Ann O’Rourke has a science background (college, labs) plus has been a writer and publisher since 1992, and a self-employed real estate appraiser since 1986. I have two appraisal newsletters, where I started writing about Covid in February 2000.
My first job after college (studied biology and chemistry) in 1966 was in a toxicology lab. I worked in other labs plus worked for 5 years at a biotech company. In both science and appraising, you are trained to be objective and analyze the data. You look for the truth. That is also how I write about Covid-19.
I was compelled to write about Covid-19. I wanted to help people. I enjoy writing it but will be glad when the pandemic is over and I get my life back. I spent 2-3 days a week writing it plus writing my appraisal newsletters. Fortunately, I don’t have to do this any longer as scientists, and the CDC are free to speak.
I started my appraisal newsletters to help appraisers. This is was first science writing and is taking a lot of my time. I will be so glad when the pandemic is over, and I don’t have to write about it anymore!!
To read more about my science, appraisal, and business backgrounds, why I started this blog, information sources I use, and how to contact me, etc. read below
I want to provide a reliable source in the blog to help everyone understand what is happening with Covid-19. Every day I spend 2-4 hours learning about Covid, including reading original research studies. I am a writer, not a journalist, and often give my opinion. Both my business and science writing is based on my related education and experience.
I select the articles, podcasts, and videos that are most useful for this blog. They have interviewees that are experts and can write or speak well. I always include references to related information and links to the original research papers when available.
Podcasts are often the most informative. I have done a lot of writing and speaking over the past 30+ years. When I am speaking, I always let the audience know that what I say today I will not be in my writings. I speak informally, with some opinions, ideas, and personal experiences.
I only use information from sources I trust. I have used most of them for many years. Whenever possible I read the original scientific research. Sometimes people tell me about something they heard or read that is misinformation. That is one of the reasons I started this blog: to let readers know what is really happening now.
Why I am writing this blog
I am “called” to do it and must write it. I started writing about Covid issues for appraisers in February 2020. They go inside homes and apartments, which is very risky. Like other essential workers, if they don’t work, they don’t make any money. I quit doing appraisals in February as I made enough income from my newsletter and Social Security income. I wanted to give my Covid science information to everyone.
I have been obsessed with the science of Covid since January, 2020. I listen to podcasts, read articles (and the original research studies), and watch video interviews. I like to write longer articles with lots of details and links to references.
Why I started writing COVID articles for appraisers (non-scientists)
I became fascinated by the novel coronavirus, starting in late 2019. As a scientist, I never dreamed I would be in the middle of a pandemic and could study it up close!
My first science writing was about coronavirus in February, 2020 in my free weekly email newsletter. Appraisers go inside homes and apartments, which is very risky. There was lots of confusion and misinformation in February about the novel coronavirus, which still continues. There are daily, and hourly, changes in the Covid science , which is also confusing to many people. FYI, I have always been NPA: (No Politics Allowed) in all my writing and speaking.
Helping appraisers understanding the factual science part of the virus was important. Very few appraisers, if any, have a science background. I decided to become sort of the “Dr. Fauci” of appraisers. I have been writing and speaking to many appraisers since the early 1990s. Appraisers all over the U.S. and Canada have listened to me speak about appraisal and business issues. I wrote two very long newsletters (30+ pages) about appraisers and Covid, on April 1 (basic science) and August 3 (Updated from April 1 and more basic science and detail on how appraisers can keep safe). To read these newsletters, go to www.appraisaltoday.com/coronavrus.
I got “hooked” on science in my first science class: biology, which is still my favorite science.
In college, I studied biology and chemistry. I went to medical school but had to quit late in the first year after I developed a serious medical problem. After college graduation in 1966, my first job was in a toxicology lab. Later I worked in mostly quality control labs. I liked studying science in school, but the lab jobs were not very interesting. I still miss wearing a white lab coat though! Somehow many people looked at me as someone “special”.
I worked for a biotech company for 5 years. I will never forget walking by our high-level biological containment facility that had many windows. People inside were in full protection gear and special ventilation. I learned a lot about the science and the business sides of biotech.
Although I have not worked in a lab for a long time, I will always consider myself a scientist. That’s how I was trained, starting in high school, define the problem, get the facts and analyze them, and give my objective decision about what it means.
For the past 10 years I have been playing improvised science videos in my Ear Spray band, with lots of effects using my ipad. I also do improvised vocals. We do free improvisation and seldom play in time. Since Covid we jam every Sunday on zoom. I also do weird vocals. Link to our Youtube channel. to see and hear us. In October 2020 we have our first Virtual gig, using our favorite recording of our many zoom jams. FYI, it took us awhile to figure out how to use zoom for playing music together. Also, to figure out what I should play. Fortunately, we don’t play in time ;> I have been a percussionist for 15 years, but zoom couldn’t figure out the sounds so I did videos and vocals instead.
I really liked working outdoors, and looking at houses, on the 1970 census and did not want to back to working in a lab.
In 1974 I saw a flyer for “appraiser assistant” at the local county assessor’s office. It said “work in the field”. I had never heard of appraising, but quickly discovered I really liked it. Every property is different.
But, I had never taken a business class, even economics. I need to learn about how business works to better understand real estate, so I got an MBA in 1980. In 1986, I started my appraisal business, appraising all types of properties.
After 45 years of appraising, if I never do another appraisal, I will always identify as an appraiser. I learned how to take a lot of different pieces of information, analyze them and come to a decision about the value of a property. It has really helped me in “pulling together” all the changing information on COVID-19 and write about it.
I use my science training in my appraisals: research analyze and come to a decision. My business background, especially economics, helps me understand how Covid affects us economically.
I took “bonehead” English in college after I failed the English exam. I was interested in science, not English, in high school. I learned how to research and write interesting articles.
My first newsletter was in 1980-83 for my sailing club (Santana 22 Club). I learned to be personal (about myself), not relying on anyone else to write regularly,. I learned to compose easy to read stories. I wrote about technical tips, race results, and humorous incidents on the racecourse.
Appraisal reports are “standardized”. Certain contents are required by appraisal standards. I write long narrative appraisal reports, but the content and format is similar. But, I write so they are understandable and anyone can read them.
In 1992, I started Appraisal Today, a monthly paid newsletter for real estate appraisers about business topics and appraisal issues. I am still publishing it and have never missed an issue.
My mentor when I started writing my monthly appraiser newsletter was Mary Dum (now deceased), a long time writer for many appraisal publications on computer topics. She taught me to use the word “appraiser” often so they would read it and knew it related to them. She also taught me to make my writing easy to read for appraisers. My newsletter printer said he liked my business topics, such as collecting past due billings, and substituted the word appraiser with the word printer when he read them.
My first science writing was about coronavirus in February 2020 in my free weekly appraiser email newsletter. Appraisers go inside homes and apartments, which is very risky. There was lots of confusion and misinformation in February about the novel coronavirus. Many appraisers are conservative business persons. Understanding the factual science part of the virus was important and could help them be safe when appraising. Very few appraisers have a science background. I decided to become sort of the “Dr. Fauci” of appraisers. I wrote two very long newsletters (30+ pages) about appraisers and Covid, on April 1 (basic science) and August 3 (how appraisers can keep safe).
My greatest fear is to give the virus to someone else because I did something unsafe. For me, maintaining physical distancing during occasional encounters, such as chatting with a neighbor when going to my car in the driveway, is the hardest. It is not easy conversing from 6 ft. distance. Fortunately, for decades, during flu season I never shake hands, touch doorknobs, etc. so I always remember to do that.
I am a fiscal conservative (from my businesses and MBA) and a social liberal (from all my family members). Most appraisers are business people and conservative. Some of my favorite news sources are New York Times, Bloomberg, Washington Post, PBS NewsHour,The Atlantic, etc. I always let readers know my sources. Sometimes they have political statements in their articles which I let them know about in advance.
I live in the Bay Area, in Alameda CA, an island city with about 78,000 people. Most of the city is on an island in San Francisco Bay about 10 miles east of San Francisco. I am very lucky as 8 Bay Area counties were the first in the country to go to “shelter in place” on March 17. Freeway traffic went way, way down. People here comply with local health officer orders. I am very lucky. When I go somewhere where few people wear masks I am very uncomfortable and leave. Everyone who does not wear a face mask could infect me.
I started wearing a face mask most of the time in late February. By mid-March about 75% of people in my city did as well. March 17, we had shelter in place. April 10, the county mandated face masks inside. Within a few days, everyone wore them all the time inside, including me. I have never heard of any local residents objecting to wearing face masks.
I am 77 years old and live alone with my cat, Widget. I miss having someone around to chat with without a mask, but I am so glad I don’t have to worry about bringing the virus home.
Overall, in my city, there has not been much opening up of businesses by county health officials. We finally went to outside dining a few months ago. Bars, indoor restaurants, gyms, etc. are still closed. In July, face masks were mandated outside within 30 ft. of someone else. Many people keep a mask around one ear or under the chin when walking, jogging, or running, similar to Dr. Fauci ( a long time runner), and put it on when near someone else.
I always say that you determine your own risk level. Everyone is different. I go to my local grocery store weekly , play pickleball (similar to tennis) and go to my office several times a week. I get my hair cut on my back deck from my regular hairstylist and have gone to the dentist twice. I had lunch with a friend in my back yard (separate food and tables, 6 ft. apart) after many weeks of zoom lunches. But, I have not appraised apartments and homes since early February. Too risky to go inside.
What I do when I’m not writing – music and pickleball
I have a free improvisation group called EarSpray www.earspraymusic.com Since May, we have been doing weekly zoom jams. On December 26, we had our first 2020 Virtual gig. I do strange vocals and improvised science videos with lots of effects.
Carlos Jennings does electronics and geography related videos. We started playing together in 2010.
For the past 4 years, I have been playing pickleball, a very popular that anyone can play. Most people play doubles on a court 1/4 the size of a tennis court. Very social.
I take lessons once a week and practice and/or play 3 days a week. I am addicted!
We have 4 outdoor courts in Alameda. For more info, google pickleball.