Frogs Do It, Bees Do It–Even Educated “We’s” Do It…

 

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Honeybee image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

I altered the first line of an old song (“Let’s Fall in Love”) to shamelessly draw you in to a discussion of an important topic.

As an intro, here’s a little Haiku for These Times

Social distancing—
Ants isolate selves when ill
Healthy queen makes room.

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Ant image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

Why are ants so much smarter than a growing number of humans? I’m speaking now of the American variety (of humans, not ants), but surely there are others.

There is near unanimity in the scientific community that social distancing is essential if we are ever to gain control over the coronavirus.

Most people in the US are pretty cranky about the isolation and feel/recognize the terrible economic burden it imposes. We want out as soon as possible, but we understand that social distancing is for our safety and that of others.

And it doesn’t take a college degree to understand—just common sense, a willingness to listen to reason, and a bit of compassion.

Yet the President has swung both ways on the issue, now firmly enunciating what he regards as essential: reopening the economy—come what may.

And he’s encouraging defiance of the standards his administration developed–even as the coronavirus has sneaked its way past the Secret Service and into the White House.

He’s a very confused person who declared himself a success when deaths passed 64,000 and told us we can expect twice that many. As I write, they’re about to pass 78,000.

Is there a magic number that will maybe move him to consider the role he might play in reducing this catastrophe?

Meanwhile the Senate Republicans see no need to beef up the successful food stamp program when millions more need it—for fear that people will become accustomed to such “handouts.”

Bulletin just in from Politico: Republicans all in to focus on touting Trump’s success in handling pandemic.

But let’s get back to the animals. Unlike the heavily armed Michigan “protesters” whining that their liberties are being infringed upon, animals know when it’s not safe to go get a haircut.

I’ll state at the outset that I’m not endorsing all these animal behaviors—merely pointing out their existence and the reasons for them.

Take mandrill monkeys, for example. They spend a lot of time grooming each other, keeping one another’s fur clean and free of parasites.

But if one member of their group shows signs of a contagious disease, that poor soul is involuntarily isolated. They do, however, make exceptions for ailing family members.

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Mandrill monkey image courtesy of pxfuel.com

Chimpanzees take matters even further, aggressively ousting an ailing member. Jane Goodall reported observing a chimp with polio in Tanzania in 1966. At one point, the chimp, partially paralyzed, reached out to greet his fellows, but they moved away from him.

Goodall did note that eventually, chimps would allow some of their stricken fellows to return.

Honeybees do more than move away. Older bees, capable of smelling serious bacterial diseases like American foulbrood, which destroys the larvae, will throw the bees out of the hive.

As this seemingly heartless act (forgive me; I tend to anthropomorphize) actually protects the colony as a whole, leading to healthier bees, beekeepers and researchers have been selectively breeding for this behavior for many years.

American Bullfrog tadpoles also react to chemical signals to prevent them from catching a lethal yeast infection, according to Joe Kiesecker, a research scientist.

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American Bullfrog tadpole image courtesy of flickr.com

In the late 1990s, models of the spread of disease were based on the prediction that animals got sick by random contact with infected beings.

“But it’s clear animals are smarter,” Kiesecker said. Healthy tadpoles he studied avoided those that were sick.

I think you get the picture. The concept of social distancing, practiced in varying ways, isn’t some wild-eyed idea from scientists that Trump would prefer not to listen to. It is an evolutionary survival mechanism.

According to Dana Hawley, professor of biological sciences at Virginia Tech:

“Anytime we see a behavior that has evolved again and again in lots of different animals, that tells us that this has to be a very beneficial behavior.”

Hawley and Julia Buck, an assistant professor of biology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, have said:

“The evidence from nature is clear: Social distancing is an effective tool for reducing disease spread. It is also a tool that can be implemented more rapidly and more universally than almost any other. Unlike vaccination and medication, behavioral changes don’t require development and testing.”

We humans presumably have the intelligence and compassion to use this concept effectively and wisely. But we dare not pretend it isn’t necessary for our survival.

Yet that seems to be what some “magical thinkers” are doing.

The Texas Lieutenant Governor has said “there are more important things than living.” (I wish he’d been asked to name one.) Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie concluded that “there are going to be deaths no matter what,” so we should forge ahead in opening the economy.

The President appears to have simply picked up his golf ball and gone home: telling us what a great job he’s doing while acknowledging the death tolls will be far higher than anticipated.

Without adequate testing—which both the President and Vice President get every day, by the way—as well as tracing, we’ll never know how many of us this pandemic has truly sickened and killed. And we won’t be able to contain it better than we’re doing.

A powerful New York Times editorial by Charlie Wurzel expressed concern that as the death toll rises, we will become inured to it—just as we have to the unfathomable toll from gun violence.

Wurzel quotes Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency physician and professor at Brown University devoted to gun violence prevention, who sees similarities between individuals protesting gun control and those protesting pandemic lockdowns.

You will recall that the President encouraged the armed people who terrorized those in the Michigan State House.

According to Ranney:

“This group has moved the reopening debate from a conversation about health and science to a conversation about liberty…It’s no longer about weighing risks and benefits and instead it’s this politicized narrative…

“Most gun owners are smart and responsible and safety-conscious—just like most Americans want to do what’s right for public health. But the small minority dominates the conversation.”

Wurzel writes:

“As in the gun control debate, public opinion, public health and the public good seem poised to lose out to a select set of personal freedoms…where any suggestion of collective duty and responsibility for others become the chains of tyranny.”

The animals who practice social distancing are following their instincts. But we are seeing a deliberate rejection of social distancing now by the President, Senate Republicans, and a small but noisy group of malcontents.

They base their objections on a distorted view of economics and individual liberties that not only presents a false dichotomy between the economy and human life, but also cruelly casts our most vulnerable people as the sacrificial “warriors” in this dreadfully unnecessary war.

As we have seen, people of color are among the most heavily affected. In addition to the disproportionate deaths and poverty, they are even being subjected to heavier policing in the areas of social distancing and wearing masks.

(Is there reason to wonder why African American men may be reluctant to don masks when the most recent senseless killing of an unarmed, innocent young man out jogging is so painfully fresh?)

The term Social Darwinism comes to mind. Briefly, this long discredited theory reshaped Darwin’s theory of evolution to create a negative societal ideology. To Social Darwinists:

“Survival of the fittest”—the idea that certain people become powerful in society because they are innately better. Social Darwinism has been used to justify imperialism, racism, eugenics and social inequality at various times over the past century and a half.”

Is this where we are in America now?

Annie

Continue reading “Frogs Do It, Bees Do It–Even Educated “We’s” Do It…”

And Now a Word From Our…

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Courtesy of BlueDiamondGallery.com

Sponsor? I have no sponsor, and my accountant says that’s a problem because it also means I have no blogging income. Thus, after a year of blogging and accurately filling out the appropriate Schedule C form itemizing the costs I incur in this endeavor, I am in serious danger of slipping to the wrong side of the law.

According to my accountant, I will no longer be able to take those vast deductions, which could possibly reach all the way into the stratosphere of triple digits. 

I find it offensive to tell the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that I’m retired; it’s also not true. So I am seeking suggestions and guidance from my virtual friends in the blogging community who do monetize your blogs—or from anyone else with good, non-larcenous ideas. How do I make some money from this effort and allay my CPA’s concerns? 

It needn’t be a fortune, obviously. I love what I’m doing and will continue even if I don’t resolve this dilemma.

Blogging provides the ideal format for fulfilling my strong writer’s itch. As I’ve noted before, I am one happy blogger. But it would be quite nice to be able to cover my costs and then have a bit more to add to the retirement nutshell.

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I certainly do not intend to deny the IRS folks any monies due to the government. Still, my accountant is a straight arrow, a cautious soul, and she wants to make sure that if we’re audited, everything is copacetic. Apparently, she sees Annie’s Schedule C as a red flag. 

I’m not sure why she thinks the IRS would zero in on me, as they are no longer auditing billionaires—or nearly anyone else (except, of course, the President, which is the reason he can’t possibly show us his tax returns, even though the entire accounting world has said that’s a bogus excuse). Anyway, this post isn’t about income inequality, which I’ve addressed before and will again.

I find this IRS concern a bit annoying. I am a bona fide blogger with the statistics to prove it. I spend a good deal of time on my posts. I do a fair amount of research, and I like to print out articles so I can underline the points I want to include.

And the toner—wow, my printer eats through that stuff as if it were cotton candy. (Bad simile: cotton candy is definitely not something one wants anywhere near a printer!) 

And then there are the WordPress and domain fees, the fee for the relatively new special address that I use as my contact email but have been afraid to switch to elsewhere for fear of generating a techie snafu that would lose you all, and the occasional book I buy to further my research. 

Here’s where I need your help. I’ve read a number of articles about monetizing blogs, and the most prevalent way appears to be via WordPress AdWords. It seems that’s what many of the bloggers whose sites I frequent use. 

As I see it, one problem is that once you sign on with them, you are at the mercy of the bidders who buy their space.

Most of the time that wouldn’t be a problem for me; I wouldn’t mind a single discreet ad following the statement: “This post is ad-supported.” I’m not bothered by ads for Motley Fool, Wayfair, or AARP, which have all proliferated from time to time. 

But for a while, there was a gastroenterologist whose photo of a piece of intestine, cilia upright, was everywhere, and I found that picture odious.

Oops: I just got some key and slightly creepy information from a very smart techie relative who knows about such things.

Apparently, the ads you and I see are different: these ads are targeted to what the advertisers know about us.

So those of you who have never searched for anything gastro-related have probably been spared the intestinal cilia ads that inundated me for weeks.

Sometimes there are several ads breaking up the text; I would prefer that not be the case with my pearly prose.

If you use AdWords, what do you think? I’m not asking for your finances, of course–simply whether based on your experience, would you recommend this method to me?

Or do any of you use other approaches? I’ve rejected ideas that will require me to seek money from my readers; why would you want to pay for stuff you’ve been getting for free? (If I ever collect my posts into a volume or two, I may reexamine that conclusion.)

I eagerly await your responses. The end of the year approaches, as I have been procrastinating about this matter for months.

It seems appropriate (I’m not sure why) to end my request with a haiku:

Incandescent goal
Blogging fuels both head and heart
Bureaucracy bites

Annie

PLEASE NOTE: I had a tech snafu that whisked away my Comments box. It’s now back, so I hope if you’re revisiting, you’ll respond to my query–or say anything else you care to about this post. Thanks–and sorry for the inconvenience.

UPDATE: Many thanks to those who offered suggestions. I’ve decided to keep things as they are–absorbing the costs of continuing the blogging I love, and accepting the fact that in the eyes of the IRS, I am simply “retired.” So be it.

OMG! What Would Albert Schweitzer Have Said?

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This is not my victim.

Last night, I committed premeditated Murder One.

Specifically, it was beetlecide. Doing so was not my first preference. If a nearby window had been open, I would happily have deposited the little being where it belonged. That is my normal modus operandi.

Albert Schweitzer had an influence. Schweitzer, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952 for his philosophy of “Reverence for Life,” reportedly believed that

“The ethical person goes out of his way to avoid injuring anything that is living; he doesn’t tear leaves from trees or step on insects…”

But this particular insect was wending its way along the parameters of a plastic bag to the left of my bedroom bureau—where I keep an untidy, in fact helter-skelterly overflowing mountain of such stuff to recycle as liners in our wastebaskets.

The fact that it (the beetle) was in an area so close to my bed raised the stakes vis-a-vis its imminent fate. Bedbugs would have been terrible, but bed beetle was not, to my mind, much better.

So while the beetle clung to the edge of the plastic bag, I carried it into the bathroom, where I committed it to an untimely watery death. At least I think I did. But who knows?

Lacking an entomology background, I couldn’t do an adequate I.D. It might be (present tense) a water beetle, in which case it could be gleefully swirling in the toilet eddies, soon to reascend—and possibly head straight toward my bed. It might even, next time, be accompanied by some compadres. So many tiny legs, marching in unison…

Still, I felt hypocritical. Last week, my post quoted the great spiritual leader Ram Dass about loving those one protests against as much as one loves oneself. Perhaps the beetle was lovingly calling my attention to those dreadful plastic bags—showing me that they had no place in my home—even if reused:

“Remember the post you wrote about climate change recently, Annie? Do you realize what damage you’re doing with all that plastic?”

(Wise emissaries show up in odd forms sometimes, don’t you think?)

And what did I do? I did not return its love. I did not even think of its possible message until it was too late. Instead, I used that pernicious plastic bag to transport it to what at best was a locale it hadn’t chosen to visit at that time. 

Where was the lovingkindness that’s so central to my mindfulness experience? I take it very seriously. And yet, without a backward glance, I had flushed it down the toilet. (To my regret, the ambiguous “it” in the previous sentence is both literal and metaphorical.)

Perhaps Ram Dass will forgive me? But I don’t think Albert Schweitzer would. As to my Inner Critic, the voice in one’s head that we imperfect mindfulness meditators know we must accommodate and not fight against or dwell upon—well, let’s just say we’re negotiating.

Alas, I just looked up a photo of a water beetle. No resemblance. Hence, my act was irretrievable. So the least I can do is create a memorial.

Haiku for a Dead Beetle

Merely existing
Luminescence and strangeness
Undeserving end

Annie