Sewage, Save Us!

Wastewater monitoring in Bay Area, courtesy of

Who knew that effluent could be interesting? Who knew that the poop emoji was grinning for a reason? Who could have foretold, two years ago, that wastewater would be the key to everything? The scientists did.

Scientists have been closely monitoring wastewater and COVID since the start of the pandemic, and their data has helped predict patterns that have proved essential to acting on the spread of the disease. This kind of analysis has saved lives before and may be more common than we knew.

Dr. John Snow, who knew plenty. Photo from wikipedia.

The Intrepid Sewage Scientists of Yesteryear

The year is 1854, London. You’ve read your Dickens, so you can visualize the urchins, the dark and narrow alleys, the choking industrial pollution. And the sewage–open cesspool holes near houses and channels of who-knows-what running near the sidewalks. There’s a cholera outbreak, and cholera has to be one of the nastiest diseases ever invented by that clever bacteria kingdom. I mean, if you’re evil bacteria and you want to spread across your host population as quickly as possible, what better way than to infect a human intestinal tract then produce explosive, watery … uh…. output.

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Cal Football’s COVID problem: Go Stay Home, Bears!

I am 99% certain that this story won’t surprise any of you. I am 99.5% sure that college football has too many players. And I am 100% disappointed in the stupidity of the behavior of players for my alma mater, which has had to cancel its upcoming game against USC because of a COVID outbreak.

The Bears had 24 players out with COVID on 11/6 that their opponents broke a 20-game losing streak. Getty photo from

The back-and-forth finger-pointing between the Cal sports program and local health officials started before the previous week’s game, when 24 players couldn’t travel to Arizona due to “COVID protocols.” Players, alumni, and sports fans weren’t bashful in criticizing the City of Berkeley Health Services and the university for being overly cautious. However, the dam broke this week, when so many players and staff tested positive that the team had to cancel their next upcoming game. As it turns out, the facts matter, especially when the whole picture is revealed. And, for most of you, who I suspect don’t care about Cal or college football, there are also lessons to be learned.

The Sequence of Events

A few days before the Cal-Arizona football last Saturday, the team announced that 24 players were required to stay home due to COVID protocols. This included starting players, such as quarterback Chase Garber. News reports later clarified that they weren’t staying home just because of exposure to someone with COVID but because they had tested positive themselves.

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Opening Up

We are tip-toeing into the future. Conditions are a little spartan, a little unfamiliar. This is good; this is scary. Caution, patience, and gratitude are the watchwords.

Beware: Lots of People Ahead

I took my first flight in a year last week, just a hop up north to see family. Y’all… there are a LOT of people in airports!

Pre-pandemic Hong Kong, photo Wall St Journal

It was like when you are away from home for a long time, like a summer or when you first go to college, then you are back. It is both strange and familiar. Your primitive brain remembers. Crowds of people are back. Can’t say I really liked that. But we have 8 billion people in the world, so we must share it with each other.

If you haven’t done this in a while, never fear (as long as you are vaxxed A.F, as the kids say today). The airplane wasn’t actually that bad although that was the longest wearing a mask nonstop that I have done in a while. And airplane are always late aren’t they? A little late coming in? Early to the arrival gate, which means you sit on the tarmac. Mechanical something or other, flight crew’s not there. That is all oh-so familiar, too. If we have learned nothing from this experience, it ought to be patience.

But that six feet of space thing? People in airports seem to have thrown that out the window already. Be vaxxed or stay masked.

Masks aren’t strange any more. Photo by Vladimir Vladimirov.
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