Hazmat suits and viruses

virusIt is like a headline from one of George A Romero’s zombie apocalypse movies, where the slightest infection will cause the end of mankind.  A virus will spread across the Globe eradicating life as we know it.

Or at least that is how the #fakenews and CDC make it sound, as we are half way through the flu season.  Actually, it is a scary thought that we have a season for illnesses.  Normally a season is associated with something positive, but flu season is the devil’s work!

vi·rus
ˈvīrəs/
noun
noun: virus; plural noun: viruses; noun: computer virus; plural noun: computer viruses
  1. 1.
    an infective agent that typically consists of a nucleic acid molecule in a protein coat, is too small to be seen by light microscopy, and is able to multiply only within the living cells of a host.
    “a virus infection”
    • an infection or disease caused by a virus.
      synonyms: disease, bug, infection;

      datedcontagion
      “the child caught a virus”
    • a harmful or corrupting influence.
      “the virus of cruelty that is latent in all human beings”
  2. 2.
    a piece of code that is capable of copying itself and typically has a detrimental effect, such as corrupting the system or destroying data.
    synonyms: worm, Trojan Horse

    “a computer virus”

For years we have not received the flu vaccine.  It is not linked with religious or political beliefs, but merely a parent not believing a potion will help us fend off the evil bacteria.  I think we are simply making the viruses stronger, and this year seems to prove my doomsday theory.

The flu strain is stronger this season and people with or without the flu shot are getting hit.  And getting hit badly.  In too many cases it has resulted in death, which I feel very sorry about.  We should say goodbye to family members as they get ill with a known virus.

But, this is a man made virus and we have to invent stronger vaccines to combat it.  This will have a negative impact on our bodies and it is a losing battle.  Just like in War of the Worlds, we will eventually succumb to a small bacteria, leaving the planet to microbes.

We have been extra vigilant these weeks to protect the kids.  Cleaning everywhere, covering while sneezing, washing hands, and avoiding people who might be a little ill.  Just to make sure our kids did not contract a virus.

outbreakA few days ago our son developed a fever.  Nerves kicked in and we monitored closely.  My wife brought him to the doctor, and she confirmed that he had contracted the dreaded flu. Good news (if that is possible) is it was not the evil stronger strain of the virus, so he would not be as affected.  Nevertheless, we went into post-apocalyptic mode.

We pulled the hazmat suits out of storage, dressed the entire family except him, and started the quarantine exercises with these simple steps;

  • No-one touches him
  • He eats alone and uses disposable cutlery
  • No-one enters his domain
  • No-one kisses or have physical contact like hugging
  • Room has to be sterilised
  • No school or social activities
  • Total isolation from the rest of the World

…if we get to more severe phase, then food is shoved under his door.

3 days went by and he was showing signs of improvement.  Fever had dropped after 48 hours, he was drinking plenty of fluids and not side effects such as vomiting encountered.

Day 4 showed excellent progress and he will absolutely go back into civilisation Monday.

I really hate when my kids are sick.  There’s very little I can do for them, except kid painkillers and antibiotics.  And of course rest and fluids.  It is a waiting game.

The real challenge is the aftermath.  Will anyone else in the family contract the flu?

Is this the end?

For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.  Matthew 24:7

Icicles and hairdryers

Ok, I normally don’t use foul language in my blogs, but to be fair, 2018 had a pretty fucked up way of saying welcome to my family.  Seriously, we hadn’t been spending many hours in the new year until she decided to kick me in the nuts – smack in the pubic bone!

Thanks to digital streaming on the AppleTV, we missed the ball dropped live.  Apple apparently decided that there’s a lack, so despite stating ‘live’ on the screen, it is actually delayed by almost 2 minutes.  I suspect that is false advertisement, but we somewhat say the switch to 2018 twice.

Anyway, a few hours after the famous Waterford Crystal ball dropped, we moved our ageing corpses to the beds.  Gone are the days of drinking all night, dancing like crazy on the tables, mingling with strangers in a smelly night club or having to clean the house from alcohol left-overs, smoke and confetti.  That is the curse and benefit of being responsible adults, and also the fact that kids give zero fucks about hangovers.

While zombie walking through the house, more asleep than awake, I turned the heating down … or so I thought.  You see, we live on the East Coast, and this happens to be winter. So, it gets a little chilly outside and the last few days had been sub-zero.  If I didn’t know better, I would say that we were about to reenact “Day After Tomorrow” scenes and experience arctic super deep freeze.

Next morning as I stumbled towards my coffee machine to get a caffeine kick, I noticed that the ground floor was chilly.  Did I mention that my absolute favorite coffee brand i ‘Black Riffle Coffee Company‘ – they kick arse.

The thermometer showed 52F so I instantly knew something was wrong.  It’s not like I’m a natural born plumber, but when the baseboard pipes are colder than my freezer, then something is off.

Thankfully the heating in the basement and 2nd floor were both working, so I used those areas to heat up the rest of the house.  I spent the remainder of 1 January 2018 heating up the baseboard pipes using hot towels, hair dryers and my Scandinavian charm … nothing worked.

hotshotNo other option than called in the cavalry in the form of the local plumber.  He showed up with what looked like an oversized car battery jumpstart kit.  Two larger clamps were attached to the copper pipes, and 2 hours later he had managed to thaw the pipes.  Heating was coming back 🙂

It takes a big man to admit when he has made mistakes, and I’m no big man!  That said, I had accidentally turned off the heating when going to bed, and with the sudden drop to arctic climate, the still water in the pipes decided to freeze.

The plumber that came to help was top drawer.  An amazing customer service and fair priced I suppose.

I can honestly say that this was not the way I had hoped for 2018 to start, but at least we have heat, food, each other and 363 days to get back to Christmas.

Winter is Coming with a Body Slam

signThe winter had been pretty mild.  We’ve had a fair share of freezing my butt of cold days and nights, and some days my eyes froze.  But, nothing severe like 2-3 feet of snow in 12 hours or a sudden avalanche from the nearby mountain.

Deep inside my rather shallow body, I had a suspecion that we would get absolutely creamed and dumped on.  We couldn’t just get a mild winter with a few inches of snow.  I needed to use my snow blower, and at least 100 lbs of road salt (from my 1000lbs stash), to proudly be able to say “winter is coming!“.

When they decided to consult with a rodent, the annual groundhog day, I was not surprised when the furry critter predicted another six weeks of winter.  He too knew winter was coming.  I must admit, asking a small furry dude to predict the weather is rather odd, but hey, stranger things happens.

It was rather pleasant when we had a 62F winter day, and I could drive with the windows down.  Little did I know that winter was indeed coming.  The weather guys did warn the population, but when you sit in a t-shirt, listening to Shakira, you can’t really take them seriously.  Surely winter is over!

Later that evening, snow did cover the night sky, and temperature dropped.  By 4.30am we received a call from the school, saying school would be closed – followed by a number of emails and text messages.  All stating “winter is coming!“.

dayaftertomorrowEarly morning and first light, showed how busy Mother Nature had been.  Everything was covered in a thick layer of snow, and it did not look like stopping.  It just kept coming and coming.  As if Mother Nature wanted to make a point “it ain’t over until I say so”.

Mid afternoon the snow finally stopped, although a rather brisk breeze kept blowing snow around.  Winds were howling and my eyeballs got frostbites when I peeked out the door.

I knew I had to deal with it.  I prefer not to engage in cardio exercises when it is this cold, but when you have a 200 feet driveway, and it is not electrical heated, someone has to clear it.  AND, that someone is obviously me.

All three kids had “sudden” symptoms of fever or coughing, and informed me they were unavailable for child labour.  My wife had to work (new job and trying to impress the boss) and my loyal brown Labrador was pretending to be paralysed.  All in all, a sorry bunch of heroes.

I dressed up for my arctic experience and started my 30″ snow blower.  This beast could take on anything; jaw crunching snow eaters and strong caterpillar track.  We were going to conquer this together.

clarkThe size of the task became apparent when I opened the garage door in best Clark Griswold style.  The snow was about a foot deep, and had completely erased my landscaped garden and driveway.  It was there somewhere.  I just had to find it. … mission accepted!

Snow was flying all over as my snow monster was eating through all the snow, trying to find the surface.  We were in this together.  The red paint was gradually being covered with snow and icicles, and so was my beard.

2 hours later and I had cleared the driveway.  Well, there was still a thin layer of snow on the tarmac, which at this point was starting to freeze.  A few times I almost lost my footing, but mostly recovered while letting out a few yelps.  It was manly yelps in case you wondered.

As I was preparing for one final turn, a small pivot with my snow blower, my legs literally disappeared underneath me.  It was like watching a movie in slow motion, and felt even slower.

I made a few graceful attempts to recover the inevitable, only to suddenly lift off the ground and body slam into the ground.  Not a hope of bracing the fall with my arms, as I for some reason decided to hold on to the bloody snow blower.

The wind was knocked out of my chest, and as I laid there looking at the tarmac, I melted the ice with my breath.  I couldn’t even call out in pain and was stuck for several seconds.  It was pretty clear that body slamming 200lbs of Scandinavian bacon does some impact, and the pain quickly shared that observation as I could feel a shooting pain in my chest.

I’m not a doctor or expert, but it was obvious that I had fractured or bruised a rib or two.  But, in true manly spirit, I got up, and continued my work … at least for a further 23 seconds.

At that point I did what all men does.  I walked to the porch, sat down and waiting for anybody in my family to notice me and give me some sympathy.  That failed, and after 12 minutes of self indulged suffering, I went back to spray salt on the fecking ice.  That’s how you deal with it.  You spray salt on that shit.

Now I’m praying and hoping that winter is truly over.  I’ve had enough of this white stuff.  Winter did come! Mother Nature kicked my arse, and big boys do cry.

wintercame

Kung Fu Panda not included

pandaThe joys of being a house owner, amongst many cool and not-so-cool duties, is that we get to decide how wild the garden should be.  Are we going for the ‘garden of the year’ award or do we take a more relaxed attitude, believing in reinstating the natural ecosystem.

I’m probably torn between the two choices, and the only in-between option is called concrete. An option, but not a fan of concrete. My choice is unfortunately natural ecosystem, with some sprinkles of garden award.  Probably a fair 97-3 split.

However, on one of my gardening adventures, I decided to kill what to some is known as garden cancer.  It spreads like an evil network of underground roots, tightly intertwined with roots and tiles.  Literally impossible to get rid.  It also happens to be the favourite dish for the overly obese and cuddly panda bear.

Yes, you guessed it.  It is the fecking bamboo. It looks great at times, but a pain in the behind to prune or remove.

My bamboo bush had taken over parts of the garden and was slowly moving across the garden pathway, finding little openings between the tiles and slowly expanding.  So began the battle of the bamboo.

Only minor problems.  I do not have access to koala bears, pandas or sloths.  And, it was close to 95F/35C during the past summer.  It was a battle I was destined to lose.

There are a few ways to kill or get rid of bamboo.  They mostly require a lot of patience, plenty of time and interesting chemicals.  None of which I poses.

But, I discovered the best trick in the book, which came to me in a dream.  A dream that involved my old biology teacher, who was laughing through his Santa beard.  Freaky I know.  It was basic schoolboy knowledge that proved to be the trick to break the neck of the overly enthusiastic bamboo bush.

What was it?  Well, I will give you this DIY trick for free, and also share that you will lose weight while killing your friendly neighborhood bamboo bush.  It is simply photosynthesis!

Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to convert light energy, normally from the Sun, into chemical energy that can be later released to fuel the organisms’ activities (energy transformation).

Bamboo bushes uses all it’s leaves to regenerate and expand.  You can cut away at the edges, pull up roots, but you will lose unless you remove the opportunity for generating photosynthesis.

The trick is, which reminds of the old Metallica song ‘fight fire with fire’.  You have to fight photosynthesis with photosynthesis.  It’s simple my friends.

Step by step instructions in your photosynthesis battle.  Something that Syn Tzu forgot to mention in his ‘Art of War’.

  1. Find your garden handsaw
  2. Put on work gloves
  3. Put on long-sleeved shirt
  4. With one hand, grab a bundles of bamboo, and cut it about 5 inches from the soil
  5. Repeat step 4 until you have eradicated the bamboo bush
  6. Inspect the bamboo patch for ridiculous amount of sprouts
  7. Remove all small bamboo sprouts and leaves you find
  8. Repeat step 7 every other day for two weeks
  9. Take a shovel and start to dig up roots

Step 9 is a very tiresome exercise, which is excellent cardio and fat burning.  I spent several hours a day, over the course of three weeks, and honestly believe I lost 6-7lbs.

I’m sure you can use chemicals to do the killing faster, but I do not like to pollute my garden, and is a strong supporter of hard labour – except when I have to do the work!

In the end, it was my awesome and creepy biology teacher who in my dream taught me to fight photosynthesis with my knowledge in biology :-).  Sometimes you can actually achieve a lot with stuff you learned in school.

Other options include inventing recipes for eating bamboo, building a bamboo raft, build a bamboo shed, design cool pens with bamboo casings, weave baskets, create matts, design furniture … the options are endless.  Only your imagination sets the limitation, and of course your ability to do it.

(btw, my old biology teacher was actually a pretty alright dude, and he did not do anything to freak me out)

killbamboo

The Unwanted Visit of Jon-Ass

gingergrizzlyIt has been a very unusually mild winter on the East coast so far, with Christmas day hitting 70 Fahrenheit (21 Celsius).  Most days in December had blue skies and we didn’t even start the oil furnace.

I seriously considered preparing the Christmas feast on the BBQ, light the fire pit and then do some insane Marshmallow rice pudding creation for dessert.  In the end I opt’d for the traditional dinner in the oven.

People really enjoyed the mild winter and I was careful not to jinx it.  But, deep inside I knew we would get snow, and it would be back to snow clearing the ridiculous long driveway.

The news started to report about strange weather behaviours and snow was falling in Nashville.  Our local weather-guy forecasted the arrival of a Nor-Eastern storm, bringing a lot of snow.

Stage is set for the arrival of Jonas (aka Jon-Ass)

Not sure who comes up with these storm names, but Jonas Brothers were indeed an annoying phenomenon … they came, stayed for a brief moment and left us with annoying songs.  And, the equally Jonas Berggren who gave us Ace of Base.  You get the point, Jonas is annoying!

girls
Girls at Work

Late Friday evening the first flurries were dropping, and by the time we woke up we had about an inch.  Not much, but the sky was only getting started, and the intensity grew.

By 1 pm we had about 8 inches and the girls braved the blizzard to go hit the slopes (i.e. our silly long and steep driveway.

I stepped outside a few times, but each time my beard was filled with icicles, bringing back memories of my viking days sailing around the fjords of Alaska.  Back then, we only went to shore to pillage and sleep with the locals.

By Sunday morning, the snow had stopped falling, and the total accumulation was closer to 16-18 inches.

It looked absolutely stunning.  The white landscape, the silence and the powdery snow was only disturbed by the local wild life.

BUT, looks can be very deceiving, especially as we have a stupid long driveway.  It’s paved, but that does not make it any easier to clear.  Thankfully I have it almost down to a science.

Here’s the snow clearing recipe:

  • clear 95% with snow-blower; this will cause you to be covered with snow all over, resembling the abominable snowman.  It’s rather painless exercise, but wrists may become sore as you push engine forward.
  • scrape the remaining layer manually, to see black tarmac; this is a painful activity, which will keep on giving for several hours after you are done. However, if the sun is out, this will result in quicker melting
  • sprinkle the magic; by far the easiest job, and one you will have to compete for with the rest of the family.  You simply sprinkle some snow/ice melting salt over the areas, to remove the remaining snow.

Although, it also make you feel like a retired WWII veteran.  You back is killing you.  Muscles you did not know you had will ache. Some exposed body parts will be numb due to cold and limited blood circulation.

Two hours of hypothermia, white knuckles, icicles in beard and eyebrows, can’t-feel’my-knees sensation and frostbitten eyeballs.  It’s worth it man!

My driveway is now spotless.  Pride of the neighbourhood.  I’m the driveway-snowclearing-hulk … or just the ginger grizzly 🙂

BEFORE
BEFORE
AFTER (and I found three cars)
AFTER (and I found three cars)