Friday, July 10, 2020


My two latest pottery pieces, glazed: a mask (in Firebrick Red), and a bowl, in Tim's and Turquoise. The Clay School finally reopened about a week ago, with strict new protocols for the Covid era. I hadn't been there since early March.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Alliance for Academic Freedom condemns Israel's planned annexation of parts of the West Bank


The Alliance for Academic Freedom is deeply troubled by the Israeli government’s apparent intention in the near future to unilaterally annex substantial portions of the West Bank, possibly including both existing settlements and the Jordan Valley. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s winning of a new term and his post-election pronouncements about annexation point to a substantial territorial and political change that we expect will be disastrous for a democratic Israel and the Palestinian people and will have adverse consequences for the climate in academia in the United States.  

If implemented, unilateral annexation will exact a terrible price. It will make the possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state virtually impossible; that, in turn, would place a two-state solution out of reach for the near future and perhaps permanently. Unless Palestinians on the West Bank are granted full citizenship and equal rights in Israel proper – a highly improbable assumption – annexation will turn Israel into a state that maintains permanent control over millions of Palestinians within its territory while denying them civil and political rights. This will create an untenable situation for Palestinians as well as an indefensible position for a liberal democracy. The collapse of the Palestinian Authority and the growth of paramilitary groups on the West Bank, combined with greater Israeli governing responsibilities, might soon become a reality, heightening the chances of warfare and bloodshed.

Under these circumstances, the AAF’s core mission – defending academic freedom as it relates to the Palestinian-Israel conflict amid a context of support for a two-state solution – would become increasingly difficult. As anger grows against a 53-year occupation whose end would be ever harder to envisage, we will likely see increased demands to boycott Israeli colleges and universities, and possibly other violations of academic freedom, such as disruptions of pro-Israel speakers. More generally, we can anticipate the derailing of collaborative solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

For all these reasons, the AAF joins with many groups, including those in Israel and the Palestinian territories, to raise our voice in alarm at the possibility of annexation. We call on the Israeli government to pull back from a precipitous decision.

Executive Committee: Susana Cavallo, David Greenberg, Rebecca Lesses, Jeffry Mallow, Sharon Musher, Cary Nelson (Chair), Kenneth Stern

Sunday, May 24, 2020

New York Times: An Incalculable Loss

Link to the 1,000 names, one percent of those who have died in the United States from Covid-19, from February 29 to May 24: An Incalculable Loss.

Some examples, in order by age:

• Torrin Jamal Howard, 26, Waterbury, Conn., gentle giant, athlete and musician

• Ijeoma Afuke, 35, Chicago, Nigerian immigrant studying to become a nurse
• Oscar López Acosta, 42, Morrow County, Ohio, died after being released from ICE detention

• Sandra Santos-Vizcaino, 54, New York City, beloved public school teacher

• Frank Gabrin, 60, New York City, emergency room doctor who died in husband’s arms

• Nancy Ferguson, 77, Chicago, true community activist

• Alan F. Krupp, 83, Newton, Mass., quoted Longfellow and Tennyson from memory

• Margit Buchhalter Feldman, 90, Somerset, N.J., survivor who taught about the Holocaust

• Romi Cohn, 91, New York City, saved 56 Jewish families from the Gestapo

• Joseph Feingold, 97, New York City, architect and Holocaust survivor

• Genowefa Kochanek, 98, Massachusetts, survived the German invasion and occupation of Poland during World War II

• Philip Kahn, 100, Westbury, N.Y., World War II veteran whose twin died in the Spanish Flu epidemic a century ago

• Eve Rudin, 103, Philadelphia, one of the first women of her generation to drive a car

• Luther Coleman, 108, Evergreen Park, Ill., man who seemed to know everything

Friday, May 22, 2020

Spread of COVID-19 in Tompkins County

I live in Tompkins County, in the Finger Lakes region of New York state (I'm currently not there, due to Covid, but I'll be back soon). The number of people who have tested positive for COVID is quite low - 148 out of a total of 8221 tests (as of today, May 22, 2020) - a rate of 1.8%, which i slow. Out of the positive tests, 124 have recovered. (See this chart from the Tompkins County Health Department). There is currently only person hospitalized for Covid, and two people have died in Ithaca of Covid (they were brought here from New York City). The charts in this post are from Covid Act Now, and this is their About page explaining who they are:

One of our 16 ICU beds is currently occupied by someone with COVID, and two are occupied by people with other ailments, leaving 13 unused, so if there a surge of COVID in the county, we do have some capacity to treat people.

Our infection rate, however, which was below 1 on May 4, rose to 1.5 on May 6, and is now about 1.46 (meaning that a person who has COVID is theoretically infection about 1.5 people). An infection rate below 1 means that the number of people who get the virus is steadily decreasing.

COVID Act Now, from which I am getting this information and the charts, says that "the total number of cases in Tompkins County, New York, is growing exponentially." (See chart below). Should we be worrying about this?

On the New York state tracker, the Southern Tier, which includes Tompkins County, has been given the go-ahead to cautiously start opening up, but below is the summary for Tompkins County from Covid Act Now. According to them the overall Covid risk is elevated (the highest level). I just checked all of the other counties in the state that they have sufficient data to give a score to, and Tompkins County has the highest infection rate in the state.

Further information:

The Ithaca Voice, a local online only publication, sends out a Covid-19 brief every day, including the daily report from the Tompkins County Health Department. They include useful graphs along with the TCHD report. These are the two latest ones, from today:

Our highest days of hospitalizations were throughout the month of April, and there's currently only one person hospitalized.

At the beginning, from mid-March up through early April, we had a pretty quick rise in cases, but it's been much slower since then.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Mothers' Day, May 9, 2020 - Heather Cox Richardson

Today is Mother's Day, as everyone knows. I just read Heather Cox Richardson's daily "Letter from an American," in which she writes about the history of what was originally Mothers' Day (plural, not singular). She presents the origin of Mothers' Day as a struggle for peace, by mothers, after the devastation of the American Civil War and the 1870 Franco-Prussian War. The day did not originate as a glorification of traditional motherhood, but as an entry into the political realm, mobilizing women to oppose war. That's useful to remember today, when at least in the US, Mother's Day (in the singular) is mostly celebrated as a praise for individual mothers and in the public sphere, as a way to extol motherhood and in particular the sacrifices women make as mothers.

Since she urges people to share her words, I'm doing that here. This is a link to her Substack journal for today
May 9, 2020
Heather Cox Richardson 
If you google the history of Mother’s Day, the internet will tell you that Mother’s Day began in 1908 when Anna Jarvis decided to honor her mother. But “Mothers’ Day”—with the apostrophe not in the singular spot, but in the plural—actually started in the 1870s, when the sheer enormity of the death caused by the Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War convinced American women that women must take control of politics from the men who had permitted such carnage. Mothers’ Day was not designed to encourage people to be nice to their mothers. It was part of women’s effort to gain power to change modern society. 
The Civil War years taught naïve Americans what mass death meant in the modern era. Soldiers who had marched off to war with fantasies of heroism discovered that long-range weapons turned death into tortured anonymity. Men were trampled into blood-soaked mud, piled like cordwood in ditches, or transformed into emaciated corpses after dysentery drained their lives away. 
The women who had watched their men march off to war were haunted by its results. They lost fathers, husbands, sons. The men who did come home were scarred in body and mind. 
Modern war, it seemed, was not a game. 
But out of the war also came a new sense of empowerment. Women had bought bonds, paid taxes, raised money for the war effort, managed farms, harvested fields, worked in war industries, reared children, and nursed soldiers. When the war ended, they had every intention of continuing to participate in national affairs. But the Fourteenth Amendment, which established that African American men were citizens, did not include women. In 1869, women organized the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association and the American Woman’s Suffrage Association to promote women’s right to have a say in American government. 
From her home in Boston, Julia Ward Howe was a key figure in the American Woman’s Suffrage Association. She was an enormously talented writer, who had penned The Battle Hymn of the Republic in the early years of the Civil War, a hymn whose lyrics made it a point to note that Christ was “born of woman.” 
Howe was drawn to women’s rights because the laws of her time meant that her children belonged to her abusive husband. If she broke free of him, she would lose any right to see her children, a fact he threw at her whenever she threatened to leave him. She was not at first a radical in the mold of reformer Elizabeth Cady Stanton, believing that women had a human right to equality with men. Rather, she believed strongly that women, as mothers, had a special role to perform in the world. 
For Howe, the Civil War had been traumatic, but that it led to emancipation might justify its terrible bloodshed. The outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 was another story. She remembered: 
"I was visited by a sudden feeling of the cruel and unnecessary character of the contest. It seemed to me a return to barbarism, the issue having been one which might easily have been settled without bloodshed. The question forced itself upon me, “Why do not the mothers of mankind interfere in these matters, to prevent the waste of that human life of which they alone know and bear the cost?” 
Howe had a new vision, she said, of “the august dignity of motherhood and its terrible responsibilities.” She sat down immediately and wrote an “Appeal to Womanhood Throughout the World.” Men always had and always would decide questions by resorting to “mutual murder.” But women did not have to accept this state of affairs, she wrote. Mothers could command their sons to stop the madness. 
"Arise, women! Howe commanded. Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country, to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.” 
Howe had her document translated into French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Swedish, and distributed it as widely as her extensive contacts made possible. She believed that her Women’s Peace Movement would be the next great development in human history, ending war just as the anti-slavery movement had ended human bondage. She called for a “festival which should be observed as mothers’ day, and which should be devoted to the advocacy of peace doctrines” to be held around the world on June 2 of every year, a date that would permit open-air meetings. 
Howe organized international peace conferences and American states developed their own Mothers’ Day festivals. But Howe quickly gave up on her project. She realized that there was much to be done before women could come together on such a momentous scale. She turned her attention to women’s clubs “to constitute a working and united womanhood.” 
As she worked to unite women, she threw herself into the struggle for women’s suffrage, understanding that in order to create a more just and peaceful society, women must take up their rightful place as equal participants in American politics. 
Perhaps Anna Jarvis remembered seeing her mother participate in an original American Mothers’ Day when she decided to honor her own mother in the early twentieth century. And while we celebrate modern Mother’s Day in this momentous year of 2020, it’s worth remembering the original Mothers’ Day, and Julia Ward Howe’s conviction that women must make their voices heard.

Monday, May 04, 2020

Flowers, and bad news - updated

On a day of bad news, some flowers.

But then the government disavowed the report from its own CDC (WaPo): Government report predicts Covid-19 cases will reach 200,000 a day by June 1, 2020.

In any case, the official government estimate of eventual deaths, which Trump has been talking about, is 100,000 (he recently raised this from 60,000, and we're going to reach 70,000 by later today).

And what is his estimate based on?
The forecast is at odds with remarks made Sunday evening by President Trump, who said the United States could eventually suffer as many as 100,000 deaths. At 3,000 deaths per day and rising, the national total would quickly outstrip that number if the new report is correct.

A senior White House official said the document would not change the White House planning on reopening.

White House officials have been relying on other models to make decisions on reopening, including the IHME model and a “cubic model” prepared by the Council of Economic Advisers, led by Trump adviser Kevin Hassett.
People with knowledge of the “cubic model” say it currently shows deaths dropping precipitously in May — and essentially going to zero by May 15.
The IHME projection is incorrect, and has been incorrect for quite a while. They are currently projecting a total of 72,433 deaths in the US by August 4. There will most probably be 72,433 deaths by this Wednesday. I simply do not understand why they have not redone their model to come more in contact with reality.

Their projection for deaths in New York State by August 4 is 24,314. As of today, according to Worldometer, 24,874 people have died in New York.

The "cubic model" was created by economists, not by medical experts and epidemiologists. The death rate in the US will not go to zero by next Friday.

Update - the IHME has just changed their projection.
Projection of total deaths in the US by August 4: 134,475
Explanation of changes:
New projection for New York State: 32,132.

And some more flowers:

Thursday, April 23, 2020

More daffodils

Yesterday I took a long walk in the conservation land next to my father's house here in Westport. I got kind of lost, but found my way back. It was sunny but cold.

Before I took the walk, I got a few more photos of daffodils together with these little purple flowers, which I had originally thought were mini-irises, but I think they're something else.

A map of the Dunham's Brook Conservation Area

I took the path from Main Road, then turned right and walked on the long path all the way to the right (the south), took the turn to the east, then to the north, and all the way to the corn field (that's the "seasonally active agriculture"). I wasn't quite sure where I was, so I took a left and walked along the edge of the field until I came to the blue trail and went back into the woods. I ended up walking all the way around again on the tan trail, back to the corn field, and realized I had to find my way out, so I struck out across the field (on what I now realize was also part of the blue trail), and then turned and found the trail back to the entrance. There is a curious big round stone construction which is called the "stone silo foundation," which I passed by and then knew I was on the correct path back.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

The view from my window

There's a new Facebook group called "What do you see from your window? #StayAtHome," which started with just a few people (mostly from Israel, as far as I could tell). It now has over 280,000 members - many from Romania, Australia, lots from the US, many Israelis, Brazil, a really beautiful rainbow from Romania - you get the idea.

I posted a couple of times, and here's my two latest efforts.

Deer in the field next door.

View from the bedroom window onto the front of the house,
including one of the many red cars belonging to the household.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Thoughts on deaths from COVID-19 in the US (on numbers, not uplifting)

The IHME (Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation) projections of total deaths in the United States, which many people are using to try to figure out how many people will die from COVID-19, seems like it needs to be updated. I just checked out the projection for New York state.

Currently, according to Worldometer, 16,106 people in New York State have died of the virus. gives the same figure. 

The IHME projection for deaths in New York State, through August 4, 2020, is 14,542 (with a large area of uncertainty ranging between 11,000 and 23,000 deaths. It has the current death total at about 10,000 (from April 12), even though New York has reported a much higher level of deaths than that today. (See the screenshot below). It seems to me that they need to update their estimate for New York.

Currently, in Massachusetts, 1,245 people have died of COVID-19 - this includes some deaths in nursing homes, but not all of them, it seems. (This is also true of New York, even though New York City has just added thousands of people to the death toll who hadn't been originally counted). This is slightly below the IHME projection for this day (April 16). The total projection of deaths for Massachusetts is 8,219 by August 4, 2020. The per day death projection does seem closer for Massachusetts than for New York State.

The IHME projection for total deaths in the United States by August 4 also seems low to me. 

This chart shows 20,461 deaths as of April 11. The figures from that date from Worldometer,, and Johns Hopkins University are about 22,000 deaths. Their projection is for 29,902 deaths today (April 16), but the current figures are 34,475 (Worldometer and, which incorporates many more deaths reported from New York (especially NYC) than was earlier reported. 

I think that because there are still probably many deaths not being reported, the actual number of people who have died from coronavirus is a good deal higher than we know now, and therefore the estimate given by IHME is really quite misleading. Like everyone else, I don't know how many people will die of the virus by August 4, 2020, nor can I predict the future about whether the infection and death rates will go down or up from now on. 

Some relevant articles on how the numbers of deaths are probably too low: (information from the Fire Department of New York City about home deaths that haven't been reported in the COVID statistics) (addition of 3778 deaths to the total number in New York City).

And this article is about the count of excess deaths in several cities in northern Italy, in the heart of the pandemic there:

Thursday, April 09, 2020

Sunday, April 05, 2020

More signs of spring from Westport, Mass.

I don't find that I really feel like posting any words during the coronavirus. I feel melancholy, and worried, and anxious, and all of the other depressing emotions that most people are feeling now. I feel like I have insights that are new to me, but not new to the world. So go read some profound thinkers. 

I can give you photos of Westport on a beautiful April spring day, however. The first photo is from the end of the driveway of my folks' house in Westport. The second photo is of the field across the road, which could have cows in it, but doesn't now. 

The next two photos are of a few of the many daffodils (and I mean many) that Eve has planted here. The last is of a forsythia bush, one of the two that's started to bloom. If we manage to get a decently warm day or two with consistent sun, I'm sure all the forsythia blossoms will come out 

Yesterday, I took a drive down to Westport Point to go look at the water - carefully, wearing a mask, avoiding other people. I saw two magnolia trees - one that was already blooming, the other one just about to pop. I'll have to go back tomorrow and investigate them again. I also saw an extremely enthusiastic big dog jumping straight up the entire length of its body, and then standing with its front legs on a woman's shoulders. I would have liked to have gotten a photo of that, but I didn't.