Berries

April 30, 2021

Yesterday I harvested the first of what I hope to be a long season of strawberries from the bed along my back patio.  I mentioned how the plants only produced three or four berries last year and the birds got to them before I could.  I had dozens of flowers and even unripe berries before the hard freeze a couple of weeks ago.  That was followed by the torrential rains we got this week that completely flooded the bed and left the plants in standing water.  While near perfect conditions last year failed to provide a crop, the terrible conditions this year are (so far) creating an abundance.  Go figure.

When I purchased the plants last year, I knew there were two basic types of berries, June-bearing, and ever-bearing.  I went with the ever-bearing hopping to have strawberries throughout the summer.  When I looked online, I found that these types are just the beginning of the varieties of berries.  There are a lot of different climates and growing conditions, and each state has its own unique general soil composition, rainfall, and weather patterns.  That means different varieties do better in one region than in another.  While some can adapt to a variety of environments, others have been bred to be highly productive in a relatively narrow climate range.  The recommended varieties for Arkansas are Cardinal, Camarosa, Chandler, Delmarvel, Earliglow, Lateglow, Noreaster, Sweet Charlie, Tribute, and Tristar.  Being naive, I just got what was at the store, Ozark Beauty (Fragaria x ananassa).  They seem to work.

I noticed yesterday that several of my berries were getting ripe, and that others had already become bird food and were going bad.  I decided it was time to pick the ripe ones, as the birds already get enough from my feeders.  The water had subsided and the straw I had covered the plants with last year was still in place.  I gave no second thought as I stepped into the bed to get at several berries in the back.  My foot immediately sunk four inches into the mud, causing me to lurch forward into the house, breaking several nails and cutting my hand on the bricks.  Since that was not going to get me to the back of the bed, I leaned against the house and used a pair of scissors to cut the berries off the plant.  Even given the bird depredation, I still reaped a dozen berries.  I am hopping for a good year.

Thoughts:  My berries reminded me how nature can be both fragile and resilient.  The fragility was displayed last year as the plants needed time to adapt to new conditions before being able to produce berries.  The resilience is evident in the ability to thrive over winter, and then withstand both the freeze and the torrential rains.  It hammered home the point that conditions do not have to be perfect to produce a good result.  Stepping into the bed also reminded me that you need to be aware of context as well as present conditions.  The bed looked fine, but the recent rain meant the soil beneath the straw was mud.  American society can be viewed through a similar understanding.  We are both resilient and fragile and must understand context as well as present conditions.  The decade of the 2020’s will be shaped by the past 500 years of colonial and American expansion.  These conditions have been far from perfect, but that does not mean we cannot have good results.  It is time to put away our fragility and embrace our resilience.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Severe

April 29, 2021

I signed up for weather alerts on my phone and email.  Frankly, this was more because I thought I “should” than wanting to be in the know.  I have found what the weather service calls a severe storm is rarely what I consider to be one.  I realize lightning strikes can cause damage but knowing there was a strike 12 miles away does not go high on my severe list.  We were watching the Royals last night and my phone began to ping a severe weather emergency.  I ignored the ping and continued watching.  Five minutes later I got another ping which I also ignored.  Then the tornado sirens went off.  While I do not pay much attention to the alerts, I take notice when the sirens sound.  Melissa decided to switch to a local channel (the Royals broadcast out of KC) to see what was happening.

Several days ago, I saw a feature on our local channel about how advanced weather forecasting has become since our last tornado.  On April 21, 1996, a severe weather outbreak stretched from Northwest Texas to the River Valley.  The F3 rated tornado was estimated to be about half a mile wide with a ten-mile-long path.  Two people died and multiple others were injured.  People have formally attempted to predict the weather since the 19th century.  These forecasts are made by collecting quantitative data about the current state of the atmosphere at a given place and using meteorology to project how the atmosphere will change.  Weather forecasting now relies on computer-based models that take many atmospheric factors into account, but human input is still required to pick the best forecast model to base the forecast on.  Weather forecasting is also big business.  In 2009, the US spent approximately $5.1 billion on weather forecasting.  That amount has risen over the last 12 years.

The rotating funnel clouds do not become a tornado until they touch down.  While we did not get a tornado last night, we did have back-to-back warnings as two rotating cloud systems swept over our town.  When I lived in Kansas the tornado sirens and the severe weather that prompted them were common.  I have even experienced several tornados.  The most severe took place when I was very young and even killed a friend of my sister’s.  I only remember that storm from family stories.  The severe tornado I really remember was on my grandfather’s farm.  This storm went right by the house with grandma and us kids down in the basement.  It was severe enough to flatten every building on the property, except the house where we were hiding.  

Thoughts:  What fascinates me about severe storms is the amazing power they release.  When I lived in Kansas I loved to watch as the storms rolled across the flat prairie and then crashed over my location.  When I lived in California I would try to come back to Kansas around the 4th of July.  Most times I would be welcomed by a severe thunderstorm.  The last one came as I was leaving the airport in my rental car just before sunset.  I pulled into a stop and watched the storm’s power until the sun went down.  While weather forecasting cannot mitigate severe storms and the damage they produce, it can make people aware of the danger and allow time to respond and save lives.  The same might be said for the recommendations of the CDC.  Despite changes to the recommendations over the past year, the severe result of not paying attention have been proven.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Bullfrogs

April 28, 2021

I have mentioned how the pool in our backyard was left to sit for several years before we arrived in Arkansas.  Since we returned, we have yet to repair the pool.  This was supposed to be the summer when it was repaired but when the heater and air conditioner units went out last winter, we put our pool money toward replacement.  This is a saltwater pool and we rarely had trouble with critters.  It has since become more like a freshwater pond.  We are next to a low-lying lot and have always been blessed with bullfrogs.  Several have decided that our pond is the perfect place for courtship.  They have been kind enough to serenade us well into the night since we have returned.

The American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) is a large true frog native to eastern North America.  It typically inhabits large permanent water bodies such as swamps, ponds, and lakes.  Bullfrogs can also be found in manmade habitats such as pools (like mine), koi ponds, canals, ditches, and culverts.  The bullfrog gets its name from the sound the male makes during the breeding season, which sounds like a bull bellowing.  The bullfrog is large and is commonly eaten throughout its range, especially in the southern United States.  As a food source, they have been distributed outside their normal range, and are found in the Western US, South America, Western Europe, China, Japan, and southeast Asia.  By transplanting the bullfrogs, they are invasive species.  The have a voracious appetite and produce a lot of eggs, negatively effecting native amphibians and other fauna.  Humans never seem to learn.

Aside from food, the other use for bullfrogs is for dissection in science class.  I remember doing this when I was in High School.  The bullfrog is first pithed to prevent pain to the animal yet keep it immobile while the organs still work.  This is the method of inserting a sharp probe quickly through the base of the frog’s skull, into its brain and dispatching the frog without damaging any of the organs a biology student would be learning to identify.  If done correctly, pithing is the fastest and least painful death for the frog.  Pithing a frog is not something most people are good at the first time, and many instructors prefer to use frogs preserved in formalin rather than live ones for dissection.

Thoughts:  I always felt bad for the bullfrogs in my pool.  Every year I scoop several out of the water after I find them belly up in the water.  The water level fluctuates with the rains and I did not think they had a way to get out over the tall sides of the pool.  That was until I saw the two frogs sitting at the side of the pool this morning.  They had obviously got on the lower step and then jumped to the next and then out of the pool.  They were waiting patiently, but ever ready to jump back into the water.  While these two bullfrogs had escaped the pool trap, they were reluctant to leave and even willing to jump back in.  Humans seem to do the same thing in our lives.  We get in harmful situations and work hard to get out.  Then at the first sign of trial we jump back into the trap we just escaped.  The number of cases, hospitalizations, and death toll from the virus began to decline.  That is when we loosened restrictions and jumped back into the pool.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

AI

April 27, 2021

Melissa was one of the lucky ones who was hired during the start of the pandemic.  Her job site was an hour and a half away but at least it was mostly an interstate drive.  We had my Jeep and the convertible so she felt the drive would be fine.  Within the first two weeks the semi-trucks that drove the highway threw rocks cracking the convertible’s low-lying windshield, and its replacement.  That was when she decided it was time to get a bigger vehicle that could withstand the daily trips north.  A friend told her how much she liked her own car.  This was an all-wheel drive that also let her combat the occasional snow going over the pass into northwest Arkansas.  Another feature of the car is driver assist powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology.  We found a similar used vehicle and purchased it.

The AI feature of the car is in the front windshield and includes an automatic braking system.  That means when you are in cruise control if you get too close to the car in front of you it automatically brakes.  The other AI is in the lane assist feature that helps keep you from drifting as you speed down the highway.  Since this was Melissa’s car, I had little reason to drive it.  We usually took my jeep when we went together and if we took her car, I always let her drive.  I had driven the car several times, but I found the AI technology (particularly the cruise control) was not self-intuitive (at least for me).  Shortly after purchasing the car the pandemic caused most of the workers, and Melissa, to begin working from home.  With her health condition lately, she has not been going on side trips.  That meant the car has not been driven much lately.  It was easier for me to take my jeep.

I knew you needed to drive any car (at least occasionally) to keep the battery changed and the engine lubricated.  I hopped into the car on Sunday and took off for work.  I quickly remembered that I did not know how to operate the cruise control.   I pulled to the side of the road and took out the manual but did not find what I needed.  I called Melissa and she walked me through the AI to operate the car.   She also warned me, the braking system would not tell me when it slowed down for the car in front of me.  I began driving, set the cruise with the new information, and went north.  I admit, it took a while to get a feel for the AI technology.  I did not like the distractions it caused at first (Slow down! Lane drift!), but I gradually became used to it.  Once I understood, AI made the trip easier.

Thoughts:  The industrial revolution dramatically changed the way people work (John Henry drove piles for the railroad but was replaced by a steam driven pile driver).  Ford’s assembly line stripped craftsmanship from most manufacturing and production.  Now the information revolution is changing lives as AI changes the way we work.  Some are worried the advancing AI technology will create a loss of human jobs (news flash, it will).  I have seen ads this week about Pizza Hut delivering pizza with a self-driving car.  Shelves are being stocked and orders filled by robots at Amazon warehouses.  While AI replaces repetitive human jobs, it also frees time for other tasks (making pizza) and creates jobs that did not previously exist (robot overseer).  AI is neither a pariah nor savior, it is just another way to get things done.  The trick is to understand and innovate to find ways for humans to have meaningful work.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Release

April 26, 2021

While watching the news on Saturday they aired a segment on the “Cow Release” that happens annually in Nordic countries.  The cows have been held indoors for the past four months and they literally jump with joy when they are finally released to the fields.  Sweden’s traditional ‘cow release’ attracts thousands of visitors annually to dairy farms all over the country, but coronavirus restrictions moved the event online last year (for humans).  This opportunity to release has long been a tradition among farmers in the Nordic region and more and more farms are opening and hosting events to give city dwellers the chance to see the animals their milk comes from up close.  The dairy company Arla broadcast this year’s first event live when a farmer released his 250 dairy cows into his fields after a long, dark winter indoors.  Online viewers saw jumps of bovine joy as the herd left the barn bounding into a green field they have not seen for months.  

Each cow on average releases between 70 and 120 kg of Methane per year.  Methane (CH4) is a greenhouse gas like carbon dioxide (CO2).  The negative effect on the climate of CH4 is 23 times higher than the effect of CO2.  Therefore, the release of about 100 kg CH4 per year for each cow is equivalent to about 2’300 kg CO2 per year.  When we compare the value of 2’300 kg CO2, the same amount of CO2 is generated by burning 1,000 liters of gas.  With a car using 8 liters of gas per 100 kilometers, you could drive 7,800 miles per year (12,500 km per year) to release the same amount of gas as one cow.  World-wide, there are about 1.5 billion cows and bulls.  All ruminants (animals which regurgitate food and re-chews it) in the world emit about two billion metric tons of CO2-equivalents per year.  In addition, clearing of tropical forests and rain forests to get more grazing land and farmland is responsible for an extra 2.8 billion metric tons of CO2 emission per year.  That is a lot of carbon.

I spent a Christmas vacation in Wisconsin on a dairy farm.  The nighttime temperature was always below freezing and like the Nordic cows, these cows spent the winter in their stalls in the barn.  While there I helped the farmer with his chores.  Since these cows lived in the barn, they were milked, fed, and “released” all in the same stall.  One of the chores I helped with was cleaning out the barn.  The barn had an automatic system to remove the waste.  You hosed down the floor and the runoff went into a trough that went around the inside of the barn.  My job during the cleaning was to stand outside and make sure everything went well.  I can still recall the smell as I watched the waste release into the open holding tank.  I got my fill of methane that day.

Thoughts:  I had previously worked for four months on a dairy farm in Kansas, so I was accustomed to the sights and smells that come with cows.  The Kansas cows stayed outside and only came to the parlor barn to be milked.  While some would invariably release during milking this generally took place in the field.  While these cows did not jump for joy when leaving the barn, they all dutifully walked to the barn when it was time to milk.  The cows all knew going to the barn meant good food (oats) and release of the milk that collected in their stomachs.  Humans have been offered a similar opportunity to find release with the vaccine, masks, and social distancing.  It seems some are reluctant to come to the barn.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

FBI

April 24, 2021

I had an interesting experience when I tried to log on to my personal network at my house this week.  My computer refused to recognize the house network and instead attempted to connect to one of the recognized networks in my area.  This did not surprise me because it has happened before.  It tends to do this after I have been asked to take one of the mandatory updates to my operating system.  After the update, I am usually required to go back and reset my defaults to the changes I had previously made.  One of the options is always to connect to the house system we had abandoned when we moved in three years ago.  The network no longer exists, but I am still given the option of connection.

What made this time different was that one of the network options was “FBI Surveillance”.  Being a bit of a wag, I decided to try and connect to the FBI network.  I located the network with no problem, but I was then asked the killer question, “enter the network security key.”   I not only did not have the FBI security key, but I am also smart enough to realize that trying to hack the FBI would result in one of two things.  I would either be frustrated and not be able to get in, or I would get in.  Either way, that probably meant a knock at the door to see what I was doing.   I decided to leave the FBI alone.

Even though I did not try and hack the FBI network, I wondered why it was operating surveillance within the range of my laptop.  When I tried to go online and see why the FBI was doing surveillance in my town, I opened one of the suggested pages.  The request came back with only one word on a gray screen, “Forbidden”.  Now if I were a conspiracy theorist, things would have been heating up.  Since I am not, I let it pass.  As my house network still refused to be identified, I turned off and reset the modem.  This time it came up and I was back online.

Thoughts:  When I looked up the FBI online, I found that they have an entire army of people whose sole job is to do surveillance (not a surprise).  Whether they are tracking a terrorist suspect, a mobster, or potential spy, the secret is not about being a master of disguise, it is about blending in.  Todd Letcher is Special Agent-in-Charge of the Special Operations Division of the FBI in New York.  He says if his team is doing the job right, you will not even know they are there.  “When a target comes out of the bodega with a cup of coffee, they don’t see where we are, or they don’t see our people.”  Most people spend their lives trying to get noticed.  We do odd things to get our “15 minutes of fame”.  Being ordinary is not a bad thing.  You just need to learn to do it well.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Tolerate

April 23, 2021

While I was worried about my vegetables and Melissa’s succulents, I did not take much thought for the other species planted in our yard.  Most had been planted by Melissa’s mom and had been surviving on their own for the last five years at least.  They had done well to tolerate their neglect.  I realize I need to begin to take care of them or they will get to the point where I will need to treat them like the front rose bushes and tear them out.  When I came out the morning after the refreeze, I was surprised to see the flowers on the Clematis were in full bloom.  Melissa tells me there are some species that need a frost to shock them into blooming.  This appears to be one.

The two clematis which had bloomed were both the Clematis President variety.  The genus name Clematis is from the Ancient Greek klematis, (“a climbing plant”) and is also translated as “twig, sprout, or tendril”.  Over 250 species and cultivars are known, often named for their originators or by a particular characteristic of the plant.  Clematis is a genus of about 300 species within the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae).  The Clematis genus are mainly of Chinese and Japanese origin.  The garden hybrids have been popular among gardeners since 1862.  This began with the Clematis jackmanii, and more hybrid cultivars are constantly being produced.  Their popularity comes from their ability to tolerate a variety of weather and soil conditions.

In Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he presented a four box matrix of how people allot time to the projects in their life.  The matrix included categories of important, unimportant, urgent, and non-urgent.  What he found was most spend 80% of their time on things that are not urgent and not important (the 80/20 Rule), making them the opposite of highly effective.  The reason for this comes from the fact that this is the easy stuff, and they perceive they are “getting things done.”  The hard stuff is often things that are urgent and important.  Covey’s suggestion is to put most of your time on things that are non-urgent and important.   Many would rather tolerate the specter of failure rather than do what needs to be done.

Thoughts:  I have been putting off my projects to rebuild my planters on the back patio (important and non-urgent).  Now it needs to happen before I can plant the rest of my vegetables and the status has shifted (important and urgent).  I could have done this over the four months when I had time, but I choose to tolerate the jumbled mess I left on the patio.  We are in the same situation in our country.  We had over 400 years to make the changes that were important concerning race, but they were not seen to be urgent.  We need to identify anti-racism as important and urgent, and then do what needs to be done to make a difference.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Refreeze

April 22, 2021

It is only fitting after all the craziness of civic unrest and pandemic during 2020 that 2021 should shift to crazy weather.  We had our late March freeze that was predicted which took out many of people’s early plantings.  I had avoided the freeze by not uncovering my succulents and not putting out the vegetables that I attempt to grow annually.  Since the freeze, the weather has not been balmy, but it was comfortable.  That was until this week and the prediction that we would refreeze.  We got back-to-back days in the low 30’sF for our overnight temperature.  I had started planting the vegetables I had purchased but still needed to put out the peppers.  I decided they could wait. 

I mentioned I had taken down the greenhouse plastic on the porch and pulled up the ground cloth to weed and prepare the outside beds for summer.  With the pending refreeze I needed to figure out what to do to protect my plants.  I had neither time nor inclination to put the ground cloth back on the beds.  This was a labor-intensive job that had taken several days last fall.  Instead, I decided to put the hooped cloth stakes back in the ground and then lay the sheets and afghans we used for the extreme cold back on the beds.  The hoops would keep the cloth from direct contact with most of the plants and provide an air buffer from the cold.  The same problem held for the porch green house.  Melissa was not around to help, and I would need to immediately take the panels down after the refreeze.  I decided to just try and turn on the space heater and hope for the best.

After my plants being covered for the last two nights today was the moment of truth.  I had been checking the porch plants and they had all come through without noticeable damage from the refreeze.  When I checked my veggies there was some freeze damage to some of the leaves, but hopefully not enough to kill the plant.  I will need to wait and see over the next few days.  I was especially pleased with my strawberries.  None of the berries had turned black and the leaves all seemed unaffected (two berries are close to picking!).  Then it was time to remove the sheets and afghans from the succulents out front.  It did look like there was some individual leaf damage on a few of the fleshy succulents.  Like before, the hen n chicks all passed and this time the aloes seemed to make it.  Now I am waiting for the shift to spring.

Thoughts:  When I turned on the porch space heater, my parent’s words when I would leave the door open came back to me.  “What are you trying to do, heat up the whole outdoors?”  While my goal was not the “whole” outdoors, it was a small portion of it.  I turned on the heater the first night, but since the second night was only predicted to get down to 35F, I decided to save the electricity.  While I did get some refreeze on several plants, the porch and heater mostly kept them safe.  I came across an article in my browser this morning concerning whether to wear masks outside.  The comment was that the science shows little transmission outdoors as the particles are small and blown away by the wind.  The conclusion however, was why take the risk?  If you, your children, or others have not been fully vaccinated, was it worth the risk to not wear a mask?  Apparently for some, the risk is even acceptable indoors.  Like with my plants, I choose to minimize the risk.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Millet

April 21, 2021

I am not always the best at weed eating around the back fence.  After all, few people see my back yard as there is an open field behind the house, right?  I did not weed eat along the back fence last week before I did my first “real” mow.  Melissa had suggested the stalks that were appearing at that time might be the Red Day Lilies that her mom had transplanted from her own grandmother’s garden.  These in turn had been brought from Oklahoma when her great grandma had married and moved to Arkansas with her new husband.  Even though Melissa’s mom often talked about these Lilies, Melissa was unsure where they had been planted.  We hoped this was what had sprouted.

Daylilies are a group of plants in the genus Hemerocallis, including several species and many thousands of cultivars.  These plants produce flowers that last for just a day, but they tend to produce many flowers on each stock, providing a relatively long bloom period.  This plant is not really a lily.  Before 2009, the scientific classification of daylilies put them into the family Liliaceae.  Unlike daylilies, which have a fibrous root system, Liliaceae species grow from bulbs and, if ingested, are harmful to humans and animals.  Regardless, we hoped the plants sprouting along the back fence were the Red lilies.

I have mentioned in the past how the birds tend to throw out any seed they do not like.  While I stock black oil sunflower (Helianthus annuus) seeds in two of the feeders for Cardinals, the one between is mostly small seeds easily consumed by the small wrens and finches that flock to the yard.  When I checked the content of my bird seed it indicated a large percent of millet seed.  Millets are a group of highly variable small-seeded grasses, widely grown around the world as cereal crops or grains for fodder and human food.  They are important crops in the semiarid tropics of Asia and Africa, with 97% of millet production concentrated in these developing countries.  I had ignored the sprouting plants on my back fence, (but not cut them down).  When I checked this week, they had budded into heads of millet.

Thoughts:  Millet has been consumed by humans for about 7,000 years and played a significant role along with wheat and barley in the rise of multi-crop agriculture and settled farming.  Millet can be used to make bread, beer, cereal, and other dishes.  Apparently, it is not only good for humans, but is also a staple in many bird seeds.  We have a variety of plants, flowers, and seeds that we have chosen to pass on to the next generation of descendants.  What we choose to pass on depends on what we believe to be important.   We need to make sure that the important aspects of our life are shown to be important to the next generation as well.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Risk

April 20, 2021

I came across a Times article by David Leonhardt that presented a different take on life in the post-pandemic era.  It concerned a fable used by Guido Calabresi, a federal judge and Yale law professor, that he has been telling law students for more than three decades.  He tells the students to imagine a god offering society a wondrous invention that would improve everyday life in almost every way.  It would allow people to spend more time with friends and family, see new places, and do jobs they otherwise could not do.  It would also come with a high cost.  In exchange for bestowing this invention on society, the god would choose 1,000 young men and women and strike them dead.  He then asks: “Would you take the deal?”  Almost invariably, the students say no.  The risk is too high.

The professor then delivers the fable’s lesson: “What’s the difference between this and automobiles?”  In fact, automobiles kill more than 1,000 young Americans each year, and the US death toll is around 40,000 annually.  We accept this toll because vehicle crashes have always been part of our lives.  Leonhardt calls this a classic example of human irrationality about risk.  We often underestimate large, chronic dangers, and fixate on tiny risks, like plane crashes or shark attacks.  This is particularly true if the risk is new.  This could be used to draw inference to the covid-19 pandemic.  The US has lost over 572,000 people and there have been over 3,000,000 covid deaths worldwide.  It is a global pandemic that has upended daily life for more than a year, changed how we live, where we work, and what we wear on our faces.  Fortunately, it is curable, but it also has risks.

The vaccines have nearly eliminated death, hospitalization and other serious covid illness among people who have received shots.  The vaccines have also radically reduced the chances that people contract even a mild version of covid or can pass it on to others.  Vaccinated people still get covid (about 1 in every 11,000), just as nearly 110 people will die in automobile accidents every day, and prior to the pandemic, approximately 60,000 people die annually in the US from the flu.  There will likely never be a time of zero risk, but we can use the knowledge gained in vaccination production and social interaction (masks, distancing, hand washing) to move forward in our new normal.  This is worth the risk.

Thoughts:  As I read Leonhardt’s article I realized that irrational risk goes both ways.  I understand how we cringe when we hear of isolated cases of plane crashes or shark attacks but do not pay attention to the greater number of automobile accidents.  I also know of the great number of persons who have been saved from death during an accident because they wore a seat belt and had air bags deploy.  As humans we do tend to fear the unknown even when known causes have a greater effect.  However, that does not mean we should ignore safety measures when they are also known.  Estimates tell us around 15,000 (37%) of people in accidents are saved by wearing seat belts every year.  They also say around the same number (14,000) would be saved by continuing to wear masks this year.  Irrational fear is one thing, not dying seems to be another.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.