Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Resources for the New or Experienced in Lockdown, Shelter-in-place, Quarantine, or Isolation

This blog post is a list of resource to help make the most of your time as a shut-in. I will add categories and information as people request, based on my editorial preference.



  • Though I have not yet been able to do it everyday, the free version of the app called Elevate is a lot of fun. It's a "new type of cognitive training tool designed to build communication and analytical skills." Who does not want to improve those things when trapped at home by yourself or with family!?
  • Board Game Arena "No download necessary - play directly from your web browser. With your friends and thousands of players from the whole world." Available in more than just English!

Fun Reading


  • In the short attention span that the modern age and this crisis affords, I have found solace in books available on Blinkist, which aims to provide "key takeaways from the world’s best nonfiction books in text and audio." (I have personally listened to everything from Pope Francis' The Name of God is Mercy to Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom to Alex Haley's The Autobiography of Malcolm X to Shunmyo Masuno's The Art of Simple Living, as well as titles by Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, and Edward Snowden, and Gen. James Mattis.)
  • When I was in America and we had a more regular regimen of reading to the kids at bedtime, I used Storyberries, a free, easily accessible online collection of quality stories, comics, fairytales and poems for children.  


Not Fun Reading: Keeping On Top of Coronavirus News






  • Forks Over Knives "Through nurturing food, you have the power to live your best life. It is our greatest hope that you’ll use the information, tools, and recipes we provide to take charge of your health destiny and share your own vibrant health and delicious cooking with the ones you love."





  • Netflix has a couple of great movies that pertain to pandemics, including the documentary "Pandemic: How to Stop an Outbreak."
  • Lots of great movies on stopping climate change and environmental degradation through diet change, notably, Forks Over Knives and Cow-Spiracy.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Chestnuts: The Chinese Quarantine Experience

Semi-Daily Mercury Thermometer Routine

Escalator in Beijing Airport.
My first "victory" since returning to quarantine in China was to get my able, assigned keeper to call her superiors in the government and ensure that I could take my own temperature twice daily instead of increasing exposure to other humans by allowing them to do it once per day. In a way, this was self-defeating, because now I will not necessarily see another human being every day, but, importantly, I have no way of knowing if the people the government might send to take my temperature are properly trained with personal protective equipment (PPE) or new trainees engaged only for this monumental effort of welcoming the diaspora and an odd waiguoren back to quarantine (or isolation) in Mother China. Based on everything else that I have observed here, I would assume that they are moderately well-trained for such duties, but why take the chance?

Real Quarantine, Oh My!

College student on aisle of my row in hazmat suit,
purple gloves, tight goggles, and expensive N95 mask.
I am waiting to read stories of Americans coming into JFK or the other ports of entry who are greeted in the same way that I was in China, instead of finding themselves in throngs of potentially ill travelers. While there were always lots of hungry people (it seemed like it took fifteen minutes for the worker to refill the Instant Noodles vending machine during my Beijing layover), we were never like sardines. It was always possible to social distance, but one has a false sense of security when nearly everybody has goggles, masks, gloves, and even full-body, white hazmat suits. The overkill, for which I was carefully coached by my partner, was extreme and obscene. There seems to be a frenzy of misplaced national pride here now that the disease is mostly under control; rather than patting each other on the back for staying home and social distancing as told, the Chinese public seems to be sure it was because of their masks, gloves, and gowns, not to mention the aerosol spraying in the street. This theme would make a great science fiction dystopian novel until the second round of COVID-19 ravages the country. Let's hope that is not how this story ends.

Rice with dofu ru, steamed snowpeas, past-its-prime pomegranate, and an apple to keep the doctors away.

Food is the first medicine and sleep, the second, so my only criticism of this whole journey back to China was the lack of nutritious options (Salty Potato Chips and Doritos, really, China Airlines?) and the interminable amount of time that everything took, which is sure to weaken immune systems, as well. Had I known this would be the case, I would have packed a breakfast, lunch, and dinner--especially necessary as a Forks Over Knives practitioner.

Health Insurance for All Public Employees?

The day before yesterday someone came to my door, though, because I was greeted back by my excellent employer--a public school--with a very generous offer of health insurance coverage and I need to sign the paperwork for that immediately. In fact, so generous was this offer, and so different than my experiences in the USA with healthcare, that I was not sure if my tears were those of joy and gratitude or absolute despair about my own nation, which is so ill-prepared for this onslaught. I have truly existential angst about my fellow countrymen and how they will face the pandemic. It is very concerning that the junior Senator from Kentucky has it and that white supremacists are seeing this as a tool of battle with the police among others.

Facemasks and other PPE Shortages from "Sea to Shining Sea"

The garage facility where I received my COVID-19 test.
I message almost daily with a doctor in Seattle who reports that modern-day Betsy Rosses are knitting face masks for the "war effort." The Deaconess in Boston has put a call out with this how-to. Meanwhile, while Jack Ma (aka Ma Yun) of Alibaba sends 20 million masks to Japan and a half million test kits with a million masks to the United States, the Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook Foundation has given $600 million dollars for the Bay Area COVID-19 relief and Bill and Melinda Gates have given $100 million to public health authorities around the world.

Close watchers of my Facebook presence will know that I have friends in the pro-mask-for-almost-everybody camp and the masks-are-not-for-the-asymptomatic camps. I hope to encourage a couple of those people to converse with me or with each other in this space, but the tenor of the conversation has been so pitched. Not sure if that will happen.

It is a such an important conversation, because I fear the mask fetish in China is so ingrained that they will not easily move to a more moderate stance. There are unconfirmed reports of under-delivery of face masks from China to the US over the last couple months. These stories come from an acquaintance who was on a supply-chain call (she thought such actions deserving of sanctions). In any case,  if there are going to be sufficient masks and gloves in the short-term to meet the quickly growing need, something needs to give. I am asymptomatic, but was asked to wear a mask by the worker (in full battle dress) who came to my door with a thermometer. Imagine this scenario playing out with thousands of people in quarantine here.

A Visit from the Family

Yesterday I had a visit from my girlfriend and kids. I got to be on the cellphone with them while they waved up at me on the 14th floor balcony. 丫丫 actually came to the outer door, which has glass windows. She delivered a replacement water filter and tomorrow may bring a new battery for my 8-second electric thermometer.

They were en route to visit our dear friend in his studio and seem to be having a good time.  Harry and I talked about LEGOs yesterday for him to practice his English and he played with them for hours.

Harry with the accomplished Hunanese sculptor, Shentao, in his studio.

Naomi (left) and her first cousin, also at the studio yesterday.
This lucky boy has more LEGOs than Carter has liver pills.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Update on My Second Quarantine

It was quite an adventure. I am safely back in my apartment alone for the next two weeks with plenty of food and receiving the same services that I had before in Seneca County (i.e., I have to take my temperature twice a day and I need to tell them once a day in the morning. This time no 75 acres and I need to stay inside the apartment so exercise has to happen here. They will bring me food or a new laptop battery if I need.)

I only arrived home about 45 minutes ago. As you may know, my journey began from the Lebanon Dartmouth coach stop at about 2:15pm on Monday. The only food on the long flight was a couple of bags of chips—salty potato chips and Doritos. I added boiling water to Ramen noodles, which was the only thing available in my six hour layover at Peking Airport. There was a roll and some weird processed meat thing on the next flight. If food is the first medicine and sleep the second, it's time for me to call it a (new) day.

Walk in balance,

The Escapee
Walk in balance,

Alexander Lee

Sent from my iThang

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Imagined Journey to Second Fortnight of Quarantine

Nothing is Certain in Life, Except Death and Taxes

This post is scheduled to appear at 2:45 AM on Tuesday (Eastern Standard Time), just fifteen minutes after my scheduled departure from JFK. I will land at Beijing on Wednesday morning at 4:35 AM (China Time). Then I will proceed to Baiyun Airport in my home city of Guangzhou (née Canton), touching down some time after noon. The rest of the process of checking in and getting "injected, inspected, detected, infected, neglected and selected" (Arlo Guthrie, Alice's Restaurant) will take more than three hours, I am told, after a flight of about 14 hours, a layover of 5 hours, and another flight of 3.5 hours.

From the best available information, unless I should become symptomatic before touchdown in Guangzhou, I will be alone for the next two weeks in my apartment without 丫丫 or the kids, which will mean that this whole misadventure of family separation will take six weeks. She will live in her old apartment with the kids until we are permitted to reunite. Life is starting to go back to normal across China from most reports. While it is unclear when we will be called back to campus, I will be able to continue teaching my classes online, which will no longer stretch till 10:15 PM. There is light at the end of the tunnel!

I have started to communicate with a male Chinese friend, who also has two wonderful kids, and has already begun this experience, because he came back from one of the 25 nations that Guangdong Province believes correlate with a high possibility of infection.

Christian Apologetics UK: Beyond the Shadow of a Doubt ...
"Handa-geddon is coming,
Comrade, and I am the one
with the cardboard sign."
I will be checked upon periodically by someone suited up for Hand-ageddon. A special van will deliver me home and thereafter there will be a sign on my door warning people that I am inside.

I will be singing opera and lots of Stan Rogers, Beatles and Bob Dylan on the front balcony so as not to let my aspirations float down into the courtyard from the back balcony. Life will be okay, because, if everybody stays healthy, I know that I will be reunited in 14 days with the people that I love.

The food order went in and I will continue to eat my lima beans and brussel sprouts! Might even make some matzoh, Hon. Debra Pignatelli!

That is 36.3℃ for those of you who cannot
do T(°C) = (T(°F) - 32) × 5/9 in your head.
I will continue to take my temperature twice per day, as I did this morning in Hartland, Vermont. I caught a 2:15 PM bus from Lebanon to Penn Station and then took an Uber to JFK. I have the masks and gloves that were given to me in Seneca County, as well as the two N95s that I brought from China. I am to wear sunglasses and pump the full Purell bottle that was also awarded me by my favorite RNs, avoid the bathroom and not eat airplane food so as to meet not the US CDC, but my girlfriend's perbolic [sic] standards.

This post may not be updated with any further information about how this all unfolds...

Re: Donation: Penance for my own poor behavior

---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: Instacart Support <>

Groceries delivered in as little as 1 hour
##- Please type your reply above this line -##

Hi Alex,

Thank you for contacting Instacart Care. My name is Latosha. I'm glad to hear that you want to pay for customer's delivery fees and Instacart fees for customers who are under quaratine in your area.

I have reviewed your account and unfortunately, Instacart doesn't have the capability to recognize the customers who are under quartine in your area.

You could contact your local government to see if they have a list of people in your area that aren't able to go out due to the circumstances at hand today.

This is a very good deed that you are doing, and I hope it all works out.

Best safe, and best regards,

Instacart Care

Have other questions? Visit the Instacart Help Center, where you can find resources and information 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
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Walk in balance,

Alexander Lee

Sent from my iThang

Health Alert: U.S. Embassy Beijing, People's Republic of China (March 17, 2020)

Seal with white background


Health Alert – U.S. Embassy Beijing, People's Republic of China (March 17, 2020)


Location:  People's Republic of China


Event:  There is an ongoing outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) first identified in Wuhan, China. The global public health threat posed by COVID-19 is high, with more than 80,000 reported cases worldwide.  


The government of PRC has implemented enhanced screening and quarantine measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.  Travelers should be prepared for travel restrictions to be put into effect with little or no advance notice.


State/local government actions:  Effective immediately, most major metropolitan areas in China will require travelers entering China from nearly all foreign destinations, including the United States, to undergo screening for COVID-19 and perform 14 days of monitored quarantine, either in their residence or in a Chinese facility, with the quarantine location determined based on their risk of COVID-19 infection.  In some locations, travelers may be expected to pay for their accommodations while undergoing quarantine.  Travelers may not have control over the amenities offered at quarantine locations.  These quarantine measures are not consistent across China and submitting to them is mandatory.  U.S. citizens may also be required to install and use location tracking software on their phones in order to access public spaces and some businesses.  Some private hospitals may refuse admittance to travelers who have been in the United States 14 days prior to entering China.


Actions to Take:

·         Consult the CDC website for the most up-to-date information.

·         For the most recent information on what you can do to reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19 please see the CDC's latest recommendations.

·         Visit the COVID-19 crisis page on for the latest information.

·         Check with your airlines or cruise lines regarding any updated information about your travel plans and/or restrictions.

·         Visit our Embassy webpage on COVID-19 for information on conditions in China.

·         Visit the Department of Homeland Security's website on the latest travel restrictions to the U.S. 

·         Be aware you may be subject to quarantine for an undetermined period of time if you plan to travel to China.



·         U.S. Embassy Beijing, China

Telephone: +(86)(10) 8531-4000

Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(86)(10) 8531-4000




U.S. Consulate General Chengdu, China

Telephone: +(86)(28) 8558-3992

Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(86)(10) 8531-4000



U.S. Consulate General Guangzhou, China

Telephone: +(86)(20) 3814-5775

Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(86)(10) 8531-4000




U.S. Consulate General Shanghai, China

Telephone: +(86)(21) 8011-2400

Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(86)(10) 8531-4000




U.S. Consulate General Shenyang, China

Telephone: +(86)(24) 2322-1198

Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(86)(24) 2322-1198




·         State Department - Consular Affairs

    888-407-4747 or 202-501-4444

·         China Country Information

·         Enroll in Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts.

·         Follow us on Facebook and Twitter




Walk in balance,

Alexander Lee

Sent from my iThang

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Donation: Penance for my own poor behavior

Dear Instacart,

I would like to pay for the delivery of groceries to people who are in quarantine (not isolation) in Seneca County, NY. I do not intend to pay for their groceries but only for the Instacart costs (i.e., shopping and delivery). Thank you for the responsible steps you've taken as a business. 

This is penance, albeit not recommended by any man-of-the-cloth, for my own semi-irresponsible behavior, as detailed in the linked Boston Globe article. I am still asymptomatic and feeling strong more than three and a half weeks later. (Ms Swineheart, please apologize to the women who checked me out and bagged my groceries on the 18th of February, if they were nervous after I left.)

I would like to prioritize, first, people entering into solo quarantine and, second, only "Forks Over Knives" or vegan food delivery. I am willing to donate up to $500.00 for this purpose. If this attempt to coordinate works well, we can scale it up in the Ithaca and Finger Lakes region or beyond. 

Perhaps obviously, I want the parties to this message (Seneca County Health, Green Star Food Co+op, Instacart, and Forks Over Knives) to respect the privacy of people who may need to quarantine in the county. I felt very vulnerable during that time.

If such an effort already exists or is happening, I would be happy to have Instacart put me in touch with the place to which such a donation should be sent, even if it is utilized outside of Seneca County. If this major problem is being addressed in some other way, perhaps the county health department is aware.

Many details need to be worked out. Notably, people arriving at a port of entry and headed to Seneca County for quarantine need to be informed that this grocery shopping and delivery option is available before they do their own shopping. I understand that most people in quarantine are probably not returning from abroad so we need to understand better the point at which these folks need to learn that this grocery shopping and delivery option is available. 

Forks Over Knives 🍴, if they choose to participate, should provide three or four menu options at different price points for two-week menu plans to Instacart and/or the county health department(s). Shopping lists that instruct which aisle products/produce would normally be found are easily generated by their current tools.

Let me know if you would be willing to cooperate with this effort to solve a systemic problem that faces individuals entering quarantine. I am confident that we could use GoFundMe or a similar platform to raise considerable funds for this worthwhile effort.

I know this message puts many of you and your employers on the spot, but time is of the essence to solve this critical problem during American Social Distancing Week One. Pardon the aggressive tactic that I am employing. I know the smallest county health departments across the state and nation are likely to be overwhelmed soon by the burden of caring for the likes of me. This is, I hope, one way businesses can partner to reduce the load.

Walk in balance,

Alexander Lee

Walk in balance,

Alexander Lee

Sent from my iThang