The Dominant H3N2

For those who don’t know: hens will lay eggs regardless of whether a rooster gives her company or not. A hen’s body is naturally built to produce an egg in a day.

Vaccine manufacturers grow a lot of flu viruses in order to produce flu shots, and since the virus grows effectively in eggs, it’s injected into the fertilized hen’s eggs and incubated for days while they replicate; they’re then harvested from the eggs, killed or inactivated, and purified to go into vaccines.  

It’s the season of flu in North America. Since anyone in the vicinity of the infected can fall sick, avoid, if possible, a visit to the hospital where there’s a flood of patients with flu because you might return home with a sore throat, the first of the signs. Although we took flu shots late last year, it’s only 25 to 35% effective. Because whenever a dominant strain like the H3N2 virus circulates, the vaccine offers weak protection.

Image courtesy: CDC

Two malefactor species of influenza A and B viruses cause seasonal flu.  Every year, public health agencies throw an educated guess as to which strains of these species will circulate in the next season. The US Food and Drug Administration approves vaccines that could treat the predicted strains based on laboratory and clinical studies; an error here could undo the vaccine’s effectiveness.

But it’s tough to vaccinate against H3N2, a strain of influenza A. This virus, unlike other viruses, can power-mutate as it spreads through crowds at a breathtaking rate. Though there are modern cell-based and recombinant methods of vaccine production, it isn’t clear whether they or the egg-based vaccines are more protective. Growing the flu virus in eggs is cheap and efficient, but the egg-based approach in relation to H3N2 has so far been ineffective, for the virus mutates to adapt to the eggs, resulting in a vaccine mismatch.

Warning: It’s Flu Season.

Window To Man’s Soul

There’s something about windows. In the words of Quentin Blake: You see, I don’t draw from life at all, but I do look out of my window a lot.

A window is alluring as it gives us a view. What we access through it may have varied overtones: a life away from life, the blossomings beyond our reach, frightening us as much, the high altitudes.

Here, I captured the little dragons through the window of their Taekwondo class.

 

Racing upwards at 14 miles per hour in a glass-fronted elevator, it took us 59 seconds to reach the observation deck (116th floor) of the CN Tower. For more CN Tower posts, visit CN Tower defies gravity and CN Tower in Toronto.

 

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From atop the CN Tower, and as the sun peeked through the clouds, Billy Bishop Toronto city airport (center-right) looked abandoned.

 

I’ve said this several times, and am saying it again, that we are lucky to be living in this apartment. For almost a decade now. What you see here: Freedom Tower in downtown Manhattan, the Hudson River, Brooklyn, Marina yacht club in Jersey City. -It was early morning Sunday. The Norwegian Cruise Line ship was returning to Manhattan from the Bahamas. We’d taken this ship for our Bahamas and Florida tour some years prior. See Life on board the Norwegian Gem and Great Stirrup Cay in Bahamas.

 

The window that gave us the utmost happiness also worsened our fears during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The effects were severe in NJ and NY: businesses lost billions of dollars, half a million homes were destroyed, around 50 people were killed. I took this picture around 9 pm. Storm surge/strong wind pounded Newport, flooding the walkway up to ten feet. Sustained wind speed: 75 mph. We’d taken this advisory from our building management seriously: “…all windows in the apartment are maintained closed, locked and the blinds in the lowered position…that the wind is not permitted any opening, which if allowed, can potentially result in the further opening of window or, worse yet, ripping out the entire window.” Though we’d lost electricity and the fire alarm beeped all night, we survived unhurt.   -Strange that I remember what Jean-Jacques Rousseau once said: Every man has the right to risk his own life in order to preserve it. Has it ever been said that a man who throws himself out the window to escape from a fire is guilty of suicide?

 

We had fun riding this tramway that spanned the East River and connected the Upper East Side to Roosevelt Island. Midway to the island and at the tram’s highest elevation of 250 feet, we saw another tramway journey back to Manhattan. The window overlooked East River, the Queensboro Bridge and Roosevelt Island.

 

As we approached the Toronto-Pearson International airport in Canada, the pilot’s reminder that we fasten our seat belts matched these bumpy clouds we saw through the window.

 

At Mount-Pleasant station in Brampton, Ontario, the windows of this moving bus reflected the not-so-clear activities behind me. Billy Wilder had said: An actor entering through the door, you’ve got nothing. But if he enters through the window, you’ve got a situation.

 

Mail trucks do not use window doors in summer. Here I see the driver’s seat and its blurry ambiguity.

Windows to a soul (Photo Challenge). Witty with attitude (Daily Prompt).

Central Park Zoo

On Sunday, we visited the Central Park Zoo in New York City.

This was our second visit in the last year and the tickets were paid for. Reason: Last year, during our first visit, the zoo was closed due to an explosion nearby. It was very unfortunate that a teenager tourist lost his foot in the blast. The visitors who’d purchased the tickets were given complimentary tickets, valid for a year, since most of us couldn’t see all the attractions. I remember we were on our way to watch a 4D movie when the blast had led the zoo authorities to initiate an early shutdown.

The complimentary tickets were to expire in July this year, so the last Sunday had to be the day.

The Central Park Zoo began as a menagerie in the post mid-19th century. The place has since seen several modifications, making it the modern zoological garden, now home to an indoor rainforest.

You enter the zoo with a sizable crowd before disappearing down the trellised walkway. It might look like a conflict zone if you believed the fear-mongering of some, but multiculturalism thrives, and it works toward a peaceful co-existence. The vine-clad purity, the breath of fresh green, the brick trimmed with granite.

Since we missed the 4D movie last time, we began this tour with a movie: Ice Age – No time for Nuts.

How a saber-toothed squirrel on a chase after his acorn, which a time machine dispatches into different time periods, makes for a fun viewing experience.

Our 4D glasses on; son thoroughly enjoyed the film.

We avoid fast food but have to make do with it when options are scarce. The monopoly of a lone restaurant in the zoo can drain your wallet: $14 for a cheeseburger. I ate half of my burger in disapproval. The street vendor right outside the zoo would charge more or less the same, charging $3 for a 700 ml water bottle, for example. In other places, the same bottle costs $1.50. Uniformity in prices kicks competition out. But, french fries tasted better after a while.

Right outside Tisch Children’s Zoo which was to be our next stop, this brilliant musician played Wheels On The Bus Go Round And Round on his saxophone.

At the Children’s Zoo, we waited to feed the goats

Alpaca, which resembles Llama, is a domesticated species of South American camelid.

Feeding the Alpaca. (Look out – Alpacas can spit.)

Spider web play area

White-naped Crane needs shallow wetlands and grassy marshes to forage, nest, and raise their chicks. 70% of these cranes breed in Mongolia which provides perfect habitats.

Ducks’ feeding time

 

Cavies come from the same family as guinea pigs. A family of rodents native to South America.

Intelligence garden (in the Temperate zone) is an idea borrowed from a Chinese emperor who believed that the best way to develop intelligence was to observe animals in their natural state. 

Where next?

Walking toward the Tropic zone. Glass-roofed pergolas add to the beauty.

A grizzly bear stands 3 to 4 feet tall on all fours, but can reach 6 to 7 feet tall when standing up straight.

The bear’s private pool

California Sea Lion can dive hundreds of feet deep and stay underwater for up to 10 minutes.

Flora that lends beauty…

It was zero degree Fahrenheit…descending from the pass were the marks of the Snow Leopard; they can venture as high as 19,000 feet. Watch its eyes at your own risk.

Red panda – found in the Himalayan foothills, this flame-colored animal shares both territory and a name with the giant panda, but not genetics. Red panda is actually related to Raccoon.

The Victoria-crowned pigeon is a large, bluish-grey pigeon; has elegant blue lace-like crests, maroon breast, and red irises.

Blue-headed Macaw Parrot. Pointed tail, large bill.

Amazon Tree Boa is non-venomous, found in South America.

Banded Mongoose – females give birth within a few days of each other and everyone cares for the babies.

Texas Tortoise thrives in exposed dry scrub and grasslands; forages on cactuses.

Slender-tail Cloud Rat – one of the largest rats in the world. Guess its weight when fully grown? Around five pounds. Its penetrating look as if it knows what we’re thinking.

Penguins in the Polar zone. Just chill.

Love/Hate Snow 2

For Day 2 of my B/W Photo Challenge, let the snow assault continue. But I promise I’ll kindle you with warmth from Day 3 onward.

Tried sitting on them? If they are flurries the first five seconds may feel cushy. Then: sit at your own risk.IMG_0359

Workers shoveling snow was a good sight. The sun shone bright; their shadows were big.11053084_10153219093570625_6815545349298158174_n

Insignificant when we don’t have to answer nature’s call? But when we do, this has top significance. There are some who want cleaner options even in the times of crisis.IMG_0329

What tires could do to snow: it becomes muddy, slushy, and lose what, the white.11025163_10153219094380625_8579846165506570706_n

All of us have a long, lone journey. We come and go, alone. The only truth.IMG_0371

I link Maniparna for this challenge. Her posts and photos are interesting.

Love/Hate Snow

This is my B/W post for Day 1 of the 5 Day photo challenge. The wonderful Prior linked me for this challenge.

We all know what happened in Massachusetts when it topped 100 inches of snow in a record breaking winter. Contrary to what the weathermen had predicted, New York, New Jersey, and the other states in the East Coast were spared the assault.

Though it’s been snowing in NY and NJ intermittently, the snow that fell for two consecutive days last week showed aggression:

This gull’s perched on a snow-assaulted railing. When you look into its eyes, you see purpose and no purpose. Contradictory? Well, gulls live a purposeless life, I believe, but are purposeful enough to be purposeless. They’re the spiritual heads of the birds’ fraternity.DSCN1816

Bicycle told snow: “Spare me. Jam Mercedes’ tires instead.” DSCN1838

These are not my footsteps — could’ve been mine. I followed them, some followed mine.DSCN1867

Gravity-defying stunt

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Whose car is it? Mine. What next? What next!IMG_0379

I link the great Kim Gosselin for this challenge. She’s a lovely photographer, too.

Spiritual Dessert At Santo Domingo And Amsterdam

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A calming, bluish dusk at Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Labeling a quiet place as serene is interesting, but the one who’s labeling it might be miles away from serenity. The moment we’re out of a serene location, which certainly pumped us up, our psychological dominance if you will, might crush under the weight of life’s routine chaos.

It’s a given that all of us cannot visit serene locations all the time; at best, once a year. We should, therefore, enjoy find-serenity-wherever-you-are spiritual dessert.

This dessert might taste bitter. Our tasks would be uphill. Clock’s ticking.

Hence, we must either develop the will to bludgeon the issues or, seek peace while issues bludgeon us. Playing a victim is weakness and dumb, given life will come at us hard, every time.

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As time approached sunset, Vondel Park in Amsterdam was quieter

 

Sir Snow, Spare Us The Repetition

First, it was Nor’easter at night, then Nor’easter next morning, followed by Polar Vortex and Arctic Blast, and today, there was another snowstorm.

Feel free to sitDSCN1368

Branch-nowedDSCN1405

Any time’s family timeDSCN1388

Just a click to your dreamDSCN1406

Dive in

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Anytime, anywhereDSCN1371

Is somebody in there?DSCN1350

Took a turn for the better?DSCN1378

Where dreams are made ofDSCN1397

Bed to be tucked inDSCN1403

When top doesn’t share the burdenDSCN1419

Is there another word for beauty?DSCN1410

Nap, ladyDSCN1426

Postcard view from the apartmentDSCN1446

Railings never looked more gorgeousIMG_6382

Who cares!DSCN1425

How Thick Blanket Of Fog Obscured Manhattan Today

It felt surreal as I clicked these from our apartment.

A thick blanket of fog appeared out of nowhere, as though a jet whooshed past inches above the Hudson River leaving contrailsphoto 3 (2)

The more the fog thickened the less the sun’s intensity; the downtown Manhattan skyline is bracing for impactphoto 5 (3)

The sun’s misty brightness; its rays’ reflection in the river were drops of sparkling pearls. But where’s the skyline?photo 3 (1)

The sun and the fog: Will they or won’t they…?photo 5

They met and merged. Every obscurity may not mean enmity. There’s life, love. Any of our interpretations is only reflective of our identity photo 1

Shades And Spots

These are some of my favorite clicks:

When the sun was setting amid dark rain clouds (West Jersey)57404_10151289597130625_1617344439_o

As the sun rose in Florida its patch of white light with its not-so-flattering reflection in the river (from aboard the Norwegian Gem)69748_10150112127110625_4662958_n

The circle of dark orange protecting the thick sunset of white (the East River, NYC)6016_139051120624_8135282_n

The disappearing hues of white and orange knocking on the windows of twilight (New Jersey skyline)75878_10150093045210625_1588157_n

The dusk’s only a few moments away (Manhattan skyline)IMG_8116

How every sunrise is the beginning of freshness (downtown Manhattan)IMG_9447

This quiet surrender wanting you to surrender too (Sandy Hook, New Jersey)334297_10150380642230625_6636000_o

How this day was glorious like any other day (Jersey City skyline)76391_10150093044755625_2593560_n

White with shades of gray and black (A night in Kerala, South India)615390_10151294044070625_1254638598_o

Spot the patches, those landings on the Moon220014_10150229692720625_2113731_o

Window

I captured this from the window of my apartment. After Nor’easter and Polar Vortex, icy river has been a common sight.

There was no sun for most part of the day yesterday with temperature hitting 0 F. Then: in the chill and gloom of the evening, the sun appeared out of nowhere, giving the melancholy a glittering break.

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More Nor’easter pictures

As per the National Weather Service, “Much of the United States will see the coldest temperatures in almost 20 years. They are expected to be 30 to 50 degrees below average in some cities.”

All the best!

When benches are white-cushionedImage

Make hay while the sun shinesImage

What can be done, should be doneImage

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Same bench story, but these: more individualImage

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When trains don’t arrive, find them hereImage

Snow’s shade: the subtle natureImage

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This bench is ownedImage

Nor’easter in progress

A few hours into it, Nor’easter has already dumped 4 inches of snow. This may continue for a couple of days before we have a foot of snow to stare at. Temperature: 17 degree F; Wind: 15 mph.

In Newport, by the Hudson RiverImage

Snow River RocksImage

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Before…

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… After

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Me and my memory trailImage

Snowstorm moves inImage

The holiday celebration must go onImage

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