Friday, May 1, 2009

Swine Flu

I've been poking around a bit on the internet now that I'm back in civilization and it seems like the Swine Flu epidemic might be on the downslope, not clinically, but of its media-hype life-span that is. I'm wondering if the real story to come out of all this might acually be about the media itself and how it picks and focuses on a story. The acutal influenza outbreak might turn out to be a small blip in the history of influenza, but its overhyped media explosion and feardemic could be a watershed moment. Sara might not like this but I would reccommend that anyone interested read the Wikipedia entry for 2009 swine influenza outbreak. The entry has improved greatly in the few days since I've read it last and its the one place where I've been able to find complete and precise information about the topic. And, the last section of the entry is in regards to media response and bias, and distortion. So the upshot is that the effects seem to be very mild now in the states, very much like a normal flu outbreak. The reason is had such a high motality in Mexico is being debated. Thousands and thousands of people die every year in the US due to influenza and its no news story at all. This outbreak has so far only killed one person, and already its the top story for a week. Something doesn't seem right. I'm wondering if this is not further evidence that media and news is something that should be consumed like a vegetable, the more local the better. Any "news" that does not directly discuss something happening in your immediate community is probably just a distraction, and a stressful one at that. If I tune out of national/international instant news and analysis what will I do with all my time?? What will I read in the airport? Books maybe?

1999 Audi Avant

The round trip has been completed. I've returned to Red Mountain, WA where I began my trip south. The grape vines are just starting to bud out, and things are very green, especially the weeds! My carefully selected ride for this trip, Dusty, herself, deserves a bit of a break, or at least a check in with the capable mechanics at Wilson Brothers in Ballard. She performed beautifully, stylishly, while carrying all my stuff and precious cargo safely and without complaint. I am impressed with those German engineers who made such a fine auto. You would be hard pressed to find a car as quiet and solid feeling as this one, that could carry so much stuff while still carving sharp turns on back roads with a little sports car like gusto. Her engine is no monster, its 2.8 liter V6 its nothing like the 4.4 liter BMW 540 V8 that I was considering for a while, but its very quiet, and seamless, and when you push the pedal down far enough you find that you have moved quickly past any car you wish to pass. At 100mph it feels like 40mph in my old car, so quiet and solid, and that German sensation that seems to say, go ahead, run like this all day long, faster if you like. The one complaint I have is the gas milage. I averaged 24 mpg on the freeway, and this was considerable less than I guess I was hoping for. I think the Quattro full time AWD system is partly to blame for this. But the one time that I found myself on very soft sand all the sudden, she did pull right out of it without a thought. On Hwy 78 in SE Oregon yesterday, I was blasting along a absolutely deserted stretch of rangeland with bagpipe music playing on the stereo, the car expertly hugging each curve and hill. And she, the car, it, may be only a piece of machinery, but for a few hundred miles we were perfectly in sync, and I could not have been happier.

Eastern Oregon Fence Posts

In eastern Oregon, they have the practice of making a triangluar fencepost with a platform piled with rocks. My guess is that this is because the ground is so rocky that it makes it very difficult to dig a hole, and this platform provides an anchor point for a high tension top wire that holds up intermediate posts which aren't buried deeply in the dirt.

Eastern Oregon Back Roads

Amazing. What amazing roads. Hwy 78, and 395. Beautiful, small towns. Untouched by the freeway. I spent last night in the middle of E. Oregon, alone in a roadside campground just north of Burns, OR. It got down to 27 degrees F last night! I was warm in the tent under 3 blankets. I'm not in the tropics anymore.

Nevada Back Roads

Nevada is huge!!!! I had a great night's sleep next to a desert lake. Beautiful birds all around. Spring is in full swing and the temperature is getting much nicer as I climb north.

Back Roads

I had always believed in the concept of back roads, but now really do like them more. You might not get there as fast but the driving is much more fun and interesting, and the town you pass through are much more real. After Arizona I visited the Hoover Dam. Quite impressive. Notice the huge suspension bridge they are building just downstream. And also notice the watermark in Lake Mead, behind the dam, with the water level far, far below its historical level.

Swine Flu!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

No I don't have Swine Flu, and I don't think that I was in any danger, but it was a little eerie being in the country the State Department was telling people not to visit. There were some strange scenes of people walking the streets in masks, and stocking up on food at the store. Max and Sarah had a semi-stresful bus ride across the border, not really knowing the extent of the virus. And now that I've returned to the states I feel like I still don't really know what's happening, or more specifically, how much I should worry. I've been washing my hands in rubbing alcohol when I have any contact with anyone who deals with the public, toll booth attendants etc. Overkill? Probably. San Carlos is probably just as removed from Mexico City as a lot of places but who knows when someone will drive through town who has just come from Ciudad de Mexico and who knows?? And even if you get the virus how much worry is there? Maybe scientists don't even know why the mortality was so high in Mexico and seems to be much less in the states. Its confusing to try to figure out if this flu is really much more than a normal flu.

Sleeping on a Summit?

I had been thinking about this for a while, and both Max and Sarah agreed that we should try to sleep on the summit of a mountain to watch the sunrise. Sleeping was a little difficult, but it was a memorable night.

Charter Boating

Max, Sarah and I had a great time sailing.