SUNNYSIDE UP: Meditation on “The BeZine” from the edge eternity!

A sensitive soul speaks to us …

The BeZine

One Lifetime After Another

one day, you’ll see, i’ll come back to hobnob
with ravens, to fly with the crows at the moment
of apple blossoms and the scent of magnolia ~
look for me winging among the white geese
in their practical formation, migrating to be here,
to keep house for you by the river …

i’ll be home in time for the bees in their slow heavy
search for nectar, when the grass unfurls, nib tipped ~
you’ll sense me as soft and fresh as a rose,
as gentle as a breeze of butterfly wings . . .

i’ll return to honor daisies in the depths of innocence,
i’ll be the raindrops rising dew-like on your brow ~
you’ll see me sliding happily down a comely jacaranda,
as feral as the wind circling the crape myrtle, you’ll
find me waiting, a small gray dove in the dovecot,

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Curiosity

“Curiosity” rover on Mars

There are no answers without questions. Somebody must ask a question first. Not all questions have answers. Not all answers are correct, accurate, or true. Not all answers found to be correct today are guaranteed to be correct tomorrow or the next day; however, there are no answers that weren’t preceded by a question, hypothesis, or conjecture.

And the impetus for asking questions is most probably curiosity. Blessed are those who are curious. Without curiosity we would still be sitting around in caves in Africa (not that there’s anything wrong with living in Africa), instead of exploring every inch of land and every ocean, lake, and river on earth, and launching spaceships to the moon, Mars, and beyond.

I know, I know. They say “Curiosity killed the cat” but they go on to say “satisfaction (that is, getting a satisfactory answer to the question) brought it back.”

So much for old sayings.

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Sun Tzu and the Art of War against Corona

Corona, or to be more precise, SARS-CoV-2 and Covid-19, have often been referred to as “the enemy” and many of those tasked with “fighting” the virus and the disease have often said “we are at war”. Although there are major differences between the Corona SARS-CoV-2 virus and our usual enemies, like the virus is not a living thing and it’s so small that it is invisible to except to electron microscopes (it is about one thousandth of a cell in size), certain advantages might be derived by attacking this “enemy” as we would our usual enemies.

Sun Tzu was not only a theoretician. He was also a battle-tested general. Sun Tzu wrote “The Art of War” in 500 B.C. It is the oldest military treatise in the world and whose principles are still relevant today.

Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” dealt with thirteen areas of expertise:

  1. Laying plans
  2. Waging war
  3. Attack by stratagem
  4. Tactical dispositions
  5. Use of energy
  6. Weak and strong points
  7. Maneuvering an army
  8. Variation of tactics
  9. The army on the march
  10. Classification of terrain
  11. The Nine Situations
  12. Attack by fire
  13. Use of spies

So, what might Sun Tzu say about waging war against Corona?

Laying plans

Sun Tzu said there are five constant factors that must be considered in determining the conditions obtaining in the battlefield:

  1. Moral Law
  2. Heaven
  3. Earth
  4. The Commander
  5. Method and Discipline

Moral Law

Sun Tzu stated that moral law causes the people to be in accord with their leader, so that they will follow him or her into battle regardless of the personal danger.

Unfortunately, the resource of moral law has been untapped by many leaders in our time, but the effect of moral law would be indisputable. It would mean the difference between chaos and concerted action. The interpretation of what is moral has changed over time and according to place, but I would venture the following interpretation: “moral” is what benefits the most people and harms the fewest.

If a political leader is perceived as serving his own personal interests or the personal interests of a select few, then he will have great difficulty in asking his people to sacrifice their own personal interests.

Heaven

By “heaven”, Sun Tzu meant the celestial things and events (night and day, cold and heat, times, and seasons) that influence our actions and those of our enemy on earth. Applying this to SARS-CoV-2 and Covid-19, we might interpret “heaven” to be the time of day we are most or least likely to be exposed by our behaviors to the virus, the impact of environmental temperature on the virus, the potential significance of body temperature as an indicator of Covid-19, the holidays and cultural or social events which cause us to congregate and spread the disease, and the seasonal impact on the virus and its epidemiology.

Earth

By “Earth”, Sun Tzu meant distances, great and small, risk and security, open ground and narrow passes, and chances of life and death. We might well apply these factors to social distancing, open and closed spaces, wearing masks and other protective apparel, and primary and secondary risks of exposure to and spreading the disease as well as primary and secondary impacts of the disease on different groups of people. Risk is not just the probability of something happening; it is also the impact that it will have if it does happen. The probability that you will be infected by SARS-CoV-2 is similar to the probability of infection by any other virus (around 5%) but the impact of being infected by SARS-CoV-2 is death for over 70% of people over the age of 70. Impacts from SARS-CoV-2 range from having no or only light symptoms, to moderate symptoms (like influenza), to severe symptoms causing irreversible damage to internal organs), to death. Even asymptomatic people can spread infection to others with differing impacts.

The Commander

Sun Tzu expected the commander to possess the virtues of wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage, and strictness. What would he say about our current batch of political leaders, ministers, chiefs, and commanders?

I can only say that if the one in command is lacking in one or more of these virtues the battle will be lost before it begins.

Method and Discipline

Sun Tzu emphasized the importance of organizing the army into subdivisions in accordance with the goals, objectives, and tasks required to wage the war; the gradations of ranks among officers; the logistics and infrastructure needed to support the army; and the control of expenditure allocated to the military effort.

We might read this as follows: the leader sets the overall goals which will represent the measures of success; e.g., to defeat the enemy as quickly and completely as possible, while defending us from any and all enemy actions. The military commander accepts the goals set by the leader and breaks them down into objectives to be achieved and means of objectively measuring success. He then assigns those objectives to officers who will further break them down into tasks within time, budget, personnel, and logistic constraints, while facilitating and coordinating the operations among officers such that they do not interfere with each other.

In the war against Corona, who is the leader, what is the army, who are the officers, and who are the soldiers? The leader is the president, the prime minister, perhaps the state governor (in the case of the USA), or whoever or whatever is head of the government. The government might be a democracy, a monarchy, or a dictatorship. Each form of government has its strengths and weaknesses. The army might be one of the military arms of the country, a civilian segment of the economy (hospitals, government ministry, police, etc.), or a combination of both military and civilian segments working in concert. The officers might be military or police officers, but they also might be administrators, project managers, and doctors. The soldiers would be those on the front lines: the nurses, the paramedics, the lab technicians, the researchers, the social workers, the hotline operators, the ambulance drivers, etc.

Sun Tzu warned us that there can be no success without extensive planning and calculations. That is not to say that plans should never be changed or that recalculations will not be required along the way.

Waging war

Sun Tzu said that wars are expensive and should be adequately financed before embarking on them. He went on to say that once war is declared, the commander should strike immediately without waiting for every last detail to be taken care of. He also said that there is no advantage in waging a long and protracted war. Finally, he said that the soldiers must be highly motivated and adequately rewarded for their efforts on behalf of the mission.

Interpreting for Corona is not much of a stretch. A war waged against Corona will also be very expensive and will require an extraordinary budget that will impact all non-essential line items, requiring sacrifices from every other governmental activity. All branches of government will be on an emergency footing. The soldiers and the people cannot tolerate such a state for long.

Attack by stratagem

Sun Tzu said that if you know your enemy and yourself, you will win a hundred battles; if you know yourself but not your enemy, you will lose as many battles as you win; and if you know neither the enemy nor yourself, then you will lose every battle.

To know yourself is to know your leader, your officers, your soldiers, and your citizens; to know their strengths and their weaknesses. To know your enemy is to know their leader, their officers, their soldiers, and their citizens; to know their strengths and their weaknesses.

To know ourselves, we must know which people have been exposed, which are infected, which are asymptomatic, which are pre-symptomatic, which are super spreaders, and which are more likely to require critical care. To know our enemy, we must know before an infected person infects others, which proteins and which genes differentiate it from our own cells, which antibodies are most effective against SARS-CoV-2, and how long can our bodies retain immunity against SARS-CoV-2.

Tactical dispositions

Sun Tzu said that a good fighter first puts himself in a position where he cannot be defeated. Then he waits for an opportunity to defeat the enemy. Security against defeat implies defensive tactics. Defeating the enemy requires offensive tactics.

A good defense against SARS-CoV-2 might be a medicine that could ameliorate the symptoms and/or the impact of Covid-19. Minimal defenses or stop-gap measures might include wearing masks over mouth and nose, hand washing for 20 seconds, and/or maintaining social distancing of 6 feet or more.

A good offense would be a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2.

Weak and strong points

In seeking the enemy’s weakness, Sun Tzu said to rouse him and learn the principle of his activity or inactivity. Force him to reveal himself in order to find out his vulnerable spots.

With respect to Corona, we need to know the virus’ strengths (how long it can survive and under what conditions, whether it can strike multiple times, how it attacks us and how it hides from us) in order to know what we are up against. We need to know its weaknesses (how we can prevent its spread among us, how we can minimize the damage it causes us, how we can train our immune system to recognize it, what antibodies or other means can be brought to bear against it).

We can only accomplish this by research, tests, and more research and tests.

Classification of terrain

Sun Tzu wrote about which kinds of terrains (fields, rivers, mountains, valleys, etc.) favor the enemy and which favor you, and how to maneuver in each one.

When battling Corona, open spaces favor us and closed spaces favor the virus. Narrow passes may not allow for social distancing unless we go through them one at a time. Bodies of water do not appear to favor the virus. The virus is capable of remaining potent (virulent) on certain surfaces which, if touched, may allow a vector into our bodies. The virus may be able to float in the air for hours at a time (this has yet to be definitively proven).

Use of spies

Sun Tzu said, “what enables the wise sovereign and the good general to strike and conquer, and to achieve things beyond the reach of ordinary men, is foreknowledge.” He explained that such foreknowledge may only be obtained by spying.

To spy is to gain knowledge of the enemy. In the case of Corona, the spies are our researchers, lab technicians, epidemiological investigators and, yes, that piece of spyware you knowingly or unknowingly installed on your smartphone, which tracks your movements via GPS and correlates them with the movements of others who have been diagnosed with CoViD-19.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus can hide inside our bodies without causing visible or obvious symptoms for up to 14 days, while replicating and spreading its viral payload to others around us after only 4-5 days. If we only test people who complain of Covid-19 symptoms, they may already have infected quite a few others as many as 10 days before the test results were received.

IMHO we need to take the initiative and test everyone or test randomly, and provide test results (positive or negative) within an hour or less and with at least 90% reliability. Some people (care providers) will have to be tested several times per day.

Otherwise, we are just flailing our arms in the dark, unable to land a solid punch.

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Uncertainty

We live in uncertain times. We have always lived in uncertain times, even when we thought things were certain, sometimes they turned out not to be certain. Sometimes, they turned out to be something other than what we thought.

Some times are more uncertain than other times. Some times seem less uncertain than other times.

Living in uncertain times just means that you can’t always count on what you know to get you through the uncertainty. It’s like driving into a thick fog. You can’t continue driving at the same speed you did when the road was clear and well-lit. You have to slow down, sometimes to a crawl, and to be prepared for anything that might suddenly appear without warning.

Living in uncertain times also means that there are no experts on whom to rely to guide you. There are lots of people with opinions or wishful thinking who will tell you what to do. Some of them are even scientists who might be willing to tell you the partial results of some preliminary test or conjecture that has yet to be peer-reviewed.

The thing is, even though there are no experts yet to guide us through the global uncertainty of the Novel Corona virus and Covid-19, for instance, scientists are more reliable to guide us than politicians or our usual drinking buddies, since scientists are better trained in the relevant professions and they have access to better resources to whittle down the uncertainties.

In times of great uncertainty, the most prudent course of action is to proceed with small steps, testing as you go to see what works well and what doesn’t, and trying to change what didn’t work so well.

It is unreasonable to expect our political leaders to proceed through times of uncertainty, as though he/she were certain. When a political leader succumbs to the temptation of pretending he’s certain about the correct course of action when he is anything but certain, it is because he/she believes that is what we expect.

And that is tantamount to driving into heavy fog without taking your foot off the gas pedal.

Good luck with that.

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From Zero to Infinity

I want to say something rather important about rationality versus irrationality.

We all know that rationality is looking at the available facts and then drawing conclusions based on those facts, making a quick calculation of the value or chances of something in your head or on a paper napkin, or responding to something in a proportionate manner.

Irrationality is pretty much the opposite. It’s jumping to conclusions based on God-knows-what, the inability to calculate the value or chances of something, thinking it’s nothing or everything, or responding disproportionately.

Now it probably seems like rationality would always be desirable while irrationality would never be desirable, but rationality can only take you so far.

Take the set of finite numbers for example. In theory, you could count forever but you would never be able to count to infinity. The same goes for infinity: you could try counting backwards forever from infinity, but you would never reach any finite numbers. That’s in spite of the fact (or maybe because of it) that there’s an infinite number of finite numbers. You could draw a straight line that’s exactly six inches long, but there will always be an infinite number of points on that line.

Another example: sometimes we are faced with problems that are so complex that they are beyond our abilities to reckon, calculate, or solve them. Sometimes we are outnumbered, outweighed, outgunned, or we don’t have time or enough information to solve a problem.

Sometimes rationality persuades us that there is no solution to a problem. It’s like we are on a deserted island, the solution is on another deserted island, and there’s an ocean of impossibility between the two islands.

I’m not going to tell you that love, trust, belief, faith, inspiration, courage, or luck will solve any and all problems that rationality fails to solve. Neither is the list meant to be inclusive. Notice all the items on the list are irrational. Sometimes irrationality is not only an appropriate response – it’s the only possible response, if you are to survive, solve the problem, attract your Significant Other, make a friend, write a novel or a poem, save your buddies or yourself, or win the lottery.

Perhaps the rational thing to do is to realize when you’ve reached the limits of what rationality can achieve and then put it away temporarily so that your irrationality can try its hand. Hopefully, your irrationality will return the keys to the kingdom once it is no longer needed. If not, it might help to count to ten.

At least you don’t have to count to infinity.

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Policy in the Time of Corona: A Correction!

Since writing the following post, I’ve come across important information from the New York Times (Younger Adults Make Up Big Portion of Coronavirus Hospitalizations in U.S.) suggesting that critical illness, irreparable damage to the lungs, and even death can occur among adults of any age.

Therefore my policy suggestion to allow low-impact healthy people to acquire natural immunity to the new Corona virus while protecting high-impact (relatively high-risk of death) people until a vaccine or other treatment can be discovered, tested, and distributed to all is not viable and might lead to disastrous results as in Italy and the UK.

These are the facts so far:

  1. All adults are at risk of becoming critically ill or dying.
  2. The risks are even greater for people 70+ years old.
  3. People with coronary problems, diabetes, cancer, and/or smokers are more at risk than people 70+ years old.
  4. The rate of infection from Covid-19 (Coronavirus) doubles every 2-3 days. In the numbers will seem insignificant, then a week or two later the numbers will leap frighteningly until half the population are infected and then the infection rate will continue to grow but more slowly until it finally runs its course.
  5. It takes 2-14 days before a person infected by Corona begins to show symptoms. That means a person may think he is healthy but directly or indirectly infect people for up to 14 days before he knows he is sick. That’s up to 16,384 people.

“Until the virus runs its course” means until a treatment is discovered, tested, produced, and distributed to the population or until 66-70% of the population has been infected.

The following are the policies or strategies different countries have adopted to deal with Corona:

  1. Shutdown all business and services but the ones we can’t live without and order all people to stay at home. What about the homeless? This is not a viable long-term strategy: big and small businesses will bankrupt, most people will be unemployed, and government services will break down at all levels. People will panic.
  2. Close off all borders (air, sea, and land): first national, then state, then city, and then neighborhoods. People may resist or attempt to sneak through.
  3. Ensure hospital staff and service providers have adequate protective gear (biohazard suits, gloves, and N95 masks). If doctors or nurses become infected, they won’t be able to treat the influx of patients. Patients and their families will panic.
  4. Make sure hospitals are equipped with enough isolation rooms, beds, and respirators to handle the leap in numbers of infected populace who cannot self-medicate or are critically ill. Otherwise, staff will have to decide which patients to treat. Italy didn’t have enough respirators, so they had to take them from older patients and give them to younger patients. The older patients died without the respirators.
  5. Test hospital staff and service providers for Covid-19/Corona. How often?
  6. Test people who were quarantined for Covid-19/Corona to determine whether they can be released.
  7. Test the general population for Covid-19/Corona. How often?
  8. Test people who think they might have Corona symptoms.
  9. Same as #1 but make it voluntary instead of mandatory. Try to “flatten the curve” by slowing down the rate of infection in the population by increasing the stringency of policy measures over time. This might allow the government, hospitals, and critical services to ramp up their resources in time for the inevitable onslaught of infected people, but only if the government, hospitals, and critical services utilize that time and not just “buy time”.
  10. Same as #2 but monitor movements rather than controlling them.
  11. Do nothing about it. Try to cover it all up. China did that from November 15 until December 30. The truth will out. People will stop answering the phone. Bodies will start piling up in the streets.

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My #Channillo poetry series, "The Uncollected Poetry of Mike Stone" is also up and running!

My #Channillo poetry series, “The Uncollected Poetry of Mike Stone” is also up and running! You’ll get a poem a day from my 5 books: Uncollected Works, Yet Another Book of Poetry, Bemused, Call of the Whippoorwill, & Hoopoe’s Call..
Just click here: https://channillo.com/…/the-uncollected-poetry-of-mike-sto…/
The first installment is free, then only $4.99/month for unlimited subscriptions!

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My #Channillo sci-fi series, "The Rational Series" is up and running!

My #Channillo sci-fi series, “The Rational Series” is up and running! You’ll get a chapter a week from my four novels: Tin Man, Rats and Saps, Whirlpool, & Out of Time.
Just click here: https://channillo.com/series/the-rational-series/
First installment is free, then only $4.99/month for unlimited subscriptions!

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When You Touch, a poem by Mike Stone from his collection, Call of the Whippoorwill

Jamie Dedes honored my poem and me on her lovely poetry platform!

Jamie Dedes' THE POET BY DAY Webzine

Courtesy of JR Korpa, Unsplash

These lessons come to me from dreams.
Dreams, like the fish in the sea
Or the birds in the sky
Cannot be taught
But they can teach us how to dance
When we’re alone.

Mike Stone



When you touch
You are touched by Otherness.
The soft grasses bend to feel your feet
The gentle breezes memorize your face
The clothes hold your nakedness in myriad hands
Whatever you feel feels you.
When you taste
You are tasted by Otherness.
The bittersweet tangerine tastes you in its spray
Your lover’s tongue in your mouth tastes you.
When you smell
You are smelled by Otherness.
When you breathe your lover’s breath
Her air is yours.
These lessons come to me from dreams.
Dreams, like the fish in the sea
Or the birds in the sky
Cannot be taught
But they can teach us how to dance

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Time and Evolution

So here is my current thinking on the subject:

Time is not a straight line. It’s more like an expanding shell. You can draw a radius from any point on the shell back to the Big Bang. Space and time (or space-time) were created at the Big Bang. There was no time or space before the Big Bang. That’s generally understood and accepted. There is no time or space beyond the shell. That’s my thought. You may accept it or not. It makes sense to me that there is no time beyond the shell, because the future hasn’t happened yet. Most likely it will happen as a consequence of present and past events, but it does not yet exist. Of course, I’m only talking about our universe, not someone else’s universe in the multiverse.

There has been a lot of speculation regarding the possibility of time travel. One argument against it that makes more sense to me than all the others I’ve read is that in order for me to travel backward in time we would have to move our entire universe backward in time, which would probably require more than all the energy in the universe. It seems to me that the same would apply to leaping forward into the future faster than our current rate of progress.

Maybe there’s not even any such thing as time at all. Maybe what we call time is nothing more than the duration of things. Maybe it’s nothing more than the artificial tick-tocks of the clock-like devices we produce. Maybe time is not a medium through which we can travel at all. All we can do is to be and then to continue to be, until we can’t anymore.

Back to the expanding shell. Look at every living thing around you: people, animals, trees, plants, fungi, and bacteria. We may also include viruses, for the sake the argument, but viruses are not really alive. They are passive. They float around until a cell’s receptor attaches them and imbibes them. Every living or proto-living thing on the expanding shell has evolved an equal amount of time to adapt to its current environment on the shell by means of its current form and content. There is no single timeline of evolution from amoebas to homo sapiens. There are a multitude of timelines expanding outward from that initial single cell some 3-4 billion years ago. Every single living thing on the expanding shell is a relatively successful adaptation to its environment.

We are no more successful an adaptation than any other living thing. We are no more exempt from the risks of extinction than any other living thing either.

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