COVID-19: What can I, personally, do to help?

I think we’ve all read enough about the coronavirus pandemic to take it seriously.  We have no idea what the infection rate, survival rate, etc. are going to be, apart from broad parameters;  we can only go by the information available to us, and much of that information is suspect.  However, the trend is ominous.  (The statistics at the link will update daily;  the graphic below was accurate at the time of writing.) The powers that be are taking a pessimistic view, and implementing increasingly draconian measures to slow down the spread of the virus – no matter how disruptive those

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Sometimes the blows come at the worst possible time

A friend’s wife, Valerie Richardson, has just been through a harrowing experience – and at the worst possible time, with the coronavirus pandemic already disrupting lives, work and income. A couple of weeks ago, Valerie was feeling ill and went to bed with what she and her husband thought was the flu. A few days later he took her to the emergency room to find out she had pneumonia. She was transferred first to Via Christi Hospital in Pittsburg, Kansas, and then to the KU Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas. She has since undergone thoracic surgery to help her breathe better.

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Shangani Patrol – the movie

Last Saturday I put up a snippet from Frederick Russell Burnham‘s book, “Scouting on Two Continents“. The excerpt concerned the famous Shangani Patrol, that was wiped out in a legendary “last stand” fight against the Matabele tribe in 1893.  In colonial Rhodesia the incident was regarded in the same light as the last stand at the Alamo in Texas, or that of the three hundred Spartans at Thermopylae. In 1970 a feature film was made on location about the incident, called simply “Shangani Patrol“.  I remember it as being a bit too unquestioningly patriotic for my taste (given that at the time, white

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No, it doesn’t figure

The BBC points out that the so-called “gambler’s fallacy” has never worked, and never will.  It’s a mathematical calculation that many don’t understand. … a reasoning flaw called the “gambler’s fallacy” [is] a worryingly common error that can derail many of our professional decisions, from a goalkeeper’s responses to penalty shootouts in football to stock market investments and even judicial rulings on new asylum cases. To find out if you fall for the gambler’s fallacy, imagine you are tossing a (fair) coin and you get the following sequence: Heads, Heads, Tails, Tails, Tails, Tails, Tails, Tails, Tails, Tails, Tails, Tails. What’s the

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Saturday Snippet: Between silk and cyanide

One of the most remarkable autobiographies to come out of World War II was that of Leo Marks, who became the code specialist for Special Operations Executive (SOE), the clandestine operations department set up by Winston Churchill with the directive to “set Europe ablaze”.  SOE supplied arms, money and operators to resistance movements all over occupied Europe and throughout the Far East.  It made many mistakes and experienced many failures, but grew into a massive organization that made a measurable contribution to victory. Many years after the war, Marks wrote about his SOE experiences.  He battled for almost a decade to get

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“Respect mah authoritah” – or else!

A lot of old-school “peace officers” of my acquaintance are quietly (some not so quietly) vitriolic about modern “law enforcement officers” and their approach to their profession.  The former complain that the latter are all too often bureaucratic, hide-bound and rigidly by-the-book in the way they do their job, with little or no room for human considerations.  I tend to agree, based on my experience as a prison chaplain and my (frequent) contact with law enforcement in that capacity.  The human element appears to have become less and less important, and the autocratic, even arrogant approach appears to dominate.  (Not

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The Superbowl, sex, and society

Like millions of other Americans, I watched Super Bowl 54 last night.  The game itself was good, with two teams going at it for all they were worth.  Since I didn’t have a favorite to support, I was able to enjoy the game overall, and support the sport rather than a tribal favorite participant.  The Kansas City Chiefs won, but that was only clinched in the last quarter of the game.  Up until then, their opponents, the San Francisco 49ers, could have won as well – both teams were very evenly matched.  Congratulations to both sides. What really saddened me – and

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“The big hand is on the 12, and the little hand . . . “

It seems our digital era is causing yet another casualty. It has long been a rite of passage for young children; the moment they first begin to grasp how to tell the time as their parents patiently explain the significance of the “big hand” and the “little hand”. But the ubiquity of mobile phones and tablets, with their digital 24-hour clock, is threatening to make the art of telling the time from a traditional timepiece redundant. So much so that a school in Scotland has found that pupils as old as 13 are unable to tell the time from the ‘analogue’

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Sunday morning music

This morning’s post is by way of a eulogy for Neil Peart, late drummer and lyricist for Canadian rock band Rush.  He died of brain cancer a few days ago. It’s almost impossible to praise too highly Peart’s contribution to rock music, and the role of percussion instruments in that genre.  He won no less than 38 awards from Modern Drummer magazine.  He won the “Best Rock Drummer” award every year from 1980-1986, and had to be taken off the nominee list and given his own emeritus mention, just so that others could have a chance at the title!  In his obituary, the magazine

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You think you’re tough? Try removing your own appendix!

I recently came across a fascinating article about a Russian doctor who cut out his own appendix, after being left with no alternative. During an expedition to the Antarctic, Russian surgeon Leonid Rogozov became seriously ill. He needed an operation – and as the only doctor on the team, he realised he would have to do it himself. . . . Rogozov was part of the sixth Soviet Antarctic expedition – a team of 12 had been sent to build a new base at the Schirmacher Oasis. The Novolazarevskaya Station was up and running by the middle of February 1961, and with their mission complete the group

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