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I had a 2,000 piece jigsaw puzzle made from a painting of mine. I thought this might be a good one:

Painting: Red Maple

Then I started, and I realized that puzzles of paintings are much harder to do than puzzles of photographs:

 

Ironically, the painting itself is about 15 feet behind me in the living room above the fireplace.

I can say this for certain:

So far it has taken many more hours to just get this far in the puzzle than it took to create the entire painting in the first place.

That’s why I call it Quarantine Pastime.

Some good info about handling the virus, sunlight, air, zinc and vitamins from the Chiefio —

What do the major hot spots of Italy, New York, etc. have in common? Government orders to send Chinese Wuhan Covid patients to elder care nursing homes. It’s time to stop this nonsense, get vitamin & zinc levels up, and get back to work.

via Deliberate Nursing Home Infection – Italy, New York, Dem. States — Musings from the Chiefio

Next Wednesday, May 27, 2020, is a big day. For the first time since July 8, 2011, American astronauts will be launched on an American spaceship from American soil.

When NASA grounded the space shuttle fleet in 2011, I didn’t think it was a good idea, and I never would have thought that for almost 10 years America would not have the capacity to launch humans into space. Of course, I also didn’t think in 1973 that we would not return to the moon for another at least 50 years.

On May 6, 2002, a 29-year-old South African immigrant named Elon Musk started a little company called SpaceX in Hawthorne, California. He wanted to make space travel cheaper so Mars could be colonized. I was a businessman in 2002, and if you had asked me if it was a good idea to start a rocket company I would have said you were insane. If you then had asked me if it was a good idea a year later to also start a car manufacturer in the United States, I would have said you’re insane squared. Musk did both of those things in 2002 and 2003 respectively, and has run both of those companies in parallel ever since. If you want to read a good biography of Musk, I can highly recommend Ashlee Vance’s Elon Musk.

The rocket and the spaceship that will launch two American veteran astronauts next Wednesday are built by SpaceX. This will be the first time ever a private company launches humans into orbit. I would not have thought this was possible in 2002. If told it was, I would have bet that the company doing it would be Boeing, or McDonnell Douglas, or Lockheed, but certainly not a startup.

I have been a businessman all my life myself. I have had many product launches, and deployments of new things for the first time. I know what it’s like to bet your company on a single product or a single project, and then succeed. I also know what it’s like that last night before “go live” when a thousand things can go wrong and make the whole project come crashing down. I know that the CEO can’t sleep the night before an important launch. I know how it feels when the pulse races, and the circular thinking at 2:30am does not let you calm down. I know what it feels like when all is at stake.

But even knowing all this, I cannot imagine what it must be like in Elon Musk’s life right now, for the next few days, when all is at stake and all the world watches as two American astronauts sit on top of a stack of highly explosive fuel to go to orbit, something no private company has ever done before. If something goes wrong, people die.

The pressure must be enormous.

I will be watching, and I am rooting for SpaceX and Musk.

The full transcript of the excerpt below is available at Whitehouse.gov for your review.

THE PRESIDENT: But when you do 14 million tests, you’re going to find more cases. If instead of 14 million tests we did 3 million — like, Germany is at about 3 million; South Korea is at 3 million, and they’ve done a very good job. It’s not a knock, but we’re at almost 14 million. We’re going to be passing 14 million very soon.

So you’re going to have more tests. If we do 3 million, everyone would say, “Oh, we’re doing great,” you know, in terms of cases. We’re going to have more cases. If we did 3 million — maybe that’s what we should’ve done. I said — if I would’ve done 3 million, they’d say, “Oh, they have very few cases. United States is doing well.”

We’re finding a lot of people. By doing testing, you’re finding people. So we’re doing 14, Germany is doing 3, South Korea doing 3, and I think they’re number two and three. So we’re way ahead of everybody. But when you do that, you have more cases. So a lot of times, the fake news media will say, “You know, there are a lot of cases in the United States.” Well, if we didn’t do testing at a level that nobody has ever dreamt possible, you wouldn’t have very many cases.

So we’re finding a lot of cases, and we’re doing a great job once we find them.

Okay, thank you very much.

Q (Inaudible) follow up. How does it compare to a per capita basis? Obviously, the United States is much larger than a lot of these Europeans countries.

THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.

Q How does our testing compare per capita —

THE PRESIDENT: Sure.

Q — to those nations?

THE PRESIDENT: You want to do that, Deborah?

DR. BIRX: Yeah.

THE PRESIDENT: Per capita.

DR. BIRX: Yeah, our — you know, our testing now, we’re almost up to 4 percent. So some of the state — some of the European countries are at 4 to 5 percent. And I think our goal is to ensure that we can find the asymptomatics. And I think that’s really our focus right now, working with every state to really help them identify where these clusters came from historically, and then proactively going for those clusters, identifying them early, and finding the asymptomatic individuals before. And no one is intending to spread the virus. I always want to be very clear about that. Asymptomatic patient — people don’t know they’re infected. And so, together, we’re really working to find them.

And I think it’s a — it’s a unique challenge, and I think together we’re really making progress.

THE PRESIDENT: And, you know, when you say “per capita,” there’s many per capitas. It’s, like, per capita relative to what? But you can look at just about any category, and we’re really at the top, meaning positive on a per capita basis, too. They’ve done a great job.

 

Remember they days when we saw the “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” signs in stores and restaurants ‘back in the day?’ Well, at least in the U.S. that was the case, particularly in areas near beaches and other recreational facilities. Of course, that reminds me of the shock I still remember more than 40 years later, when I was in a supermarket in Soulac-sur-Mer off Bordeaux in France, when a stark naked woman in flip flops with a shopping basket ambled toward me in the milk isle. I still wonder where she kept her wallet?

But back to the U.S. in 2020. Now we’re seeing conservatives complain that their “freedom is impeded” by the requirements of stores to wear masks. And the conservative media supports this.

Seriously?

It’s okay to require shoes in the store, but somehow it’s not okay to require a mask in the middle of a pandemic? I am not sure how I can pick up athlete’s foot if I am wearing shoes myself. But I know I can pick up a virus just from a droplet, a virus that kills 3 to 10 percent of those it infects.

And speaking about restricted freedom and individual rights: Remember when people supported the religious baker who refused to sell a cake to a gay couple? That was acceptable. Now, when a store requires masks, they say you can’t deny people service? Maybe we need to call health “religion” and we’re good?

And finally, we now have reports of establishments that do not allow masks and ask patrons to go elsewhere. WHAT? Darwin’s law will make sure those businesses don’t survive, I guess. Make a stand. Drive your customers away. Get yourself infected with a deadly virus while you’re at it. But don’t ask society to bail out your business or pay for your emergency room bills!

Hypocrisy, all!

 

I am not a medical professional.

But I can do math very well.

I keep receiving comments from folks who state that “the majority of people dying from Covid-19 would have died anyway,” and therefore no precautions are necessary and we should just go about our business as usual. After all, you can’t cheat mother nature. It will always win.

Nonsense.

If mother nature always won, I would have died 41 years ago at age 22 when my appendix burst. But I fought mother nature, went to a doctor, had emergency surgery, and I have had a productive life, children, built a company, all of which would not have happened if I had not taken steps to secure my health.

Looking at the video below of a patient – to me – is absolutely frightening.

I think I’ll keep wearing a mask for a while.

Trump and Obama at Trump’s inauguration in 2017

Trump is refusing to unveil the Obama portrait at the White House, a ceremony that has been tradition for over 40 years.

This shows me how obsessed Trump is with Obama, and how small a man he is.

Actions like these destroy my estimation of a character. Not that I had a lot of respect for Trump, even before the election. You can search this blog by the keyword “why I can’t vote” and you find over 25 posts to that effect. But I must say that my estimation of the character of Trump has sunken with every day, every action, and every gesture.

This is not how a president acts.

This is how a very small man acts.

Five former Special Forces soldiers (Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund and Pedro Pascal), stuck in their humdrum lives get together one last time to rob the cash a drug kingpin in South America. After careful planning and reconnaissance, they go in for the heist and come out with much more money than they even planned.

Money, even in hundred dollar bills, has weight. If you have watched Better Call Saul lately, you will know that seven million dollars fill up two large duffel bags. Now imagine 200 million dollars. You need a freight helicopter to fly that out of the jungle. And that’s exactly what they use. The problem is, a jalopy helicopter in the South American jungle can’t be overweight to cross the Andes with passes over 11,000 feet to get to the coast of Peru. That’s when things start going wrong.

The story starts out like Ocean’s Eleven, where Ocean rounds up his buddies, one by one, for the big heist. It’s the same here, and a good part of the movie is spent introducing the characters in their mundane lives while the leader is convincing them to join the heist.

Overall, while the action kept me on the edge of my seat, it’s really an unrealistic movie with a lot of plot holes that kept distracting me.

Spoiler Alert

Just listing one: When the helicopter crashes in a jungle village, they have this huge pile of cash in bags that they need to carry over the mountains. They procure some mules to pack it out. But the journey is treacherous and nearly impossible. Why would they do that? They could simply hide the money in the mountain wilderness, take a single backpack full of cash, hike out without a load, and then return with a proper helicopter for the loot. That does not seem to occur to any of them.

In the last scene, one member of the team hands another a slip of paper, which sets the movie up for a sequel.

I also don’t understand why the movie is titled “Triple Frontier.” The title makes no sense to me, and I’ll likely have forgotten it in a few days.

“They are warriors aren’t they, when you see them going into those hospitals and they’re putting the stuff that you deliver, but they’re wrapping themselves, and the doors are opening, and they’re going through the doors, and they’re not even ready to go through those doors, they probably shouldn’t, but they can’t get there fast enough, and they’re running into death just like soldiers run into bullets in a true sense, I see that with the doctors and the nurses and so many of the people that go into those hospitals, it’s incredible to see, it’s a beautiful thing to see.”

— Donald Trump, May 15, 2020

 

I have mentioned the movie Rambo: First Blood many times in this blog over the years. Just search for the keyword and you can find the various posts. The first time was all the way back in 2008, when I listed it as one of Three Timeless Movies. But I never gave it the honor of a review in all that time.

Rambo came out in 1982. It was based on the 1972 novel First Blood by David Morrell. John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) is a returned Vietnam veteran who is drifting in the Pacific Northwest while looking for a buddy from he war. When he finally finds his home he learns that he had died of cancer a year before. Rambo learns he is the last survivor of his group of Green Berets, and he is devastated. He walks into the nearest town when the local Sheriff picks him up and immediately starts pushing him around. He eventually gets wrongfully arrested and abused by the small-town police force. Triggered by flashbacks of torture, his instincts take over, he overwhelms the untrained cops, and escapes the jail with nothing but the clothes on his back and a knife. As they chase him into the woods they quickly realize that they are not hunting him, he is hunting them.

Consistent with the cliché of what we’re expecting Rambo to be, we find a one-man army with nothing but a knife facing hundreds of local cops, state police, national guard and military all trying to contain him. One of the famous quotes of the movie is “Don’t push it or I’ll give you a war you won’t believe.” And exactly that he does.

There is a lot of shooting and brutal attacks in the story, but despite his notorious reputation, Rambo doesn’t actually kill anyone in First Blood. He just severely wounds and disables many people trying to hunt him down.

After Rambo: First Blood in 1982, there were many sequels. Rambo does a lot of killing in those. The franchise went on with Rambo: First Blook Part II, which Reagan saw and was famously recorded saying “Boy, after seeing ‘Rambo’ last night, I know what to do the next time this happens,” which was picked up by microphones placed in his office for a television and radio speech in 1985 but not carried in the broadcast.

Rambo: First Blood, in my opionion, is a surprisingly good movie. It’s a good innocent hero versus very bad cops story, where the hero kicks ass, gets justice, but eventually goes out with a whimper and the audience gets to feel good.

All other Rambo movies that followed it are no comparison at all, not even in the same league.

I watched Rambo: Last Blood a couple of days ago, and that prompted me watch Rambo: First Blood again and finally write the review it deserves, 38 years after it first came out.

 

It’s been almost 40 years since John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) had someone draw “first blood” on him when we has a young Green Beret who had come back from Vietnam, lost and abused. Here is my review of First Blood

Now an old man, Rambo lives on a dude ranch in Southern Arizona where he trains horses and raises the teenage daughter of a friend who calls him uncle. She was abandoned by her abusive father when she was young and lost her mother to cancer. When she finds out that her father lives in Mexico, she wants to visit him and get to know him. Against Rambo’s best advice, she slips away and finds her father. He cruelly rejects her, and in her grief, while barhopping in town, gets kidnapped by human traffickers.

Rambo is left with no choice but come and find her. What ensues is a one-man-war against an entire Mexican band of organized crime. While Rambo does not actually kill anyone in First Blood, he does not hold back in the subsequent movies, and Last Blood is full of gory detail, from decapitations to impaling, shooting, burning, and disemboweling. Revenge sees no limits in Last Blood. The demons that haunted the young Green Beret forty years ago are still torturing the old man.

I am sure they always will.

 

Just a couple of days ago was the 75th anniversary of VE Day in Europe, the day the Nazis surrendered about a week after Hitler killed himself. What most people do not realize is how short the tenure of power of the Nazis actually was. Hitler didn’t come to power until March 1933 and his Third Reich (which he called the 1000-year-empire) lasted only 12 years.

Today, May 11, 2020 is the 100th anniversary of a milestone speech Hitler gave at the Hofbräuhaus in Munich at 7:30pm, titled “Was wir wollen?” (what we want?). Below is a poster proclaiming the event. This was the time when the fledging Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiter Partei (the Nazi party) recognized Hitler’s oratory and propaganda skills and he started to rise within the party. He proclaimed he fought for the worker class, he called the people Genossen (comrade) and his mantra was to Make Germany Great Again after its humiliation by the allied powers after “the World War” which we now know as World War I.

Germany didn’t know it at the time, but the dark period started that day. The name of Hitler on the poster was still in very small font.

[May 11th, 1920] First NSDAP advertising posters in Munich. Call for the public party rally on May 11, 1920. Speaker: Adolf Hitler from 100yearsago

Here is a headline in Newsweek I saw today:

White House Misled Public, Buried CDC Reopening Guidelines and is Now Preparing for Second Coronavirus Wave

Newsweek

I wonder what they mean by “Second Coronavirus Wave.” That would mean that the first wave is over. Here is the “curve” of the United States as of Mother’s Day 2020:

Source: Johns Hopkins University

This is the current curve of infections in the United States and represents 1,329,225 positive tests and 79,525 deaths. This is one wave. I don’t see where the first one has stopped.

In contrast, Germany has the 7th most infections in the world. Here is their graph:

Source: Johns Hopkins University

This is what a flattened curve looks like. From that I can see that measures in Germany have been working. When I compare this to the United States in general, there is a marked difference. Germany, and other countries like Italy, France and Spain, are all taking measures that are brutal, but work. The United States is not.

I can take a look at these numbers with a sober eye and a scientific mind. They are what they are. I am not emotional about this.

However, what angers me is when I hear people saying that “people are going to die anyway, so why bother….” This is brutal. Most of the 79,000 Americans that died of this disease would not have died otherwise, at least not yet. If this were business as usual, why do we have:

— Medical workers protesting on the streets

— Emergency doctors and nurses dying in record numbers

— A lack of PPE in hospitals

— Bodies piling up in refrigerated trucks in New York City

This is a virus, and – I hate to use the trite expression – it spreads virally. Without containment, we would see the curves even steeper. If we want to see society as we know it break down, we could try to just let it go. After all, people will just die anyway.

But first, let me move to Papua New Guinea.

 

It’s six years after Olympus has Fallen, when Allen Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) was the Speaker of the House and was Acting President during the terrorist crisis. Apparently, President Asher has served his two terms, and now Allan Trumbull is the President of the United States, and Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is his most trusted Secret Service agent.

There is a high-tech assassination attempt on the president while on a fishing trip. His entire Secret Service detail is killed, and only Banning survives and manages to save the president. He is wrongfully accused of the attack and arrested. After he escapes against all odds, it becomes clear to him that he has been set up. Alone on the outside, the entire U.S. law enforcement machine after him, the president in a coma in the hospital, Mike Banning goes on the offensive, saving the legitimate government from a coup at the highest levels.

While the action in Angel has Fallen is as intense (and unlikely) as in Olympus has Fallen, this is a somewhat better movie – that is – if you like the intense action hero style movies, where everyone gets killed and the hero gets beat up and scratched and shot and poked, but it never seems to stop him.

A week ago, when browsing Netflix, we ended up watching Angel has Fallen, a 2019 film starring Morgan Freeman as the President of the United States and Gerard Butler, the hero, as Secret Service Agent Banning, who protects the president against all odds. At the time we didn’t realize that Angel has Fallen is the third of a trilogy starring Agent Banning. My review of Angel has Fallen is here.

Olympus has Fallen came out in 2013. The White House, under president Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart), is taken over by ruthless Korean terrorists in a surprise attack from the air, on land and from inside. The president, the secretary of defense, and the chairman of the joint chiefs all end up as hostages in a bunker under the White House. Former Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is the hero who enters the White House, and in the style of Die Hard, takes out one of the terrorists at a time. There is more at stake than just the lives of the president and his government, as the terrorists threaten to set off a nuclear holocaust in the United States. But in true superhero style, reminiscent of the Rambo or Die Hard movies, Agent Banning saves the day.

The Secret Service code for the White House is apparently “Olympus,” hence the title of the movie. It’s a constant barrage of military style shooting, helicopters and jet planes crashing, bad-ass terrorists killing hostages on TV and the good guys getting mowed down constantly. It does keep you on the edge of the sofa, through, and you can’t help but root for the hero.

Between Olympus has Fallen and Angel has Fallen, there was also a movie titled London has Fallen in 2016, which had worse ratings than the other two. I think I’ll skip “London.”

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