How a coronavirus snuck into the bathroom.

During the SARS crisis in Hong Kong, a housing estate called Amoy Gardens suffered a disproportionately higher number of fatalities than other facilities in the city. Scientists were baffled as to how the disease was spreading, as people on different floors and eventually different units were all coming down with the SARS virus without ever being in direct contact with one another. As they sought out a variety of solutions, eventually they discovered the problem lay on the floor of the bathrooms.

Many bathrooms in Hong Kong (and even the USA) have a floor drain: a small drain embedded in the floor to allow runoff water to drain off quickly. In the old days, a person could dump and entire bucket of water of the floor and swish it down the drain, quickly soaking and washing the floor in one fell swoop. Over time though people used mops to clean and started not to soak the floors with water.

Why did this matter? Because the floor drain in the bathrooms is a standard P-trap drain that relies on a standing amount of water in the drain to prevent smells and critters coming back into the bathroom. Without a regular soaking of the floor drain, the traps dried out and the pipes were directly exposed to the building sewers (i.e. the toilet runoff). When people would close the door and turn on the fan in the bathroom, it created a negative pressure that sucked up the virus from the sewage pipes of infected neighbors (who were incontinent) and into the bathrooms of healthy residents, thus spreading SARS through the Amoy Gardens housing project.

I must confess when I first read this in an after-action review of the SARS crisis, I immediately went around filling every drain with a bucket of water. Even today the Hong Kong government’s official coronavirus prevention guide calls on flooding these drains regularly.

If you want to read more check out these sites and remember to keep your drains flooded.

https://www.infectioncontroltoday.com/personal-protective-equipment/sars-and-plumbing-role-sewage-plays-spreading-disease

https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2003/04/18/in-hong-kong-apartment-tower-sars-virus-spread-through-plumbing/99bcd25f-de85-472a-b084-4f847e0dac9a/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16696450

https://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2003/pr70/en/

The bicycle that goes 100 mph.

I hung out in a bicycle shop in Charleston and one day a guy came in with three rusting old bicycles and screamed: “make me one bike out of these three that can go 100 mph!” “Why would you need a bike that can go 100 mph?” we asked curiously, looking down at this pile of rusted metal. “Because I’m going to be towed behind a drag racer at a show next week!” The guy was slightly unhinged, but eventually, we sussed out of him that he was indeed going to be in some auto thrill show and intended to be towed behind a drag racer at crazy speeds. At least that’s what he believed (like I said, he was a bit off). He did give us $100 cash that he said he got from the promoter. “Ok,” we said, “would you like a helmet with that?” This made him pause for a few seconds before he looked up at us incredulously and said “what’s the point of a helmet if you crash at 100 mph? You’re going to be dead anyway” We worked on a bicycle for him but thankfully he never came back to pick it up. Never sure what happened to him…]]>

My family Christmas Cookie recipe

img_7702Tomorrow I have 11 kids coming over for a baking party. It will be nuts. Here is the family Christmas Cookie (Anise Cookie) recipe we’ll be using. —————– 2 sticks of butter 2 cups of sugar 3 eggs 1.5 tsp Cream of Tartar 1.5 tsp of Baking Soda (dissolved in .5 tbl of milk) 1 tsp of Salt 1 tsp of Vanilla 1 Tsp of Anise 3.5 cups of flour (plus maybe .5 cups during the rolling process) 1) Use softened butter in sticks. Let it sit out awhile or nuke it 20 seconds (do not melt). Mix the butter and sugar together quite well in a bowl. 2) Add and mix milk/soda, egg, Anise, and vanilla. 3) Add salt, cream of tartar, flour. Mix the dough so it is mixed and ‘rollable’. On a floured mat, roll the dough, adding flour as needed to prevent sticking to the rolling pin. Get the dough to about 1/4 inch Cut the cookies with cookie cutters or with a knife to make the shapes you want. Reroll unused dough until you have no more (p.s. I eat the dough but it is very sweet). Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet (nonstick ok) at 400 degree for 6-8 minutes–basically until the bottoms start to turn slight brown. Do not overbake. You can underbake a bit (say 5 minutes in a very hot oven) but make sure you let cookies set a minute or two before trying to remove them from the pan (or they may break up). Use store bought frosting (I used Duncan Hines–worked fine) to cover them and then colored sugars to decorate. Store in a ziploc bag to keep the freshness as they do harden quickly.]]>