March 21, 2020

At the Blue Sky Café...


... you can talk all night.

Sunrise, 6:53.


Actual sunrise time: 6:59. That's back before 7 again. The daylight today goes for 12 hours and 12 minutes. Nicely balanced between light and dark, with a slight tip toward light, those extra 12 minutes. Possibly of use as a metaphor.


"Well, I couldn't believe it when I got up this morning and turned on the TV, checking to see what the coronavirus was doing, and they told me that my friend and singing partner, Kenny Rogers, had passed away..."

"If it were up to me, and it's not, I would stop putting those briefings on live TV. Not out of spite but because it's misinformation."

"If the president does end up saying anything true, you can run it as tape but if he keeps lying like this every day on stuff this important, all of us should stop broadcasting it. Honestly, it's gonna cost lives."

Said Rachel Maddow — to whom it is not up, who can safely indulge in that figure of speech — quoted in "MSNBC's Maddow wants Trump kept off TV, blasts 'fairytale' news briefings" (Fox News).

That's being made a thing of on Twitter I see, and I really don't care. Do you?

A lesson in managing alarm...

"President Trump has taken historic, aggressive measures to protect the health, wealth and safety of the American people — and did so, while the media and Democrats chose to only focus on the stupid politics of a sham illegitimate impeachment."

"It’s more than disgusting, despicable and disgraceful for cowardly unnamed sources to attempt to rewrite history — it’s a clear threat to this great country."

Said a White House spokesman statement, quoted in The Washington Post, which sought a response for its article, "U.S. intelligence reports from January and February warned about a likely pandemic." From the article, published last night:
The intelligence reports didn’t predict when the virus might land on U.S. shores or recommend particular steps that public health officials should take.... But they did track the spread of the virus in China, and later in other countries, and warned that Chinese officials appeared to be minimizing the severity of the outbreak....

But despite that constant flow of reporting, Trump continued publicly and privately to play down the threat the virus posed to Americans. Lawmakers, too, did not grapple with the virus in earnest until this month....
To be fair, "lawmakers" were very preoccupied with the impeachment of the President.
Inside the White House, Trump’s advisers struggled to get him to take the virus seriously, according to multiple officials with knowledge of meetings among those advisers and with the president. [Health and Human Services Secretary Alex] Azar couldn’t get through to Trump to speak with him about the virus until Jan. 18, according to two senior administration officials....

On Jan. 27, White House aides huddled with then-acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney in his office, trying to get senior officials to pay more attention to the virus, according to people briefed on the meeting Mulvaney then began convening more regular meetings....
Just so you know the timeline: Trump was caught up in an impeachment trial and was not acquitted until February 5th. He had the obligation to perform all his duties as President while dealing with the impeachment, but it sounds as though the White House was working on the virus throughout January, whether Trump did personal meetings with Azar or not.

WaPo quotes some of Trump's early public statements about the virus, and, indeed, he did express optimism. He's still doing optimism. How that correlates to serious protective action for us is another matter.

And here's a WaPo article from January 21st, 11 days before the aquittal: "Trump administration announces mandatory quarantines in response to coronavirus."
The White House declared a “public health emergency” and — beginning on Sunday at 5 p.m. — will bar non-U.S. citizens who recently visited China from entering the United States, subject to a few exemptions.... Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar also said the Trump administration would quarantine any Americans who had visited China’s Hubei province, where the disease originated, within the past 14 days....

President Trump so far has remained uncharacteristically muted on the coronavirus and praised China’s extraordinary response to the growing outbreak. On Wednesday, he tweeted photos of his Situation Room briefing and said his administration was working closely with China to contain the outbreak....
That happened at a time when the World Health Organization was recommending that there be no travel restrictions.

Looks like we won the imaginary tournament.

I'm looking at a screen shot from the front page at FiveThirtyEight:

But if you go to the article — "Your Guide To The NCAA Men’s Tournament That Could Have Been" — Wisconsin is on the "Sleepers" list  ("Final Four probability: 6 percent").

So, how are you doing without your spectator sports? It's not a problem for me at all, but if you're a big sports spectator, what are you doing? Are you watching the channels that show old sports events? If you don't remember the outcome, is it kind of the same as watching a live game?

"Joe Biden is planning a regular shadow briefing... to show how he would handle the crisis and address what he calls the lies and failures of President Trump."

"Biden gave a preview of what’s to come in a conference call with reporters Friday, where he listed a litany of false and misleading statements from Trump.... 'President Trump stop saying false things, will ya?' Biden said. 'People are worried they are really frightened, when these things don't come through. He just exacerbates their concern. Stop saying false things you think make you sound like a hero and start putting the full weight of the federal government behind finding fast, safe and effective treatments.'... [H]e said, his house is being outfitted with equipment that would enable him to livestream events, have interactive tele-press conferences and broadcast interviews with network television. 'I would like to get in the position and we're trying to work out so that the headquarters ... to be able to accommodate my directly answering questions in front of a press that's assigned to me,' he said. 'We've hired a professional team to do that now. And excuse the expression that's a little above my pay grade to know how to do that.'"

Politico reports.

It is a real challenge for Biden and his people to figure out how to campaign from a distance. Sitting on the sidelines and taking potshots at the man who is working nonstop to manage the crisis — this might not feel right to some of us. Biden has to stay in the game somehow, but maybe less is more. Don't make the President's job any more difficult than it is. And don't turn on the cameras just to agitate us with non-insights like "People are worried... they are really frightened." Every guy in America knows how to watch TV and then turn on the videocam and live-stream about how the President bothers him.

Or... I guess Biden wouldn't know how to make such a video. He has "a professional team" to push the little buttons for him, and he's not embarrassed to call the work "above my pay grade."

If you're trying to remember when Obama used that expression, it was in answer to the question when does the unborn have human rights: "… whether you’re looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity … is above my pay grade." I believe Obama was trying to say he is not God, so he cannot be the one to say where that subtle line is.

In the case of Biden, he was just trying to say, he doesn't do electronic gadgets. He didn't really mean that the work he can't do is above him. More like below him. Or part of a world that he hasn't engaged with and never will.

IN THE COMMENT: rehajm said:
So he's going to pretend he has a job where he has press conferences and updates people on the functioning of government even though he doesn't work for the government. Then he's going to do mystery science theater on Trump press conferences and also 'fact check' Trump and government agencies.

How faux Presidential. That's not helping...
Chris N said:
When I was young it was all sidewalks and bikes and maybe a few hot rods out there. Guys n gals at Community pools. You wanted mashed potatoes you got mashed potatoes but some people need help with the butter.

Folks, this isn’t that hard. We’re a global village now with global challenges and 18 gigs of RAM!

"De Blasio’s senior staff in near revolt over his coronavirus response."

The NY Post reports.
When Mayor de Blasio dragged aides and members of his NYPD security detail to his Brooklyn YMCA Monday morning amidst the coronavirus outbreak, fellow fitness enthusiasts were coughing and sneezing — and a mentally ill person was walking around touching the equipment, a gym source said.

“It’s crazy that he made his staff and detail come with him to the gym and expose them like that,” the source said.
That scene lends insight into this: "Majority of NYC’s coronavirus cases are men between 18 and 49 years old."

But wait a minute. That headline is not right. The majority of cases are men (59%), and the majority of cases are people between the ages of 18 and 49 (54%). You can't combine these 2 facts that way! That's some serious innumeracy!

"Why do you keep calling this the Chinese virus? Ethnicity does not cause the virus?"/"It comes from China... I'm not a racist... I comes from (pause) China."

This is an exchange that took place at a recent White House press conference. It's become a meme on TikTok, where someone posted the original, and then — because this is how TikTok works — many other people have done their own little lip sync to the audio track. The original with Trump and all the variations are collected on this page. I'm reading these as supportive of Trump. I think!

I'll just give you 2 examples:

"It was only natural for me to document my experience. I decided to map the four walls I was confined in and see where that took me creatively."

Said Gareth Fuller, quoted in "What happens when a map artist goes into quarantine" (CNN). Go to the link to see both his very elaborate artwork depicting cities and his cartoon-style mapping of his own little place. Both levels of art are good, and it resonates with me because it fits my favorite abstract category big and small.

March 20, 2020

At the Ice Cold Café...


... it's the second day of Spring.

"Doctors have reckoned with the need to allocate resources in the face of overwhelming demand long before coronavirus."

"[Lydia Dugdale, professor of medicine and director of the center for clinical medical ethics at Columbia University] points out that the New York department of health’s ventilator allocation guidelines, published in November 2015 to address the issue amid a flu epidemic, states that first-come first-serve, lottery, physician clinical judgment, and prioritizing certain patients such as health care workers were explored but found to be either too subjective or failed to save the most lives. Age was rejected as a criterion as it discriminates against the elderly, and there are plenty of cases in which an older person has better odds of survival than someone younger. So the decision was to 'utilize clinical factors only to evaluate a patient’s likelihood of survival and to determine the patient’s access to ventilator therapy.' In tie-breaking circumstances, though, they did approve treating children 17 and younger over an adult where both have an equal odds of surviving.... 'I would say that leaving some to die without treatment is NOT ethical, but it may be necessary as there are no good options,' David Chan, philosophy professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, writes. 'Saying that it is ethical ignores the tragic element, and it is better that physicians feel bad about making the best of a bad situation rather than being convinced that they have done the right thing.'"

From "Ethicists agree on who gets treated first when hospitals are overwhelmed by coronavirus" by Olivia Goldhill (Quartz).

Do you think it's right to take age into account only to benefit the super-young — those under 18? Would you choose between a 20 year old and a 70 year old solely on the basis of who is more likely to survive? I suspect the age factor is bundled into the assessment of who's more likely to survive, which would simply hide the disapproved-of discrimination against the elderly. By contrast:
Italy has prioritized treatment for those with “the best chance of success” but adds as a second criterion those “who have more potential years of life.”
Another thing I wonder about is the issue of surviving without the ventilator. What if, for example, X has an 80% chance of surviving without a ventilator and a 90% chance of surviving with it and Y has a 10% chance of surviving without a ventilator and a 60% chance of surviving with it? Does X, the more vigorous person, get the task of struggling to survive without the ventilator? And do you take into account how long a person will need the ventilator? Maybe you could save 2 of my Xs in the time it would take Y to get well or perish.

"Red and Blue America Aren’t Experiencing the Same Pandemic/The disconnect is already shaping, even distorting, the nation’s response."

From the perspective of Ronald Brownstein in The Atlantic:
A flurry of new national polls released this week reveals that while anxiety about the disease is rising on both sides of the partisan divide, Democrats consistently express much more concern about it than Republicans do, and they are much more likely to say they have changed their personal behavior as a result. A similar gap separates people who live in large metropolitan centers, which have become the foundation of the Democratic electoral coalition, from those who live in the small towns and rural areas that are the modern bedrock of the GOP.....

If the virus never becomes pervasive beyond big cities, that could reinforce the sense among many Republican voters and office-holders that the threat has been overstated...

"President Trump on Thursday exaggerated the potential of drugs available to treat the new coronavirus..."

"... including an experimental antiviral treatment and decades-old malaria remedies that hint of promise but so far show limited evidence of healing the sick. No drug has been approved to treat the new coronavirus, and doctors around the world have been desperately administering an array of medicines in search of something to help patients, especially those who are severely ill. The malaria drugs, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, are among the remedies that have been tried in several countries.... Doctors in China, South Korea and France have reported that the treatments seem to help. But those efforts have not involved the kind of large, carefully controlled studies that would provide the global medical community the proof that these drugs work on a significant scale. In a White House briefing Thursday, Mr. Trump said the anti-malaria drugs had shown 'tremendous promise.'.... The drugs’ potential has been highlighted during broadcasts on one of Mr. Trump’s favorite news channels, Fox News, where hosts like Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson and Jeanine Pirro have trumpeted the possibility of a real treatment...."

The NYT reports.

"The Angel Moroni statue atop the Salt Lake Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints lost his trumpet in an earthquake Wednesday."

CNN reports.
The Salt Lake Temple, dedicated in 1893, was the first temple topped with Angel Moroni, according to the church. The 12-foot-5-inch statue, made of copper and gold leaf, stands on a stone ball atop the 210-foot central spire on the east side of the temple....

The church teaches that Moroni was an ancient prophet who led Mormonism's founder, Joseph Smith, to the golden plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated. Moroni's horn, the church says, symbolizes spreading the message of the restoration of Christianity that Mormons believe was begun by Smith....

Where will we be in one year?

"The Best-Case Outcome for the Coronavirus, and the Worst" by Nicholas Kristof (NYT) begins with a presentation of 2 alternative scenarios, set one year in the future.

The worst:
More than two million Americans have died from the new coronavirus, almost all mourned without funerals. Countless others have died because hospitals are too overwhelmed to deal adequately with heart attacks, asthma and diabetic crises. The economy has cratered into a depression, for fiscal and monetary policy are ineffective when people fear going out, businesses are closed and tens of millions of people are unemployed. A vaccine still seems far off, immunity among those who have recovered proves fleeting and the coronavirus has joined the seasonal flu as a recurring peril.
And the best:
Life largely returned to normal by the late summer of 2020, and the economy has rebounded strongly. The United States used a sharp, short shock in the spring of 2020 to break the cycle of transmission; warm weather then reduced new infections and provided a summer respite for the Northern Hemisphere. By the second wave in the fall, mutations had attenuated the coronavirus, many people were immune and drugs were shown effective in treating it and even in reducing infection. Thousands of Americans died, mostly octogenarians and nonagenarians and some with respiratory conditions, but by February 2021, vaccinations were introduced worldwide and the virus was conquered. 

"Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., sold as much as $1.7 million in stocks just before the market dropped in February amid fears about the coronavirus epidemic."

"Senate records show that Burr and his wife sold between roughly $600,000 and $1.7 million in more than 30 separate transactions in late January and mid-February, just before the market began to fall and as government health officials began to issue stark warnings about the effects of the virus. Several of the stocks were in companies that own hotels.... Most of them came on Feb. 13, just before Burr made a speech in North Carolina in which he predicted severe consequences from the virus, including closed schools and cutbacks in company travel.... Burr told the small North Carolina audience that the virus was 'much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history' and 'probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.' Burr’s remarks were much more dire than remarks he had made publicly, and came as President Donald Trump was still downplaying the severity of the virus. There is no indication that Burr had any inside information as he sold the stocks and issued the private warnings. The intelligence panel did not have any briefings on the pandemic the week when most of the stocks were sold...."

The NYT reports. (Also: "Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a new senator who is up for re-election this year, sold off hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of stock in late January, as senators began to get briefings on the virus, also according to Senate records.")

That's the NYT. I'm seeing a much harsher attack on Burr from the right:

ADDED: Here's the Wikipedia artcile on Richard Burr. I just want to quote the "Personal life" section in its entirety:
Burr's car, a 1973 Volkswagen Thing, is "something of a local celebrity" on Capitol Hill. Burr has a known aversion to reporters, once even climbing out of his office window while carrying his dry cleaning to avoid them. Burr is a member of the United Methodist Church.

CC emw.

The broken windshield is an interesting touch.

"It’s a normal part of the life cycle for adult children to start parenting their parents. This generational role reversal may be a prelude to the demographic shift to come..."

"... as baby boomers age out of late-late 'middle age' and are forced to relinquish their invincibility, while their children take on the burdens of caring for elderly—yes, elderly—parents. But the pandemic has pressed the issue, putting many people in their thirties and forties in the tense new role of protectors and even scolds. It’s a twisted inverse of the generation gap of the sixties, when young boomers screamed across the table at their parents about Vietnam—except that now we’re telling ours not to leave their homes. The literary agent Lucy Carson pleaded on Twitter, 'Best advice for convincing a diabetic boomer parent to stop commuting into the city? Rage-sobbing into the phone isn’t helping my cause.' At Vogue, Molly Jong-Fast wrote about a similar dynamic with her 'fabulous feminist mother,' the generation-chronicling author Erica Jong. 'I know everyone is going to get mad at me, but this is not about your conflicted feelings about growing older,' Jong-Fast wrote.... A journalist couldn’t convince her parents to ditch their theatre tickets, until the theatre closed and they had no choice.... The writer Robin Wasserman reasoned, 'My theory is that coming of age at the height of the Cold War/nuclear panic inculcated a faith that no matter how scary things look, the Bad Thing never actually happens.'"

From "Convincing Boomer Parents to Take the Coronavirus Seriously" by Michael Schulman (in The New Yorker).

March 19, 2020

At the Ice Breakers Café...


... don't crash on the rocks.

"Success means a longer — though less catastrophic — fight against the coronavirus. And it is unclear whether Americans — who built this country on ideals of independence and individual rights..."

"... would be willing to endure such harsh restrictions on their lives for months, let alone for a year or more.... If no action to limit the viral spread were taken, as many as 2.2 million people in the United States could die over the course of the pandemic.... Adopting some mitigation strategies to slow the pandemic — such as isolating those suspected of being infected and social distancing of the elderly — only cuts the death toll in half to 1.1 million, although it would also reduce demand for health services by two-thirds. Only by enacting an entire series of drastic, severe restrictions could America shrink its death toll further.... That strategy would require, at minimum, the nationwide practice of social distancing, home isolation, and school and university closures. And such restrictions would have to be maintained, at least intermittently, until a working vaccine is developed, which could take 12 to 18 months at best.... If the numbers next month get truly crazy, cities may look to convert stadiums into isolation wards, as in Wuhan. [Governor Andrew] Cuomo has talked of turning the six-block-long Javits Convention Center on New York City’s west side into a medical surge facility. Others might take Italy’s approach and split hospitals into those treating coronavirus and those treating all other medical problems, to reduce transmission. In San Francisco, we may see coronavirus patients put into RVs...."

From "Coronavirus will radically alter the U.S./Here’s what may lie ahead based on math models, hospital projections and past pandemics" (WaPo).

"More than two thousand episodes [of Desert Island Discs] are available online as downloads or podcasts..."

"... and I began listening to them a few years ago, as a way of glimpsing times other than my own. I love hearing about the path-altering memories of others—what it was like to experience Beatlemania or Motown or punk before they were settled narratives. At first, I was drawn to specific guests, hoping to learn more about the interiority of David Beckham (the Stone Roses, Elton John, Sidney Bechet), what kind of music Zadie Smith liked (Biggie, Prince, Madonna), where the cultural theorist Stuart Hall found inspiration (Bach, Billie Holiday, Bob Marley—'the sound that saved a lot of second-generation black West Indian kids from just, you know, falling through a hole in the ground').... It’s come to seem less like a show about music and creative inspiration than one about the possibility of loneliness. How do you find meaning in total isolation?... As many people prepare for weeks of 'social distancing' and working from home, we return to comforts.... It never occurred to me, until fairly recently, that this exercise was different from merely naming your favorite songs, or what you considered to be the best.... I didn’t realize that the desert-island choices were really a question about mortality.... What would it mean to survive and find yourself alone (Pharoah Sanders)? Would you bask in memories of friendship (the Beach Boys) and good times (Derrick May), of your greatest love (the Intruders)? Would those memories be too painful? Maybe you would want to listen to music that existed free of context—the last splendid and uplifting thing you heard before getting lost, a reminder that the world goes on without you?"

From "Join Me in My Obsession with 'Desert Island Discs'" by Hua Hsu (in The New Yorker). Go here for the shows.

ADDED: To be clear: "It’s an interview show with a simple premise: each celebrity guest discusses the eight recordings that he or she would bring if cast away alone on a desert island." Just 8 songs. Not albums.

"You got to go and follow those orders. Just remember: Stay at home. Don't go to crowds. Put that cookie down!"

Now, he should not be smoking, but, as many tweeters are pointing out, he seems to have a special privilege to smoke, explained here:

Spring break idiocy.

"Numbers today represent reality as of 3 weeks ago."

I'm passing along, with permission, something Freeman Hunt posted on Facebook.
A friend thought I should post something my husband wrote in a message. Here 'tis.

"Today Italy had 4207 new cases and 475 new deaths in 24 hours (and they are even admitting they can't count all deaths now).

"They went into lockdown 9 days ago when they had 1797 new cases and 97 deaths in a day.

"Even my friends who have been following this asked if this means the lockdown is not working. No, it is working, but the lag time on this disease is long. It can be 14 day incubation and then is about 10 days after symptoms start before people typically take a turn for the worse if they are going to. Death typically in the third week after symptom start.

"I am a chronically ill rabbi who offers spiritual care to those with illness, and elders coming to the end of life."

"Almost no one in my personal or professional world would 'earn' care if the United States were to come to a scenario like Italy. Not my 102-year-old client with brilliant blue eyes and ferocious curiosity who survived Auschwitz; not my friend who is a wickedly smart writer, activist, and wheelchair user currently recovering from major surgery; nor me, with my immune system that doesn’t work well, or works too hard, attacking my own tissues. In the United States, most of my disabled and sick friends believe we are racing to a similar situation as Italy.... The Nazis called chronically ill and disabled people 'useless eaters,' and killed us first.... As a disabled, Jewish, second-generation Holocaust survivor, the words 'useless eater' are practically in my DNA. I can taste the tang of them in my mouth as I read the news, in the bitterness of Italy’s policies, in this country’s callous health care, in affluent people refusing to listen to sick and disabled voices and stay home when they can afford to, in the dismissive internet comments that only the sick and old need to worry, so who cares?... Jewish mysticism holds that the letters of a Torah scroll are black fire on the white fire of the parchment. In this moment, we must find a way to make the spaces between us holy. In this pandemic it is the white fire that will hold our abundant love, our exquisite care, and our unwavering belief that each of our lives is worth saving."

From "My Life Is More ‘Disposable’ During This Pandemic/The ableism and ageism being unleashed is its own sort of pestilence" by Elliot Kukla (NYT).

"Millions of people across the nation are cloistered inside their homes.... Amazon is already struggling to meet demand, and some employees feel..."

"... they’re being unfairly endangered by working in warehouses filled with other workers. It’s unclear how deliveries could continue if the workers who sort, pack, and ship Americans’ goods start getting sick in droves.... [T]his is the first confirmed case of the disease among the company’s hourly warehouse employees in the United States. These workers make up the majority of Amazon’s 600,000-strong workforce.... The incident rattled some of the warehouse workers, who already feel they are being underpaid for a risky job.... On Monday, Amazon announced plans to hire 100,000 more warehouse workers to meet the growing demand, and the company added $2 to American warehouse workers’ hourly pay.... One worker told me that she wished she could just stay at home with pay, like so many white-collar Americans are doing now.... 'We’re putting our lives in danger.'"

From "Amazon Confirms First Known Coronavirus Case in an American Warehouse/Workers at the Queens, New York, facility say employees were expected to come in for their night shift after the case was identified. Amazon denies this" (in The Atlantic).

I wonder how many people will walk away from jobs like that (especially if they get enough money and protection from eviction from the government). At the same time, there are people who have lost jobs — notably, servers in restaurants and bars. Amazon is hiring. Will those jobs go unfilled or will newly out of work people snap them up?

Keeping Amazon going is enormously important to the millions of Americans who are sheltering in place. I have not set foot in any store since March 2d, but we have received orders from Amazon (including an order from Whole Foods Prime Delivery). If Amazon stopped working, we would look at our dwindling supplies with much more anxiety and alarm.

"Which Country Has Flattened the Curve for the Coronavirus?"

Check out the collection of graphs at the NYT (no subscription needed).

The answer to the question is China (according to the data China reports). Also, South Korea.

Not us. Not yet.

The elephants don't know...

Don’t be fooled. The new George T. Conway III is the same as the old George T. Conway III . He can’t help it.

I'm reading George T. Conway III in the Washington Post...
If you think you’ve been hearing a different President Trump this week — more accepting of the reality of the coronavirus pandemic — don’t be fooled. The new Trump is the same as the old Trump. He can’t help it. He’s incapable of taking responsibility for his role in this crisis — and thus incapable of leading us out of it....
... and I'm blogging this solely to say I'm not putting up with this kind of bullshit anymore. We're coming together, we're fighting a great worldwide battle. Ask yourself, before you hit "publish": Am I helping?

These people like George T. Conway III who are doing their same old routine in our new, painful circumstance do not deserve to be read. Ask yourself before you read something: Is this helping?

And don't click on that link.

BUT: That column has almost 5,000 comments over there, so there is an audience for it. It's sad, this desire to drink poison when health is our foremost concern. Take care of yourself, your body and your mind.

"Beluga trip's off."

From "Escape Our Current Hell With These (Good) Coronavirus Jokes" (NY Magazine).

"What It’s Like to Isolate With Your Girlfriend and Her Other Boyfriend."

From New York Magazine:
"I live in Brooklyn, and my girlfriend and metamour live in Jersey City. Megan and I have been dating about nine months, and she and her boyfriend have been dating for about two and a half years. I was only going to spend a couple of nights here, but I’m feeling like we’re moving closer and closer to an actual shut down of New York City, and I don’t want to be stuck there if they close the bridges and tunnels. I have a car and I brought a bunch of stuff, so I am temporarily hunkering down here....  They have a two-bedroom apartment here, so I have been staying in the guest room.... But I am personally approaching everything with a lot of caution, and trying to be as polite as possible.... He’s kind of a somber, quiet fella, and I am ready to burst with energy at any moment.... There’s a small little urge in me that’s like, Oh, I want him to like me. I also want everyone to like me.... There’s a part of me that’s relieved that Megan has another person here, because then I don’t have to be everything to her. I don’t have to give her all the attention that’s needed... And... it is a relief to know that if I need to have alone time, she’s good with that..."

"Both American and Chinese officials have raised questions about whether the virus was a manmade bioweapon, whilst Trump has dubbed it the 'China virus.'"

"'By comparing the available genome sequence data for known coronavirus strains, we can firmly determine that SARS-CoV-2 originated through natural processes,' said Kristian Andersen, PhD, an associate professor of immunology and microbiology at Scripps Research and corresponding author on the paper.... The team analysed the molecular structure of the virus.... They suggested that it cannot be an artificial creation because its structure 'differed substantially from those of already known coronaviruses and mostly resembled related viruses found in bats and pangolins.'"

From "Coronavirus is not a bioweapon created in a lab, scientists say" (The Herald).

Contemplate how much worse you would feel about all this if you found out that human beings had manufactured it as a weapon.

By the way, I don't like seeing coronavirus called the "China virus," but I think Trump is using that term to hit back after Chinese officials made accusations against the United States. I'd like to see both stop, and I'd like to see an end to naming diseases after particular places. Use scientific names, not place names or ethnicity names.

"Stepping into a Wing location feels a little like being sealed inside a pop-feminist Biodome."

"It is pitched as a social experiment: what the world would look like if it were designed by and for women, or at least millennial women with meaningful employment and a cultivated Instagram aesthetic. The Wing looks beautiful and expensive, with curvy pink interiors that recall the womb. The thermostat hovers around 72 degrees, to satisfy women’s higher temperature needs. A color-coded library features books by female authors only. There are well-appointed pump rooms, as well as private phone booths named after Lisa Simpson, Anita Hill and Lady Macbeth. There is an in-house cafe, the Perch, serving wines sourced from female vintners, and an in-house babysitting annex, the Little Wing, where members’ children may be looked after. The vibe is a fusion of sisterly inclusion and exclusive luxury: Private memberships run up to $3,000 per year, and the wait-list is 9,000 names long."

From "The Wing Is a Women’s Utopia. Unless You Work There/The social club’s employees have a story to tell about the company that sold the world Instagram-ready feminism" by Amanda Hess (NYT).

This sounds really funny, like something in a movie. Lisa Simpson, Anita Hill and Lady Macbeth — that got a big laugh from my imaginary movie-theater audience.

Anyway, what's the problem with the staff?
Most Wing employees I spoke with had ambitions bigger than their starting positions... Some staff members hired to work the front desk or run events saw their job duties inflated to include scrubbing toilets, washing dishes and lint-rolling couches.... When staff members tried to exercise their membership privileges, on breaks or after their shifts, members would hand them dirty dishes or barge in on them in the phone booth. Some screamed at employees about crowding in the space and cried over insufficient swag. A common member refrain was that it was anti-feminist not to give her whatever perk she desired....
This is all so pre-coronavirus. But it's interesting to get a nudge to remember what would could be fretting about if we didn't have this plague infesting our consciousness.

And the name of that in-house babysitting annex, the Little Wing, makes me think of a circus mind that's running wild — butterflies and zebras and moonbeams... and fairy tales....

"'The pain is off the charts. Everything hurts, nose, toes and ears... I was like one big ball of pain.'"

"He said he cried 'like a little girl' when he moved from his bed to a nearby chair.... 'Imagine your lungs turning solid. It’s like suffocating without holding your nose.... Every time I lay down my breathing gets lower and lower. I thought my lungs would fail me. I was screaming for mercy and praying to God.' By the time Harris made it to the hospital, it was taking him an hour to move 50 feet to his bathroom — and he had to stop twice, lie on the ground and catch his breath before reaching the door...."

From "Coronavirus patient on hellish ordeal: ‘I was screaming for mercy and praying to God'" (NY Post).

"New C.D.C. data showed that nearly 40 percent of patients sick enough to be hospitalized were aged 20 to 54. But the risk of dying was significantly higher in older people."

A subheadline at the NYT (which should be accessible whether you have a subscription or not).

I'm questioning "sick enough." Perhaps the degree of sickness warranting hospitalization is lower for younger people. Should the care be used on the sickest people or on the ones most likely to benefit from care?

Anyway, it's important for people who are faced with the effort of social distancing to see that youth is not immunity. Though "20 to 54" is a big category. What about those under 40? Under 30?

Here's a closer look from the underlying CDC report (also on this table):

Elon Musk can help and will help... but not just yet.

What do you think of Musk's approach? free polls

March 18, 2020

We took a late-day walk in the "Bio-Core"...


In the background, you can see a bit of my favorite lake — Lake Mendota.

"If facts are the seeds..."


Text: "If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow."

Life goes on...


"The White House is asking Congress to allocate $500 billion for two separate waves of direct payments to American taxpayers in the coming weeks..."

"... and another $300 billion to help small businesses continue to meet payroll, according to a Treasury Department proposal circulating on Capitol Hill and among lobbyists. The outline, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, calls for a total of $1 trillion in spending for those programs, which would also include $50 billion for secured loans for the airline industry, and another $150 billion for secured loans or loan guarantees for other parts of the economy hard hit by the unfolding financial crisis."

The NYT reports.

"Greenland lost a near-record 600 billion tons of ice last summer, raising sea levels."

WaPo headline.
The mass loss from Greenland alone was enough to raise global sea levels by 2.2 millimeters, the study found.

"I want all Americans to understand: we are at war with an invisible enemy, but that enemy is no match for the spirit and resolve of the American people..."

"...It cannot overcome the dedication of our doctors, nurses, and scientists — and it cannot beat the LOVE, PATRIOTISM, and DETERMINATION of our citizens. Strong and United, WE WILL PREVAIL!"

A Trump tweet, from within the last minute.


New snow.


"But in continuing his campaign today, the Sanders 2020 campaign has become something entirely new in modern politics: A threat to public—and civic—health."

"And if he does not suspend his campaign, immediately, then he and his supporters should be shamed and shunned.... Joe Biden has beaten him in every type of state... among nearly every demographic other than 'people under 35'... in most places by wide margins....  But Joe Biden has not yet reached the 1,991 delegate threshold required to mathematically clinch the nomination. And since delegates are being awarded proportionally, he might not cross that line until the end of April—and even this assumes that the votes are held roughly as scheduled. As a theoretical matter, Sanders can keep campaigning until then by claiming that the race has not yet been decided. But it has....We are in the midst of a global pandemic.... In order to have an election, a bunch of volunteers—most of them well over the age of 35—get together in a firehouse or a school cafeteria. They then interact with a steady stream of people at close range for a day. These people hand objects to the volunteers (driver licenses, voting ID cards) and are then handed other objects (ballots or forms) in return. They stand within arm’s length of one another. And if the turnout is heavy, the voters stand in a line, waiting as a group.... There’s no shame in losing a campaign. There is a great deal of shame in what Bernie Sanders is doing right now. He is harming America. He should stop."

From "The Sanders Campaign Is a Menace to Public Health/Bernie Sanders can't beat Joe Biden. But he can force millions of people to risk being exposed to the coronavirus" by Jonathan V. Last (at Bulwark). There's a good account at the link about the actions of Ohio governor Mike DeWine putting off the primary and tangling with the state courts over the extent of his power to do so.

You know, I think Bernie understands this. I just checked to see if he's ended his campaign. I thought maybe he'd already declared an end. I found "Bernie Sanders To 'Assess The Path Forward' For Presidential Campaign After Tuesday Losses" (Deadline). I expect a concession today. This morning.


"Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are on lockdown at their $14 million Canadian bolthole after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau closed the country’s border amid the coronavirus pandemic."

In case you were wondering how Harry and Meghan are doing after running off to Canada into supposedly burgeoning new opportunities, Page Six has the answer.

I had to look up "bolthole." It's "a hole by which to bolt or escape; figurative a means of escape" (OED).
1877 E. Peacock Gloss. Words Manley & Corringham, Lincs. Bolt-hole, (1) the hole by which a rabbit makes its escape when the ferret pursues it. (2) Any unknown hole by which a person makes his way into or out of a house....
1924 E. Marsh tr. La Fontaine Fables 71 [The hare] heard a rustle, And took the hint to bustle Off to his bolt-hole.
1932 H. Simpson Boomerang xii. 306 A girl who had been jilted might choose any bolt-hole to hide her shame....
A very rabbit-y concept.

And while I'm here in the OED, let me look up "lockdown" (a word that we're seeing a lot this week and that I suspect will not go away for a long time). The oldest meaning is "a piece of wood used in the construction of rafts when transporting timber downriver." That goes back to the 19th century.  The next oldest meaning of "lockdown," dating only to the 1970s, is the prison meaning — keeping prisoners in their cells for a long time (notably after an outbreak of violence). Most recently, going back to 1984, the word came into use to refer to "A state of isolation, containment, or restricted access, usually instituted as a security measure; the imposition of this state." Examples:
1999 Computerworld 11 Oct. 8/1 (heading) Many users plan Y2K lockdowns.
2002 Quill (Nexis) 1 May 34 We heard the city was on lockdown and that it wasn't possible to get in.
2005 Courier-Mail (Brisbane) 3 May 3/5 Contestants go into lockdown tomorrow isolated from the outside world as they prepare to enter the Big Brother house on Sunday.
I heard NY Governor Andrew Cuomo struggling with the word on this morning's "The Daily" podcast. He said it was a scary word, and he didn't want to use it. It would mean that people are required to stay inside their own homes, and he wanted to assure New Yorkers that he would not do that, yet it was obvious that he was going to say that whether it was true or not, as he openly talked about the problem of causing a destructive stampede to the stores.

Did Biden clinch the nomination yesterday? I don't know, and I don't really care.

He has the nomination, and following the primaries feels pointless now. Everyone seems to be backing away from the idiotic political conflict that had become a national way of life. It's time for Bernie Sanders (and Tulsi Gabbard) to end their candidacy and embrace Joe Biden as their party's nominee. It is also the case that Donald Trump is the GOP nominee.

Let's acknowledge what we already know, call off the conventions, and wait until after Labor Day to resume political campaigning. Labor Day is, traditionally, the beginning of the presidential campaign, and it would be a gesture toward sanity and reality to reinstitute that tradition.

Until then, we ought to all work together. Those who hold positions of power within government ought to demonstrate what it means to do the work of government, not politics. Democratic governors and legislators are cooperating with the Trump administration, and we ought to respect and encourage that — and reject efforts to make this the continuing political struggle over who will have power when January 2021 rolls around.

We have the leaders we have this year, and concentrating on changes so far in the future is tasteless and counterproductive.

Robin in the snow.

This morning:


"How can those who do not have faith have hope in days like these?"

A question to the Pope. His answer:
“They are all God's children and are looked upon by Him. Even those who have not yet met God, those who do not have the gift of faith, can find their way through this, in the good things they believe in: they can find strength in love for their children, for their family, for their brothers and sisters. One can say: ‘I cannot pray because I do not believe.’ But at the same time, however, he can believe in the love of the people around him, and thus find hope”.

"'When you walk, you’re utterly in touch with the drama of the city.... You’re constantly overhearing conversations, and catching all kinds of snatches of people in odd expressions and conditions...."

"'When you’re out on the street.... it’s a continuous stream of momentary connection, and that has its own life, its own particular vividness, and it’s irreplaceable.' The same can be said of cycling or jogging, although those activities tend to be more focused and goal-oriented. But whatever your preferred means of locomotion, local governments are attuned to the social and psychological benefits of head-clearing, heart-stimulating jaunts, even in the age of self-quarantines and social distancing."

From "Is It OK to Take a Walk?/Yes, experts say. Equal parts transit alternative and therapy, contemplative strolls are helping people’s mental and physical health. Just stay six feet apart" by Alex Williams. The internal quote is from a 1987 memoir by Vivian Gornick, who was writing specifically about NYC, with its high concentration of passersby to observe.

The density of the people walking around you was, to Gornick, a big plus, making walking in NYC uniquely great. But now, there's the distinct negative of making it difficult to keep 6 feet apart.

We've been taking long walks here in Madison. Yesterday, walking, we saw more other people walking than in the past. What were they doing before that kept them off the sidewalks? It must have been work, because the indoor amusements — television, video games, social media — are just as available now as before. But perhaps there's a newfound need to expand into the open air and to experience the vivid reality of the outdoors.

The people of Madison all kept their distance. We'd cross the street to avoid walking past other couples — and even singles — when there wasn't enough room to give them wide berth.

People were friendlier! Everyone smiled and nodded hello. There was no reason to convey to a stranger that no, I don't know you and I don't want to stop and talk. It was all already understood. We are holding our place in the world together, doing our part, sharing the same feeling of understanding a crisis and valuing this blessed life.
Even in brownstone-lined streets of Brooklyn... close-quarter encounters on the city sidewalks seem — for now, at least — inevitable. On an afternoon stroll to the market, you find yourself suddenly face to face with a stranger who suddenly turns the corner, quickening your pulse in a way little known since the mugging heyday of the 1970s and ’80s. Crossing a crosswalk, say, west, you find yourself triangulated on the corner by one person walking north and another walking east.
I remember, back in 1983, just before I moved to Madison from New York City, where I worked at the southmost tip of Manhattan. The sidewalks were so crowded and a good many of the pedestrians were so egocentric that they would stride briskly down what they seemed to imagine was their lane in the sidewalk, as if walking were a battle of nerves and I needed to get the message that I'd better jump out of their lane. It was the opposite of what people in cars do, which is to change lanes to pass. I tried, but not always fast enough for these important, busy men, who would go ahead and clip me on the shoulder if that's what it took to maintain their speed and to own their lane. It made me sad, especially when I was noticeably pregnant, to see and to feel people acting like that.

But it's 2020, and even — especially — the most egocentric people must modify — radically modify — the way they act in relation to other people. What will come of this exercise? A new love for each other? A new etiquette?

March 17, 2020

At the Sunrise-Distancing Café...


... there is beauty all around.

"The Czech Republic’s Guardian of the Flooded Village pine is this year’s winner of the prestigious European Tree of the Year award..."

"... with Croatia’s Ginkgo from Daruvar securing the second and Russia’s Lonely Poplar the third place" (The Guardian).

Photographs and stories of some wonderful trees.

Good for the soul.

These trees will help you, maybe a bit like the Guardian of the Flooded Village protected Chudobín, during the construction of the Vír dam when, they say, a devil sat under it at night, playing the violin.

We have some guardian trees in our neighborhood. I've been writing from a second-story sunroom overlooking the street, and through the trees I have seen neighbors walking border collies and young boys on roller skates. I have yet to see the devil or even anyone playing a violin, but there was a carpenter within earshot, singing in a beautiful voice.

Trending words.

That's at Etymonoline (where I was just checking whether commenters, here, were doing folk etymology on the word "window").

I guess all those words were of interest because of coronavirus. A lot of people may be wondering if "pandemic" (not on the list) has something to do with "pandemonium" (#5 on the list):
1667, Pandæmonium, in "Paradise Lost" the name of the palace built in the middle of Hell, "the high capital of Satan and all his peers," and the abode of all the demons; coined by John Milton (1608-1674) from Greek pan- "all" (see pan-) + Late Latin daemonium "evil spirit," from Greek daimonion "inferior divine power," from daimōn "lesser god" (see demon).

Transferred sense "place of uproar and disorder" is from 1779; that of "wild, lawless confusion" is from 1865.
I can see why people are looking for "draconian," "hunker," and "curfew." These all seem coronavirus-related. But what's up with "subcontract"? A Google news search produces "Contracts, the law and coronavirus" (Washington Technology):
Disruption to the supply chain especially for IT products, many of the basic components of which come from China, could cause substantial backorders and long delays in meeting government delivery deadlines.... Most commercial contracts do contain a force majeure clause that excuses delay. Those same clauses, however, may or may not have the same protections as in prime contracts. Subcontracts also may not prohibit prime contractors from seeking goods and services elsewhere if a subcontractor cannot fulfill their obligations....
Force majeure! Obviously, that's what we've got.

I thought "palpate" was odd, but I see it in "Coronavirus: Virtual medical visits more prevalent as COVID-19 infections continue to spread" and now it makes perfect sense. Why do you need to see a doctor in person? When is a virtual visit enough? A doctor says to the patient, "Just want you to palpate your neck there for me... Any tenderness? Any lymph nodes?"

ADDED: I suspect that many people — especially with time on their hands and the internet at their disposal — wonder what it really means to "hunker" down? What exactly do you do when you hunker down? Are we crouching and squatting? Does it have to do with haunches... whatever haunches are...? Do I need a hunk to do it? I would like a hunk to do it... So many things to think about.

AND: Speaking of thinking about things... A "haunch" is "a buttock and thigh considered together." I'll consider a buttock and a thigh at the same time. Is it one thing or 2 things? There's a philosophical question for you. If you believe the buttock and thigh are a single thing, then "haunch" is your word. You're a haunchist. That doesn't mean you tend to see things as unified rather than distinct. It has more to do with whether you see the distinctions on a horizontal or a vertical plane.

Iran warned its people that "millions" may die. This came "after hard-line Shiite faithful... pushed their way into the courtyards of two major shrines that had just been closed over fears of the virus."

AP reports.

This is very sad. It shows the problem of embedding people too deeply in religion. They feel they need to get to the shrine, apparently.
Meanwhile, Iran’s supreme leader issued a religious ruling prohibiting “unnecessary” travel in the country.
It's possible that religion can help people follow orders and that the religious leaders can look to medical experts to decide what orders to give. In the abstract, I might guess that it's easier for an authoritarian country to make everyone do what needs to be done. But concretely, we see religious people crowding and pushing into a closed shrine. They're gathering and having more contact with each other than usual.

Please comment, but ask yourself before hitting the publish button: Am I helping?

The whole world is in this together, and it seems to be worse in Iran than anywhere else.

This is not a window.


A new vantage point, opened in Meadhouse just now.

UPDATE: I loved the temporary vista, but now:


"Toilet paper is being removed from many of our [Dane County park] toilets as soon as it’s being restocked and our supplies are limited at the current time."

"Park visitors may want to bring some toilet paper and hand sanitizer with them as they go out to our parks, just to be safe. With limited staff, restrooms can only be cleaned and checked 1-2 times a week. At this time we are not able to wipe down playground equipment, tables or other surfaces at the parks. There may become a point when restrooms may need to be temporary closed if there are further health protocols."

A message from my county parks department.

It's good to know that we can still use the parks. We're advised to do social distancing, and reminded that you can still go outside. Just don't do group activities, and keep your distance. Sanitize surfaces for yourself, or keep track of your touching and sanitize your hands.

But who are these fiends who steal toilet paper from public restrooms?! How can you squat so low?

And what is "if there are further health protocols"? Is that something people do in the public restroom when they find there is no toilet paper? Are they wiping themselves on the walls and floors? Come on, people! This is a civilization we are upholding.

"Wow. 12 days ago I began a silent meditation in the desert. We were totally isolated. No phone, no communication etc. We had no idea..."

"... what was happening outside the facility. Walked out yesterday into a very different world. One that's been changed forever. Mind blowing — to say the least. I'm getting messages from friends and family all around the globe and catching up on what's going on. Hope you and yours are ok. Sending positive energy to all. Stay inside. Stay safe."

Writes the actor Jared Leto on Instagram.

Maybe your life already involved so much isolation that the new requirements of social distancing only mean that other people are forced to be like you. The voluntary self-isolators among us may be able to give us some perspective of what we need to do.

I'm not so isolated that I was like Leto, not hearing the news. I'm watching the news — in my way — every day. But I keep a distance from people in real life — not as much as the new rules of social distancing require, but I don't have to change very much, and I am comfortable living this way and I don't have any immediate responsibilities that make it hard for me to tighten up the seclusion and contribute to the group effort.

Thinking about people like Leto who choose a 12-day silent meditation in the desert may be of some help in thinking how to use the solitary time that has been imposed on you. Perhaps you will sit quietly in your room and do nothing. Meditate!

It's a good idea not to watch the continual flow of news reports, many of which are designed to make you feel bad, to increase the difficulty of doing what you need to do.

Less rigorous than the Jared-Leto-silent-meditation approach to living in seclusion is the Althouse approach. I like it. I read things that feel valuable to me and I put some of my thoughts into words and accept interaction from strangers who read and write here and elsewhere. I have the great benefit of a companion here with me, someone to talk with in a comfortable and supportive way, to be calm with, to help and to be helped by. I care for my health — and that includes eating the right things in the right amount, going for a sunrise run and a midday walk, sleeping well, and not stressing out.

You can think about what you are missing, but maybe, too, you'll think about the things you were doing that you don't really miss. Simplify! Here's Thoreau on the subject:
Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail.... Simplify, simplify. Instead of three meals a day, if it be necessary eat but one; instead of a hundred dishes, five; and reduce other things in proportion.... The nation itself, with all its so called internal improvements, which, by the way are all external and superficial, is just such an unwieldy and overgrown establishment, cluttered with furniture and tripped up by its own traps, ruined by luxury and heedless expense, by want of calculation and a worthy aim, as the million households in the land; and the only cure for it as for them is in a rigid economy, a stern and more than Spartan simplicity of life and elevation of purpose. It lives too fast. Men think that it is essential that the Nation have commerce, and export ice, and talk through a telegraph, and ride thirty miles an hour, without a doubt, whether they do or not; but whether we should live like baboons or like men, is a little uncertain....

"The Trump administration is asking Congress to approve a massive economic stimulus package of around $850 billion to stanch the economic free fall caused by the coronavirus..."

"... four officials familiar with the planning said Tuesday. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will present details to Senate Republicans later Tuesday. The package would be mostly devoted to flooding the economy with cash, through a payroll tax cut or other mechanism, two of the officials said, with some $50 billion directed specifically to helping the airline industry. White House officials also want to include more assistance for small businesses and their employees in the legislation, the officials said.... The $850 billion package would come in addition to another roughly $100 billion package that aims to provide paid sick leave for impacted workers.... White House officials are leaning hard into the idea of tax cuts and industry assistance, while Democrats have said their proposals are focused more on helping workers, health care providers, schools, and senior citizens...."

WaPo reports.

In this time of unselfish coming together of communities, one man stands alone...

"Tom Brady says he will not re-sign with New England Patriots.... The 42-year-old has spent his entire 19-year NFL career with the Patriots, winning Six Super Bowls during that time. But he will become a unrestricted free agent when free agency opens on Wednesday" (CNN).

The man looked at his options and decided this, this is the time to turn my back on the people who supported me all these years.

You would think that out of sheer PR if nothing else, he would have thought to saying I will be a Patriot forever... I love you, New England… This is the time for all of us to embrace our dear family and stay together and support each other.

ADDED: For those who think maybe the Patriots kicked Brady out:
“Tommy initiated contact (Monday) night & came over. We had a positive, respectful discussion,” [Patriots owner Robert] Kraft said. “It’s not the way I want it to end, but I want him to do what is in his best personal interest. After 20 years with us, he has earned that right. I love him like a son.”

Kraft said shortly after the season that he wanted Brady to either return to New England or retire.... There were reports that [GM Bill] Belichick was hesitant to pay Brady the $30 million that other franchises seem willing to do.

Will we come together over coronavirus or is "A Generational War... Brewing Over Coronavirus"?

That's the headline at The Wall Street Journal: "A Generational War Is Brewing Over Coronavirus/Scientists say lack of alarm among young people could hinder the fight against the virus and endanger elders."

But they've still got their paywall up. Even with a link at the top of Drudge this morning. How many of these belligerent "young people" have a subscription to The Wall Street Journal? Maybe the article is written for the old, stirring us up to fret that the young people are hating us and ready to kill us off en masse (by letting us die).

Do we need the young people to be alarmed? No. Stay calm. We just need everybody to understand the facts enough to follow the rules. You can enjoy your life, young people. You don't have to angst about it and plunge your mind into thoughts of disease and death.

I think the mainstream media may be getting this very wrong, expecting young people not only to do the required social distancing but to keep watching the news about the disease. That's the business of the media, but people do not need to consume the product. And if they try to spice it up — generational war!!! — so you'll obsessively consume it, shame on them.

We all should turn it off! Read enough to stay informed and then use your time in seclusion to do things that are good and enriching for you and for the people you are confined with. You don't have to be gloomy or alarmed because this is serious and there's something we've got to do together. I encourage you to find the good, not to find a war.

We're only at war against a disease — a mindless phenomenon — not against our fellow human beings.

Do any of you who are reading this actually have Covid-19?

If you do, how are you thinking about yourself? As a person of future immunity who will have a special power to help the rest of us who are trying to help by not getting the disease?

I imagine that, like those of us who are sheltering in place, trying not to get the disease, your early thoughts concentrate on yourself. Take care, weather the storm, hope that you don't decline to the level where you need to consume medical resources or where the pathway to death becomes very real.

But then, wouldn't you think of the future, the other side of the disease, where you are empowered with immunity?

How will the People of Immunity step into the potential to do good in this special era?

March 16, 2020

At the Closet-Cleaning Café...


... what have you found today?

Tiny horses help Arnold Schwarzenegger show you how to stay home.

Rush hour.


"My wife got [a print of a boy on a horse asking, 'What is the bravest thing you’ve ever said?' to which the horse replies, 'Help'] for my birthday, and of all the things that we have..."

"... it’s the thing that I cherish quite a bit. It’s the only thing I pass when I leave my bedroom every day when I’m home. And it’s a reminder that strength is not necessarily being physically strong, but it’s asking for help, to be vulnerable, to be the person that I’m not supposed to be, right? And that’s not necessarily a bad thing."

Item #2 on a list of 10 "essential" things in "David Chang Loves Beethoven’s Ninth (but Won’t Finish ‘Infinite Jest’)/The chef, author and television personality, whose second season of 'Ugly Delicious' just arrived on Netflix, also puts a baby monitor, the Bhagavad Gita and 'Gattaca' on his list of essentials" (NYT).

I've been thinking, in this time of forced seclusion, about what it means to help. You can't be helping in person — unless you have a special medical or other relevant in-person service to provide. And most of us can help by just withdrawing and staying out of (literal) touch in the way that might, in normal times, seem churlish or cold. But beyond the negative help of not becoming part of the problem — not spreading the disease or becoming a consumer of medical resources — you can help. You can help by preserving and sharing whatever good thoughts you have that will make it easier for other people to accept and even to prosper within their seclusion.

I'm trying to do that, and I'm also going to push back when I see people who are not helping. I'm not shunning negativity altogether, but I'm trying to use a light touch. You can assume that when I say something like "Is Fox News helping?" (in the comments thread to yesterday's post about Trish Regan), I mean serious criticism of them for stirring up ridiculous unhelpful resistance to the needed social distancing. Ousting Trish Regan for her really stupid, flat-footed nonsense is the least they could do, and I suspect they only did it because it wasn't helpful to them. But I'd say the only reason Regan could be as stupid as she was is that it wasn't that far out of line with the general environment at Fox.

And that's not to say that the other cable news networks are helping. They seem to be trying to keep hating Trump, using any material he gives them, and every day, there's always something. I want them to make common cause with him and help. It's more important than their ratings and it's more important than who wins the next election. It's time to help.

But back to David Chang and the horse that bravely said "Help." Chang likes the idea of strength in terms of vulnerability — of seeing yourself as the one who needs help. I'm pondering how that balances with what I've been thinking about help: We need to be thinking how can I help. It's not inconsistent. Wondering how you can help is different from going about intending to help. What makes you think you're a fountain of help? Your "help" may have negative value. Seeing yourself as the one who needs help is better than imagining yourself as a giver of help when you are not helping.

First, help yourself. That's the #1 form that your helping can take. Next, quit "helping" with help that is not helpful! Use your time of forced seclusion to contemplate what it means to help others. Do you need some help with that?

"I'm happiness blogging today. Nothing interested me in the news. It's a good move to make when nothing in the news is interesting."

"I stumbled into a strategy, that is. I thought I'd just put up a quote from this book I was reading — Robert Louis Stevenson, An Apology for Idlers — and the quote was about happiness, so I started casting about for happiness items. Happily, there was no end to bloggable things."

That's something I wrote on March 16, 2012 — Facebook just reminded me. I loved getting that prod, as I engage in a higher level of seclusion this morning...


There's so much anxiety mixed with boredom these days that I thought I'd take you back to that happiness day, 8 years ago:

1. "There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy" — the post title is a quote from Robert Louis Stevenson. Much more to that quote at the link. I'll just add: "[I]f a person cannot be happy without remaining idle, idle he should remain. It is a revolutionary precept... and within practical limits, it is one of the most incontestable truths in the whole Body of Morality."

2. "And... that is the secret of happiness and virtue — liking what you've got to do. All conditioning aims at that: making people like their inescapable social destiny" — a quote from The Director in "Brave New World."

3. "I have told myself a hundred times that I would be happy if I were as stupid as my neighbor, and yet I would want no part of that kind of happiness. But yet, upon reflection, it seems that to prefer reason to happiness is to be quite insane" — said "The Good Brahmin" in the story by Voltaire.

4. "I broke my theme. Something made me laugh"/"Then you didn't break your theme. Something made you laugh. Something made you happy. Something made you smile." A real-life colloquy. The first commenter didn't understand that post, and, funnily enough, I don't either now. Oh, I think it was maybe the next post: The headline, in Forbes, "Santorum Promises Broad War on Porn," which required me to blog about the double entendre ("broad war"). That was good for laughing, but not really about happiness.

5. "'5 Things You Think Will Make You Happy (But Won't)'/You already know what they are going to be, don't you? It's interesting to be able to think something while simultaneously knowing the opposite."

6. "Happiness is more like knowledge than like belief. There are lots of things we believe but don’t know. Knowledge is not just up to you, it requires the cooperation of the world beyond you — you might be mistaken. Still, even if you’re mistaken, you believe what you believe. Pleasure is like belief that way. But happiness isn’t just up to you. It also requires the cooperation of the world beyond you. Happiness, like knowledge, and unlike belief and pleasure, is not a state of mind" — a quote from the David Sosa, whose field is philosophy.

7. "A large Gallup poll has found that by almost any measure, people get happier as they get older..." — a survey from 2008. We are all only ever getting older, but the phenomenon doesn't kick in until age 50. After that, it gets better and better.

8. "The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness.... By many objective measures the lives of women in the United States have improved over the past 35 years, yet we show that measures of subjective well-being indicate that women's happiness has declined both absolutely and relative to men...."

9. "Romney's Religion of Happiness vs. Gingrich's Religion of Grievance" — a Sarah Posner headline at Religion Dispatches. I'm happy that I don't have to bother with the feelings of Romney and Gingrich anymore.

10. A post about my favorite Beatles song, "Happiness Is a Warm Gun."

11. I also don't have to think too much about Rick Santorum, but back then, he said: “This is the mantra of the left: I have a right to do what I want to do” and “We have a whole culture that is focused on immediate gratification and the pursuit of happiness ... and it is harming America.” He took the position that the Founders idea of "the pursuit of happiness" was “to do the morally right thing.”

12. "The Happiness Bank."

13. The acronym PERMA represents the 5 components of happiness.

14. "Is there a happiness mantra or motto that you’ve found very helpful?"
"Years ago, when I was researching an article on research into stress, one social scientist passed on a simple tip: 'At some point every day, you have to say, "No more work."' No matter how many tasks remain undone, you have to relax at some point and enjoy the evening."

15. "Happy people rarely correct their faults... they consider themselves vindicated, since fortune endorses their evil ways" — wrote Le Duc de La Rochefoucauld.

"I don't think I've ever heard Althouse use the word 'destroys' in reference to a debate."

Said The Vault Dweller in last night's debate conversation, after I said "Biden is doing well. I thought he destroyed Bernie on the issue of saving the banks."

Here's the part of the transcript I was talking about. The moderator, Ilia Calderon asked Sanders about his vote against bailouts following the 2008 financial crisis. Sanders stood by his vote based on the "illegal behavior" the banks engaged in and because of his concern about "massive income and wealth inequality." The "working person" should not "suffer" for something they did not control.

BIDEN: Had those banks all gone under, all those people Bernie says he cares about would be in deep trouble. Deep, deep trouble. All those little folks, we would have gone out of business. They would find themselves in position where they would lose everything they had in that bank, whether it was $10 or $300 or a savings account. This was about saving an economy. And it did save the economy. And the banks paid back. And they paid back with interest....
I'm skipping some squabbling, and then:
BIDEN: Look, the fact of the matter is that if, in fact, the banks had all been -- gone under, we would be in a great depression. We would have not -- how do you get out of that? Now Bernie is saying that I guess he's going to do a wealth tax or something, that the top 1 percent could pay for everything. And they should pay for everything that occurred. We were talking about tens and hundreds of billions of dollars. That's what this was about. And the fact was that it saved the economy from going into a depression. After we passed the Recovery Act, which I was the one that went out and got the three votes to get it changed, that had $900 billion in it and was the thing that kept us from going into a great depression

BIDEN: "Number one, no more subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, no more drilling on federal lands, no more drilling, including offshore, no ability for the oil industry to continue to drill, period, ends, number one."

The man on the moderate side of the one-on-one debate said something so extreme.

Here's the full transcript of the debate. That line came from the section of the debate that was about climate change. Biden had called climate change the "single greatest threat to our national security," because of the "great migrations" that will, he believes, occur.  The moderator Jake Tapper had asked him why his "climate plan" has a $1.7 trillion when Sanders's plan is priced at $14 trillion.

"Is your plan ambitious enough?" Tapper prodded, and Biden talked about mass transportation and asserted: "We can lay down the tracks where nothing can be changed by the next president or following president, the one beyond that." 

Then it was Bernie's turn, and he said we need "courage" to "take on the fossil fuel industry" which has been "lying for years" about climate change and ought to "be held criminally accountable." And "It's not a question of money" because it's "a world-changing event."

With that challenge, given a chance to respond, Biden said the line in the post title:
Number one, no more subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, no more drilling on federal lands, no more drilling, including offshore, no ability for the oil industry to continue to drill, period, ends, number one.

March 15, 2020

At the Wall-of-Ice Café...


... you can talk about anything you want... except tonight's debate. Go one post down for that.

The one on one debate.

About to begin.

Will Bernie savage Joe? Can Joe hold up?

ADDED: My son John is live-blogging.

AND: Biden is doing well. I thought he destroyed Bernie on the issue of saving the banks.

"Soap is made of pin-shaped molecules, each of which has a hydrophilic head — it readily bonds with water — and a hydrophobic tail, which shuns water and prefers to link up with oils and fats."

"These molecules, when suspended in water, alternately float about as solitary units, interact with other molecules in the solution and assemble themselves into little bubbles called micelles, with heads pointing outward and tails tucked inside. Some bacteria and viruses have lipid membranes that resemble double-layered micelles with two bands of hydrophobic tails sandwiched between two rings of hydrophilic heads. These membranes are studded with important proteins that allow viruses to infect cells and perform vital tasks that keep bacteria alive.... In an age of robotic surgery and gene therapy, it is all the more wondrous that a bit of soap in water, an ancient and fundamentally unaltered recipe, remains one of our most valuable medical interventions."

From "Why Soap Works/At the molecular level, soap breaks things apart. At the level of society, it helps hold everything together" (NYT).

Why "Vegemite" is trending on Twitter.

"When President Vladimir V. Putin began a program four years ago to hand out plots of land in remote areas of the Russian Far East, the idea was to lure young, hardy settlers..."

"... to the vast and sparsely populated region in a Slavic replay of the 1862 Homestead Act’s promise of 160 acres in the United States. Instead, at least in this patch of territory near the Chinese border, the Kremlin’s program got [60-year-old Sergei] Lunin, a self-declared anarchist — though, he insists, 'not an idiot who supports violence' — and lifelong gadfly. Before signing up as a pioneer to develop his plot of empty land, he edited a now defunct newspaper, Dissident, spent time in a Soviet jail accused of 'parasitism,' and did freelance work as a political consultant specializing in making mischief.... Like the American West, the Russian Far East has always been a land apart.... 'Here people are not afraid to talk loudly,' [Anton Chekhov] wrote. 'There is nobody to arrest them here and nowhere to exile them to. You can be as liberal as you like.' Today, there are plenty of people on hand to make arrests. The one-room apartment in the regional capital of Blagoveshchensk that Mr. Lunin shares with his wife, four cats, three dogs, two mice and one rabbit sits across the road from a compound of the Federal Security Service, or F.S.B., the post-Soviet incarnation of the K.G.B.... 'This will be my own little country and I will be its Putin,' [Lunin] explained during a recent visit along with his wife to their [7.4 acres of] land.... 'I was free under Brezhnev and am free under Putin,' he said. 'I am free inside.'"

"'Here I Can Be My Own Dictator'/The Kremlin’s plan to hand out plots of land in Russia’s Far East, long a magnet for dissenters, idealists and oddballs, has attracted some unusually freethinking settlers" (NYT).

Go East, old man!