinated first. I can’t change that, President Biden will try, meanwhile I’m just telling it the way it is…
The NJ State Program —In New Jersey (and maybe in other states, but I’m talking about New Jersey here) you can sign up for the state distribution program. They will screen you and let you know whether you are eligible based on state guidelines. Don’t waste your time. Once eligible, they tell you to go find your own vaccine. Which means you have to register somewhere else, and all the distribution sites do their own screening. So skip the state, and get on with your search. (There’s a huge list of sites where you can get vaccinated in New Jersey—you just have to find one with vaccine.) And I have more time-saving advice…
Hunterdon County Health Dept. (My top choice) 🗒📞📅📆—For me, and maybe for you and your county health department, this is the best bet, because after a month of flailing around with “Survey Monkey” and no waiting list, the Hunterdon County Health Dept. has become transparent and organized. They have a list of 5000, confirm that you are on the list via email, “guarantee” if you get on the list you will get vaccine when they have it, sending out notices each Wednesday as they get vaccine, and automatically schedule your second visit when you receive your first shot. Period. Be patient and try to get on their “list of 5000”. https://www.hunterdoncountyvaccine.org/ (908)788-1351
Nobody’s perfect, the Health Department server got overwhelmed on the first day, but I did get a confirmation that I was registered. Be patient!
Hunterdon Health Care, our local Medical Center ? ? ? ?—These guys are a big disappointment. After several previous web-only fiascos, they announced a clinic with dial-in. This began at 8:00 am, with no online access, no waiting list, just call supposedly and schedule an appointment. I made 53 Calls in 30 minutes. Never got through, never spoke to a human. As I’ve said, if they can’t even manage a waiting list, don’t bother. On their web site, it doesn’t even look like they are getting any more vaccine. I’m sure they’ll do better, but when? https://www.hunterdonhealthcare.org/when-can-i-get-the-covid-19-vaccine/
Other Hospitals, Medical Facilities—By word of mouth, I heard about several sites that seemed to be organized, maintain lists, and actually vaccinate people. Of course, by the time you hear about these, so have thousands of other WV’s . Although I’m still waiting, for all my readers in Beautiful Western Central New Jersey, I will share my secrets:
St. Luke’s University Health Network 🗒📞📅📆 —Headquartered in Bethlehem, PA, they do serve clients from New Jersey and have a location in Philipsburg, NJ. Sign in to their “My Chart” program, they maintain a list and they will stay in touch after you pre-register for the Covid vaccine. I know people who succeeded in getting vaccinated here. https://www.slhn.org/
Virtua Health 🗒📞📅 ?—Virtua runs the Moorestown “Mega Site”, the only one I list here. After experiencing the frustration of some of the more inept sites (see CVS and Rite Aid, below), this one will give you confidence. I know several people who have been vaccinated there after signing on to the list on this web site. https://www.virtua.org/services/covid19-vaccine-info
CVSPharmacy ? ? 📅📆—This sounds like a great idea! Search for the first dose by trying different locations until you find a pharmacy with timeslots available. Then, immediately try to schedule. Whoops! If you ‘re not fast enough, the open slots disappear, and now you have to search for another location! If you actually get an appointment, they “hold” that slot for you, Hooray!!
But you must schedule your second dose before they even take your name! You must go through the process again, locate a pharmacy with vaccine, quickly select a time, and click the [Continue Scheduling] button.
Almost there!! And you wait. And wait. And nothing happens. The site seems to be locked up. But what about all those timeslots they are holding?? Sorry…
Remember: they don’t have any of your information yet. If you click [Cancel], or refresh the web page, or click the browser “back” button….POOF!! It’s all gone, and you have to start over. That happened to me twice! And I gave up. This is just BAD DESIGN. The Good News is that when CVS doesn’t have any available slots, you can’t even search for a location—at least they save you the trouble. No list. (Psst: Someone told me if you go on at 4 AM, you might find some open spots. Have at it!!) www.cvs.com/immunizations/covid-19-vaccine
Rite-Aid Pharmacy ? ? 📅📆—This sure sounds like a great idea! Another convenient pharmacy with vaccinations! When CVS doesn’t have vaccine, they don’t ask you to pick a store and see if there are appointments. BUT that’s exactly how the Rite Aid site works! Enter your location, and they’ll give you a list of ten nearby stores. Then, you have to pick one, to see if it has vaccine. You have to go through the whole search to discover there is no vaccine available. BAD DESIGN. If successful, they will schedule the second appointment right away. Nothing available AFAICT, but I hear a rumor today that you should try at 5 AM. 🙂 If you get an appointment, let me know!! http://ritea.id/newjersey
Remember that every site screens you for eligibility? On the Rite Aid site, if your medical condition isn’t on their list, DO NOT select “None of the Above”. Do that, you will be immediately considered “not eligible”.
Walgreen’s Pharmacy 🗒 ? ? ?—This sure sounds like a great idea! Another convenient pharmacy with vaccinations! You have to sign up with Walgreen’s and/or download their app before they will even tell you if they have vaccine available. They get you on their list before you get any information. Pretty clever!! I will just say, no vaccine, no list, no thank you. Your mileage may vary. https://www.walgreens.com/findcare/vaccination/covid-19?ban=covid_vaccine_landing_schedule
? ? ? ? —Shoprite Pharmacy—This sure sounds like…oh never mind. I wasn’t going to include Shoprite, because after having vaccine early on, now they don’t seem to have any at all. At least they don’t make you wait online or bother with a list. They just tell you, “We don’t have any, all slots are taken.” https://vaccines.shoprite.com
So there you have it Christo’s helpful summary of the current status of getting a vaccine in New Jersey (and elsewhere in the USA). Remember the basics, be patient and do your T’ai Chi. If you haven’t had enough already, I’ve included links to more vaccine info with suggestions and guidance. Good luck, Stay Healthy, and Keep Wearing a Mask!!
Vaccine Articles and References:
🦠 FLASH!! – THIS JUST IN‼️ (FEB. 25, 2021) VaccineFinder.Org (CDC)— The CDC now supports a “curation” site that pulls much of this COVID Vaccine info together in one place. My impression is it might save you a little time, but results in a “tease” – informing you that CVS in Trenton has vaccine, but when you click the [Schedule] button, you get the same “No Appointments Available” result that comes up when you go direct to their web site… Give it a try. https://vaccinefinder.org/
Info and updates for friends and Loved Ones— It’s a new year and for many of us a brand new day. 🙏🏻 In the USA we now have an actual national leader who believes in science and cooperating with state and local governments to save all our citizens and defeat Covid. He even has a plan. Imagine! Unfortunately it’s going to take months to enact an actual plan and weed out the ineptitude, indifference, stupidity, and magical thinking that have characterized much of our country’s response so far. The irresponsible and arrogant will refuse to wear masks or take other precautions. People will continue to get sick, and to die.
418,000 dead at this writing.
How long can this go on?? Longer. Quite a bit longer. Last month I wrote: “…people, friends, loved ones, businesses big and small, are going to be having a very hard time at least into the summer of 2021.” I’ll stand by that.
The short summary is this:
1)Masks, Social Distancing, hand washing, and all that sensible stuff – CONTINUES TO BE EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. In fact, with the new more transmissable variant(s) of Covid, now is the time to double down on proper and careful mask use — wear multi-layer masks, wear N95s, and be sure you’re wearing the mask properly, not “chin diaper” or “mask slipping” like Bill Clinton, and other men. 2) Get the Vaccine if you can. But you probably can’t. Be patient. Try not to judge those who have been vaccinated, seemingly by their own devious means, when others are more vulnerable. Be patient.
I signed up for the vaccine— In my case, I got an email stating that I am “on the list” for “Phase 1B” (see the chart below). In other words, I am qualified as an “essential worker” BUT it would be some time before I could get a vaccine. A week or two after that, I got another email, notifying me that I can now schedule a vaccination! EXCEPT, there is no vaccine and no appointments for which they can schedule me. BUT I might also be able to get a vaccination at one of the local medical centers, or Shoprite supermarket pharmacy, or local Health Department, or even through my employer if it’s in healthcare, all of which (apparently) get their own supplies of vaccine. (There’s a huge list of sites where you can get vaccinated in New Jersey—you just have to find one with vaccine.) I called, and checked web sites to find out… there is no vaccine! Does this sound like a cluster f***? Because it clearly is.
I’m sure it will change and get better, but until then? I can wait to receive an email from the state program, or I can keep checking the sites on the list. As I said, be patient.
Find peace. Seek stillness. Practice your T’ai Chi. All you need to know is in my previous Covid updates: wash hands, (properly) wear a (multi-layer, well-sealed) mask, social distance, isolate, and quarantine if you’re sick or exposed to someone who is, and test – but don’t rely on tests because you can be sick and contagious for 3-5 days before you test positive.
CVS Pharmacy COVID Vaccine (COVID-19 Immunization Updates) – This is great, but for now, only if you live in IN, MA, NY, and PR. I hope that eventually getting a vaccine will be easy at any CVS, anywhere! Let CVS help guide you through everything you need to know about the coronavirus vaccine. Get all your questions answered and learn how to schedule your vaccine online or through the CVS Pharmacy® app once available! — Read on www.cvs.com/immunizations/covid-19-vaccine
European countries mandate medical-grade masks over cloth face coverings – President Biden has enacted a mask mandate for all federal properties, public transit, airlines, and elsewhere. But some countries now have even stricter mask requirements… Confronting new, more transmissible variants of the coronavirus and a winter spike in infections, a number of European countries are beginning to make medical-grade face masks mandatory in the hope that they can slow the spread of the disease. 2021/01/22 — Read on www.cnn.com/2021/01/22/europe/europe-covid-medical-masks-intl/index.html
What If You Never Get Better From Covid-19?— We’ve looked at “Long Covid” before. There are a couple of articles in this week’s NYT Magazine.Some patients could be living with the aftereffects for years to come. Recent research into another persistent, mysterious disease might help us understand how to treat them. 2021/01/21 — Read on www.nytimes.com/2021/01/21/magazine/covid-aftereffects.html