Category Archives: Uplifting Stories

Self-Driving Cars Are Already Saving Drunk Drivers: The Promise And The Implications

Self-Driving Cars: Everything You Need to Know | Kelley Blue Book

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 10,497 people died in traffic accidents caused by drunk driving in 2016 alone. That accounted for 28 percent of all traffic-related deaths in the United States. A non-insignificant chunk of those deaths were children. Even if you’re not good at math, you know that is not a trivial figure.

There’s also a good chance you know someone who has been hurt or worse because of a drunk driver. This sort of thing is personal for me because one of my cousins was killed by a drunk driver many years ago. He wasn’t even drinking. He was just unlucky enough to be in the back seat of the car at the time.

It’s an issue that has existed for as long as cars. It’s also an issue that policy makers and car manufacturers have tried to address through awareness programs and safety features. However, these measures can only do so much. So long as human beings are drinking and driving cars, this will be an issue.

That dynamic will likely change considerably when self-driving cars enter the picture. To some extent, they’re already making an impact. You can buy a car today that has some measure of self-driving features. They’re still not fully autonomous, but we’ve taken the first critical steps. From here on it, it’s just a matter of refinement.

Even though it might be years before self-driving cars are common, they’re already making an impact and it’s not just in terms of sheer novelty. Very recently, a Tesla Model S, which has an autopilot feature, did something cars of old could never do.

It saved a drunk driver who passed out behind the wheel, which likely saved or prevented serious injuries to others around him. Here are the details, according to the site, Telsarati.

Teslarati: Tesla Autopilot prevents drunk driver from making a fatal mistake

As explained by the Eastern Police District on its official Twitter account, a 24-year-old Tesla owner ended up passing out while driving his Model S. Fortunately for the driver, the vehicle’s Autopilot system was activated, which allowed the Model S to stay in its lane without causing trouble to other drivers.

Upon detecting that its driver was unresponsive, the vehicle eventually came to a stop and engaged its hazards. The man was later attended to by emergency services. No one was injured in the incident.

The police noted that the Tesla driver, who was found unconscious in the Model S, was evidently drunk, though he denied that he was driving. Video evidence showing the Tesla owner passed out in the driver’s seat have been shared online, however. The police stated that necessary tests have been taken, and that the Tesla owner’s driver’s license has been temporarily suspended. A case has also been filed against the driver.

Such an incident could have easily been a lot worse. It is very easy for drunk drivers to harm themselves, after all, but what’s even worse is that they could very easily harm other people just as easily. These scenarios would likely not be as prevalent if vehicles are capable of safely stopping on their own once their human drivers are incapacitated.

The bolded text represents the most relevant details. Without these features, this incident could’ve played out like so many other drunk driving tragedies. A drunk driver passing out behind the wheel would’ve, at the very least, led to the car going off-road and crashing, thus resulting in significant injury. At worst, the driver could’ve hit another car, thus compounding the tragedy.

However, thanks to these emerging systems, that didn’t happen. The safeguards in the car worked. The only real harm done involve a hangover and a DUI. Compared to the alternative, that’s far more preferable.

We should not understate the importance of this development. Think back to that 10,497 figure from 2016. Thanks to the autopilot system in that Tesla, the figure for 2021 will be at least one less. It doesn’t eliminate the tragedy of drunk driving all at once, but it’s a start and an important one, at that.

Driving is inherently dangerous, but a lot of that danger comes from the people behind the wheel and not the machines themselves. Anything operated by a human is prone to human error. An autonomous system, even if it isn’t a full-fledged artificial intelligence, can and will mitigate those errors.

That’s not to say those same autopilot systems aren’t prone to error. They certainly are, but remember that this technology is still very new. The first cell phones couldn’t send an email or reliably play streaming video. That took time, energy, and better hardware.

At this very moment, car companies and tech companies are putting in all that work. There is a lot of potential profit in refining this technology. However, I would point out that you can’t put a price on human life and, as it stands, thousands will continue to die every year because of traffic accidents, especially drunk driving. This one incident might not seem like much in the grand scheme of things, but it’s still one tragedy averted, one accident prevented, and at least one life saved. For anyone who knows the pain of losing a loved one to drunk driving, that’s worth celebrating.

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Filed under Artificial Intelligence, futurism, robots, technology, Uplifting Stories

A Brief Message To Afghan Refugees Arriving In America (And My Fellow Americans)

There are some news stories that I go out of my way to avoid. It’s not that I actively ignore them. I just prefer not to discuss them because I either have nothing of value to offer or they’re just way outside my expertise. In some instances, the story itself is just too tragic and depressing. Talking about it only belabors how miserable things are and how bad they’re bound to get.

That’s why I haven’t said anything about the ongoing situation in Afghanistan. Believe me, I have opinions about it. I’m reluctant to link to articles about it because every aspect of this story is just too awful for words.

We all know the basics. After nearly 20 years of occupation, the United States is leaving Afghanistan and the Taliban has already taken over. Basically, the country is back to where it was 20 years ago, ruled by a collection of extreme religious zealots who seek to govern and oppress like 7th century warlords.

It’s an objectively terrible situation. There’s no other way to describe it.

However, there is one part of this horrific story that is worth highlighting and it’s actually somewhat uplifting. It has to do with refugees, a subject I know sparks some extreme opinions among certain segments of America.

Now, this issue hits a little closer to home for me, personally. I grew up in a pretty diverse community. Many of my neighbors were either first or second generation immigrants from various parts of the world.

Just a block from my house was a neighborhood full of immigrants from Korea. Not far from that was a neighborhood with a sizable Nigerian population. A few miles away, there was a neighborhood full of Indian and Middle Eastern immigrants. There were also a few stores that catered specifically to Spanish speaking people.

That was my normal. Every time I went to a mall or crowded area, I was bound to hear at least two different languages. It also showed in my school. I’ve always been around a large mix of nationalities, ethnicities, and cultures. In fact, whenever I traveled to areas that were predominately one race or ethnic group, it felt weird.

Growing up, I just came to associate this with America being a melting pot. This was not a country defined by one particulate race or ethnic group. Yes, many of the Founding Fathers were old rich white guys, but the nation they set up accommodated many people from many different nations. To me, that wasn’t just a distinct trait. It was a defining characteristic.

That’s why when I heard stories about refugees from Afghanistan arriving in America after such an arduous trip, I found it oddly uplifting. In fact, it was the first uplifting story I’d heard from this geopolitical tragedy.

It helped that some of them arrived in areas that I was familiar with. Very recently, hundreds of refugees arrived at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, DC. That’s an airport I actually know pretty well, having flown out of there numerous times on trips and transfers. Some of the stories these people have told is nothing short of harrowing.

Here is a story of just one such arrival.

WJLA: ‘I feel relieved’: 200 more Afghan refugees arrive at Dulles Airport after Kabul bombing

Roughly 200 Afghan refugees arrived at Dulles International Airport on Thursday afternoon.

Their arrival came hours after deadly suicide bombings outside the Kabul Airport. Thirteen U.S. were killed in the blast. Afghan officials told The Associated Press that more than 140 Afghans were wounded.

An organization, known as Team Hope, assisted them. According to United Airlines, United has operated three international missions, with the fourth departing shortly, in total carrying nearly 1,500 U.S. citizens and Afghan evacuees to the U.S. over the last four days.

United says they are working with “a number of non-profit and corporate partners to ensure our passengers are well-cared for both during and after their flights land.”

In addition to this story, I also found this photo on Reddit of a family from Afghanistan arriving at that same airport. Seeing them arrive, flashing peace signs after coming from an actual war zone, was incredibly uplifting. If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to look up these stories and see images of these people as they arrive from one of the worst situations imaginable.

What makes this image more personal is that I’ve actually walked that exact same area of Dulles. If I went there now, I could find it with ease. Knowing what these people went through and how hard they worked to come here gives me a small sliver of hope for this country and our future.

In that spirit, I’d like to offer a brief message to these incoming refugees, as well as my fellow Americans. There’s a good chance one of them will end up living in a neighborhood not far from mine. I hope that day comes. I will gladly welcome them with donuts and coffee. Even if I never meet them, I’d like to offer this sentiment.

Welcome to America.

Thank you for fighting so hard to make it here, leaving behind everything you knew in order to start a new life. I sincerely hope that the lives you build here, both for yourselves and your children, are better than anything you dreamed of.

I truly cannot imagine what you went through. I’ve never been to a war zone. Very few Americans have. I can only imagine the horrors you’ve seen and the hardship you’ve lived. I won’t pretend to understand. All I can do is help you and your family look forward.

I won’t claim that America is a perfect nation. We certainly have our flaws. Most Americans are wonderful, loving people. However, we do have an angry, vocal minority who will try to make you feel unwelcome.

Do not listen to them.

Do not let their hate keep you from realizing the American dream.

Take comfort in the knowledge that these voices are only loud because they are so few. Take even greater comfort in the knowledge that the number of Americans who will stand by your side will vastly outnumber those who would do otherwise. We can be a strange, erratic people, but our hearts are usually in the right place. Give us a chance and we’ll help you become proud Americans, like our ancestors before us. It’s because of what you’ve overcome that you embody the best of what America can be. Let that be your strength as you build new lives in this new land.

Having said that, I also have a far shorter message for my fellow Americans. I know we are a very diverse and divided people. There are many out there who, because of their politics and their prejudices, will not welcome any refugees from any country that doesn’t remotely resemble them. To you, I just have one thing to say.

Don’t be assholes. Every nation has assholes, but these people have been through enough. Give them a chance. Let them prove that they can be the kind of Americans that will truly make this country as great as we all want it to be.

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Filed under Current Events, Uplifting Stories

Earth, Jeff Bezos, And The Overview Effect

The Overview Effect: How Seeing the Earth from Space Changes You

What happens to someone when they’ve spent their entire life seeing the world one way, only to have it radically change in an instant?

What happens to someone’s perspective when everything they thought they knew and understood suddenly seems smaller and less grand than they thought?

It can be a jarring experience. For some, it might even be traumatic. It can take the form of a religious experience, a major life-changing event, or even something as simple as falling in love. Whatever the case, it’s powerful. You see the world one way when the day starts. Then, when the sun sets, you see it completely differently.

That brings me to astronauts, space flight, and Jeff Bezos. I promise there’s a connection there and it’s one worth highlighting.

Most are aware that Amazon founder, and world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, took his first flight into space. It was well-covered by the media and was certainly fodder for plenty of criticism, some of which was quite warranted. However, I’m not going to touch on that. Instead, I want to focus on how this experience might affect him and his outlook.

That’s where the Overview Effect comes in. If you’re not familiar with this unique psychological phenomenon, then think back to the questions I asked earlier. Those are very relevant in that they’re part of what certain people experience when they go into space.

In short, the Overview Effect is a byproduct of this newfound prospective astronauts have when they go into space and see Earth from afar. Some treat it as a religious experience, so much so that it has an almost euphoric effect. That’s to be expected.

Up in space, there are no national boundaries. There are no politics, prejudices, and personal gripes. It’s only in space that you realize just how small Earth is and how small humanity is by comparison. That has a major impact on a person’s psyche. Some in the field of neuroscience have even studied it. One retired astronaut, Scott Kelly, once described it like this:

“The planet is incredibly beautiful, breathtakingly beautiful. Having said that, parts of it are polluted, like with constant levels of pollution in certain parts of Asia. You see how fragile the atmosphere looks. It’s very thin. It’s almost like a thin contact lens over somebody’s eye, and you realized all the pollutants we put into the atmosphere are contained in that very thin film over the surface. It’s a little bit scary actually to look at it.

And then you realize looking at the Earth, that despite its beauty and its tranquility, there’s a lot of hardship and conflict that goes on. You look at the planet without borders, especially during the day. At night you can see countries with lights, but during the daytime it looks like we are all part of one spaceship, Spaceship Earth.

And we’re all flying through space together, as a team, and it gives you this perspective — people have described it as this ‘orbital perspective’ — on humanity, and you get this feeling that we just need to work better — much, much better — to solve our common problems.”

That sort of perspective is hard for most to imagine. The number of people who have been into space is less than 600. Jeff Bezos is only the latest entry into a very exclusive club. That may also mean he’s the latest to experience the Overview Effect.

Now, it’s hard to say how much or how little he was influenced by that effect. His trip to space didn’t last very long. However, the journey may have already left an impression. He has already been quoted as saying this:

“The most profound piece of it, for me, was looking out at the Earth, and looking at the Earth’s atmosphere….But when you get up above it, what you see is it’s actually incredibly thin. It’s this tiny little fragile thing, and as we move about the planet, we’re damaging it. It’s one thing to recognize that intellectually. It’s another thing to actually see with your own eyes how fragile it really is.”

That could just be him making good PR, but it could also be revealing. Again, not many people have gone into space. They haven’t had a chance to experience the Overview Effect for themselves. While plenty of trained astronauts have done it, none of them are Jeff Bezos. None of them are worth in excess of $200 billion.

There aren’t many people on this planet who have access to resources like him. There are even fewer with the means and the skills to take a grand vision and make it real. Now, Bezos has seen the world in a new light. He has had his perspective changed. What will that mean for him and for us?

Before he took his famous space flight, Bezos stepped down from Amazon. He’s still very involved, but he now has time to focus on new ventures. Some of those ventures may take us into space. Some may go towards fixing the environment.

It’s hard to know where this will lead. However, if someone like Jeff Bezos can be impacted by the Overview Effect, then what does that say about the rest of us? How much would the world change if more people got to experience that perspective? Maybe we’ll find out one day. Maybe we’ll get that chance because Jeff Bezos funded it.

Only time will tell. Personally, I’d like to experience the Overview Effect myself. Maybe I will one day.

Also, Jeff Bezos should still pay his workers more.

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Filed under Current Events, human nature, philosophy, psychology, real stories, technology, Uplifting Stories

Got My Second Shot Of The COVID-19 Vaccine!

Countries in the Americas notified of first COVID-19 vaccine allocations  through COVAX - PAHO/WHO | Pan American Health Organization

It’s official. I got my second shot of the COVID-19 vaccine! As of now, I can count myself among those who are fully vaccinated against this terrible disease that has so ravaged the world. To say it’s a great feeling doesn’t do justice to all those who have endured hardship over the past year.

Once again, I cannot praise the brave nurses and doctors behind this effort enough. They are true heroes and, coming from a lifelong fan of superhero comics and movies, that’s saying something. This pandemic has been harder on you than most. Your efforts, your bravery, and your commitment to healing the sick is truly astonishing.

Like my first shot, this one was just as smooth. I showed up a few minutes early, stood in line for a bit, showed the nurse my vaccine card, and they did the rest. It was no worse than a flu shot. My arm was sore for a while, but other than that, I felt fine.

Now, I feel even better. I cannot overstate how big a relief it is that I’ve gotten this vaccine. It’s not just more peace of mind than I’ve had since early last year. Having been vaccinated, along with other friends and family, I can actually start planning things beyond this pandemic.

Last year, I couldn’t travel. In fact, I have not left my home county since October last year. I’m ready to get out again. I’m ready to visit friends, family, and beaches. I am so ready.

I missed out on a lot of great moments last year.

I don’t intend on missing out this year.

Once again, to the doctors, nurses, researchers, and scientists who helped develop this vaccine in record time, I sincerely thank you. On behalf of everyone who has lived through this once-in-a-generation pandemic, thank you from the bottom of our collective hearts.

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Filed under health, Jack Fisher's Insights, Uplifting Stories

Finding Love During A Pandemic: A Love Story To Lift Your Spirits

I’m a long-time romance fan. I hope I’ve made that abundantly clear by now. I’m also still striving to become a romance writer. Between the books I’ve written and the sexy short stories I’ve told, the ideas are there, as well as the effort. This passion of mine has not changed, despite the deeply demoralizing impact of 2020.

I know things got quite bleak last year. I don’t deny all that bleakness got to me. There really was no guide to how to deal with a once-in-a-century pandemic. Once things started getting locked down and people I knew fell ill, it really hit me hard. This was bad. This was historically bad. Naturally, it seriously undermined my ability to enjoy romance.

Romance is about connection, hope, and intimacy. The events of the pandemic were the complete antithesis of all of that. It was not easy to navigate, to say the least. That’s coming from someone who was lucky enough to not get it.

However, now that vaccines are rolling out and I recently got mine, I find myself emerging from the soul-crushing feelings that plagued me last year. It has also inspired me to recapture my love of romance, both real and fictional.

To that end, I’d like to share a real life love story that captured all the right feels for romantics and non-romantics alike. On top of that, it’s a love story that played out during the worst parts of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s quite possibly the least romantic setting imaginable, but love still found a way.

This story comes courtesy of NJ.com and involves an elderly couple who’d known each other for years, but found love during the worst possible times. Check out the story for yourself. If it doesn’t warm your hardened heart, then I question your humanity.

NJ.com: N.J. sweethearts found love in their 90s — right at the start of the pandemic

This is a story on how it is never too late to find love, and how even the worst of times can serve as the catalyst.

Bill Biega is 98. Iris Ivers is 91.

Their longtime friendship was blossoming into romance by March 2020. That’s when the coronavirus pandemic prompted a stay-at-home order at the Applewood continuing care retirement community in Freehold, where they resided in separate apartments.

Bill and Iris quickly realized they couldn’t stay apart, resulting in an awkward encounter more befitting a college dorm.

“A security guard caught me sneaking back into my apartment,” explained Bill Biega, who will turn 99 in July.

The guard told him that everyone on the floor knew what was going on and gave the furtive couple a choice: Move in together, or stay apart indefinitely.

Iris packed up her belongings and joined Bill in his apartment the next day.

Just over a year later, both are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The stay-at-home order has been lifted but Bill and Iris are still living together, a choice prompted by a pandemic that neither could have imagined. A ray of light, amid so much loss.

Iris described Bill’s one-bedroom apartment as “cozy for two.”

“I can’t imagine us not being together, as long as we can be. We’re also realistic, and we know that we’re not getting any younger,” Iris said.

I’ll say it again. Love is a beautiful thing. It’s also powerful. Even the worst pandemic in a century can’t stop it. At a time when we’re all starting to emerge from this year-long nightmare, we need stories like this. We need to be reminded that love is real and people can find it, even during the worst situations.

Let’s take comfort in that as we build a new normal.

To Bill and Iris, thank you for sharing this story. We all needed it.

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Filed under Current Events, real stories, romance, Uplifting Stories

Catholic Priests Defy The Vatican To Sanction Same-Sex Unions (And We Should Cheer Them On)

I tend to be very critical of organized religion and those who take religion to extremes. I make no apologies for that, but I do make an effort to be fair. That’s why I go out of my way to highlight that most religious people, regardless of the religion they follow, are generally good, decent people whose faith genuinely enriches their lives.

That’s worth acknowledging because people can do genuinely good things in the name of their faith. It’s a beautiful thing. Just look at someone like Fred Rogers. That’s religious devotion at its finest.

I know I don’t highlight those stories enough. In my defense, the stories of people who actually practice what they preach and do genuine good for the world rarely makes the news. Then again, the news relies almost entirely on doom and gloom these days, so that shouldn’t be surprising.

That makes the effort to highlight the good a lot harder, but it’s still worth doing. To that end, I want to highlight a good story about religious people that stemmed from a bad story about a religious institution with a history of unholy behavior.

Recently, I bemoaned the Vatican’s decision to essentially cling to their traditions of marginalizing LGBTQ people. They still call homosexuality a sin and refuse to bless same-sex unions. Never mind the fact that Catholics still get divorced and eat shellfish, the Vatican still refuses to embrace change.

At a time when religion, as a whole is in decline and support for LGBTQ rights is growing, this just feels backwards, even by the standards of the Catholic Church. However, not all those who identify as Catholic feel the same way.

Even though the Vatican is set up as the central power of the Catholic world, there are those who go against that power. A few priests are daring to defy the Vatican and I want to take a minute to acknowledge their boldness. This is what Reuters has reported.

Reuters: Rebel priests defy Vatican, vow to bless same-sex couples

A dissident band of Roman Catholic priests leading a disobedience campaign against the Vatican said on Tuesday they would carry on blessing same-sex couples in defiance of Church orders.

The Vatican said on Monday that priests cannot bless same-sex unions and that such blessings are not valid, in a ruling that disappointed gay Catholics who had hoped their Church was becoming more welcoming under Pope Francis.

In some countries, parishes and ministers have begun blessing same-sex unions in lieu of marriage, and there have been calls for bishops to institutionalise de facto such blessings. Conservatives in the 1.3 billion-member Roman Catholic Church have expressed alarm over such practices.

“We members of the Parish Priests Initiative are deeply appalled by the new Roman decree that seeks to prohibit the blessing of same-sex loving couples. This is a relapse into times that we had hoped to have overcome with Pope Francis,” the Austrian-based group said in a statement.

“We will — in solidarity with so many — not reject any loving couple in the future who ask to celebrate God’s blessing, which they experience every day, also in a worship service.”

Whether you’re religious or not, let’s take a moment to applaud these priests. They’re doing something that Jesus himself once did. They see a powerful institution doing something wrong and they’re protesting that by doing what’s right.

In the process, they’re providing love, tolerance, and acceptance to a marginalized group that has suffered plenty, often in the name of religion. You can call that ironic, but I prefer to call it heroic. They have to know on some levels that they’re going to get in trouble for this.

They are likely going to get criticized. They’ll likely face protests from hardline conservative Catholics who cannot tolerate any deviation of any kind from certain traditions, no matter how outdated or intolerant they are. The fact these priests still went through with it says a lot about their character, as well as their faith.

It’s also worth emphasizing that what they’re doing is commendable in ways beyond the religious angle. They are just a small group of individual priests. The Vatican is a vast, powerful organization with immense wealth and influence. They have the benefit of being able to say with a straight face that their authority comes directly from a deity.

That’s a power that many governments envy. Some claim they’re inherently divine, but the results are often less-than-divine.

That power matters because it means they can change if they wanted. It would be a lot easier than what these rebellious priests are doing. The Pope could just come out and say that homosexuality isn’t a sin anymore for the same reason eating shellfish isn’t a sin anymore. He did it with purgatory. Why not do it with homosexuality?

That’s the problem with powerful organizations, though. When they’re powerful, they have the luxury of taking the path of least resistance. The easiest thing for powerful organizations to do is not change. It’s much less strenuous on the people and the systems around them to just keep doing what they’ve always been doing.

It keeps them in power.

It means less work for them and those who support them.

It means less thinking, contemplating, and second-guessing that maybe they’re doing something wrong.

At best, it’s lazy. At worst, it’s callous and negligent. Contrast that with the Catholic Priests who dare to go against such power. They know what they’re doing will bring consequences. They know they’re going to upset some powerful people, but they do it anyway.

That’s brave.

That’s bold.

That’s a level of spirit that religious and non-religious people alike can respect.

Regardless of your affiliation or your opinions of Christianity or Catholicism, take a moment to acknowledge that these men of faith are doing something great. They’re offering love and acceptance to their fellow human beings, even though they’re marginalized and demonized. It’s probably the most Christian thing they could possibly do and I, for one, salute them. I suspect Jesus would, as well.

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Filed under Current Events, gender issues, political correctness, politics, real stories, religion, sex in society, Uplifting Stories

Finding An Available COVID-19 Vaccine With A (Very) Useful Website

I’m not a doctor. I’m not the least bit qualified to give medical advice. Unless it involves superhero comics, football, or 90s sitcoms, I have little to no expertise in that field. I’m just a guy who writes sexy stories and makes YouTube videos.

With that disclaimer aside, I do feel comfortable giving one bit of advice. It’s simple and you’ve probably heard it from people who are much smarter than I’ll ever be.

Please, if you can, get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.

I know that’s easier said than done. Hopefully, with the recent approval of a third vaccine, it’ll be even easier in the coming weeks. Even with supplies being so limited, I encourage everyone to make the effort. To help, I’d like to share a very useful tool that I recently found, courtesy of NPR. It’s called Vaccine Finder.

Please, if you ever bookmark a website, make it this one. It may very well help end this horrible pandemic just a little bit sooner. If you need more information on it, here’s the same NPR story that I came across that explains what it is and how to use it.

NPR: CDC Launches Web Tool To Help Americans Find COVID-19 Vaccines

Now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in partnership with Boston Children’s Hospital and Castlight Health, is launching a new tool that allows Americans to search for COVID-19 vaccine providers with stock of vaccine where they live.

The tool, which builds on the existing VaccineFinder.org platform, will capture inventory data from vaccine providers around the country.

In most states, the initial launch is limited to certain providers — those getting the vaccine directly from the federal government. In Alaska, Indiana, Iowa and Tennessee, the tool shows all the vaccine providers, including hospitals, clinics and public health vaccination sites.

Residents of those four states can look up their cities or ZIP codes and find an interactive map of all the places administering COVID-19 vaccines and see which ones have vaccine doses in stock.

Again, I’m not expert, but this website will help you link to people who are. Check it daily. Make it part of your morning routine. Make your coffee and then use this site to try and locate a vaccine. Then, make the appointment and follow all the necessary steps. You’ll help yourself, your loved ones, and your entire community.

We’re almost through this horrific pandemic. We’ll get through it faster if we all make the effort. Hopefully, this website will help.

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Small Silver Linings: The Pandemic Is Killing The Flu

Things are pretty awful right now. Let’s not underscore that.

A global pandemic is still raging and world is in turmoil because of it. Even with multiple vaccines available, we’ve still got a long way to go before we can honestly say it’s over.

As bad as that is, it’s still important to find some silver linings. You don’t want to undermine how bad things are, but you also want to embrace whatever positives you can. Even if they don’t warrant the suffering, they can help us process the overall impact.

To that end, I want to highlight something that’s easy to overlook in the midst of a raging pandemic. This disease we’re fighting is awful. It’s killing way too many people and our efforts to stop it have been mixed, at best. However, those efforts have brought other indirect benefits.

One of them has to do with the seasonal flu. Every year, it seems, some nasty bug seems to go around in certain areas. I’ve certainly experienced it. I’ve endured the flu before and most people agree. It’s not fun. It’s an experience we can all do without.

Now, due to the efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the flu has been effectively kneecapped this season. According to some recent data from the Center for Disease Control, this has been the mildest flu season in years.

CDC: Decreased Influenza Activity During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Following widespread adoption of community mitigation measures to reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, the percentage of U.S. respiratory specimens submitted for influenza testing that tested positive decreased from >20% to 2.3% and has remained at historically low interseasonal levels (0.2% versus 1–2%). Data from Southern Hemisphere countries also indicate little influenza activity.

Again, and it’s worth belaboring, this silver lining does not make up for all the terrible things the COVID-19 pandemic has incurred. An overall decline in flu cases hardly makes up for all the suffering we’ve endured in this pandemic.

At the very least, it shows that there’s real merit in embracing these public safety measures. There’s real benefit to regularly washing your hands, wearing a mask, and not congregating in cramped, unsanitary conditions.

It has certainly changed how I look at public health. In the past, I’ve actually been sick and gone to class or work. I tried to endure the illness, not understanding just how much it affected others around me. This pandemic has changed that.

Now, when I’m sick, I’m making damn sure I stay home. I’m also washing my hands a lot more regularly and thoroughly. I imagine I’m not alone in that sentiment. These are all hard lessons that we’ve all paid a terrible price to learn. At the same time, we have that much more reason to endure and overcome this awful pandemic. Beyond simply beating this dreaded disease, emerging in a world where the flu is lesson common is definitely a more appealing world overall.

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Merry Christmas And A Special Message (of Hope) for 2020

Merry Christmas, everyone!

I know it’s 2020 and the holiday have been deeply affected by the overall awfulness of this past year, but it’s still here. It’s still something worth celebrating. So, in the name of sharing some special holiday cheer for such a uniquely awful year, I made this video to boost everyone’s spirit on this very special day. Enjoy!

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Christmas Eve: Sentiments And Reflections

It’s Christmas Eve.

All the holiday planning and preparation is about to come together, as it does every year on one glorious day.

When the year began, we probably had a good idea of how Christmas was going to look this year. We probably had a general idea of how the year would look in general.

Then, a once-in-a-generation pandemic struck and all those ideas collapsed.

However, I don’t want to spend Christmas Eve lamenting on how bad this year has gone. I’ve already done plenty of that. Instead, I want offer some insight and hope.

Yes, Christmas this year is bound to be different, but the spirit and sentiments of the season aren’t completely muted. Even a pandemic can’t stop that.

Like so many other things this year, we just have to adapt. That may mean less travel, less parties, and even less presents for those who are enduring serious economic hardship. It’s sad and disappointing, but that doesn’t have to ruin Christmas. It just means we’ll have to do things differently.

For me, personally, that involves relying heavily on video chatting and Zoom meetings to connect with family. We can’t have the usual extended get-togethers, which often start on Christmas Eve and go on days after Christmas. It also means a less elaborate Christmas dinner.

At the same time, I’m not letting it dampen my holiday spirit. I’ve already made the effort to share that spirit from afar. Last week, I took many of the presents I’d previously wrapped and mailed them out to various family members who couldn’t travel. I ended up having to send multiple large boxes, which held up a long line at the UPS store.

To those people, I apologize. I promise it was for a good cause.

I already confirmed that many of those packages arrived. I intend to be with them via Zoom as they’re opened. I also intend to do the same while I open their presents. Granted, it’s not the same as being there with them, but it’s better than nothing. We’ll still be together in the ways that matter.

It’ll still be difficult. I know some relatives would much rather get together, join the family, and share in each others’ company for the holidays. It’s just not possible this year. I keep encouraging them to make up for it next year. However, we have to get through this one first. We can make that process easier by simply making the most of what we have now.

I encourage everyone to keep that perspective in mind as they celebrate the holidays. The world will heal. This pandemic will end. Those are hopes for tomorrow.

Today, it’s Christmas Eve.

Let’s cherish what we still have before we move forward with what lies ahead.

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