A Few Silver Linings

Published: May 8, 2020

By Jim Lichtman
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Former computer scientist Jim Mitchell is another local resident who shared his perspective on the virus and living under quarantine conditions.

Jim and 1620 disks circa 1963

Mitchell started programming for computers in 1962. During his career, he “worked on programming language design and implementation (FORTRAN WATFOR, Mesa, Euclid, C++, Java), interactive programming systems, dynamic interpretation and compilation, document preparation systems, user interface design, distributed transactional file systems, and distributed object-oriented operating systems.”

I have no idea what all that is (I copied it from his Wikipedia page), but it sounds impressive.

“SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes, COVID-19, have changed my life dramatically,” Mitchell says.

Jim on Loveland Pass July 2011

“I only go out of our home for solo bicycle rides, occasional trips to dry cleaners, and some shopping for things at a drug store. We are fortunate to have adult children nearby, and they have been doing grocery shopping for us.

“At first, I was fixated on every new bit of information on COVID-19 to understand as much as possible about it. It became clear to me that we older folks need to avoid it at all costs until there are better therapies for those who get it and more testing. When we have a vaccine it should become no more of an issue than the seasonal flu. Now I check the worldwide and U.S. statistics about once a day only as I have become somewhat inured to the statistics,” Mitchell writes.

“I have become addicted to news feeds and briefings on fighting the disease. I mostly like what [New York] Governor Andrew Cuomo does in his daily morning briefings. I can no longer stand to watch the afternoon White House briefings because of the ignorance and stupidity shown by Trump. If he starts talking, I have to leave the room, only returning when I hear Dr. Fauci’s or Dr. Birx’s voices.

“I feel a great deal of anger towards Trump and his administration, which have made this disease and its consequences much worse in the U.S. than it should have been. The almost complete lack of responsibility shown by the White House to help states and the American people is appalling. The administration has completely failed to make adequate testing available, fired the White House pandemic response team in 2018, and delayed reacting to COVID for about 1-2 months while more and more people died. This administration may be responsible for the largest death toll among civilians in the entire history of the U.S.

“I am very emotional about the plight of our hospital workers and first responders. They are afraid when they go to work that they will be infected and bring it home to their families. Some have even chosen to live apart from their families for a long time to avoid this.

“In retirement I work for a foundation whose mission is funding basic research in the life sciences. However, the foundation has already agreed to give substantial funds from its endowment for short term work to accelerate testing in the city of Berkeley, and I am pushing the foundation to fund other work where exhaustive, recurring testing for hospital workers can both make them safer at work and generate data on immunity and rates of infection. This at least makes me feel like I am in the fight instead of just standing by.

“There have been a few (slim) silver linings on the cloud of COVID-19.

“Our 16-year old granddaughter is often the one who delivers groceries to us. Each time she does, we spend a while chatting (10 feet apart); also, she sometimes comes by just to chat. We have seen her more for these lovely talks in the last month than in the last two years.

“Once or twice a week we now meet on the beach with other couples (never more than 6 people). We sit 10 feet apart, bring our own drinks and snacks, and have a happy hour just to talk and see each other for real.

“Of course, we also participate in Zoom meetings. We do workouts supervised by our trainer using Zoom. Almost all of my efforts to support COVID-19 testing has involved Zoom meetings. The internet has been a great blessing during this time to keep us connected even when we can’t be together physically.

“I expect a bumpy road between now and when we are safe against this disease,” Mitchell adds. “I hope our society is strong enough to weather this trial by fire, and that we will apply the lessons learned to be better prepared for future such viruses.

“I do believe many people are getting an appreciation for science and the value of data more than they had before this happened. But the price of this knowledge has been very high.

“Stay safe.”


  1. Yes a new appreciation for science and treating others fairly.

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