« The Toyota Corolla of Cameras | Main | Test Shots »

Tuesday, 17 March 2020


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

A spike in epidemics and pandemics are but one of the consequences predicted by climate change, along with increased: droughts, famines, fires, storm ferocity and global wars/conflicts due to decrease of land mass caused by sea rise...

This virus which has set the whole world afire is but a wee peek of much grander things to come in... Future World! Imagine when all the above is happening concurrently- fun times ahead!

And the whole toilet paper thing is why we should all buy Japanese-style toilets, like these that can be retro-fitted and are available through Mike's link to Amazon! Once you've used one, you'll never want to go back. Much greener, too. Here's the least expensive one:


Covid-19 is generally not serious for people under 60-70 except if you have other problems like:

People at higher risk include those who are over 70, regardless of whether they have a medical condition or not, and people under 70 with any of the following underlying health conditions:

chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
chronic kidney disease
chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson's disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), a learning disability or cerebral palsy
problems with your spleen - for example, sickle cell disease or if you have had your spleen removed
a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
being seriously overweight (a BMI of 40 or above)
those who are pregnant

Covid-19 is a virus so there is no treatment, the body has to cure you. It attacks the lungs and gives you viral pneumonia. The only care currently is to be put on an ICU ventilator for days / weeks. How many spare ventilators does your local Hospital have?

In Italy they are already Triaging patients too old, too ill sorry.

That's why the young and fit people need to do their part and endure the incredible hardship of self isolating for a few weeks. Everyone who doesn't will have the deaths of hundreds of people on their conscience. They need to step up and save lives.

Flatten the curve. Yeah, about that...

It'll get [much] worse before it gets better, as they say.

Exponential growth is what to expect in the early to mid stages. But over time, expect the growth to look more like the logistic curve. This starts out exponential, and then flattens. The key idea is that the more people become infected, the fewer remain to be infected. You can't infect more than the entire population, so that eventually the growth in infections slows. The logistic curve is explained in many places. Here's one: https://xaktly.com/LogisticFunctions.html None of this should mitigate the preventive measures we're taking now. We're in the exponential part of the curve, and need to slow the growth as much as possible.

Technically, Covid has been documented in a Chinese study to have a fecal transmission route, and to be associated with diarrhea in about 4% of patients. So, having lots of TP on hand may not be a bad idea.

And Covid really is not very flu-like, if we use the word "flu" as it is supposed to be intended - a short-hand for influenza.

Influenza hits you like a hammer. In 90 seconds you go from feeling perfectly fine to knowing you are really really sick. Covid, unfortunately, comes on slowly, so many people still feel fine being out and about.

And, of course, Covid has way more morbidity and mortality than influenza.

Sheltering in-place,and keeping busy digitizing and retouching vintage transparencies...some Kodachromes still in excellent condition from as far back as 1970. The Ektachromes need more PhotoShop "love"to clear away the magenta...

This is an excellent post. Some of the most clear and understandable writing about this that I’ve seen. Thank you.

And, I’m not worried about running out of TP. I have socks and I have a washing machine. ;-)

[Thanks. It took me a LONG time to write. I kept reading more, things kept changing, and I kept getting more input. --Mike]

Best explanation I’ve seen for the run on toilet paper was a comment over on Kirk Tuck’s blog (paraphrasing): 1 person sneezes and 100 poop their pants. :)

Yikes! No TP at Tops market for TOP.

In Seattle, the wave of lunacy buying seems to have crested, and my neighborhood drugstore has a mountain of Charmin in 8-roll packs priced to clear.

On the other hand, gun sales have spiked nationwide, so maybe people are planning to use all those loo rolls as sandbags for their bunkers.

This is not a "Scare" Michael, or a Dem Hoax as your president has said, people are dying.My son is working 15 hours a day helping people deal with the Virus. We are all hoping for the best, I am on day 6 of "social distancing" and ALL my clients have postponed photo shoots for 30 days. We all need to act now.

Who needs TP? We're photographers: get some fine art printing paper, ink and print! Isolation may help to sharpen our visual senses... Hopefully this could lead to another TOP print sale...

With regards to social distancing, why is it that every news conference I see on TV, from the local mayor, the state governor or the white house has the speaker standing in front of a tightly packed human background?

'the silence was deafening' After missing my daily fix of TOP for the past few days, the wait was well worth it. Well done Mike, and the WP piece is brilliant in summarizing responses to this pandemic and our responsibility to one another.

Yeah, we doubled the TP on hand since we might not shop for several weeks. But that's nothing like the stockpiling some people seem to be doing. We probably have over a month in stock now, a great plenty.

Some people, of course, seem to be hoarding with the intention of price gouging. I hope that we-the-people and also we-the-government do not treat them gently.

It appalls me how many people are completely ignorant of exponential growth curves. I guess as a mathematician, computer scientist, and science fiction fan I've been exposed to them from all directions, whereas not everybody would have been. But it was in middle-school math classes, too; maybe I paid attention rather than ignoring it as much as possible.

In the U.K. The over 70s begin a 12 week isolation period this weekend. Most photographers will struggle until normal business resumes, I cancelled the last booking in my diary today as businesses close their door to outsiders.

Good writeup except where you slipped and said only the rich have health care.

This morning I transmitted the final image to Tate (museum) Publishing for a catalog for a June exhibition that will almost certainly be postponed. As the project staff at the museum received it they were also preparing to close the museum today until at least May 1. It was a rather solemn moment.


Now your assignment: Grab one of your cameras (olde film or digital...or your iPhone) and spend a day trying to capture this strange moment in, say, 36 images.

(Without putting yourself at undue risk, that is.)

Well a virus that mostly kills us boomers was not quite the way I was expecting the expected social security shortfall to resolve itself.

Mike, you probably missed out on "Top 100 healthy & delicious toilet paper dishes"! Anyway, anything goes with a sufficient amount of ketchup.

Stay healthy!

Superb Mike, thank you.

Above all else, I am focussing on the knowledge that this all will pass. The media hysteria will pass, the virus will become a background noise just like other diseases we live with as a global population. The lockdowns, isolation and uncertainty will pass too.

If I was to be massively optimistic, I think we may come out the other side of this slightly smarter as societies and governments.

The paper linked below seems to have been instrumental in moving the administration beyond happy talk to actual efforts to mitigate transmission, but the appendix shows that unless we sustain efforts to promote social isolation (until we are able to begin to distribute many tens of millions of doses of a yet-to-be tested vaccine) we will simply delay the peak of the epidemic until some months after we tire of such efforts.

According to the authors, "intensive intervention [social distancing of the entire population, home isolation of cases and household quarantine of their family members ]. . . will need to be maintained until a vaccine becomes available (potentially 18 months or more) – given that we predict that transmission will quickly rebound if interventions are relaxed." (Emphasis mine.)


Dear Mike
Congratulations, very well written. Thank you.

To you and to all TOP readers take care, keep healthy and safe.


Bidet all they way. Only need a bit of TP to burnish your bum. That initial blast of water is...invigorating.

"The B&H Superstore has closed down."

FWIW, only the retail walk-in store is closed. B&H is still taking online, phone, or store pick-up orders.

I agree with Dave, one of the best articles I’ve read (and I’ve read a lot the last couple of weeks, being in Seattle) that shows what a good writer can do: pull together disparate and interesting facts and sources, and present a compelling case. Yay Mike!
Curt (staying home for the next six weeks+ with the family)

The unintended consequences of bog-roll (AKA Toilet Paper) shortages.


Recommended reading: La Peste.

Exponential ...

"The photography term "one f-stop" refers to a factor of √2 (approx. 1.41) change in f-number, which in turn corresponds to a factor of 2 change in light intensity."

And for shutter speed ...

"With this scale, each increment roughly doubles the amount of light (longer time) or halves it (shorter time)."

As to caring for lots and lots of sick people ... listening to or watching or reading the popular press is for some scary and for others depressing and for still others maddening. How can we be so incompetent and unprepared?

Watching local (state level) officials is more reassuring than watching the "news." The head of the state hospital association stood beside the governor and gave us the number of hospitals at various levels of capabilities; number of beds occupied and available; staff availability as well as confirmed cases etc. In addition, hospitals are making or have made arrangements to open recently closed hospital rooms as well as rooms and whole wings in nursing homes. And if we need more they have hotel and motel rooms available.

Kirkland, Washington was out in front when they made the announcement, almost coincident with the first cases, that they had bought a motel. It sounded silly at the time but clearly they had a plan and were implementing it tout de suite.

An excellent post, Mike. Thank you.

Once you get into and used to the act of washing up with a small spray nozzle - easily installed as a bathroom accessory - toilet paper is no longer such an issue and becomes a thing of the past.

I use the same spray for my darkroom work too!

These situations can reveal what is really important. From an Italian friend: "In Australia toilet paper is over, here the first days vanish pasta".

Maybe the Italians have the right priorities...


In Israel the government is using the corona crisis as a reason to prevent parliament and the courts from doing their lawful job. The prime minister corruption trial had been postponed to unknown date by the law minister who assumed expanded authorities to himself. The head of parliament from the rulling party is preventing his own replacement by refusing to convene the general assembly.
Your USA elections are soon - BE PREPARED

Israel is going full Singapore and, so far hanging together. We returned from the US last week and were immediately sent home for 14 day quarantine because we came from the US. That requirement quickly became "from anywhere else." A day later we announced that schools and universities would all go to online teaching, no gathering with more than 100 people. Theaters closed last week, refunding all unused tickets. Then no gatherings with more than 10, And finally the gates to the university are now closed, with only a few essential service exceptions allowed, and we have moved to "shelter in place."

BUT -- our health services have adapted. We registered at the airport as quarantinees. Have received a phone call from our service every day or two. When we reported that two of us have a slight cough, a fully suited technician appeared at our door, essentially performing the drive thru test that you see on youtube. If we pass, I'm not sure that we will know, and I don't know if the lab work is actually in place for all the swabs that they are taking.

So far no deaths reported, with a bit over 300 positive test results. We are just starting to get enough coverage and systematic data to see if we are falling below a simple exponential curve, thereby stretching out the response. The plot I want to see is the absolute number of cases detected scaled logarithmically, versus days since measurements were started. When that curves up, we are not in control. When that curve starts to curve down, it shows progress. When it peaks, as it has in China, then the wave has passed through and it is time to figure out what happened and start to get ready for the next one.

Virus, shmirus. The tragic news in New England today: Tom Brady is moving on! Fortunately, because of the situation you explain so well (thanks for putting in the time), no one is rioting in the empty streets of Boston.

RE: B & H photo taking orders for in-store pick up.

An idea I’ve been telling everybody who will listen is that all stores should be taking remote orders for pick up. The everybody stay home model is going to paint society into a corner where society and the economy will really be difficult to restart from a dead stop.

I was just reading that bus systems across the country are suspending operations because the businesses that bus drivers have used for restrooms have closed.

Since this is a national “emergency”, then issue ration books, like during WW2. This would make hoarding a lot more difficult.

By far the most lucid piece on the subject I have read.
Take a bow, Sir!
Thank you and God bless you.

I was going to ask you to figure by how much to flatten the curve, maybe with the help of the chief scientists Ctein, but I've seen it done the article linked by Charles Lanteigne in a previous comment. One of the best I have seen, that shows how most of these "flatten the curve" graphs are misleading. Well, good luck, we in Italy need lot of it too.

As a reward for inventing chess, the king asked Sessa to choose his reward. Sessa said 'I would like a grain of rice on the first square of this chessboard, two on the second, four on the third ...': this seemed a meagre reward to the king. I am not sure whether enough grains of rice have yet existed to pay the reward: perhaps they have.

That's what exponentials do.

@ Bill Tyler your analysis is correct but for one point. You are assuming a person can’t recover and then catch the disease and get sick again. According to Chris Whitty, the UKs chief Science Advisor leading the UK government’s strategy on Covid-19, it’s not yet clear whether one having recovered from the disease gets permanent immunity to the virus, short term immunity or no immunity at all. There are reports of repeat illnesses but questions about that data. Corona viruses such as the common cold don’t seem to leave their victims with long term immunity.
One bit of good news is a drug called Cloroquine and a similar drug hydroxychloroquine used commonly for years are showing signs of being effective against Covid-19, not a panacea but it reduces severity and shortens recovery and is well tolerated. . https://docs.google.com/document/d/e/2PACX-1vTi-g18ftNZUMRAj2SwRPodtscFio7bJ7GdNgbJAGbdfF67WuRJB3ZsidgpidB2eocFHAVjIL-7deJ7/pub
I hope the link doesn’t break when I post.

I had to take my dog down to the basement to show her that we had a spare bag of food -- twice!

Stay healthy Mike. Great post.

My introduction to exponential growth was via David Suzuki, and this:
Years later, it's still relevant, in another way.

I don't feel so good.

Fear is the mind killer.


But dont give up hope, or your mask, just yet, because love, even in the time of plague.

And, if you need something to do while waiting to die, check these out.

Mr Money Mustache has a really good essay too.

P.S. I use paper towels. Hands down best. (Am currently locked inside my apartment in Ecuador. With paper towels, plus water, plus soap, because I always wash up, regardless. Actually less crazy here too.)

So there’s a TP shortage, but at least there won’t be a TOP shortage!

As a toilet paper sales agent in an earlier life one of the obstacles to improving sales was that many of the older houses had a Bidet in the bathroom.

A very informative post. Thank you.

Well done and ditto on the special blessings for our health care workers. They deserve our respect. I appreciate all the time and effort you put into this post. I’m not sure where we would be without the Internet at times like this. It’s comforting to be able to tap a few keys and find reasoned words such as yours, investigative journalism, CDC updates, or an extended YouTube interview with an expert in infectious disease epidemiology.

These days, I see a lot of videos of people washing their hands for approximately 20 seconds while singing Happy Birthday or some other song. Unfortunately, they also leave the water running full blast all that time! Now you may say, it's no big deal. But do that five times a day, multiplied by 7.5 billion people, over a three-month period. Imagine how much water goes down the drain. This puts an enormous pressure on water supply and quality. Water might just become the next crisis. And you won't have any water to flush down that toilet paper you've hoarded.

Well, here in Italy, by law our houses have to have a Bidet, so there has been no rush on toilet paper as we know there is a messy but hygienic alternative to this taboo subject.

More seriously we cannot find face masks and anti-bacterial gel.

I am surprised that with all the talk we have heard over the years about the risk of a biological terrorist attack, our governments have not set aside a strategic reserve of things like face masks in some bunker for just this sort of occurrence. It seems the world health organisation were well aware of these sorts of risks.

Here in Italy the current “hot spot” we are coping at the limit. A trip to the newsagent or the bakers is a good excuse (and only legal way) to get out of the house for a breath of fresh air.

I have posted a few pictures on my Blog of these strange times:


It's just the same in the antipodes, Mike, except that citizens returning from overseas are required to self-isolate for 14 days on pain of hefty fines and even imprisonment! Bali is our go-to holiday place and even though the virus is known to be there, people are still getting in the Airbuses to go there. Yet the government are saying, come home now before we close the borders. They soon may not be able to get home. Virgin Australia are stopping all international flights. And as returning overseas travellers, they are mandated to self isolate for 14 days. So much for their relaxing holiday. You can't tell some people.

But as for TP and other supplies, self-isolation is not just for 14 days. I'm 73 and have three danger issues, so I have to think of isolation for the foreseeable future. I can't just go out after two weeks as if it's all fine.

Luckily I'm used to this and I have a mass of unread books, unwatched DVDs, unprinted images, unwritten memoirs, unmade slide shows, uncomposed photobooks, unfinished model railway plans, unattempted car repairs, unwatched Netflix series and so on and on. What, me bored?

Governments in Europe are running around like headless chickens, implementing measures too late. 1 day lost means an increase rate of 40% in infected cases.

Lilies in a pond and Grains of Wheat or Sand on a Chess Board .....

1 grain on the first ... 2 on the second ... 4 on the third etc .... then up to 64 squares the number of grains is :

18,446,744,073,709,551,615 grains?

First attributed to Ibn Khallikan .... the Arabs having saved the Greek Philosophers for us ... and of course having more sand!

I should have added ... aka your lily example ... KURZWELL showed that although there many grains in the first half of the Chess Board the second half had has more the 2 Billion times as many!

The entire chessboard would have 1,199,000,000,000 metric tonnes of Wheat on it 1500 times the Global production


Same same here in Europe. Toilet paper seems to be a miracle cure for this bloody virus!

And moreover, people over here don't seem to grasp the exponential thing either.

But smiles aside, the situation here in Europe gets dramatic for medical personnel.

Take care on your side of the pond and keep the distance!

I find it curious that I can get a better grasp of the situation from enthusiast bloggers than from many news outlets.

For example, here's a well-written audio blog with a level-headed story about the current situation...


Your best and more significant post in the history of TOP, Mike. Too bad that it's not about photography, but then again we are being reminded by Real Life that photography perhaps is a pleasant luxury...
By the way, talking about illuminating papers about epidemics, this one is long and less visually appealing than the WP's but it's absolutely compelling. Like with your smart firemen: every day counts!
Thanks for putting this out, I'll share it with my photographer and non-photographer friends alike.
Stay home, stay safe.

The link!

Great post, Mike. If I was to have access to only one website/blog while stranded on a desert island, it would be TOP. But uh, let's hope it doesn't come to that...

I found some optimism in the observation that, in a couple stores, toilet paper is all sold out, but tissues are in stock. So people are apparently planning to stay home and NOT be sick.

Thank you, Mike, great writing. I very much agree.
Concerning Ian Seward's comment above, I gather there are some safety-tested drugs that look as if they may help reduce the duration, the severity and onward transmission of the illness.
I certainly hope so, as I'm 75 years old, hunkered down at home in England and praying for an effective vaccine to be widely available within 18 months.

Good article.
I will comment on the apparent lack of leadership from AA. The 4th tradition says each group is to be autonomous except in matters affecting AA as a whole. It could be debated if some sort of suggestion would benefit AA as a whole or if each group should make it's own rules. I guess they chose autonomy.

Send it to the Guardian. It's a very good article!

Seems the US, for reaons of its own, did not want to use the WHO's Covid-19 test in favor of an american made test.

A new 15 minutes Covid-19 test will be available from Japan.



Thanks for the calm and rational--and even humorous--explainer, Mike.

I'm puzzled, though, by your suggestion that we have plenty of ER beds. As far as I know, our ER capacity was stressed even before this outbreak, which has already overwhelmed ERs in Washington and New York City. If you have reason to think otherwise, I'd love to see the info, as I'm currently doing research on our healthcare system.

Mike, you are very right! I live in Berlin, Germany, as a journalist normally dealing with politics. But we're some days or maybe weeks ahead of you in the pandemic event, and nothing is normal any more.

I work at home now, as do our ministers of finance and home security which may have had contact to someone infected. We're close to a complete shutdown of public life and economy - and believe me, we Germans don't shut down our beloved car factories (VW, BMW and so on) for fun!

We closed every school, every shop except food stores and others necessary for everyday live. Everybody is urged to keep as much social distance as possible even to relatives - and at least two meters distance to everybody except the folks in your own household. Sounds like a bad blockbuster scenario, but it's real.

Our young people have some difficulties to understand why they should obey to these measures although youngsters seldom get really sick by Sars-CoVir-19. They don't understand the dynamics of exponential spreading. Statistics is not much cared for in the school schedules.

But if you understand that the problem isn't whether you yourself are in danger or not, but a problem of a collective thread - and Mike, you pointed to some of the best sources worldwide to understand that, especially the WashPost piece -, you happily stay at home.

We have a very good medical system and a mandatory insurance which guarantees free medical treatment. We have 28.000 beds for intensive care which sums up to 34 beds per 100.000 inhabitants - same quota as in the U.S. But our military starts to erect provisional hospitals. Even our system would crash soon if we couldn't slow down the spreading of the virus significantly.

We currently have a ratio of around 1:2 to 1:3 - every infected person infests two to three others, which means the numbers double every two days - numbers of infected people, sick people, dead people. We need at least 1:1, better lower. It may take some weeks to reach this. If social isolation works as expected, it will even take some month for our lives to return to some normality.

And, by the way: toilet paper was the first thing that ran out in Germany, too - only followed by masks (useless against viruses) and desinfection fluids (unnecessary if you use soap properly). Psychiatrists should find out what's gone wrong with parts of our population in their early lives ...

Side effect: Berlin pictures nowadays remind me to the early days of Daguerrotypes - no people around, not even as long exposure shadows, only Brandenburg Gate ...

Keep strong over there!


In Italy and France red wine and condoms got rare,
in US and Germany toilet paper - what's going wrong there?

All those long lines at the Gun stores. Buying rifle, pistols, shotguns and ammo so they can shoot those who break in to steal their Toilet Paper?

TP. I loved TP. Tech Pan. From Kodak. Almost no grain at all. A bit difficult to develop if you wanted a full tonal scale. But sharp. TP.


Your essay is thoughtful, wise, and well written.

A ballad from down under. https://youtu.be/ia0bfWbOLjY

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007