Sunday, May 31, 2020

May 2020 Wrap Up

So this month Blogger, which I use to host my blog, changed its interface. And I am still trying to find everything again. It looks nicer on my side of things, but the old interface was in place for years. Sorry if things seem a little different while I get adjusted.

I am also working on a blog post about some of the current events and things that people can do to educate themselves and to help. Stay tuned for that, I will try to get it finished and posted soon.

Alright! Books read in May:

Title: Ouran High School Host Club Volumes 13-18
Author: Bisco Hatori

Synopsis: Haruhi is a poor scholarship student at the very wealthy and prestigious Ouran Academy, where the students have too much money and too much free time. In a twist of fate, Haruhi ends up in debt to the school host club (a gang of six attractive boys). Originally mistaken for a boy herself, she keeps her gender a secret from the rest of the school to become a host to work off her debt. And hilarity ensues.

Thoughts: I needed something light, quick, and fun to read, and these fit the bill. I finally finished the series and I really enjoyed them. They were cute and fun.

Rating: Overall, 4 out of 5 stars


Title: Ask Again, Yes
Author: Mary Beth Keane
Narrator: Molly Pope

Synopsis: Two New York police officers end up buying houses next to each other in the suburbs. Francis's wife, Lena, looks forward to making friends with Brian's wife, Anne, but Anne seems cold and like she wants nothing to do with anyone. They go through normal life, Lena and Francis have three daughters and Brian and Anne have one son, Peter, who is around the same age as Lena and Francis's youngest daughter, Kate. Kate and Peter become best friends. When tragedy strikes to tear them and their families apart, they will have to decide if friendship and love is enough.

Thoughts: This was a book club read for me (and I didn't quite finish it in time for the club's online meet, but I did finish it a day or so later). Overall, I enjoyed the story. Parts were sad or strange or heartbreaking, but there was a lot to love and a lot of redemption. However, I think I was more interested in Francis and Lena and George than I ever was in Kate and Peter.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars out of 5


Title: The Mark of Athena
Author: Rick Riordan
Narrator: Joshua Swanson

Synopsis: The adventures of the seven demigods begins as the Argo II travels from Camp Jupiter to Rome after possibly starting a war between the Roman and Greek demigods. Then when they finally reach Rome after a harrowing journey, Annabeth must strike out on her own quest to follow the Mark of Athena. The other six have to find and save Nico from evil twin giants.

Thoughts: This was a re-read for me. I have lost count of how many times I have read these books, but I just love them!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Title: The House of Hades
Author: Rick Riordan
Narrator: Nick Chamian

Synopsis: Nico has been saved and joins the crew of the Argo II, Annabeth and Percy have plunged into Tartarus. Percy and Annabeth need to find the Doors of Death to help close them and Nico has to lead the rest of the crew to and through the House of Hades to close the doors on the mortal side. Meanwhile, the Roman demigods are marching to Camp Half-Blood, intent on destroying the Greeks.

Thoughts: Another re-read for the up-teenth time. And I had book club books to finish or start but I still re-read this anyway. I did decide to wait to re-read the Blood of Olympus until after I finish another book club book. I love these books very much, in case you couldn't tell.

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars


Title: I Hope You Get This Message
Author: Farah Naz Rishi

Synopsis: In seven days, the world will end. According to the alien message received on Earth, the aliens from the planet Alma have human lives in their hands and plan to terminate those lives. Jesse isn't sure he believes this and sets out to capitalize on peoples' hopes to help his mom and himself out of the poverty they've been struggling in. Cate, urged by her schizophrenic mother, sets out to find and meet the father that doesn't even know she exists. And Adeem, the coding wiz and radio amateur goes in search of his estranged sister and bring her home before the end. Their paths will collide in Roswell, New Mexico.

Thoughts: This was an Owlcrate book from several months ago. I thought it sounded interesting, but wasn't really in the mood for this sort of apocalyptic/sci-fi type of story. It ended up being quite good, in my opinion. I kept thinking about it and the characters when I wasn't reading. And while I did predict part of how the book ended, I still wanted more and had more questions. But I guess that's sort of the way real life is.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Title: The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper
Author: Hallie Rubenhold
Narrator: Louise Brealey

Synopsis: The stories of the ones no one talks about. We all know about Jack the Ripper, but what about the women he killed? This book talks about the five women who were murdered: Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine, and Mary-Jane. Also, they were not all prostitutes as the stories like to tell. These are their stories.

Thoughts: I am guilty of being fascinated by Jack the Ripper, which is why I chose this book. And this book is not about Jack the Ripper and talks only briefly about the murders. It is about his victims who were real women that were treated very unfairly by society both before and after their deaths. This was actually a book club book and I was excited that it was one of the selections because it had been on my TBR for a while. I greatly enjoyed it. If you are interested in history, this book is very well researched and the stories are well told.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Favorite book read this month: Aside from the House of Hades? The Five.
Least favorite book read this month: I think I have to say Ask Again, Yes, only because I didn't really care enough about Kate and Peter.

Also, I read three books with characters named Kate/Cate? Ask Again, Yes, I Hope You Get This Message, and the Five (Catherine was called Cate/Kate--not sure how it was spelled as I listened to the book).

Reading challenges:
I have read 46 of 80 books for the year.
For the alphabet challenge I crossed off "I" (I Hope You Get This Message) and, inadvertently, "H" (The House of Hades, but was planning to read House of Salt and Sorrows for "H.")

In other news, a student that I started tutoring about 6 years ago graduated high school this month. I am so proud of her and excited to see what her future brings.

It was also Mother's Day and I sent my momma a card and gift and got to talk to her an extra day that week. But Kevin was sweet and put a gift together for me "from the rats." It was super sweet. Here is a picture of the front of the card and the painting they made.
The painting is color-coded. Green for Zeus, blue for Poseidon, and red for Hades. And orange for Kevin.

Social distancing has continued, but I still have spent every Saturday evening chatting with friends via Houseparty. Sometimes we play games or work on crafts/projects, and sometimes we just hang out. I love it!

I have started thinking about my next disease post. I can never decide what disease I want to tackle, but I think I will do diphtheria next. I hope you are as excited as I am!

I hope you are all staying safe and healthy and reading good books!

Saturday, May 2, 2020

April 2020 Wrap Up

I feel like April has been a long month. I'm sure there are many people who share that feeling. At least I am still working normally (if not overtime). Social distancing takes a toll on everyone though. Luckily I have had weekly video gatherings with some of my good friends, which cheers me up. I've been in contact with some other people who I haven't seen since I moved to New Mexico and it's een really nice to catch up with them. Maybe when things start to return to normal, some of these things will continue.

I'm still keeping my bullet journal and trying new things to help track my moods and motivation levels. Or track when/why I am most tired. I hope this will help me eventually.

On the plus-side, I have read several books this month. Lets go to that portion.

Title: Ouran High School Host Club Volumes 3-12
Author: Bisco Hatori

Synopsis: Haruhi is a poor scholarship student at the very wealthy and prestigious Ouran Academy, where the students have too much money and too much free time. In a twist of fate, Haruhi ends up in debt to the school host club (a gang of six attractive boys). Originally mistaken for a boy herself, she keeps her gender a secret from the rest of the school to become a host to work off her debt. And hilarity ensues.

Thoughts: I needed something light, quick, and fun to read, still, during and after my reading of Made You Up. But these are fun and I want to finish the series.

Rating: Overall, 4 out of 5 stars



Title: The Starless Sea
Author: Erin Morgenstern

Synopsis: There are magical doors that lead from the ordinary world to a strange place underground where stories ebb and flow like the Starless Sea. If you are meant to find a door, you will. If you do not open it, your chance may be gone forever. Or not, in the case of Zachary Ezra Rawlins. He found his door as a kid, but was too afraid that the magic would let him down to open it. But he gets another chance after some strange encounters with other people who dwell in the harbor of the Starless Sea and other people who have traveled to these mysterious places. But the world of the Starless Sea is in trouble and it might be Zachary's job to fix it. Or change it. He's not sure, but he feels he must try.

Thoughts: I loved the Night Circus so I was excited when she finally wrote another book. And I have to say that I enjoyed it, but I just am not really sure what to think. What I mostly think is that I need to read it again. There were so many parts that changed and were tangled together that I think I spent more time thinking about that than what the actual story was supposed to be. But it was really interesting and kept me thinking. I liked all the different incarnations and tangles of the stories.

Rating: 3 1/2-4 out of 5



Title: Made You Up
Author: Francesca Zappia

Synopsis: Alex is a high school student just like any other. Except she has schizophrenia and can't always tell what is real and what isn't. She has lots of methods to help her keep the real world and the world in her head separate. After changing schools, she finally makes friends with some other kids and with Miles who might have been someone in her past, or not, or maybe possible past-Miles wasn't even real. But this Miles is real and as they become friends and start to fall in love, the real craziness of the world around them comes out. Alex doesn't think anyone will believe her.

Thoughts: Oh my goodness. This book was incredible. Alex is the ultimate unreliable narrator because even she doesn't always know what is real which means you can never know what is real. I was anxious while I read this book and I had so many feelings. After I finished the book, I closed it and then sat there crying for a while (even though, spoiler, the ending wasn't particularly sad. I was just so emotional). And I had a massive book hangover for WEEKS afterwards. That's why I read so much Ouran High School Host Club: it was easy and manageable. I still feel like I don't want to read another book because it could never live up to this one. It might be a new favorite. Even weeks later, I am trying not to cry about it. Generally, unreliable narrators aren't my thing, so I was a little hesitant to read this. But I am unimaginably glad that I did. I don't even have proper words for this book. But if you read it and love it, please come talk to me because I need someone to cry over this with me.

Rating: 4 1/2-5 out of 5 stars. And lots of hearts.



Title: The Lost Hero
Author: Rick Riordan
Narrator: Joshua Swanson

Synopsis: Jason shows up in the Wilderness School for Troubled Youth with no memory of who he is or how he got there. He meets (for the first time?) Leo and Piper and together, they end up at Camp Half-Blood. Piper and Leo have secrets of their own: Piper's father is missing and she is meant to betray her new friends to save him and Leo can summon fire and may have contributed to the death of his mother. But they end up on a quest together and discover friendship despite everything.

Thoughts: This was a re-read, mostly because I wanted something familiar and fun after Made You Up. So I decided to start re-reading this series because they are fun. And because I love Leo to pieces.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars



Title: The Son of Neptune
Author: Rick Riordan
Narrator: Joshua Swanson

Synopsis: Percy arrives at Camp Jupiter with no idea who he is and no memories of his past life beyond Annabeth's name. There he meets Hazel, who has been given a second chance at life after dying in the 1940s, and Frank, who is told that he has great powers but mostly feels like a clumsy dolt. Together they go on a dangerous quest to Alaska, the land beyond the Gods, to defeat a giant and free Death.

Thoughts: Another re-read because I love these books and decided I would try to re-read the whole series. And also because I love Leo (though he isn't really in this book).

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars



Title: Explosive Eighteen
Author: Janet Evanovich

Synopsis: After a vacation gone horribly wrong, Stephanie returns to New Jersey alone. Next thing she knows, the man next to her on the plane was found dead and many people are after her because they think that he planted an important photograph in her bag. Which he did. And which she threw away. On top of dealing with the FBI, fake FBI, and other assorted crazies on her tail, Joyce (her nemesis) is holed up in her apartment, she's having horrible man trouble, and she still has to pick up her skips with Lula.

Thoughts: These are some of my guilty pleasure books. I call them my "beach trash" novels. They are so easy to read and funny. And as I was still in severe book-hangover-mode from Made You Up, this sounded like something I could handle. This series of books has gotten me out of many a reading slump in the past, this one did not disappoint.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


Favorite book read this month: Made You Up (obviously)
Least favorite book read this month: None, I enjoyed all of them for different reasons

Reading challenge: I actually increased my reading goal for this year from 75 to 80 since I have been reading manga and they are much shorter and quicker to read. I might increase it to 85 later. But as of right now, I have read 37 of 80 books.

Alphabet reading challenge: L (The Lost Hero), M (Made You Up),  S (The Starless Sea), and X (Explosive Eighteen).

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Disease Post: COVID-19/SARS-2

As we are in the midst of a pandemic, I thought I would do a little post about this disease. I am not an expert on this topic, but I want to try to convey some information to people who are interested.

Background:

Coronaviruses are enveloped viruses. Their genome is RNA, which makes them more prone to mutations, much like the influenza virus. The surface of the envelope is covered with club-shaped spikes or projections which give it a "corona" or crown when looked at under a microscope.

Giant COVID-19 virus from Giant Microbes. Super cute. I want all of their plushy diseases!
Coronaviruses are broken down into four groups: alpha, beta, gamma, and delta. Mostly this helps differentiate the animals the virus originated in: rodents and bats for alpha and beta, birds for gamma and delta. Based on this you can probably gather that coronaviruses are present in several animal species. And you would be correct. Animals all over the world have coronaviruses which usually cause respiratory and/or gastrointestinal diseases. Humans have coronaviruses, too. Some do cause gastrointestinal infections, but many cause upper respiratory infections that are pretty mild. They are usually what we would call a chest cold or viral upper respiratory infection (ie: viral bronchitis). Most people don't have trouble clearing these infections.

But coronaviruses are good at mutating. That means that they have the potential to jump to humans from animal hosts, which is likely how we ended up with SARS, MERS, and SARS-2 (aka COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, nCoV-19). For the record, SARS stands for "severe acute respiratory syndrome" and MERS stands for "Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome." And real quick before we move on because I have seen bad information spread on social media: COVID stands for "coronavirus disease" and CoV is short for "coronavirus." The number 19 refers to the year 2019 when the first case emerged. SARS could also have been called COVID-02 (2002) and MERS could be called COVID-12 (2012).

The severe coronavirus infections that we hear about cause atypical pneumonia (generally less severe than typical pneumonia). Most coronaviruses do not establish infections deep in the lungs for various reasons (including cell receptors that they need to enter cells and temperature of the upper versus the lower respiratory system). But SARS, SARS-2, and MERS were able to establish infections in the lower respiratory tract which makes them much more dangerous.

According to the WHO, "SARS was more deadly but much less infectious than COVID-19. There have been no outbreaks of SARS anywhere in the world since 2003." But SARS-2 is genetically related to SARS so we might be able to learn more about SARS-2 by studying SARS.

How is it spread?

Respiratory coronaviruses are spread by droplets in the air, gastrointestinal coronaviruses are spread via the fecal-oral route (I know, gross). SARS, SARS-2, and MERS are respiratory and caused by inhaling the virus.

Image from the CDC
These infectious droplets of saliva  or nasal discharges (fluid) are in the air because people cough and sneeze. Even laughing and singing release droplets. This is why the CDC is now recommending that everyone in public wear a mask of some sort (preferably one that is thick enough to stop droplets). It isn't to protect the wearer, it is to protect the people around you. Also, cover your coughs and sneezes. The droplets are heavy, however, and usually settle pretty quickly, which can contaminate surfaces.

It has been thought that the virus can live for a time on surfaces. Here is what the WHO has to say:
It is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces  for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).
If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.

For those worried about catching SARS-2 from animals, the WHO also says, "While there has been one instance of a dog being infected in Hong Kong, to date, there is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19. COVID-19 is mainly spread through droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks. To protect yourself, clean your hands frequently and thoroughly." So don't go dropping your pets off at shelters or (heaven forbid) outside somewhere to fend for themselves. Take care of your animals, they are not going to give you SARS-2. It might be possible for you to give your pet the disease, some animals have lungs much like humans--cats and ferrets for instance. There doesn't seem to be much official information about this and we might not know for a while. Just be cautious. Wash your hands.



Additionally, it appears that the virus does not transmit across the placenta according to an article by Fan et al. Obviously, pregnant and breast-feeding women who are exposed or experiencing symptoms should consult their doctor. More research on this topic is needed, but right now it seems hopeful.


Image from Harvard Coronavirus Resource Center

Symptoms: 

Keep in mind with SARS-2 that some people experience very mild symptoms while others do not. That's part of why this is so dangerous. What doesn't hurt you much could kill someone else. And there is some evidence that there are people who are asymptomatic carriers (they don't feel or appear sick even though they have the disease). However, since they are not showing symptoms (namely coughing) it is more difficult for them to actually spread the disease. Also more difficult to know who is infected. It is a good idea to act as though anyone and everyone might be infected, including yourself.

Within about 7-14 days of infection, people generally show fever, dry cough, tiredness, aches, sore throat and/or shortness of breath. Very few people have reported diarrhea, nausea, and runny nose.

If symptoms get more severe, you should seek medical attention. According to the CDC, if you experience the following: "trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, bluish lips or face" then you should seek emergency medical attention.

I know this is all scary and its still so new that we don't have all of the details, but this is part of why it is important to take care of yourself and keep yourself (and others) healthy. And do keep in mind that many people have more mild infections and recover fine on their own. An article written by

Prevention and Treatment:

The WHO recommends the following for prevention:
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, or clean them with alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Maintain at least 1 metre distance between you and people coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  • Stay home if you feel unwell.
  • Refrain from smoking and other activities that weaken the lungs.
  • Practice physical distancing by avoiding unnecessary travel and staying away from large groups of people. 
As of right now, there is not a vaccine or a proven treatment. And I do not want to get political, but Americans: do NOT follow the directions of our president. He is not a medical doctor or a medical professional of any kind. Just because he thinks or "feels" that something might be so, does not mean it is. Please listen to doctors and legitimate medical professionals. It has not been solidly proven that hydroxychloroquine will treat the disease and may cause more harm than good in some cases. There have been lab trials using cell cultures (in vitro) that show decreased levels of disease by SARS-2, but there have been very few good clinical trials. Most have had too small a sampling group to give accurate representation (see Gautret et al.).

I'm not sure what sort of mechanism azithromycin is supposed to use to treat a viral infection. But azithromycin is an antibiotic, meaning it is meant to treat bacterial infections. It could help treat secondary infections people may see with SARS-2 infections, but to my knowledge, will not treat the virus. Please only use antibiotics at the direction of your doctor.

Also, please be aware that development of vaccines and treatments are a long process, usually at least a year if rushed. So scientists are trying to find these things, but please know that it will be a while before these things exist.

As of right now, treatment consists of supportive care.

Extras:

Here is an informational video that has some good information and breakdowns of COVID-19 that might interest you: Ninja Nerd Science: COVID-19 | Coronavirus: Epidemiology, Pathophysiology, Diagnostics and Ninja Nerd Science: COVID-19 | Coronavirus: Treatment, Prognosis, Precautions.

I also highly recommend checking out This Podcast Will Kill You. About two months ago they did a general coronavirus episode and more recently they have done a series all about COVID-19. They are knowledgeable and work with other professionals to get good information out there.

Here is a page that is very important: WHO: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: Myth busters. Take a look at the information and graphics. I would also like to add a rumor I heard a couple of times: that darker skinned people are less prone (they aren't and also tend to be at a lower socioeconomic status and therefore have less access to treatment and can be more prone to severe disease) and that wearing sunscreen will help protect you from COVID. The virus does not and will not absorb through your skin. Even if there is a break in the skin, I am not sure that coronavirus could properly establish an infection. Covering your skin or having darker skin will not prevent coronoavirus infection.

And I'm sure you know this, but many people have been negatively infected by this pandemic. People have lost friends and family, people have been laid off of work and struggle to make ends meet, our health care professionals and other necessary personnel are worked to the bone. Please keep these people in mind. If it is within your power and means to donate to organizations dedicated to helping these people, please do. Here are a couple of suggestions: your local food banks (like Food Bank of the Rockies), Give Directly, No Kid Hungry, local COVID relief funds, United Way, and many others.

There are local people everywhere doing things to try to help their communities, doing things like delivering food/supplies, giving gift cards to families, and so forth. Also, please keep in mind the homeless populations who also need extra help during these times. Most shelters take food and monetary donations and may need supplies or volunteers. There are people doing good deeds for our health care workers and essential personnel. Remember that many of these people are not being treated well or paid well despite the fact that we actually need them to keep going as a society.

If you can't donate or volunteer, there are still things that you can do: stay home, stay away from people as much as possible, don't travel, and be kind. Kindness doesn't cost anything and empathy is going to help people much more than anger and bitterness. This is difficult for everyone, but please do your part.

Disclaimer: This information is bound to change. We won't know all of the information including complete statistics of infection rates, death rates, and more until this is all over. Scientists and doctors are working all of the time to add to our knowledge of this disease. If any of this changed/changes, feel free to let me know.

Sources: 
Centers for Disease Control: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
World Health Organization: Coronavirus disease 2019
Cascella et al. Features, evaluation and treatment coronavirus.
Gautret et al. Hydroxycholoroquine and azithromycin as a treatment of COVID-19: results of an open-label non-randomized clinical trial.
Omer et al. The COVID-19 Pandemic in the US: A Clinical Update.
Bao et al. Reinfection could notoccur in SARS-CoV-2 infected rhesus macaques. (Please forgive this link, this is the article but the site it was posted on was having problems opening  by the time I was writing this post.) 
Fan et al. Perinatal Transmission of COVID-19 Associated SARS-CoV-2: Should We Worry? 
Emerging Infectious Diseases by Lisa A. Beltz
Medical Microbiology 6th edition by Patrick R. Murray, Ken S. Rosenthal, and Michael A Pfaller