How to prepare for the Corona Covid-19 virus epidemic – or any flu-like outbreak

Corona virus is a new flu-like virus. A number of challenges are associated with such new types of viruses:

  • Like with any virus, antibiotics will not help.
  • There are no vaccinations available for such new viruses as they appear.
  • Especially people with weakened immune systems are at risk (elderly, children or people with health conditions). But anyone can become sick, and also a source of infection (even before any symptoms occur).

Simple measures can reduce your risk of contracting such viruses, and will help stem the spread. These tips are common practice even in the absence of a new virus: the common flu causes ~400,000 deaths each year (source).

  • Frequently wash hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or warm water and soap (my extra tip: don’t shake hands with anyone)
  • Cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue when sneezing or coughing. Don’t sneeze in your hands.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever or cough
  • Seek early medical help if you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, and share travel history with healthcare providers
  • Avoid direct, unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals when visiting live markets in affected areas
  • Avoid eating raw or undercooked animal products and exercise care when handling raw meat, milk or animal organs to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods. My extra tip: revisit your shopping, cooking, and eating habits – these viruses stem from animals like pigs and poultry. E.g. Corona virus originated from a fish market.

Part of this information originates from this article in the Guardian.

Diseases such as the flu, but corona (SARS-CoV, Covid-19 or 2019-nCoV) as well, are seasonal, peaking (in the northern hemisphere) in February. The passing of time supports eradication and may thus be in our favor.

At this moment, the economic impact of the epidemic is hard to determine. Listen to the CNBC interview with International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva. She cautioned against comparing this outbreak to the SARS outbreak in the early 2000s. Not only is COVID-19 different than SARS, but China and the world economy has changed. China only represented 8% of the world economy in the early 2000s and now makes up a 19% share.

It makes sense to check whether you still have enough emergency supplies in your home – which you should do regularly anyway. After all, during an epidemic you may prefer to stay indoors. Here’s a list that I find useful. I have enough space, so I stock dozens of cans with food and sufficient water; enough to last us 3 weeks. Don’t forget to stock up on vitamins; canned food may lack some of those. I try to create some variation in my emergency stocks; eating peanut butter three times a day for two weeks can get on your nerves.

C lick here for information about my adventure novels Two Journeys and Fields of Fire, which deal with a global pandemic.
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Are we all just part of a magnificent computer simulation?

About a year ago I was the host of a business dinner in New York, half a dozen men and women met at a fine restaurant after a day of intensive meetings. Perfect food, some great wine and a very nice group of people from hard- and software companies, the majority from the USA, some from Europe.

The conversation focused on business, but as the night carried on, turned to other topics. We discussed politics, history… and computing. These people were all computer specialists, many with engineering degrees. At a certain point the discussion turned to the theory that was humans do not exist, but instead are just avatars on a piece of very advanced hardware. This theory is not new: Elon Musk is one its proponents. It is based on the observation that computers are becoming more and more advanced as well as that the distinction between virtual reality (VR) and reality seems to be disappear. Some time in the far future, somebody will be able to create a computer that doesn’t just simulate a human brain (which according to some estimates may be possible in 50 years or so), but the brain of all humans. It is just a matter of scale; throw in some quantum computing, sufficient hardware and real-time analytics with deep machine learning, and it should be possible to do this.

We could thus easily just IMAGINE that we are physically alive, today and here on this planet; whereas in reality we are just characters in a very advanced computer game played by a acne-faced teenager 200 years in the future. Everything that we experience; all pain and war and suffering and all love and rewards and happiness would then only be part of a simulation.

Little speaks against this theory from a technical standpoint: as long as technical progress continues (to accelerate) at the same pace it has for the last 150 years, this is easily imaginable. This is naturally also a weakness of the theory: life on Earth as well as history hardly ever were linear (although this may seem so to us: we only experience a very small fragment of all of history, yet we think it is all encompassing). For instance, about every 1000 years or so, a major volcanic eruption happens, which tend to dramatically alter the progress of humanity’s culture. Nevertheless one could argue that such catastrophes might delay the development of a super VR computer, but delay doesn’t mean that it could never be created.

So why do I still think there is no value in the theory that we are all just part of a very advanced computer simulation? At the Free University of Amsterdam where I studied biology many years ago, one of the highlights of the first year was a course in Philosophy and Methodology  of Natural Sciences. I have forgotten the professor’s name, but the man did a tremendous job at hammering home some basic scientific principles. Thus, the main argument is that although the simulation theory MIGHT be true, there is NO way to prove or disprove it; it is a theory that isn’t falsifiable. By what criteria could anyone prove that we are, or are not part of a simulation? After all, at some timepoint, the simulation would be so perfect that it couldn’t be identified as a simulation anymore. It is similar to stating that we are created by an invisible fairy living at the bottom of our garden – a theory that people may shrug at, or ridicule, but which would be very hard to prove or disprove. And, as my professor taught us, non-falsifiable theories have, from scientific point of view, no value.

My eBooks on iTunes here.

Ten Little Known Facts About Clemens P. Suter’s Novel CELETERRA – a crime mystery set in Heaven.

I Bet You Didn’t KNOW:

  1. CELETERRA was first published in 2010, contains 111,000 words across 420 pages. Five different covers are in circulation!
  2. On Goodreads it received the maximum five star rating from all reviewers! One reviewer said: “Lovable novel that shows the insanity of religious fanatics through a hard-hitting mystery story. Provides several intertwining story lines, humor and plenty of weird scenes. Mr. Suter has a lot of fantasy at his disposal and uses it to paint a beautiful adventure. I loved how the plot twisted and turned to a great finish. “
  3. And another reviewer added: “…this is an adventure that I will not soon forget: with a hero literally brimming with self-confidence, an archetypical crook, many comical and exaggerated situations and a deep philosophical, yes atheistic morality.”
  4. No book is complete without a SEX SCENE. Can’t wait for your copy to arrive? Here it is in full: A man and a woman were having sex on the grass. Vance stared at them, slightly shocked. The man turned his head, looked up at him, and smiled. The intimacy of the scene – the white skin of the elderly woman, the moving buttocks of the man – Vance didn’t like the sight. Altijd coughed and touched his arm. “Let’s go.”
  5. Rape, child molestation, criminals that make blue-jeans out of victims’ foreskins…  No modern crime novel is complete without horror, violence and gallons of st(r)eaming blood! CELETERRA does NOT serve this primitive lust. Here is the most violent scene from the novel:  He looked closely at the animal, his head getting closer and closer to the liquid. The conversation next to him had stopped. The other guests looked at Vance’s behavior with suspicion. Closer and closer he moved to the insect, his head slowly disappearing into the bowl, his nose almost touching the liquid. Suddenly, he could see pink fleshy lips in the face of the fly. The lips pulled back, and white, human teeth became visible, positioned perfectly in the meaty gums. A tongue moved in the orifice, from side to side. Vance stared at the insect’s mouth. It moved spasmodically, bits of spit in the corners of the lips. The mouth started to form words. Then the fly spoke. “Perhaps the dose is too high, hmm?”  
  6. Even in the absence of violence, CELETERRA is still HARD HITTING, both ABOVE and BENEATH the belt. Meet Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Ed Gein and Adolf Hitler in heaven ! Learn how Charles Darwin and his wife got involved in a hideous crime!
  7. Like all other Clemens P. Suter books CELETERRA it is available as paperback and ebook
  8. It is NOT part of the Two Journeys and Fields of Fire series
  9. Don’t read CELETERRA if religion is your game or Zealot your middle name.
  10. #10 was mislaid and will be added if it turns up again. Find a free sample below!

Excerpt

Vance thought that over. “Is it possible that I will meet somebody that I have known previously? That gardener, he must have come from my hometown… I think.”

“You think! Are you sure that you have met him in your previous life? You know, many things here are surprisingly familiar, yet many others are very unusual. It could be that the gardener and you come from the same town and that he died around the time of your death… Or that he is a stranger that died ages ago, or your great-grandfather… or even your great-grandchild! Perhaps he really is a direct relative. Your father perhaps?”

Vance chuckled. “My father! I would be surprised to meet that old sinner here. The scoundrel did not do a single good in his life, he left us when I was a small boy. I heard that he was killed in a barroom fight, which should tell you something about his character.”

Altijd shook his head vehemently. “Everybody goes to Heaven! All the sinners and saints. The good, the bad and the ugly. Sure, there is a hell – but as far as I understand it is one of the emptiest places – I’m not even completely sure what it is used for. Do you know whom I met here, the other day?”

“I can’t guess.”

Altijd bent towards Vance and whispered in his ear. “Adolf Hitler!”

Vance’s mouth fell open. “What? Adolf Hitler, the German dictator, is in Heaven? Are you sure? He was a terrible war criminal, directly responsible for the murder of millions of people!”

“I met him here! One afternoon, Ballew and I were walking hand in hand along a small brook. The trees were golden, soft music filled the air. Extraordinary birds hopped on the path, which was covered with small diamonds. Two men came in our direction, both casually dressed; trousers, shirts, sneakers. The man on the right was Adolf Hitler, I recognized him immediately. We stopped and talked to them. Ballew seemed to have met both before. Hitler was rather quiet, not speaking much at first. He made a serious and subdued impression. When he did speak, it either was in German or heavily accented English. His companion was less reserved and chatted away happily with Ballew. If I remember correctly, his name was Ed Gean or something… I cannot recall exactly. Ballew mentioned later that he had been a notorious killer in his earthly life. Anyway, I was challenged to follow the conversation, I just stood there and stared at Hitler. He seemed to be slightly embarrassed by this. During a break in the conversation, he turned to me, stiffly, as if his back was rigid. ‘Well, Altijd, how do you like it here?’. At first, I didn’t know how to reply. Then I mumbled that I thought it was a great place. Hitler smiled. ‘You know, young man, I have been here a long time. I have very much enjoyed every day of it.’ To me, his statement sounded rather unconvincing. He had said it somewhat mechanically, as if he was reading it, from a piece of paper. Ballew took a hold of my arm. ‘Adolf is one of our most honorable guests. He has been here for quite a while, and if you have any questions about this place, just ask him, there is nothing that he has not seen or heard about. He knows every corner of Heaven and many of its more interesting inhabitants too.’ Adolf Hitler smiled weakly beneath his moustache and took a hold of Ballew’s hand and kissed it. Ballew giggled with pleasure. ‘You are always so charming. Come, why don’t the two of you join us for our walk?’ “We continued along the path. We talked about this and that, and Adolf and Ed pointed out some of the sights. I still had difficulty taking part in the conversation, I was truly flabbergasted to stumble upon this singular, most brutal dictator in Heaven! However, my three companions chatted away happily. Even Hitler seemed to have thawed to some extent. Still, on several occasions, I saw him shooting quick glances at me.”

Altijd interrupted his narration. They were following a small track leading down into one of the valleys, towards distant music. It was getting later in the day and the sun was setting. Sheep stood in the heather and munched away at sparse green grass. Vance noticed that he was getting hungry. “What happened then?”

Altijd walked in front of him. Without turning around, he continued his story. “We picnicked together, underneath a tree. Blankets had been laid out for us. We had some champagne and toast with smoked fish. It was a pastoral scene, Arcadian – like a Tomas Cole painting. Ballew looked marvelous, she was always so pretty when she was enjoying herself. She was sitting very upright and in the center. We three men rested leisurely on the grass. Hitler started to tell stories about his childhood in Austria, about small boy’s pranks and escapades. Despite myself, I had to admit that his narration was funny. He was charming and a great storyteller. One story stands out in my mind; how he and his childhood friend had gone out to steal apples from a neighboring orchard. When the farmer discovered them, they had to run off as fast as they could. His friend was a bit overweight, and as they climbed over a fence, his trousers had torn. He got a proper spanking from his mother. At that part of the story, Hitler got up and was gesticulating passionately, not unlike I had seen him do in some of those old documentaries. However, this time he was not rallying for war, but talking about his youth and imitating his friend’s mother! He was so funny! Hitler sat down again, and he said something memorable, which almost got lost in the amusement and laughter. He explained how he himself had gotten off without punishment. ‘Many a one would like to lay his own shame on another man’s back’; those were his exact words. I stared at him in wonder and he looked back at me, a strange emotion in his eyes. Had it been injury or hurt? Hitler pulled up his legs and rested his chin on his knees. He muttered beneath his breath. Ballew touched his shoulder, as if to comfort him. It was a very intimate gesture and I must admit that I felt a pang of jealousy. He smiled back at her. Obviously, the two of them had known each other for some time. The other man, Ed, pulled me towards him. He whispered a French sentence in my ear: Le crime fait la honte et non pas l’echafaud. Ballew had heard him too. She looked darkly at Ed and shook her head almost unnoticeably. She translated it for me later: the crime is the shame, not the scaffold. The afternoon waned. They asked me to tell about my past life and I told some stories from my childhood, by half not as amusing as the stories Hitler had been telling. However, they all listened and laughed politely. Finally, the two men got up and took their leave. Again, Hitler bowed and kissed Ballew’s hand. He came up to me, took my right hand, and shook it very slowly. He looked at me, a dreadful expression crossing his face. ‘I take my leave of you today, Mr. Altijd. Niemand kann einem anderen die Tränen trocknen, ohne sich selbst die Hände naß zu machen. Auf wiedersehen.’”

Altijd fell silent and stopped walking. Vance halted too. They both looked at the setting sun. “An intriguing statement. You cannot dry someone’s tears without making your own hands wet. What happened next?”

Altijd shrugged and turned towards him. “I didn’t meet Hitler or Ed Gean again and Ballew didn’t feel like discussing the episode. My presumption is that the two of them are still around, or that they went to the next level. To tell you the truth, I hope the latter.”

Learn how you can get your copy of CELETERRA here.

A woman in a heavenly state after reading CELETERRA - picture by Kevin Bhagat
A woman in a heavenly state after reading CELETERRA – picture by Kevin Bhagat

 

The Vortex of Boredom (excerpt from the novel CELETERRA)

“I was at place called the Spleet Mansion.”

Nixon laughed out loud and slapped his knee. “Spleet?! Straight from the fridge! Are those bastards still up in them hills? I’ll be doggone!”

“You know them?”

“Know them? Everybody knows the Spleets. Money grabbing cunts. Nothing but trouble. Religious zealots too.”

“Aren’t they Catholics?”

“Hmm, could be, but of the uncanny kind. Hocus pocus, if you ask me. Anyway, don’t tell me you have been doing business with those guys? Who was it? Edgar the Moose? Or that lunatic Joel?”

“No, Bill – Bill Spleet.”

“Then you may be in luck. He is the younger brother, perhaps the stupidest of the trio, but also the least hazardous. Like the rest of them, he would want to get at your money, but would probably stumble over his own two feet in the process. He doesn’t know his groceries, if you ask me.”

“Have you done business with them?”

“For God’s sake, no. They live in a different world than I, both socially and financially. There are people that have money and people that are rich, and the Spleets belong to the latter class. By the time I have money to burn, my fire will have gone out.”

Nixon laughed sarcastically. He looked up at Vance.

“The Spleets, they are weird folk. The way I see it, every street has two sides, one is lighted by the sun, and the other is shady. People choose the side that they want to walk on. Some prefer the bright side, they are interested in the world around them, they are critical of others but of themselves too. They enjoy life, live it to the fullest. Others choose the shadowy side, they like to stay in the dark, they do not educate or develop themselves, and they are stuck in their beliefs and in their habits. I call them the shadow creatures, they are a separate species. You can find the shadow creatures in all layers of society, among the poor and rich, among the religious and the godless. They are narrow-minded and populate the kingdom of petit bourgeois. On the surface, they seem to be afraid of people that are different; yet deep down inside, they are afraid of life, of everything. Once you are a shadow creature, there is a risk that you will be sucked into the Vortex of Boredom. The great washing machine that removes all stains and spots. It makes you ignorant; to values, to Earth, to your fellow humans, to education – to things that matter. Once in the Vortex of Boredom, you are lost. You may get an urge to start solving Sodukos – I thank the inventor Howard Garns for that. Or you may suddenly want to start watching television – many thanks to Paul Nipkow. The Spleets, they are shadow creatures, narrow-minded and malevolent. Sure, they are wealthy, but are they happy? They never will be, if you ask me. They entered the Vortex of Boredom eons ago.”

Get your copy of this witty mystery thriller here: CELETERRA at amazon (also in your country) and at smashwords and Rakuten Kobo.

Woman reading Clemens P. Suter's CELETERRA
Woman reading Clemens P. Suter’s CELETERRA

Get your copy today! CELETERRA – an extraordinary crime story and eBook

A book by Darwin, a secret compartment, a visit to the afterlife…

“In heaven, all the interesting people are missing.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

Get your book today – you won’t be disappointed by this high speed, surprising crime thriller.

Buy it at as eBook at Smashwords or for Kindle (not just in the USA – any country Amazon store), at Kobo. Also available as paperback.

Vance switched on the light. The clicking and the humming of the fluorescent tubes disturbed the quiet, and the sudden brightness blinded their eyes. The storage room, about sixty feet wide and thirty feet deep, was filled with antiques: small cabinets, armoires, dining tables, desks and chairs, paintings and mirrors. Transportation crates were stacked against the left wall. Mrs. Chamid’s mahogany rococo table stood at the very front, just as Vance had left it the day before. Enrique had described it quite accurately. The table was perfectly symmetrical and stood on three cabriole legs. It had a round top, with three triangular drawers positioned below it, like equally sized portions of a pie. It was obviously French in design, less heavy than the German pieces of that period. Vance had concluded that it was late eighteenth century, with baroque-like carving was still in evidence, but not dominant. Most striking was the fancy decoration of the tabletop, consisting of intricate, floral parquetry, the result of expert and high dedication artisanship. Wood and ivory had been combined to create small flowers, flowing out from the center. Again, Vance admired the table’s stunning design. The past centuries had left the piece unscathed. No flaw could be seen in the wood, no scratch in the ivory. Only a blatant layman could be ignorant of its value. Vance concluded again that it was worth every penny that he had paid for it.

Paolo stepped forward and touched the table’s surface. Vance raised his hand. “Careful. It is worth a lot of money.” Enrique stood behind Vance and put his hand on his shoulder. “Bear with us. We won’t damage it. Besides that, I am insured.” He wasn’t joking. In fact, as Vance looked at his face, he realized that Enrique was probably one of the least humorous persons that he had ever met. His countenance seemed to be unable to transmit any emotion. The sunglasses that covered his eyes didn’t help. Again, Enrique got the sheet out of his breast pocket, and gave it to José. Vance noticed that a photo seemed to be taped to it – from a catalog? “Here are the instructions.” José studied the text, his hands trembling slightly. He handed the sheet back to Enrique and stepped up to the table. One after the other, he opened all three drawers. They were empty. Not surprising: just before Vance had carried the table from Mrs. Chamid’s apartment, he had seen her removing all her personal belongings from the compartments. José closed the drawers. Suddenly, he picked it up and turned it upside down. He held the table high up in the air by two of its legs, his hands positioned close to the table’s surface. Then, unexpectedly, he opened his fists. The table started to fall to the ground. Vance cursed and moved forward, but Enrique held him back. Just before the table hit the ground, José closed his hands again and caught it on the very end of the two legs. José turned the table over and put it down firmly on its three legs. An audible sigh of relieve could be heard – it came from Martha. Vance glanced at her worried face, and very briefly, she frowned back at him.

Enrique stepped forward and inspected the table, which seemed to be unchanged. He removed his sunglasses and handed them to Paolo, who put them in his breast pocket. Enrique’s eyes contained a gleam of anticipation. Slowly he put his hand on the grip of one of the drawers. He pulled it open. They all bent forward and looked at its interior. It was empty. Vance looked at the four faces. The girl bit her lip. Obviously, his visitors had expected that an object should now have been visible in the drawer – magically materialized through José’s manhandling of the table. Enrique opened the second drawer. It was empty too. He shook his head in frustration. “Madre mia. What do you make of that? Can you believe it? Holy Mary of Mount Carmel.” José softly prayed in Spanish. He rocked forward and backward, his hands folded on his chest, eyes closed. “Dios te salve, Maria. Llena eres de gracia: El Señor es contigo…”

Enrique bent forward and pulled the final drawer open. His movement was so brusque that the drawer almost fell out of the table and onto the floor. They all stared at its content. It must have been some hidden mechanism that the original designer had built in. Vance had occasionally come across such pieces of furniture, with secret compartments. They always had a fascinating effect on the buyers, usually resulting in a profit increase for Vance. This one was very cleverly made. There must have been a secret compartment above the drawer, integrated in the tabletop itself. It was probably held shut by a rotatable piece of wood or metal that could only be released by a particular handling of the table. Not just turning it upside down or shaking it. Most likely two of the legs had to be pulled apart slightly to activate a hidden and highly precise spring mechanism. In any case, through José’s activity, a lock had been released and a package had dropped into the drawer. 

It was less than an inch thick, six inches long, and four inches wide. Vance speculated that it was a small book, wrapped in old, yellowed newspaper. An abundance of string kept the parcel together, making it look like a Marcel Duchamp’s readymade. Vance could see a fragment of an English headline, printed on the newspaper. It contained the word Weimar. The Weimar Republic sprang into his mind, a German political era of the early twentieth century. Did the package date back to that time?

CELETERRA - the extraordinary crime shocker
CELETERRA – the extraordinary crime shocker