Tag Archives: SARS-CoV-2

How To Shop For A Sextant Online During A Global Pandemic

Or… Shopping For My Spouse’s Birthday Gift

I shake my head and stare at the screen.

“I want to feel the brass and hold it. Feel the movement of each piece and know I’ll be able to calibrate it for him,” I whine to the cat. The autumn winds blowing down from Alaska drown out my words as they wind their way over the Rockies.

Staring at the pictures, I imagine the heavy brass of my family’s sextant balanced in my clumsy hands as my father lets me look at it. His calloused palms poised to catch the instrument should I falter.

“This one won’t do.” I toss it into the mental pile of surveying and mapping equipment I look at; never purchase.

Who can afford to spend over a thousand dollars on something like this over the internet? I mentally discard another with a fancier, more modern black finish.

I call my parents. “I want to buy Jacob a sextant for his birthday. What’s the story behind ours? Does Dad have any advice?”

Thousands of miles of static and telephone lines crackle. “The one your dad has was your great grandfather’s from the maritime academy. Why do you want one for Jacob?”

I pause and shrug into the phone. “To record our locations for dark sky photography. GPS can’t be trusted out here.” I grasp my forehead and castigate my own thoughts. But I’m the one that knows how to use one for surveying, navigation, and astronomy – that would be a terrible gift.

I stare out at the horizon hidden by mountains and try to find the ocean beneath the curvature of the earth. Jacob doesn’t care about the difference between a mile and a nautical mile. What does he care about?

I catch him and ask about his feelings around flying and clouds pass over the sun – visibility down to less than 5 miles and he gives me a look that says VFR ain’t going to fly. He never got a seaplane rating and this dream is about to try a water landing without pontoons. “I don’t know when the next time I’m going to fly is. Please don’t get me anything that could be related to flying.”

I decide against getting him a sextant and reminisce about when we spent hours talking about the intersection of history where airplanes and ships used the same navigation systems and why. I stare at the stormy sea of sky lapping against the mountain sides and remember our last aerial photography trip. I order his birthday cake and continue to brainstorm better gifts.

Montana now has the highest rate of transmission of any state. Distracted, I stare at the news and try to process how dangerous it is to step outside. This was all predictable based on the behavior patterns of 1918.

Birthdays have to remain special in the face of COVID, so I order wine and check our reservation for the weekend. I check that his favorite decaf pop and breakfast cereal are in the pantry. I try and decide what else we should do to make it a special day about him.

While most of the United States has been living with this since March, Jacob has been living with COVID since it first hit obscure global news last autumn and I brought it home by explaining how diseases follow human behavior patterns. In February I set up forecasting models and told him how to prepare before the preppers drained the stores of paper products, resulting in channeled anxiety and full isolation.

My incredible husband and love of my life sits with me in my mind while I wonder how to celebrate someone as amazing as him. I think of bonfires, quality time, adventures, and our daily lives. I think about these acts of preparation and foresight and how they are gifts and acts of love in themselves.

I buy Jacob 2 books and 2 glass vessels for his birthday following the theme: Scientific Magic. I write a blog post about not buying a sextant and realizing that was a dumb gift idea. I refuse to spoil the surprise while I continue further preparations and celebrate his existence everyday.


Happy Birthday to my amazing partner and best friend, Jacob. I have many best friends, but you are the one I married and the one I celebrate today. My forever partner in adventure 💕

People Who Inspire Me: Julie Nolke

Today is going to be a little bit different of a post. I’m celebrating an arguably famous creator/writer/artist and this is going to be the first in a series called People Who Inspire Me. Pretty simple concept, right?

I do not own any of these videos and they are embedded directly from YouTube. I recommend going directly to the YouTube channel and watching the video with ads to support this awesome creator, consider each embedded video a link. I do not get money from any ads played in the embedded videos.

Julie Nolke
Image Source: IMDB // Julie Nolke 2020 // Skyloft productions accessed 12 October 2020

Julie Nolke

You may have heard of her. You may not have. Her first appearance was on a show called Workin’ Moms and a though her IMDB is short, she has no shortage of material.

You can check out her Patreon, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

She’s a comedic genius that focuses her superpower on empathetic storytelling.

My sister, Becky, first exposed me to her with this video:

Her comedy sketches around the 2020 Pandemic are some of the purest, most honest humor I have seen in a long time. At first, my impression of her style of humor was along the lines of a phrase I grew up with:

If I weren’t laughing, I’d be crying

Then I realized that’s 2020 and how my dumb ass self decided that the motto for this year was going to be “Hindsight is 2020” when we were all making up funny mottos. (Another person we knew said, “In 2020 We Take Shots Of Water!” As we can see, sobriety has not been working out for many people.)

In her [currently] 3 part series on 2020, there are 2 more videos, but she has added other 2020 themed videos that cannot be missed.

First, here’s Part 2 of the series:

After this video, these gorgeous pieces became a reality. Such as “Quarantine Panic Attack” where she uses her series “Mirror Mirror” to feature more revealing discussions with herself.

The artistic exploration used in some of these videos to explore the expression of comedy with empathy for human experience makes me smile.

One of my favorite videos about 2020 has been the collaboration between her and Anna Akana to create “Pandora’s Box Opened In 2020” – specifically around how messed up it is to put all the bad stuff in existence into a tiny box and give it to someone with the instruction not to open it when you really intended the whole time to have someone open it and simply displace the blame. Shame Zeus. For Shame.

Her other videos on the global pandemic and 2020 have been equally insightful works of pure art. Approaching touchy subjects such as social distancing and the shaming behaviors people exhibited at fulfilling the human need of contact and physical closeness. Pun intended.

Another brilliant video in her series on 2020 includes “First Date Post Pandemic” where she fantasizes about what going on a date after the pandemic would be like.

One of the other 2020 videos themed spot on is the “Casual Chit-Chat Attempt…” video featuring how Small Talk has devolved over this year into practically non-existent and redefined

small talk.

She even makes fun of herself in returning to the “Mirror, Mirror” series with a conversation about her sudden YouTube popularity. The video “I went viral” is an artistic approach at explaining comedic/artistic insanity.

But what about the shirt in that video? Well, it turns out she did a Q&A while taking advantage of Canada’s recreational marijuana laws. One of the things I appreciate about this entire video is the level of preparation that goes into it. She is not a stoner and she has boundaries around her consumption and she’s having fun with it. Similar to how people need to see healthy use of a substance (use of alcohol in moderation as an example) to know what that looks like, she does a great job at showing what NORML defines as healthy use, plus gives us a really entertaining show at the same time.

I would’t mind having this kind of friend at a party.

While there are still more videos not mentioned here on the topic of how 2020 impacts North America, she keeps it real every time. She keeps her viewers laughing and she’s trying not to let it all go to her head faster than that one time she was on the Disney channel.

Then, 4 days ago, she dropped this beautiful masterpiece of a Part 3:

Her last 2 “Explaining the Pandemic to my Past Self” videos (parts 2 & 3) have spent quite a bit of time focusing on the protests in the United States (as well as across the world), spurred by the death of George Floyd. The aftermath and the continued self education she works into these videos I find fascinating as she presents reflections of what she has learned.

Julie Nolke takes the time to address some very serious topics (with some Kubrick-esque comic relief). This falls in line with her style pre-pandemic as well as can be seen in her January 2020 video “Confronting Fear.”

Hopefully I succeeded in introducing you to an internet comedian that you can connect with during this year and all of its hard times. I look forward to talking about some of my other favorite YouTube channels and their creators.

Again, if you like what you see, you can support her by checking out her work and or following her on Patreon, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.


Thank you so much for reading this today! If you enjoyed this brief write up about Julie Nolke’s YouTube channel and her work during 2020, please take a moment to Like, Comment, and/or Share. That will help me gauge the posts my readers enjoy. As always, thank you for reading – without you these words would be meaningless little bits and bytes.

The Castro We Knew – A Poem

Yesterday, Jacob and I drove through our old neighborhood in San Francisco after my UCSF appointment before we started our drive back to Montana to quarantine for 2 weeks. While we couldn’t see anyone in person, I wanted to see the city that stole a part of me. What we saw? My heart breaks for the communities I love.


The Castro We Knew

Rainbow crosswalks sleep
Beneath COVID covered streets.
Storefronts beg we stand together
While standing six feet apart

What happened to our promised land?
These parklets – empty squatters
Where free STD clinic vans once sat
The city lost interest – no tourists; no hands

Our silent ghost town of glitter —
Toxic smoke settling
Into a matte finish over
All we once thought was gold


You can help support The Castro of San Francisco and help it survive by shopping Castro Merchants, supporting the San Francisco LGBT Center, and donating money to keep the GLBT Historical Society (operating the Harvey Milk Memorial) operating during the COVID-19 shutdowns. If you can’t donate, you can start conversations about this special place needing assistance and share these websites with friends and family. Every little bit helps.

Twitter Is A Strange Place For Global News Insights

Source: https://onemilliontweetmap.com/ as of 28 July 2020 at 3:10 PM U.S. Mountain Time (US MT)

At any given time the major cities around the globe are lit up on the Twitter activity heat map. They don’t sleep, but you’ll see after 5 PM things start to get busier for countries that run on a Monday through Friday work schedule.

For those of you losing your minds over that last statement, there are, in fact, countries that don’t run on the stereotypical Western work week. While I would love to get into how this is a detail I have yet to see a single author include while writing about these cultures, for now I will link the Wikipedia article here.

One of the great things about Twitter is that we can use it as an analytical tool to see what people are talking about across the globe and where they are having these thoughts exploding out of their brains and into a space limited to 260 characters.

So let’s go on an exploration of where the world is having deep thoughts reduced to hashtags/keywords using the free analytics tool One Million Tweet Map. I do recommend everyone to have fun and repeat this with hashtags and keywords you’ve selected. Please pick more positive/silly words than I did. I’m still questioning why I went the serious route. If you do repeat this, please tell me about it in the comments!

As a few notes before we begin, I took these map samples at a few different times to try and get the most interesting maps I could to then research what the related current events in the countries lighting up could be.

A Quick Survey

1. #covid19

Source: https://onemilliontweetmap.com/ at 3:52 PM US MT with search inclusive of all tweets using #coronavirus #covid19 #pandemic #covid #virus #socialdistancing #stayhome #corona #quarantine #lockdown

The coronavirus global pandemic is in full swing with the second wave commencing.

Top 5 countries tweeting about this are:

  1. United States – well this one makes sense. The pandemic hasn’t calmed down much here. Our case growth rate has increased to 2% (at the time of writing) from when we had it down to just under 1% for that brief glimmer of hope amount of time… before everyone who doesn’t understand how disease transmission and eradication decided it was time to “go back to normal” without sufficient social structures and a Health Belief Model in place to protect everyone – specifically the most vulnerable members of our population.
  2. India – Currently holding at a 2.3% mortality rate, India has 1.5 million cases compared to 4.5 million in the United States. To put this in perspective, the population of India is 1.35 billion and the population of the United States is 327 million. It’s coming up in the news because, much like other disease outbreaks in India, the populations most impacted are directly linked to socioeconomic stratification. This is drawing media attention.
  3. United KingdomThe UK has the highest number of coronavirus related deaths in Europe. That seems like a very legitimate reason for it to be at the forefront of people’s minds.
  4. Mexico – Mexico, like the United States and the United Kingdom, is one of the most impacted countries. Partially due to the wealthy foreigners fleeing to tourism destinations at the beginning of the global pandemic. This has lead to the closures of over 150,000 businesses as Mexico struggles with to tackle providing economic support while stopping the spread. All of this during a time when Mexico reaches near record daily death tolls.
  5. Spain – Citizens of Spain fear that it is entering its second wave as talks of a second lock down loom. At the same time, Spain is attempting to save its tourism industry – a major source of strife during this global pandemic.

2. Keyword: economy

Source: https://onemilliontweetmap.com/ at 3:30 PM US MT with search term “economy”

The Top 5 countries tweeting about this are:

  1. United States – The United States economy isn’t doing so hot. The Federal Reserve is leaving interest rates at close to zero. Some are arguing that the last financial quarter is the worst in United States history. Even Fox News is saying that the economy is only going to get worse with a second downfall expected.
  2. United Kingdom – Brexit is at the top of many minds it seems. The London School of Economics and Political Science suggests that businesses that escaped the fallout of COVID-19 will instead be destroyed by Brexit. The World Economic Forum predicts a slow recovery in early 2021 if the country can get coronavirus contained and controlled by the end of 2020. At this time it seems most of the concerns are tied to the economic impacts of the global pandemic combined with Brexit.
  3. India – It seems that economists are pessimistic about India’s recovery. The Reserve Bank of India continues to cut interest rates and India considers itself the 3rd worst economically impacted country – the first being the United States and second being Brazil. The ongoing border dispute between China and India contributes to this economic crisis. Other blame India’s economic reopening plans. Either way, for a third economic quarter, India’s GDP suffers.
  4. Australia – Economic news out of Australia tells a different story compared to the rest of the world. Expecting contraction and deflation, Australia expects only a 5% decrease in GDP. But that isn’t the whole story. Large numbers of Australians are unemployed and underemployed and others predict that Australia is approaching a fiscal cliff.
  5. South AfricaThe International Monetary Fund has provided $4.3 Billion in emergency support to South Africa. Retail sales collapsed to less than 50% of what they were a year prior in April, suggesting insufficient economic support during stringent lockdown procedures. With massive business closures in multiple industries and significant declines in spending, tax revenues have decreased. Restaurants in Johannesburg are protesting government actions while Business For South Africa (B4SA) predicts that the country is looking at a minimum of two years before any economic recovery begins.

3. Keyword: Black Lives Matter

Source: https://onemilliontweetmap.com/ at 3:35 PM US MT with search term “Black Lives Matter”

Top 5 countries tweeting about this are:

  1. United States – There is so much news. There is so much information available. I am not going to even try to provide a summary with links.
  2. Canada – The majority of news here is in discussion of what is happening within the borders of their southern neighbor or local news stories regarding racial injustices occurring within Canada – such as whether or not police should be responding to mental health crises instead of emergency medical workers. In Toronto, Black Lives Matter protestors issued a list of requests, including the removal of racist statues and restructuring of the Toronto police department, including the defunding of many of its units and resources. In the same city, over 2,000 artists signed a letter in solidarity with the movement.
  3. United Kingdom – Between Elle announcing that Women are the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement in the UK, the announcement of a Black Lives Matter TV series, the cancelling of London Pride’s joint event with Black Lives Matter, and active youth participation across the country, the UK is not an inactive leaf in the stream of history. Statues have become a major topic, leading one man to be jailed, police departments at risk for litigation, and one museum digging in its heels over the display of a statue of a slave ship owner. These events are inspiring intense art exhibitions, with some of the art inspired by this global movement going on to be displayed in Westminster.
  4. India – The Black Lives Matter movement has sparked necessary and pre-existing controversy over the cultural relationship between social status and skin color. Skin lightener brands, such as Fair and Lovely, is one of many targets currently being called out as an example of this frustrating example of colorism found throughout the country. The problem is that discrimination based on the color of skin is more complicated in India than I, or any American, can understand. At this point, requests are for concrete and basic anti-discrimination laws – a very different concept of need compared to what the United States and United Kingdom are seeing as protesters seek to bring social injustices to light. Even the Catholic Church is getting involved.
  5. Nigeria – Between calling for museums to return stolen looted goods, pride in Opal Tometi’s role in the American Black Lives Matter movement, the Nigerian Museum confronting Christie’s over the auction of stolen, sacred ancient artifacts, and the recognition that Nigeria is becoming a fashion capital of the world, there’s no shortage on news as to why Black Lives Matter is trending there.

4. Keyword: New Zealand

Source: https://onemilliontweetmap.com/ at 3:39 PM US MT with search term “New Zealand”

The Top 5 countries tweeting about this are:

  1. United States
  2. United Kingdom
  3. Canada
  4. India
  5. Nigeria

I’m going out on a limb here and saying people are talking about New Zealand for reasons that have not that much actually having to do with events going on in New Zealand… Just a hunch… After looking at articles and deciding they were too depressing to list here.

5. Keyword: Food Shortage

Source: https://onemilliontweetmap.com/ at 4:10 PM US MT with search term “Food Shortage”

Okay, seriously, why did I think these depressing searches were a good idea?

Top 5 countries tweeting about this:

  1. United States – Conflicting information arises as I do my investigations. Despite the USDA continuing to say there are no food shortages, supply chain issues are resulting in empty grocery store shelves across America. Food manufacturers are cutting corners and changing their recipes, and with the USDA and FDA’s permissions, food allergy labeling and ingredient labeling standards are less stringent, resulting in Americans with food allergies no longer being able to trust food labeling (as an aside, I am among them and recently had a peanut allergen labeling issue in violation of FALCPA with Tillamook – read more on the FDA website here). The reasoning for these changes in labeling standards? That food shortage that the USDA claimed isn’t happening, but now the FDA is saying food manufacturers are reporting. The blame is placed on a shortage of farm workers, with those working trapped in the United States on H-2A Visas where labor violations and back-wages owed are at an all time high. At the same time, these migrant populations live in conditions putting them at the highest risk for COVID-19 transmission. With online retailers other than Walmart and Amazon not allowed to accept federal assistance programs in 33 states, the most vulnerable populations are suffering the consequences.
  2. United Kingdom – It appears that there is a national food strategy for combatting shortages. This is stirring up some conversation about the resilience of supply chains and commerce. Some are worried that Brexit will make matters worse as record numbers of individuals in the UK can no longer afford food.
  3. Nigeria – It looks like Nigeria is taking the active intervention approach after the United Nations call it and 24 other countries likely to face devastating famine as a result of COVID-19. Some experts are urging the government to do more, as it appears only 3% of current interventions are coming from the government.
  4. India – India, while producing so much food exported to the rest of the world, was ranked 102/117 on the Global Hunger Index before COVID-19 hit. Now, the problem is getting worse. The impacts extend far beyond the human population, with tiger poaching hitting all time record highs as a result of subsistence hunting. Even rhinoceroses are suffering from a food shortage. Times are so hard, India is considering passing anti-famine amendments that have not been seen in over a century.
  5. Canada – For Canadians, many are concerned about the food shortages negative impacts on the long term survival of the polar bear. Others seem to believe a silver lining to the supply chain disruption is how it is saving community supporting, local agriculture. Agri-Canada is using this opportunity to create youth focused jobs to reduce the supply chain disruption.

Why Care?

It’s helpful to think about the world beyond our own individual experiences. We cannot live in a society where we think about everything with ourselves at the center of our personal universes. It is important to instead consider the experiences of those elsewhere – places we have never seen and may never see in our lifetimes. We are all interconnected and nothing we do exists in a bubble. Nothing.

Go forth and search for more positive things. I will try to do the same.

Thank you so much for reading my post today. If you enjoyed it, please like, comment, and/or share. This helps me know which posts my readers prefer and can help me cater future content.