The Corona Pandemic. A View from the Edge.

Repost of a blogpost that was originally posted in April, 2020. As a biologist with virology experience (obtained at a large pharma company during the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s) and as an author of the 2010 corona-pandemic novel TWO JOURNEYS, I can claim to know more about epidemics than most… yet definitely not enough to call myself an expert. Nevertheless, I’ve come to the realization that this is a lonely situation: I seem to be surrounded by virologists and economists, literally EVERYBODY suddenly seems to have deep insights into Corona and its effects. I already hinted at this phenomenon in my previous blogpost “The Corona Crisis and how it will affect all of us.”

I read about Corona on a daily basis, and have found some trustworthy and good resources too (within the hyperlink above). I have also been reading up on Corona on social media. Mildly put, this is an unwise decision, as the average post or comment on e.g. Facebook has as much value as a fart at a funeral. It seems that every Hans, Fred and Harry, who in the past would blurt out their skewed view of the world in a neighborhood speakeasy, now knows how to use highly efficient social platforms to create considerable reach. People talk about herd immunity without understanding the true issue with that approach. People start to confuse result and cause: „corona isn’t a dramatic disease, because nothing much happened.“ Yeah… but perhaps that is because of the measures that most countries implemented, dumbhead? And, yes at least 100,000s if not millions will die because of this pandemic. Throw into this mix a limited knowledge of data and data interpretation, some conspiracy theories and strong personal opinions, and bingo: suddenly any government or official advice on how to deal with the pandemic does not sound so sensible anymore.

Not that any alternative is offered; it is just criticism. 

Bluntly criticizing without offering alternatives – in any setting a poor show. I talked to a neighbor next, a gentleman over 70, who, due to a previous lung disease, clearly belongs to the COVID-19 risk group. An intriguing conversation, mildly put. First, the whole “panic about corona is a complete exaggeration” (this was probably the reason why he kept moving closer, forcing me to step back to keep a safe distance). Second, “They will make us pay the bill for this”. He said this in a way as if the “others” are yet again forcing him to pay something; as if this is a ploy by our (democratically elected) government to get his money. Again, criticism against ‘others’ without any constructive idea on what the alternative could be.

Some pundits on social media do this in a very clever way, by overloading their arguments with factlets and selective information – but in the end, again no proposal on how tor resolve the issue. Obviously, populists and extremists are very good at this. Some are conspicuously quiet at the moment, although I can guess why: most of them never talk about SOLUTIONS, but only about PROBLEMS. And in the current situation, what we need most are solutions. But don’t worry, once the virus has been defeated, they will come out of the wood works with full energy.

The issue is that if a catastrophe happens, society as a whole will need to pay the bill. This happens after every storm, every explosion, every war and every pandemic. And society is made up of citizens, which means that this pandemic will cost US money, yes: YOU. It will also cost ME money, if that offers any comfort. Economic crises happen every seven years or so (the old testament already mentioned this), and every fifth crisis is probably a real big one, so get used to the idea that you will encounter a financial crash several times during your life time (see my blogpost “Getting Started as an Investor. Six Straightforward Steps.” You can’t blame the government (that you may have elected into office?) or anyone else. This virus is bigger than all of us together. You can criticize officials for how they handle the pandemic, but what does the alternative that you suggest look like? Is it really better? What is your evidence, or is it conjecture? What actually is your personal contribution to improving the situation? And did you vote this government into office, and why? Would your favorite party or politician be able to do a better job?

My corona-pandemic novel TWO JOURNEYS sets off in Japan, a country that I was privileged to visit a dozen times. We can learn a lot from Asian countries in this crisis. I am sure that Japanese also have grievances with their governments and fellow countrymen; but what is obvious in Japan is that when the government communicates advice on how to behave in a pandemic, the Japanese seemingly do a better job at simply following the guidance. Now, you may argue that Asian people are much less critical and outspoken. However, my impression is that the Japanese do this because they have respect for other people. That is why, even in times when no pandemic is about, many people in Japan keep their distance to other people, or wear face masks when they have a cold. This respect is something that we should try to adopt, as it makes coping with this situation much easier. 

We, in the west, are all critical of our government, any government. By itself this is laudable, but in case of this pandemic, this has lead to many of us being slow in adopting any official guidelines – and with possibly dramatic consequences (the postmortem on this pandemic will provide interesting insights). This starts out by a certain stubbornness, for instance the refusal to keep any distance, or the refusal to wash hands properly. Several people told me: “I always wash my hands. I don’t understand this guidance. My mama taught me so.” My answer: “What? Your mother taught you to wash your hands for 25 seconds, to also scrub the inside and back of your hands, each single finger, and 5-10 times each day – and you already did that BEFORE the pandemic? NO WAY!” This stubbornness goes all the way to partying on the beach or in the park, going out even if infected, or even purposefully sneezing in the face of policemen (an incident that occurred in the Netherlands. The culprit was sent to jail). For a long time, governments were afraid to say that face masks are a good thing to stop the spread – I presume that one of the reasons was that all face masks would be hoarded and that none would be left for the hospitals. Like with the bogroll: you can’t make this up.

What my neighbor doesn’t understand is that sometimes it is best to just shut up and follow the rules. If the rubber hits the road, pause the discussion. Our democratically elected governments, the hospital staffs and the “real” virologists and epidemiologists (yes, the actual experts that we ourselves think we are) bring considerable experience to the table, and they seem (from where I am sitting) to be conscientiously evaluating the situation day-by-day, if not hour by hour. And the guidance that we have is simple: avoid crowds, keep 6 feet distance to strangers, wear a mask, and wash your hands. That isn’t asking too much: in China they spy on their people through mobile phones, no wonder they can claim that the infections go down (whether that is really the case at the rates they suggest is another matter). And the beauty is that if we all do this, very stringently, we will in the end flatten the curve, save lives and be able to return to work again.
More food for thought in my blogpost: Corona. How you can help stop this Pandemic in its tracks

Stay healthy and help kill this thing.

The Author with a anti-corona (non-medical) mask, made out of a clean handkerchief and two rubber bands.

Read more about corona in these blogposts. Find out about my books on amazon.com.

Originally posted 2020-04-03 21:03:31.

The Corona Pandemic and How it Affects All of Us.

(Originally posted in April 2020). Back in 2011, I published my pandemic adventure novel TWO JOURNEYS (soon followed by its sequel FIELDS OF FIRE). Both books deal with the dramatic effects of a Corona virus pandemic. The inspiration for these books came from the SARS epidemic that occurred a few years earlier, in 2003.

Both novels continue to gain a lot of attention. This pleases me; first of all as an author and artist, but also as a scientist that has been active in biomedical research and healthcare for many years, also in virology. My books are pure fantasy and adventure, yet they have a scientific basis and contain a few warnings that are worth highlighting in this post.

Without doubt, the 2020 Corona pandemic has a big impact on society. I blogged some words of advice already. Part of that impact we cannot even start to fathom today. The great Flu epidemic of 1918-1920 provides some insights, although corona now, and h1n1 then, as well as the healthcare, economic and social situation, are not completely comparable. This pandemic will cost all of us a lot of money, that’s for certain. It may lead to political instability and a shift in the global powerplay; early examples include the apparent Russian disinformation campaign or Chinese attempts to lay the blame elsewhere. However, most of all, the Corona virus has the potential to create a lot of sorrow and pain.

Surprisingly, crises like these also highlight the strength and good in us humans (listen to these Italians singing; perhaps not completely on tune :-)).

Alan, the hero of TWO JOURNEYS, soon notices that in pandemic times, several forces start to kick in:

  • Facts and truth start to suffer. Today, it seems that a majority of people have difficulty to understand exponential growth-curves, or aren’t interested to build up that knowledge, or even to listen to experts that can interpret exponential growth. Yet, suddenly everybody is an amateur virologist, and every bit if information is (mis-)used for own purposes. This forces some of these individuals to make a 180 degree turn in opinion within mere days – damage done.
  • People start blaming experts, either for not warning early enough, or for being too pessimistic: “they were wrong about the SARS epidemic, weren’t they?” This reveals a deep misunderstanding of how science works; which is an education issue. If you have no clue how science works, get involved and read up on it… but NOT in the National Enquirer, the Sun or on Facebook or other social media. Don’t develop opinions about things that you do not understand; certainly don’t start spreading those opinions. Read this interview with the prominent virologist David Ho to understand the Corona pandemic mechanisms and the right measures. The pertinent information is out there: for instance at the CDC, at your local government website, but also from multiple doctors reporting directly from Italy‘s Bergamo.
  • Downplaying the crisis or (even worse) creating panic about it. Putting on your blinders for the issue as it develops never helps, especially since you as a layperson do not have all the relevant data at your disposal. Read my other post The Corona Pandemic. A View from the Edge. At the same time, IF all the advice from the authorities is followed by ALL of us, any emergency can ultimately be contained. And once that tipping point is achieved, not only will the exponential growth curve of a viral infection be broken, but also the growth-curve of all the associated concerns – health, financial, societal. Stay realistic, don’t panic, and always realize that a pandemic is a moving target, where even the best experts and politicians will need to constantly adjust their policies and advice (if you think you can do a better job, I urge you to apply for a job at your local health authority – don’t waste time writing about it on social media ;-).
  • People start to use the pandemic for their own populist agendas. In TWO JOURNEYS this is embodied in the character of the wannabee dictator Somerset, who believes that with a decimated population world-power is within his grasp. Populists play with their citizens’ lives, as they only have their own objectives in mind: to get re-elected, for financial gain, to strengthen their power, or whatever sick idea they follow. Populists, in contrast to sincere politicians, experts or the members of the healthcare staff in the ICU of your local hospital, do not regard helping you as primary objective. They simply can’t, it simply isn’t in their DNA. Populists have a goal, and will filter and (mis)use data that seems to substantiate that goal. Science and common sense do the opposite: collect data first, then define a theory and finally a goal. Needless to say, populists will impact their own citizens’ lives dramatically – and your life too. A pandemic (the word implies the ‘global’ impact of an epidemic) will not stop at a national border… or your doorstep for that matter.

These observations could be the ingredients of a highly depressive story line. But every cloud has its silver lining. TWO JOURNEYS is very much a story of hope. It highlights the goodness of people, and their ability to persevere in the hardest of times, together. We can see the same happening in today’s situation: our strength is our willingness to help one another; to be sensible, to focus on facts, (blogpost) in a disturbing, shifting situation. And not to panic. Forget about hoarding toilet paper.

Stay healthy and let’s come out of this stronger, together.

img00011 20100430 0808

Our dog Buddy enjoys the outdoors and spots a stork during our self-isolation.

Www.Clemenssuter.Com/books

Originally posted 2020-03-21 16:45:28.

Dealing with Cabin Fever caused by Corona Pandemic-related Social-Distancing

(Originally posted in March 2020). Ok, so we are now deep in our self-isolation due to the pandemic. Social distancing obviously works (see this Washington Post article), so my wife and I “bolted the house door” and have dramatically limited our excursions into the outside world – like most of our acquaintances here in Germany. Not surprisingly, cabin fever has set in; that dreadful experience when the walls of the house seem to be closing in on you. It is as if breathing becomes more difficult, and the boredom is so stunning that our senses seem to be covered by an all suffocating net. I am pulling the (last) hair from of my head while gnashing my teeth! A quick look at the clock: our self-isolation has been going on for a full TEN hours!

How will we feel in ten DAYS? And what can be done to against cabin fever? I have checked across the internet and collected some ideas.

Cabin fever (also called stir-crazy, stir as in prison) is not a disease as such, but a claustrophobic reaction, resulting in irritability and restlessness, that happens when a person ends up in an isolated or solitary location, or stuck indoors in confined quarters for an extended period of time.

What helps?

  • Going out: even brief interactions with nature are helpful: garden, balcony, or even opening a window. Careful for those dizzy spells caused by a sudden intake of fresh air, you don’t want to drop down the building.
  • Keeping a schedule and regularity, for instance for your meals and activities.
  • Physical activity: indoor sports (push ups, crunches), yoga or breathing exercises. Take a look at this bloke running a marathon in his apartment. If you want to follow his example, do coordinate with your downstairs neighbors.
  • Keeping your mind intellectually occupied. Perhaps try solving an intriguing problem over a longer period of time – like challenging crossword puzzles.
  • Reading (I suggest these pandemic adventure stories).
  • Talking with people; by telephone, or shouting from your balcony. Carefully select the channel, you may not want to share details of your sex life with random passers-by.
  • Shaving
  • Writing (like this blogpost you are reading now).
  • Playing board or card games.
  • Cooking.
  • Creative arts (drawing, painting, singing, dancing). Get inspired by these Italians singing.
  • Can’t sing? Listen to music. Here my favorites.
  • In short: stimulating your mind helps keep you moving forward and reduce feelings of isolation and helplessness.

What doesn’t help?

  • Alcohol.
  • Smoking.
  • Drinking too much coffee or using other stimulants.
  • Sleeping too much (a good nights rest will strengthen your immune system, which in turn will help protect against infection; still, sleeping for long periods is also a symptom of cabin fever).
  • Eating too much. Don’t give in to food cravings.
  • Binge watching or computer gaming. Having that said, I am quite envious of my two millennial sons. After all, millennials know how to survive for weeks in a darkened room, feeding on potato chips and whiskey shots, while staring at a display, without any face-to-face interaction.
  • Try to limit your social media time.
  • Reading or watching too much news.
  • Counting and sorting your rolls of toilet paper.
  • In short: too much of any single activity is definitely detrimental.

Take some time regularly to evaluate how you are coping. Adjust your daily schedule if necessary. And most important of all: keep calm and try to keep a sense of humor. My wife and I are now well into our 11th hour of self-isolation and, at least superficially, still acting like rational, compassionate human beings. If we can cope, so can you :-)

More about the pandemic here.

The Raven (Oil on Canvas with Ocker and Gold. 2020. Clemens P. Suter)

Originally posted 2020-03-17 21:32:00.

No skydaddy on a golden throne guiding the survivalist’s bullets and enabling him to make a footstool of the enemy skulls.

Many thanks to these fans that left sound comments and reviews about my books at APPLE BOOKS. Read the full comments HERE.

I especially appreciate this reader comment: “[…] I love the depth of the main character. I love that he is not a special forces green beret rough hewn survivalist sniper with limitless ammunition who’s invisible skydaddy sitting on a golden throne somewhere in the clouds, who teaches eternal and endless love, guides the survivalist’s bullets and enables him to make a footstool of the skulls of his enemies. Thank you for not going there.[…]

—> exactly the intention of TWO JOURNEYS and FIELDS OF FIRE.

A Apple Books Reviews for TWO JOURNEYS (link)

Originally posted 2020-09-15 22:44:00.

Will humanity survive forever?

During a walk with a friends in our favorite, nearby forest, we talked about the corona pandemic. At one point, someone mentioned that whatever may happen, it is a certainty that humanity will survive forever. I didn’t contradict the point at the time, as I didn’t want to be regarded as overtly pessimistic, but as the author of post-apocalyptic books, I have read many articles about the topic and have developed my own views.

Realistic and not pessimistic views, I like to point out.

Humanity has been around for about 300,000 years, which on the scale of the birth of life on the planet (3.7 billion years ago) is a mere blink of an eye. All organisms constantly mutate and change, and although a minority of species may have survived for very long times (“living fossiles,” like jellyfish, certain types of fish or crabs, all of these are relatively primitive in structure), most organisms tend to mutate and change over time (to better adapt to modifications in their surroundings). It is a good guess that humans will also continue to mutate and evolve, so it could well be that a few hundred thousand years from now, Homo sapiens will have given rise to a new species, a Homo futuris. At that stage it might well happen that Homo sapiens will disappear, just like homo neanderthalensis did disappear about 40,000 years ago. Clearly, the overwhelming power of evolution is, by definition, not favorable for the eternal existence of any species.

More dramatically, looking back at the history of life on our planet, several mass extinctions occurred over time. The disappearance of the dinosaurs is definitely the most well-known example, but scientists have identified at least five such dramatic events over the past 500 million years. In addition, the Great Ice Age began about 2 million years and ended 10,000 years ago, and has also been identified as a major cause for the extinction of many plants and animal species; especially many mammals. The mammoth, the saber-toothed tiger and many other mega-fauna species went extinct about 10,000 years ago. Life on our planet is constantly changing, and this will continue to happen; there is no guarantee that Homo sapiens is in some way “immune” to getting extinct.

One could argue that humans may be able to somehow “fight” against these evolutionary trends, e.g. through the use of advances technology. Although humankind has progressed scientifically, and inventions like antibiotics or other medications, or the advance of genomics, may offer a clue how this could be done; but realistically, the technology to safeguard our survival isn’t available currently. It is questionable whether we can fight or control the evolution of our species – or if we want to do so.

On the other hand, our technological prowess is now greatly endangering our species. About 5500 years ago the earliest form of writing appeared. This was a watershed moment in humanity’s history, as it allowed the storage and dissemination of knowledge. This has led to magnificent inventions that have greatly improved our lives. Modern healthcare, more efficient production of food, better communication to tackle problems – I would argue that all of these have positive impact on our lives and help halt unnecessary disease, famine and war.

But let’s not fool ourselves: these technologies also show highly scary potential to wipe out humanity in a very short timeframe. As an example, there are about 400 nuclear reactors on the planet. Should, for some reason, the maintenance of these reactors be halted, within weeks sufficient radiation will be released into the atmosphere to greatly endanger our existence (I explain this point in my soon to be published new novel). Individual humans may show considerable intelligence, but as a group we behave like primitive bacteria; as another example we continue to push back nature (e.g. through deforestation) and this is now seen as one of the reasons that the SARS, MERS, and the Corona outbreaks occurred (perhaps you should stay tuned for more pandemics in the future). And finally, through the release of copious amounts of carbondioxide into the atmosphere, humanity is changing the climate, to an extent where we can expect tremendous changes to occur in our ecosystem. Many species (for instance all the mammals larger than the cow) may will disappear, other species will gain more dominance: varmints most likely.

Humankind’s survival is not a given. This isn’t a pessimistic view, as an optimist at heart I believe that we can change the tide; one step at a time!Read more about evolution in my other blogposts.

 

 

REBOUNCE teaser – sixty second read

REBOUNCE will be the final installment in the TWO JOURNEYS trilogy. An adventure story set in a post-pandemic, dystopian world.

*********************  Sample **********************

Large numbers of birds nested in the trees and their song was deafening. There was no farming in this area anymore, and the live animals that roamed the plains, or their corpses that rotted in the open air, led to an explosive increase in the numbers of insects. We had to remove the dead bugs from the car’s windshield twice a day, something that I only remembered my father talking about. Depending on our location, mosquitos and flies were so abundant that at times they overwhelmed us, getting into our nostrils and ears by the dozens. We constantly suffered bites and stings and the resulting itching drove us mad. The insects drove the animals wild too. The abundance of insects positively affected the numbers of birds and bats. I imagined that the world was now returning to the wildlife situation prior to the  nineteenth century – naturally without the species that mankind had eradicated in the interim. I wondered about climate change too. With the pandemic, the release of carbon-dioxide caused by humankind’s activities had come to a sudden stop. At the same time, most of the land that had been used for agriculture before the pandemic was now being reconquered by bushes and trees. This rich vegetation tied carbon-dioxide down in the form of biomass. Although it was too early to tell any difference, I suspected that the Earth’s average temperature would slowly start to decrease, leading to colder winters, the refreezing of the polar caps, the reappearance of the large glaciers, lowering of the sea levels and an end to desertification.

The first two novels of the TWO JOURNEYS trilogy. Get you copy in any internet bookstore, in any format.

Tips to Survive the Apocalypse. Some highly ineffective recommendations. How to survive a pandemic.

John Harpsicord*), a follower of this blog, asked: “What about the name of this blog dude! Survive the Apocalypse – I can’t find any apocalyptic content and no survival tips. WTF is that all about? Confused, John.”

Well John, you do have a point. Let me try to explain why this blog may be ALL about surviving the apocalypse.

Once the apocalypse strikes – which may happen earlier than you think, through a deadly combination of global warming, over-population and some completely inept political leaders (so sad !) – there is very little that we can do.

In my novels Two Journeys and Fields of Fire, this shocking situation is caused by a global epidemic. Luckily, humanity has gone a long time without a major pandemic. But outbreaks of viruses such as SARS, corona or influenza (e.g. H2N2 or the Asian Flu H3N2; or bird flu) have occurred repeatedly in the last twenty years or so.

In my books, I try to show a different path than what some so-called “preppers” or the “prepper movement” appear to advocate. If catastrophe strikes, keeping the higher ground morally shows that we are human. Stocking up on emergency food, baseball bats, pepper spray and guns may sound like a sound strategy, but in reality you won’t know what has hit you, once the post-apocalypse arrives.

For me, the best survival strategy is… enjoy life while you can! Take life with a grain of salt and a lot of humor, because none of us know how long we or good ol’ Earth will be around.

The apocalypse does make for some great reading though – just think about the zombie hype a few years back. This is also reflected in my adventure novels (curious ? Look here at www.clemenssuter.com/books). You will find a lot of information about these books on this blog, which is another explanation for the name of this site.

And finally: aren’t we all, in one way or another, surviving our own personal apocalypse each and every day? Life can be tough as shit; and most confusingly, it is also absolutely beautiful. That’s what I try to bring across in my work and in the title of this blog: the negative of the Apocalypse and the beauty of Survival – they are like Yin and Yang. Life is complex and unpredictable: there are no easy explanations.

*) name (slightly) changed

Photo by Charles Deluvio

Survive the apocalypse with appropriate headwear. Life is a contradiction and can be confusing as hell, so better enjoy it while you can (Photo by Charles Deluvio)

 

 

Originally posted 2020-01-25 20:47:00.