Category Archives: personal stories

Viruses

An affliction with. a virus this week has lead to a panoply of thoughts, few of them are good.

My virus is clearly set upon transmitting itself to another human. Every orifice on my face is leaking fluids. My eyes are tearing so much I look like I just watched “Lorenzo’s Oil” for the first time. My mouth is a swimming pool of saliva. I shan’t reward the virus by spitting. My nose of course runs like a leaky faucet, only to dry up like a lizard in the sun. Even my ear wax is building up. The worst offender is the cough. One cough can fill a whole room with virus particles and in the meantime every cough breaks my concentration.

The most excellent strategy of the virus is keeping me mostly alive and healthy. The cold virus hardly dents the health of its victims and there are more than 200 varieties at a given time. The more deadly flu is much rarer. Ebola and West Nile are rarer yet. Despite the fear of super viruses, the selection pressure pushes viruses to be more mild, not more deadly. That these viruses have no conscience strategy is all the more vexing, in my opinion, though their evolutionary paths do create the opportunity for virus extinction. Virus evolution is only present in progeny and a virus cannot make progeny when its been wiped out. In other words, be a deterministic being, beat the viruses, and get yourself vaccinated.  

Aside of the terrible symptoms, my other thought was to my deteriorating will power. Fighting a fever, headache, and general wooziness, ever positive act is a drain on willpower. I let my local grocery store charge me too much for Chinese food because I was too tired to go back to the deli section and ask for a new price sticker. All I wanted to do was sit down in the front seat of my car and it only cost me a couple of dollars. If the store knew I was in such bad shape – fever, headache, fatigue, and labored breathing – I would charge them with duress. Quick tip: if you feel bad, then you should put off major decisions until you feel healthy again.

Lastly, my thoughts are on quarantine. At work I can slink into my office where my coughing sputum cannot sicken my coworkers. My strategy must be working, because no one in my office has been infected all week. At home, there is not practical way to protect my family from whatever virus I have. My theory is that I have the flu and they are immune because we were all vaccinated back in October. Of course, I was vaccinated and I came down with something. True, but keep in mind that the flu virus is always mutating and there are many varieties. The flu vaccine only covers the most common of the most recent flu viruses. Antibodies are not little decision makers, though, and if they can stick to an antigen, they will. This means that a flue vaccine or a bout with the flu will help you create antibodies that can attenuate other flu viruses. (I used to study viruses; I know these things.) My theory is that my family all got lucky, and their antibodies are crushing the virus that is making me miserable. Either that or they are about to get hit hard by whatever attacker I am spewing out with each cough. 

Downhill Supreme

True story: I had a mountain bike once. In addition to practical purposes, I used it to careen down muddy hills and through phalanxes of trees. I was always on the cusp of serious injury. The adrenaline rush was terrific. Then one day, my front tire slipped on a sandy trail and I fell chest first onto the end of the handle bars. The pain was terrific. By the next morning, my entire upper torso was a dark purple bruise. Lifting my arms above my head was impossible for the next month. Putting on a T-shirt was excruciating. Riding was of course impracticable. A couple of months after I healed, some jerk stole my bike. That was 10 years ago. I have not owned a bike since. But I have played Downhill Supreme.

Downhill Supreme is a fun 2-D mountain bike simulator. The tilt controls are great and the game play is refreshingly simple and free. There are no puzzles to suffer through here. The courses are thankfully short, as some of the later levels become repetitive as you have to re-do them until you exceed an arbitrarily set run time. The ubiquitous 3 star achievement system belies the polish of the graphics and physics. The game is also rather short. There is a promise of later levels, but then you cannot play promises. 

First Stadium Football Game

The title is true. In all my decades I have been to only one stadium game, last Thursday’s game between Iowa State University and Texas University.

The sound of a stadium is a lot like a dance club. The Iowa State crowd was deafening in and of themselves, but when you add the techno beats from the stadium speakers, you can forget about conversation. 

Watching the action from the stands is as confusing as election night on Fox News. Each penalty flag was followed by a discussion among the crowd as to the meaning and outcome. The stadium announcers and giant screen were little help. Eventually the score board will update and the crowd has to figure out what happened in reverse.

The game itself was thrilling. Very quickly, Texas scored a touchdown. I texted my wife and told her it was going to be a long game. But then Iowa tied it, only to have Texas score a touchdown with only 4 seconds left in the first quarter. I saw many odd things, such as 12 penalties against Iowa State and balls bouncing all over the field. The game was exciting up to the last point, literally. Texas won 21 to 20.

The last touchdown by Texas brought waves of boos for the officials. There was a been a fumble and a dispute over whether Iowa State grabbed the ball before Texas quartback hit the ground (something called forward motion). We could all see the replay on the giant screen though you could make little sense of it. All those cameras and screens did more to rile up he crowd than resolve the dispute. The post game talk was dominated by discussion of that one bad call. In my opinion, Iowa State should have let Texas run the ball in and then use the remaining 3 minutes to get into field goal range. Strategerie!

The outcome notwithstanding, conditions for the game were unbelievably perfect: mid 70s in October in Iowa. The stadium in Ames is open on the corners and fans have 4 grassy hills to enjoy. For the second half, a long time attendee showed me some good spots to hang out. The area is open enough that you can walk from one end to the other and follow the plays downfield. Unlike the crowded bleachers, you can keep up a conversation on the quieter grassy hills. The grassy areas are also the cheapest tickets. I recommend them.