Why SARS Coronavirus 2 is fucking us up so much

I have recently watched the films Outbreak (1995) and Contagion (2011) and am comparing our virus to the fictional viruses of those films. One thing I notice about SCV2 is that it’s not as “violent” as the viruses in the films. The fictional viruses kill their hosts incredibly quickly, within a couple of days. SCV2 is slow. Below is a brain dump of the features of SCV2 that are making it so pandemic-y.

  • Insanely infectious
    • This week, the CDC is recommending that everyone wear a mask (or face covering, whatever you’ve got) any time you go out because SCV2 can be spread just by BREATHING AND TALKING. This statement has filled me with incredible dread. Perhaps up to 50% of people will get infected.
  • Long incubation period that is also a contagious period
  • Sometimes asymptomatic, which means that people spread it unknowingly
  • Pretty deadly
    • I have no idea what the mortality rate is (I don’t think anyone does), but it hardly matters what that rate is considering HALF OF THE WORLD IS GOING TO GET IT.
  • The illness lasts a long time
    • Not only are there going to be an insane number of patients who need professional medical attention to live through COVID-19, but those people need intervention for one or two weeks each. They put strain on hospital resources in terms of quantity AND time.

As far as daily life…. it is the same. Sleeping during the day, being awake at night, watching a lot of videos and playing a lot of Stardew Valley. Boring. I don’t feel like doing anything or talking to anyone. Jacob is still going to work which scares the shit out of me.

My last birthday before the war

Yesterday was 17 March 2020, my 28th birthday. I spent it with my husband and my sister. In the evening when we sat down to dinner together, I saw everything about that moment through the lens of history. In 10 or 20 years, how would we remember this night? Would it be the last time we saw each other in months? Would it be “the good ol’ days before the world changed forever”? I felt compelled to take a photo of Jacob and Julia at that little dining table in her Atlanta studio apartment. “I want to take a picture of this, just as it is,” I explained. “It’s for my war scrapbook”. They rolled their eyes but complied.

I have lived such a safe, privileged life. For years I had a countdown on my phone marking my 10,000th day alive (3 August 2019). When that day arrived, I thought, this is amazing. I have lived a 10,000-day streak of life with no tragedies. Never has someone very close to me died or been in a major accident. Never have I been in danger of living in poverty or having any of my physical needs not be met. There have been several ‘crises’ in my lifetime (September 11th, the 2008 financial crisis, so many hurricanes, etc.) but none of them affected my everyday activities. I was always able to go to school and enjoy life and walk around without fear that my safety was at stake. In stark contrast to my idyllic existence, history is filled with stories of tragedy and danger. War, famine, societal collapse. These are not uncommon in our world. I have always wondered when it would happen to me.

As of this writing, there are just over 7000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the USA (but we haven’t been testing a lot of people so who the heck knows how many cases there actually are) and 100 confirmed deaths. Admittedly, relatively low numbers. But we have all seen the statistics. I understand the shape of an exponential curve. I’m not here to write about all of the factors that are making this a worldwide concern, I’m just here to write about what it feels like to me. Virologists and epidemiologists knew this was coming. Governments around the world are instituting mandatory lockdowns/shelter-in-place guidelines, and considering enacting some form of martial law. It hasn’t happened here in Atlanta yet, but it has in New York and California.

There are so many questions right now. How will society continue to function with everyone staying in their homes and not going out? The economy has all but evaporated in the last week; all events of every sort are canceled. The DOW is losing thousands of points a day. I was looking for a job before all this went down, and now I know I won’t be employed any time soon. Huge swaths of the world population are facing unemployment while everything is paused. How will we get the resources we need? What will happen to the supply chains of food, medicine, and other essentials?

Some people are not nearly as nervous or concerned as I am about what is about to unfold. My sister Julia is studying macroeconomics and public health. She believes this will blow over with (relatively) little impact. My husband Jacob is still going to work at this time, he is a chef at a restaurant down in the city, and although they are not serving customers in the dining room, they are still doing pickup orders. Jacob already likes to live a rather socially isolated life on a normal basis, he just goes to work and comes home and chats with friends online. So besides the fact that traffic is lighter and the restaurant isn’t filled with customers, his life hasn’t been changed much yet. He is not bothered. Meanwhile, I have the TV on and am watching commercials that feature people enjoying sporting events and concerts; it seems like a cruel taunt. The fact that everyone is reacting differently to this pandemic makes me feel confused and guilty. Yesterday did we do the wrong thing by taking a walk in the park and visiting my sister? Of course I wanted to see my mother on my birthday, but I simply can’t visit with my parents right now.

Joking about the ‘impending war’ has been a common jest among young people for years. I know I really started thinking about it in 2014. This, however, is the first time I’ve felt it might be genuinely imminent. I have visions of people resorting to violence because they can’t afford/find food. I see soldiers guarding the streets making sure people don’t move around. I see food, water, and energy rations. I see field hospitals overwhelmed with sick and injured patients, I see so many deaths. These fears are NOT unfounded; as I stated earlier, these things happen all over the world. We have been extremely lucky in the United States, but we are not immune… pun intended.

Will my fears play out, or will this indeed all blow over? Time will tell. I will keep writing while this pandemic is part of the zeitgeist.

The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years

Prologue: I had severe Beatlemania from about age 8 to age 18. It’s amazing what sort of extreme obsessions a young human brain is capable of creating. Moving on…

“It was … important to try to tell a story that would convey to people who really have no idea — I’m thinking of the millennials, I suppose; people who have grown up with the music and think they know something of the story — the intensity of the journey and the impact they had,”

Ron Howard on his new documentary, “The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years”.

Now, I am always skeptical of any film named with TWO subtitles, but I definitely did not anticipate that Ron Howard’s documentary would make me think of the Beatles in a new way. Surely I, who for 10 years devoured every possible piece of information about them that I could find and thought of nothing else during my waking hours, would have considered everything there was to consider about the Beatles. But no. In fact, Howard’s generously titled film provided me with not one, but TWO new perspectives on The Beatles.

beatlesbow

Scale

TB:EDAW-TTY, whose title contains a ridiculous number of letters even as an acronym, finally allowed me to comprehend something about the Beatles that I had heard dozens of times but somehow never fully considered: their scale of their phenomenon was MASSIVE. Indeed, it covered the entire globe.

I was born into a world with internet. Even in it’s 20-ish years the internet has grown astronomically to dwarf its former self. Events on a global scale are commonplace in the 21st century, and they are part of the world I have always lived in. It wasn’t until I saw the film which should have just been called “The Beatles: Touring Years” that I understood that such a cultural phenomenon of that scale had never taken place before. Never! They did the first ever stadium tour by a musical group. 250,000 people turned out for their arrival in Australia. The volumes of their album and ticket sales were unprecedented. A lot of unprecedented things happened in the 1960’s that caused a sea change in youth culture and put it on course for how we live today. One of those cultural events was the Beatles. The Beatles were the first of their kind; and they did it without any internet at all.

This revelation blew me away. Maybe I felt a scrap of how blown away people were to be actually witnessing it then, in the 1960s. People that are still alive!

Time

Despite the fact that there is still a huge portion of our population who was alive to witness The Beatles, and the fact that they remain hugely popular, the Beatles are not, in fact, a modern band. I saw the 1960s with fresh eyes as it was presented in The Film. All these years I had thought of the Beatles as timeless, still relevant today, not having diminished in popularity. I imagined myself in the 60s all the time; I imagined them just like the present.

But it was plain to see by the grainy faded analog footage of the era: the Beatles happened in a completely different world than ours. Fifty years have passed. Fifty! The changes that have occurred in the world are immense. The Beatles are truly part of history now. Certainly more than enough time has passed to observe their sprawling effects on modern music and culture. Fifty years, in that way, was a long time ago.

I have always found it incredible that a cultural phenomenon that happened decades ago in a different world could play such a huge role in my life and development and so many millions of others’. And that, indeed, is the massive legacy of The Beatles.

A literal waste of life.

This month, legislators in North Carolina and Mississippi have passed anti-LGBTQ+ (emphasis on the T) laws that discriminate against LGBTQ+ people.

In case you are wondering what mental gymnastics are involved in rationalizing actual discrimination, they call it “privacy”.

So clearly, these people take pleasure in damaging other peoples’ lives. But do they not realize they are literally wasting their own lives too?

In 1862, dozens of politicians voted to maintain slavery. 250 years later, they look like fools to us, but at the time they thought they were doing a reasonable thing. They didn’t know any better.

In 2016 we DO know better. We have seen society completely transform and become unrecognizable over and over again thanks to technology. Compare 2016 to 2006. To 1996. To 1986. Completely changed. We cannot picture what our lives will look like in 10 years. In 50 years, technology and society will have advanced beyond our wildest dreams, the same way a person from the 1960s could not in their wildest dreams have imagined Snapchat 2.0 (which is INCREDIBLE btw)

The future of humanity is so, so vast… in time, in knowledge, in population. Each one of us only has one lifetime to be alive. Just one. And then for ALL OF THE LIFETIMES AFTER THAT, we take our true place, in history. You think you are important because you are alive right now, but no! You will be dead infinitely longer than you will be alive. Life is tiny.

These legislators are wasting their tiny stupid little lives trying to deny LGBTQ+ people their rights while anyone who can recognize patterns or execute logic can see that transgender rights will be granted in less than one lifetime. We’ve seen this occur several times in the past 100 years.

For THE REST OF TIME, these legislators will become like the 1862 democrats. Primitive, foolish, shrouded in shame as the passage of time swallows them up like it does everyone else. We are so small! Anything we try to do to stop change is ridiculously futile. Passing these laws is like an ant trying to hold back a glacier. The future is always coming and it is so, so big. And yet they still spend their precious time on this.

What a literal waste of life. Some people’s stupidity knows no bounds.

Pluto is fine.

Forever rolling my eyes at people who “feel bad for Pluto”.

Pluto is a relatively small mass of ice and rock 3 billion miles away that has been constant and unchanged for longer than we can imagine with our little brains. Pluto does not have a consciousness, let alone does it care about anything, let alone does it care about humans calling it a planet or dwarf planet. You do not need to feel bad for it. Pluto is still there and NASA obviously cares about it a lot so everything is fine.

“But Jude, have you seen the meme of it crying as the New Horizons probe passes by?”

Yes, I have. Have you seen this meme that I just made? (I know it’s small, click to expand.)

pluto

I support plural/poly marriage!

He-hey! Let’s follow up my last controversial post with another one!

I was pleased to see the following NYT Opinion article this morning: Is Polygamy Next?

I’m glad to see this on the internet because I’ve been thinking about it for the past few years while same-sex marriage was on the table.

I know there are many people in this world who do not like the idea of same-sex marriage because it seems weird, foreign, maybe even icky. I am so lucky that I do not feel this way about same-sex marriage.

At the same time I must admit that I DO have some of these negative concepts about plural marriage. As in: I can’t imagine sharing my partner with another person/people. It seems weird, foreign, and maybe even icky! (Any poly people that read this pleaseeee do not take offense I love you I just need to include this in order to make my point)

BUT I am a rational person and I realize that my opinion on what is weird or not literally does not matter! Other people have different opinions! There are plenty of things that are legal in our country that are outside my comfort zone/are things I would not do. That is ok. It does not change the fact that plural marriage:

  1. takes place between/amongst
  2. consenting
  3. adult
  4. human beings
  5. and doesn’t infringe on the rights of others.

Anything* that fits those criteria is A-OK with me and should be legal in the United States of America! I will support the legalization of plural marriage because everyone in our country should be able to marry whomever makes them happy be that one person or more than one person. I’m so glad same-sex marriage is legal now because it fits those criteria and so does plural marriage.

*I’m sure there are exceptions blah blah you know what I mean

TL;DR If you support same-sex marriage then logically you should also support plural marriage because otherwise that’s cherry-picking 🙂

The future of radio, and why it will never die.

memory cards
Smaller size, greater capacity

With the shocking speed at which technology is advancing these days, many products have come and gone in the blink of an eye. Remember flash drives? Of course you do, you may even still own one. 10 years ago, early flash drives came in what would now be considered appallingly small sizes for absurdly high prices. I remember gritting my teeth upon shelling out the $40 it cost to buy just a few hundred megabytes of storage. Today, I sneeze at a flash drive that has any capacity smaller than 4 GB, and I wouldn’t pay more than $10 for it. In fact, I probably wouldn’t pay anything for it at all, because in the last few years flash drives have been made all but obsolete by the rise of cloud storage. I have 15 GB FREE storage on Google Drive and I don’t need to worry about carrying it around in my pocket and potentially misplacing it. Flash drives were just a flash in the pan.

original ipod
The original iPod

This is just one example of a technology that has been introduced just to quickly be replaced by something new. In the music industry, even the successor of CD’s, the mp3 player, is on its last legs. The first iPod came out in 2001, and I couldn’t get enough. Now, I haven’t owned an iPod in 3 years thanks to how incredibly easy it is to stream music from services like YouTube, Pandora, and Spotify. If there are some mp3s I can’t live without and I need to have the actual files with me, I download them onto my smart phone.

But in the media industry, here is one form that stands the test of time: radio. Think about it, when you’re in the car, you still listen to the radio whether it be AM, FM, or “XM”. And I’m here to make the case that radio will never die.

vintage radio

First, let us define “radio”. If you define radio as content that is broadcast wirelessly via towers and radio waves, then stop reading right now, because you are right. The technology of broadcasting via radio waves is 100 years old and is being replaced by more modern methods, such as broadcast via satellite or the internet. I do not define radio based on its using radio waves, but radio as an industry. Here is my list of criteria for what I categorize under the word “radio”:

  1. The streaming of the content is controlled by someone other than the listener. A listener may tune in to hear what is currently playing, but cannot skip around to different songs/programs.
  2. The content is created or chosen by a person or persons, not a computer.
  3. The content is played on a “station” that takes programs from different sources
  4. A station has programming that all follows some sort of theme (ex “classic rock” “Christian” “talk” “news” “top 40”)

Spotify Radio
NOT “radio”

That’s about it. What fits this description? Well not “internet radio”, such as Spotify Radio or the new iTunes Radio, where the user chooses from a list of characteristics and a computer algorithm then pulls music from some giant distant cloud library. Marketers of these streaming services chose the word “radio” because it is a word that is familiar to the consumer, and because the service fits my criteria #4, all the music played follows a theme. This theme is chosen by the listener when they click on which genres they’d like the computer algorithm to play for them.

What does fit my description of radio is anything you tune to in your car, whether it be coming to you via radio waves or not. Radio is where you discover new things: new songs you may not have heard, news stories that are just breaking, interesting conversations and wonderful stories told by journalists. All of this unique entertainment is available to you without the use of your eyes, a special quality which makes radio quite different from any other form of media you might encounter.

Yes, there are also audiobooks and podcasts that can be enjoyed with ears only. But there are also loads of internet videos to enjoy, so why do we still have TV? TV and radio still exist (and will continue to exist) for the same reason: there is something enjoyable about giving up control about what you are about to hear or see, an excitement about not knowing what will come up next on your television or radio, and the knowledge that it will probably be something brand new that you’ve never heard before. You constantly have the opportunity to experience something new. When a person plays their own pre-loaded audiobooks or music, that chance is greatly reduced.

Radio as an industry will continue to thrive. As both a producer and listener of radio, I know that the human desire to both be entertained (sometimes without having to commit your eyes as well as your ears!) and informed will keep radio alive. That is, maybe, until they perfect those self-driving cars….

Sodexo attempts to crush local beloved coffee cart at Loyola Marymount

20130717-174107.jpg

Jimmy and Sung have been running their coffee cart at Loyola Marymount University for years, and they are beloved by the student population. Unfortunately, college food conglomerate Sodexo is trying to force them out. LMU student Marc Papakyriakou has taken to reddit to spread the word and garner support against Sodexo in hopes of saving the coffee cart. Here is the story in his own words, taken from the reddit post:

They’ve run the coffee cart on campus for five years now and are beloved by almost all of the students on campus. They often worked from early morning to late at night, providing everyone from coffee, tee, and muffins to clementines, boba, and cider. The coffee cart is their livelihood. They are not only hard working, but also kind to all of the students who go to them and are seen as members of the community. Ask any recent alum about the coffee cart and you would be sure to get a smile and a small story.

Yesterday the student body received news that the catering company LMU has contracted, Sodexo, has decided not to renew the coffee cart’s contract despite their popularity with the student body. Their contract originally came up for renewal in december of 2012, but Sodexo convinced them to agree to month-to-month extensions until July of 2013, assuring that it was completely normal procedure. They had in fact been specifically directed for a Sodexo official to visit in August 2013 to sign renewal. Instead, before August even came, the couple was given a termination agreement that Sodexo stated was fully within the range of their contract. At no point before or during the seven month period was there any mention to them that Sodexo was planning to change their dining options. Sodexo reneged on the contract agreement an in a breach of business ethics clearly kept information from the couple which would have allowed them to plan for their future. Sodexo plans to replace the unique and individually run coffee cart with a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. It is another example of a big corporation (Sodexo earned 1.2 billions dollars of profits in the past year) trudging on the livelihoods of kind and hardworking people.

The official statement released by the school states that it is a decision to “best serve the community”, and that it is an opportunity to bring kosher foods onto campus. It even states “Many schools operate Coffee Bean Tea and Leaf franchises on their campuses.” But at no point were the wants of the students ever considered. We don’t want to be like every other campus. We want to keep our coffee cart that is a unique part of the culture and spirit of our campus. We want our school, a jesuit institution, to live up to the standards it has set for itself: Be socially just, open to small groups, caring, and loving. This is barely represented in the “compensation” the couple is being offered: an opportunity to work for the Coffee Bean cart as hourly wage employees. This is barely due compensation and amounts to forcing them out of business and hiring back in a demoted position (no longer owners, but workers under the jurisdiction of a large brand name). If they are going to be hired back anyways, why not just allow them make the sought after changes and stay in charge? The most probable reason is financial kickbacks from Coffee Bean, but the school would never come out and say that.

I believe that Sodexo specifically chose this time, the middle of the summer when school is not in session, to conduct a “middle of the night” termination to minimize the student outcry. If there was some forward announcement that the contract was not to be renewed, students would have had time to organize and state their opposition and possibly prevent it from happening. If this was their plan, it has failed, as a Facebook group called “Save the Coffee Cart!” was created and has seen an immediate response, growing to 2100 members overnight (over a quarter of the student population).

All I ask of you Reddit is to spread this story and hold Sodexo and LMU accountable for their actions by bringing attention to them. Sodexo, a company whose ethical principles are “Loyalty; Respect for people; Transparency; Business integrity” has exhibited none of those by their recent actions. LMU, an institution founded upon Jesuit principles is violating its own principle of “the promotion of justice”. An institution is defined by its actions, and not principles.

Please, help us bring true justice.

If you feel so moved, you may want to contact Sodexo or LMU about this story.

Has Pop Music Gotten Worse in the Last 50 Years?

The answer, undoubtedly, is yes.

I have had this argument with my boyfriend a few times, and he just can’t come to accept it. It’s not fair, he said, to compare the music industry as we know it today to the music of the past, because we see all the bad music around us today whereas bad music of past decades has faded out of history and we don’t even know about it today.

This is a good point. However, if you take a cross section of the most popular songs of each decade, you can see from the top five hits of each year how the trend is really going. Take this list for example. It begins in 1946. We have jazz standards, some silly pop songs. Then we move to The Beatles, who, let’s be honest, were some of the finest pop music of the century. In the 1970s we see the charts get peppered with frivolous dance and pop music (come on, can “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” really be compared to Nat King Cole or “Hey Jude”?)

It only gets worse from there. The number 1 song of 1982 is Olivia Newton John’s “Physical”. While I am not saying this isn’t a terribly catchy song, the overall quality or intelligence of the piece surely cannot be compared to the jazz standards or classic rock of previous decades.

Of course there are still some great songs on the list, but as the years progress, the ratio of really great songs (“Every Breath You Take”, “Billie Jean”) to rather stupid songs (“Walk Like an Egyptian”, “Flashdance… What A Feeling”) makes a clear shift towards the stupid side. By the 2000s, we seem to have descended into complete idiocy (“In Da Club”, “Since U Been Gone”, “Buy U A Drank (Shawty Snappin’)”).

To make myself clear again: I am not saying these songs have no merit at all. These are songs I myself have sung along with, danced to, or performed in a private concert to my adoring fans in the bathroom mirror with a paddle brush as a microphone. But when you compare the general level of artistry involved in making these songs with songs earlier on the list, we see a clear divide.

But how could music just get worse? What driving force would possibly be behind that? Well, I didn’t know it until this past week when I read it in my music history book.

Over 100 years ago, the only way to enjoy music outside of a concert was to purchase the sheet music for it and play it yourself. Obviously in this society, only people with musical training and thus refined musical taste would be seeking out music and giving their consumerism to the music industry. Thus, the industry demand for music was only for the type of music these people would like: “classical” music, musical theater/opera, etc.

Then, recording technologies were invented. It started as the wax cylinder, and evolved into the vinyl record. Here’s a neat fact, the early incarnations of a record were not very efficient and could only hold 3-4 minutes of music on each side. This is what dictated the length of songs and is why typical pop songs are about 3 minutes in length today. With each new advancement in recording technology, music became more and more easy to purchase, own, and enjoy. Most importantly, you didn’t have to be able to read music to access it anymore. As more people gained access to music, the demand for music changed because it wasn’t only the classically trained musicians listening to it anymore.

In the past 50 years, music technology has improved at an exponential rate. Since the vinyl record, we’ve had radio, 8 tracks, cassettes, CDs, mp3s, and finally, free and universal streaming services (YouTube, Pandora, Spotify). In 100 years the amount of effort it requires to listen to a piece of music has gone from studying for years to perfect an instrument in order to play the piece all the way down to simply typing in the name of a tune you want to hear. As non-musically educated people have saturated the market, so has the quality of the music gone down to meet their tastes.

Improved technology also means that it has become easier and easier to record music, and this fact has sped up the production of the “bad” music supply.

I am not saying there is no good music at all these days. I am a huge fan of Mumford and Sons, Avett Brothers, Seven Lions, and the like. However, can you really compare Justin Bieber to The Beatles? Besides the hair cut, they really haven’t got a damn thing in common.

Children for Same-Sex Couples

Recently, it was National Coming Out day, a day for raising awareness for the acceptance of LGBT people by our community. Today, my family and I were talking about what it could feel like to have a gay child.

My mom said it would be weird… you could not go visit that child and his/her spouse and their kids… because any kids they had would not be 100% their own! The most a gay couple can do is use one parents’ DNA and combine in with a donor’s. But really, with medical technology progressing the way it is, will this be true for much longer?

There are constantly being tests being done by scientist to learn more about how we can control life, whether with cloning, stem cells, or growing new organs for patients who need a transplant. It could definitely possible to have a same-sex couple have their own genetic children. It would be difficult and expensive, and it would require egg extraction, but it could be done. Perhaps not now, but I would bet within 20 years.

The ovum, or “egg”, from a female human is about 20 times the size of a human sperm. This is because the sperm is essentially just a swimming nucleus of DNA. The ovum, however, has cytoplasm, mitochondria, and all that other cell stuff. These other components of the cell are what are able to replicate to create every functioning cell in the human body.

Of course, the main difference between an ovum and any other human cell is that an ovum only has half of a full set of chromosomes; it needs to be met with a sperm which has the other half in order to form a full set of human DNA and begin to replicate. The nuclei of the ovum and of the sperm, I believe, are essentially the same. It is the rest of the cell that makes the difference.

So, what do you need to make a new baby? You need an ovum and half a nucleus from each parent.

Theoretically, for a gay male couple to have a biological child, you could take an egg from a donor, extract the nucleus from the ovum, and insert the nuclei from the two fathers. As long as at least one of the two nuclei contained an X chromosome, the egg could then be implanted into a surrogate mother, and grow into a baby!

For two women, you would take an egg from each, and transplant the nucleus from into the other. Then the two nuclei would combine inside the one ovum. Of course, by this method, a lesbian couple could only give birth to a daughter, since the mothers’ nuclei would only be X chromosomes sets.

How far fetched is this? I think some procedure like this may have successfully been done already. If I made a habit of reading up on scientific journals, perhaps I would know. I know that this procedure IS expensive and difficult and does not have a high success rate. However, as technology improves, it will definitely get easier!