[PLUG-TALK] Porches, masks, COVID, and enjoyment

Keith Lofstrom keithl at kl-ic.com
Mon Jul 20 17:59:17 PDT 2020

On Sun, Jul 19, 2020 at 05:01:34PM -0700, John Jason Jordan wrote:
> There is a sidewalk in front of my house on which someone walks by
> about once an hour. My front porch is about 30 feet back from the
> sidewalk. I sometimes sit on my front porch to read or just watch the
> world. So far I have not bothered with a mask on my front porch. Am I
> one of the males classed as stupid? How far away do you have to be to
> make mask usage unnecessary?

There is no 100%/0% boundary.  I treat this like a lottery,
small chance of "winning" per ticket, many opportunities to
buy a ticket, at many different prices.  You aren't buying
a bunch of tickets on your porch, but you are buying a few.
Fewer than the maskless morons at Crown Point last night.

Another way to think about this is "minutes" and "parts per
million".  Actuarial statistics suggest I can expect about
five million more useful waking minutes in my life.  When
I avoid a single part-per-million risk of death, that is
worth a large fraction of five minutes each time I avoid it.  

You have fewer minutes, perhaps.  You also have bigger risks.
So count your parts per million, and minutes, in tens.  You
also know how to make every minute ten times more enjoyable
than a callow youth; otherwise, what is maturity for?

When I'm out, I wear both a mask and a plastic face shield.
The only problem with my top-vented face shield is that it
becomes scratched, and difficult to see through when faced
towards the Sun.  Sans glare, I forget the shield is there,
until I absentmindedly try to touch my face.  Then I stop,
reminded, with a rueful chuckle.  Good training!


If I had a nice porch in an urban neighborhood like you,
I would wear both mask and face shield during errands,
but just the shield sitting on my porch. 


COVID-19 is an RNA virus and mutates fast; more infections,
more opportunities to mutate.  I've read journal papers
about COVID genetics suggesting it is "non-optimal", still
close to its bat origins, so it hasn't yet stumbled across
optimum genomes for maximum spread among humans.  SARS, in
the same coronavirus family, is 30% lethal.

That is evidence that COVID isn't an intentional bioweapon.
Not yet.  But it could accidentally evolve to be far worse
for humans.  "Evolution is smarter than you are", as savvy
biologists frequently remind themselves.

Hence, it is wise to encourage the habits and discover the
opportunities you will need during that far more dangerous
time.  Which could emerge years from now, or mere weeks. 

The "COVID mutation clock" is proportional to the number
of infections past and present, not calendar time, so as
this monster infects vastly more of the world and the US,
the mutation clock will accelerate.  Statistics, public
health suggestions, and government mandates will fall far,
far behind emerging new realities.  Agility is essential.

But we must not live in fear.  Ignorant rednecks assuage
their fears by brandishing weapons and rejecting masks;
that does not intimidate biological reality.  I address my
fears by learning about biological reality (magnificent!)
and preparing a large and varied toolkit of responses. 
COVID is relentless but it is unintelligent.  If we
can't outsmart a damned virus, we don't deserve to live.  

And if we don't consciously savor our living minutes,
there's no point.  Your porch, with a broken arm and
a beautiful sunset, is vastly better than oblivion.
I enjoy imagining your pleasure.

"If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution".
-- Emma Goldman (attributed)



P.S.  You are adept with home improvements.  If you have
central HVAC, you can insert a germicidal ultraviolet
sterilization lamp into your HVAC return duct.  We bought
this UV duct lamp from Amazon and installed it in March:


The D200 with the ozone filter are scarce now, gone at
Amazon, and will be completely unavailable soon.  Locate
and buy one now; install it when your arm is better and
you can enjoy your handiwork.  Buy replacement lamps, too.
Further important suggestions off-list.

Keith Lofstrom          keithl at keithl.com

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