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Why Don’t Blue Whales Get Cancer?

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 02, 2020

Even though larger animals like elephants and blue whales have up to 100 billion more cells than humans in their bodies — and therefore many more chances for harmful mutations to develop — they are much more immune to cancer. This is called Peto’s paradox the subject of Kurzgesagt’s latest video. Scientists aren’t sure why this happens, but one hypothesis is that in order to have grown so large, the evolutionary process that resulted in these animals provided built-in defenses against cancer that other animals didn’t need. Further reading on the topic is available here.

HBO Is Streaming Dozens of Shows & Movies for Free in April

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 04, 2020

Wire Chess

During the month of April, HBO is streaming dozens of shows, documentaries & movies for free via HBO GO & HBO NOW. Shows include The Wire (my personal fave), Succession, VEEP, The Sopranos, True Blood, Six Feet Under, and Silicon Valley. HBO usually offers a few things outside their paywall, but never anything this extensive.

Boots & Cats: A World Champ Explains the 13 Levels of Beatboxing Complexity

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 06, 2020

This is fantastic: former beatboxing world champion Butterscotch explains the 13 levels of complexity involved in beatboxing, from the simple “bass drum” to how to breathe while beatboxing to singing to emulating real instruments.

Expert beatboxers go so fast that it’s amazing to see someone with Butterscotch’s skill level break this down — like watching a water balloon bursting in slow motion. Her short explanation & demonstration of “breathing within the beat” bleeeewww my tiny little mind. Also, she is soooo good — what a treat to watch.

See also Robert Lang on the 11 Levels of Complexity of Origami, Tony Hawk on the 21 Levels of Complexity of Skateboard Tricks, and A Demonstration of 16 Levels of Piano Playing Complexity.

Update: Phil Guillory is a speech-language pathologist and he wrote up a technical analysis of Butterscotch’s explanation of beatboxing. It is gloriously nerdy and I love it.

Humming adds a really interesting layer to this. The act of humming itself is a natural nasal sound. The soft palate, or velum, is relaxed, allowing airflow into the nasal passages. Humming requires glottic closure in order to vibrate vocal folds, and those vibrations resonate up the oropharynx and, because the lips are closed, the air then has to travel into the nasopharynx to be released. When Butterscotch adds percussive beats on top of the hum, if there truly is nasal airflow, that would mean that her velum isn’t fully contacting the pharyngeal wall, and there would be a combination of nasal and pharyngeal air flow. Obviously, a video like this won’t allow us to visualize, so we’ll have to make a couple of assumptions here: a combination of oral and nasal airflow would (1) reduce the loudness of the beats while (2) also reducing the loudness of the hum itself. This is because air would be traveling in two directions, so there would be less pressure for both, and thus, less loudness and resonance. Given that the hum sounds pretty consistent, I think it’s safe to guess that Butterscotch is able to relax her velum to allow for nasal airflow voluntarily, which is indeed a very challenging thing to do given that velar movement is largely automatic. Super cool.

Here’s What a Googol-to-One Gear Ratio Looks Like

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 05, 2020

To celebrate being alive for a billion seconds, Daniel Bruin built a machine with 100 gears with a 10-to-1 gear ratio…meaning that the overall gear ratio is a googol-to-one. (A googol is 1 with 100 zeros.)

This machine has a gear reduction of 1 to 10 a hundred times. In order to get the last gear to turn once you’ll need to spin the first one a google [sic] amount around. Or better said you’ll need more energy than the entire known universe has to do that. That boggles my mind.

You can watch the machine spin for an hour — it’s kinda relaxing:

Bruin says his machine was inspired by Arthur Ganson’s Machine with Concrete, a contraption whose gears spin so slowly that the final gear is embedded in concrete. (via digg)

The Paradox of Preparation

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 16, 2020

Coronavirus, social distancing, exponential growth, flatten the curve, pandemic, immunocompromised — those are just some of the concepts related to COVID-19 we have had to come up to speed on over the last few weeks. We should add the “paradox of preparation” to that list.

The paradox of preparation refers to how preventative measures can intuitively seem like a waste of time both before and after the fact. Most of us don’t stop brushing our teeth because the dentist didn’t find any cavities at our most recent checkup, but with larger events that have effects more difficult to gauge (like COVID-19, climate change, and Y2K), it can be hard to spur people to action. From Chris Hayes:

A doctor I spoke to today called this the “paradox of preparation” and it’s the key dynamic in all this. The only way to get ahead of the curve is to take actions that *at the time* seem like overreactions, eg: Japan closing all schools for a month with very few confirmed cases.

That was in response to Dr. James Hamblin:

The thing is if shutdowns and social distancing work perfectly and are extremely effective it will seem in retrospect like they were totally unnecessary overreactions.

Epidemiologist Mari Armstrong-Hough made a similar point earlier on Twitter:

You won’t ever know if what you did personally helped. That’s the nature of public health. When the best way to save lives is to prevent a disease rather than treat it, success often looks like an overreaction.

Preparation, prevention, regulations, and safeguards prevent catastrophes all the time, but we seldom think or hear about it because “world continues to function” is not interesting news. We have to rely on statistical analysis and the expert opinions of planners and officials in order to evaluate both crucial next steps and the effectiveness of preparatory measures after the fact, and that can be challenging for us to pay attention to. So we tend to forget that preparation & prevention is necessary and discount it the next time around.

The good news is that while unchecked epidemics grow exponentially, another thing that can also spreads exponentially is behavioral norms. The basic expert advice on how we can slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities is pretty unambiguous — wash your hands, don’t touch your face, maintain social distance, self-quarantine, etc. — and so is the huge potential impact of those precautions on the number of people who will get infected and die. To help overcome the paradox of preparation, let’s continue to spread the word about what the experts are urging us to do. Because if we don’t, there might be a lot fewer of us around in a month or two.

Update: In the same vein, Vaughn Tan writes:

This means that any effective actions taken against coronavirus in the few days before the epidemic curve shoots upward in any country will always look unreasonable and disproportionate.

By the time those actions look reasonable and appropriate, they will be too late.

And Now Is the Time to Overreact Ian Bogost in the Atlantic:

The idea that an extreme reaction, such as closing schools and canceling events, might prove to be an overreaction that would look silly or wasteful later outweighs any other concern. It can also feel imprudent; just staying home isn’t so easy for workers who depend on weekly paychecks, and closing is a hard decision for local companies running on thin margins. But experts are saying that Americans can’t really over-prepare right now. Overreaction is good!

It’s hard to square that directive with the associations we’ve built up around overreactions. Ultimately, overreaction is a matter of knowledge-an epistemological problem. Unlike viruses or even zombies, the concept lives inside your skull rather than out in the world. The sooner we can understand how that knowledge works, and retool our action in relation to its limits, the better we’ll be able to handle the unfolding crisis.

Michael Specter writing about America’s weakened public-health system for the New Yorker:

Few people have trouble understanding the purpose of public education or public housing: they are tangible programs that, at least in theory, are designed to improve our lives. Public-health accomplishments, however, are measured in an entirely different way: success is defined by what is prevented, not by what is produced. This creates an odd psychological dynamic.

When public-health programs are successful, they are invisible, and what is invisible is almost always taken for granted. Nobody cheers when they remain untouched by a disease that they hardly knew existed. That makes it easy for shortsighted politicians to deny long-term realities. And that is what they almost always do.

Roxane Gay’s Ode to Baking

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 10, 2020

For Wirecutter, Roxane Gay talks about her love of baking and how her KitchenAid stand mixer helps her achieve the consistent results that baking demands.

I’ve always loved baking, the patience and precision it requires, the end result when baking goes well, the lessons learned when it doesn’t. It’s actually quite conducive to writing because it forces you to step away from your work and tend to the baking process at specific intervals. When I am feeling down, when I am stressed, when I want to procrastinate, when I want to nourish people I love, I bake, which is to say I bake a lot.

I found this link via my friend David, who has gotten into baking in a big way over the past couple of years, perfecting his recipes for pizza dough and bread. I got a KitchenAid for Christmas this year, but I haven’t had a chance to use it yet. Maybe this week…

Recycling Used Hotel Soaps

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 02, 2020

Clean the World is a non-profit organization that works with hotels to recycle used soap & other toiletry products left behind by their customers into new, sanitized soap that is then distributed to people without easy access to soap to prevent disease. Here’s how it works:

Since 2009, Clean the World has distributed 53 million bars of soap and saved 20 million pounds of waste from being discarded. Their hotel partners include Hilton, Hyatt, Best Western, Marriott, and other prominent hotel groups.

Fossilized Skulls of Cartoon Characters

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 05, 2020

Cartoon Fossils

Cartoon Fossils

For his Cartoon Fossils series, Filip Hodas used 3D modelling software to create fossilized skulls of cartoon characters like Scrooge McDuck, Tweetie Bird, Minnie Mouse, and Goofy.

These remind me of Michael Paulus’s Character Studies, drawings of the skeletons of the likes of Lucy from Peanuts, Betty Boop, Marvin the Martian, and Pikachu. I have his Hello Kitty drawing hanging in my living room, purchased after Leslie Harpold pointed me towards his work back in the day. (via colossal)

Ikea Instructions for COVID-19 Quarantine

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 25, 2020

Ikea Stay Home

Instructions for staying at home during the pandemic, courtesy of Ikea Israel. (thx, caroline)

How to Make Aleppo Soap Using Traditional Methods

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 24, 2020

Since 1945, Syrian company Pearl Soap has been using traditional centuries-old methods of making “Aleppo soap” from olive oil and laurel oil. Here’s how they do it (I love the contraption they use to cut the soap):

After cutting, the soap is stacked and aged:

The cubes of soap are then stacked in staggered cylinders to allow maximum air exposure. Once they have dried sufficiently, they are put into a special subterranean chamber to be aged for one year.

You can’t buy Pearl’s soap directly from their website and I couldn’t find it anywhere else, but Aleppo soap from other makers is widely available on Amazon and Etsy. (via huit denim)

Coronavirus: The Hammer and the Dance

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 20, 2020

On March 10, Tomas Pueyo published a widely read and praised article called Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now. Yesterday, in the wake of the Imperial College paper and the criticism of it, Pueyo has published a second article: Coronavirus: The Hammer and the Dance. I urge you to read it — it’s sobering yet hopeful. A summary:

Strong coronavirus measures today should only last a few weeks, there shouldn’t be a big peak of infections afterwards, and it can all be done for a reasonable cost to society, saving millions of lives along the way. If we don’t take these measures, tens of millions will be infected, many will die, along with anybody else that requires intensive care, because the healthcare system will have collapsed.

As the title indicates, Pueyo and his collaborators are suggesting an approach that combines initial aggressive action followed by a longer period of efficient vigilance. First comes the Hammer — we use aggressive measures for weeks, giving our healthcare system time to ramp up & scientists time to research the hell out of this thing and for the world’s testing capability to get up to speed.

And then we Dance.

If you hammer the coronavirus, within a few weeks you’ve controlled it and you’re in much better shape to address it. Now comes the longer-term effort to keep this virus contained until there’s a vaccine.

This is probably the single biggest, most important mistake people make when thinking about this stage: they think it will keep them home for months. This is not the case at all. In fact, it is likely that our lives will go back to close to normal.

But, here’s how the Dance works:

How come South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Japan have had cases for a long time, in the case of South Korea thousands of them, and yet they’re not locked down home?

In this video, the South Korea Foreign Minister explains how her country did it. It was pretty simple: efficient testing, efficient tracing, travel bans, efficient isolating and efficient quarantining.

That way, most people aren’t locked down, just those who need to be — the sick, the people who have been with those who have gotten sick, etc. Most people can go back to work, back to fairly normal routines.

I call the months-long period between the Hammer and a vaccine the Dance because it won’t be a period during which measures are always the same harsh ones. Some regions will see outbreaks again, others won’t for long periods of time. Depending on how cases evolve, we will need to tighten up social distancing measures or we will be able to release them. That is the dance of R: a dance of measures between getting our lives back on track and spreading the disease, one of economy vs. healthcare.

This piece in the Atlantic, This Is How We Can Beat the Coronavirus by Aaron E. Carroll & Ashish Jha, advocates for essentially the same approach.

We can create a third path. We can decide to meet this challenge head on. It is absolutely within our capacity to do so. We could develop tests that are fast, reliable, and ubiquitous. If we screen everyone, and do so regularly, we can let most people return to a more normal life. We can reopen schools and places where people gather. If we can be assured that the people who congregate aren’t infectious, they can socialize.

We can build health-care facilities that do rapid screening and care for people who are infected, apart from those who are not. This will prevent transmission from one sick person to another in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. We can even commit to housing infected people apart from their healthy family members, to prevent transmission in households.

How to Make a Kurzgesagt Video (in Just 1200 Hours)

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 19, 2020

In this video, Kurzgesagt shares their process of making their unique brand of explainer video.

They estimate it takes about 1200 hours of time for each video. I love Kurzgesagt’s videos and am happy to support them on Patreon.

An International Eye Test Chart (circa 1907)

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 27, 2020

Mayerle Eye Test Chart

From the collection of the US National Library of Medicine, an eye test chart designed by George Mayerle around 1907 to be a complete vision testing solution for speakers of several languages.

Running through the middle of the chart, the seven vertical panels test for acuity of vision with characters in the Roman alphabet (for English, German, and other European readers) and also in Japanese, Chinese, Russian, and Hebrew. A panel in the center replaces the alphabetic characters with symbols for children and adults who were illiterate or who could not read any of the other writing systems offered. Directly above the center panel is a version of the radiant dial that tests for astigmatism. On either side of that are lines that test the muscular strength of the eyes. Finally, across the bottom, boxes test for color vision, a feature intended especially (according to one advertisement) for those working on railroads and steamboats.

Mayerle was a German optometrist working in San Francisco when he made the chart, designing it for use in a city with a diverse population. My pals at 20x200 are offering limited-edition prints of Mayerle’s chart in a variety of sizes.

See also the history & typography of eye test charts, Optician Sans (a font based on eye chart typography), and Eye Charts for Drones.

Concatenation

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 31, 2020

Concatenation is a Rube Goldberg-esque video montage made up of cleverly arranged stock video footage. This is one of those things where I’m like, “ugh this is so good, why didn’t I think of this?” See also this clipart animation:

(via waxy)

Update: The music video for Cassius’ Go Up uses a similar technique of juxtaposing stock videos. (via @endquote)

Special Edition GIF/JIF Peanut Butter Jar

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 25, 2020

Gif Jif

Online image emporium Giphy has partnered with Jif (the peanut butter people) to offer a limited edition jar of peanut butter with a dual-sided label: one side features the soft-G pronunciation of Jif and the other side the correct hard-G pronunciation of GIF. You can purchase a jar on Amazon. (via @waxpancake)

You Should Be Wearing a Face Mask

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 30, 2020

Wear A Mask

Have you been wearing a face mask when going out in public recently? There’s been a lot of debate recently about whether they are effective in keeping people safe from COVID-19 infection, and it’s been really challenging to find good information. After reading several things over the past few days, I have concluded that wearing a mask in public is a helpful step I can take to help keep myself and others safe, with the important caveat that healthcare workers need access to masks before the rest of us (see below). In particular, I found this extensive review of the medical and scientific literature on mask & respirator use helpful, including why research on mask efficacy is so hard to do and speculation on why the CDC and WHO generally don’t recommend wearing them.

I was able to find one study like this outside of the health care setting. Some people with swine flu travelled on a plane from New York to China, and many fellow passengers got infected. Some researchers looked at whether passengers who wore masks throughout the flight stayed healthier. The answer was very much yes. They were able to track down 9 people who got sick on the flight and 32 who didn’t. 0% of the sick passengers wore masks, compared to 47% of the healthy passengers. Another way to look at that is that 0% of mask-wearers got sick, but 35% of non-wearers did. This was a significant difference, and of obvious applicability to the current question.

See also this review of relevant scientific literature, this NY Times piece, this Washington Post opinion piece by Jeremy Howard (who is on a Twitter mission to get everyone to wear masks):

When historians tally up the many missteps policymakers have made in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the senseless and unscientific push for the general public to avoid wearing masks should be near the top.

The evidence not only fails to support the push, it also contradicts it. It can take a while for official recommendations to catch up with scientific thinking. In this case, such delays might be deadly and economically disastrous. It’s time to make masks a key part of our fight to contain, then defeat, this pandemic. Masks effective at “flattening the curve” can be made at home with nothing more than a T-shirt and a pair of scissors. We should all wear masks — store-bought or homemade — whenever we’re out in public.

At the height of the HIV crisis, authorities did not tell people to put away condoms. As fatalities from car crashes mounted, no one recommended avoiding seat belts. Yet in a global respiratory pandemic, people who should know better are discouraging Americans from using respiratory protection.

I have to admit that I have not been wearing a mask out in public — I’ve been to the grocery store only three times in the past two weeks, I go at off-hours, and it’s rural Vermont, so there’s not actually that many people about (e.g. compared to Manhattan). But I’m going to start wearing one in crowded places (like the grocery store) because doing so could a) safeguard others against my possible infection (because asymptomatic people can still be contagious), b) make it less likely for me to get infected, and c) provide a visible signal to others in my community to normalize mask wearing. As we’ve seen in epidemic simulations, relatively small measures can have outsize effects in limiting later infections & deaths, and face masks, even if a tiny bit effective, can have a real impact.

Crucially, the available research and mask advocates stress the importance of wearing masks properly and responsibly. Here are some guidelines I compiled about responsible mask usage:

So that’s what I’ve personally concluded from all my reading. I hope wearing masks can help keep us a little safer during all of this.

Update: From Ferris Jabr at Wired, It’s Time to Face Facts, America: Masks Work.

It is unequivocally true that masks must be prioritized for health care workers in any country suffering from a shortage of personal protective equipment. But the conflicting claims and guidelines regarding their use raise three questions of the utmost urgency: Do masks work? Should everyone wear them? And if there aren’t enough medical-grade masks for the general public, is it possible to make a viable substitute at home? Decades of scientific research, lessons from past pandemics, and common sense suggest the answer to all of these questions is yes.

Update: The Atlantic’s Ed Yong weighs in on masks:

In Asia, masks aren’t just shields. They’re also symbols. They’re an affirmation of civic-mindedness and conscientiousness, and such symbols might be important in other parts of the world too. If widely used, masks could signal that society is taking the pandemic threat seriously. They might reduce the stigma foisted on sick people, who would no longer feel ashamed or singled out for wearing one. They could offer reassurance to people who don’t have the privilege of isolating themselves at home, and must continue to work in public spaces. “My staff have also mentioned that having a mask reminds them not to touch their face or put a pen in their mouth,” Bourouiba noted.

He also writes about something I’ve been wondering about: is the virus airborne, what does that even mean, when will we know for sure, and how should that affect our behavior in the meantime?

These particles might not even have been infectious. “I think we’ll find that like many other viruses, [SARS-CoV-2] isn’t especially stable under outdoor conditions like sunlight or warm temperatures,” Santarpia said. “Don’t congregate in groups outside, but going for a walk, or sitting on your porch on a sunny day, are still great ideas.”

You could tie yourself in knots gaming out the various scenarios that might pose a risk outdoors, but Marr recommends a simple technique. “When I go out now, I imagine that everyone is smoking, and I pick my path to get the least exposure to that smoke,” she told me. If that’s the case, I asked her, is it irrational to hold your breath when another person walks past you and you don’t have enough space to move away? “It’s not irrational; I do that myself,” she said. “I don’t know if it makes a difference, but in theory it could. It’s like when you walk through a cigarette plume.”

And from the WHO, here’s a video on how to wear a mask properly.

Update: One of the reasons I started to wear a mask when I go out in public was to “provide a visible signal to others in my community to normalize mask wearing”. Maciej Cegłowski’s post touches on this and other reasons to wear a mask that don’t directly have to do with avoiding infection.

A mask is a visible public signal to strangers that you are trying to protect their health. No other intervention does this. It would be great if we had a soap that turned our hands gold for an hour, so everyone could admire our superb hand-washing technique. But all of the behaviors that benefit public health are invisible, with the exception of mask wearing.

If I see you with a mask on, it shows me you care about my health, and vice versa. This dramatically changes what it feels like to be in a public space. Other people no longer feel like an anonymous threat; they are now your teammates in a common struggle.

Simulating Many Scenarios of an Epidemic

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 28, 2020

Back when the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning to be taken seriously by the American public, 3blue1brown’s Grant Sanderson released a video about epidemics and exponential growth. (It’s excellent — I recommend watching it if you’re still a little unclear on how things are got so out of hand so quickly in Italy and, very soon, in NYC.) In his latest video, Sanderson digs a bit deeper into simulating epidemics using a variety of scenarios.

Like, if people stay away from each other I get how that will slow the spread, but what if despite mostly staying away from each other people still occasionally go to a central location like a grocery store or a school?

Also, what if you are able to identify and isolate the cases? And if you can, what if a few slip through, say because they show no symptoms and aren’t tested?

How does travel between separate communities affect things? And what if people avoid contact with others for a while, but then they kind of get tired of it and stop?

These simulations are fascinating to watch. Many of the takeaways boil down to: early & aggressive actions have a huge effect in the number of people infected, how long an epidemic lasts, and (in the case of a disease like COVID-19 that causes fatalities) the number of deaths. This is what all the epidemiologists have been telling us — because the math, while complex when you’re dealing with many factors (as in a real-world scenario), is actually pretty straightforward and unambiguous.

The biggest takeaway? That the effective identification and isolation of cases has the largest effect on cutting down the infection rate. Testing and isolation, done as quickly and efficiently as possible.

See also these other epidemic simulations: Washington Post and Kevin Simler.

Note: Please keep in mind that these are simulations to help us better understand how epidemics work in general — it’s not about how the COVID-19 pandemic is proceeding or will proceed in the future.

Hear How Choral Music Sounded in the Hagia Sophia More Than 500 Years Ago

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 06, 2020

When the Ottomans invaded and conquered Constantinople in 1453, the Orthodox Christian church Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque. As a result, the Christian choral music that had reverberated in this acoustical masterpiece for centuries was not allowed. But thanks to a digital filter developed by a pair of Stanford researchers, one an art historian (Bissera Pentcheva) and the other an acoustics expert (Jonathan Abel), we are now able to hear what a choir might have sounded like in the Hagia Sophia before the mid 15th century.

When they met, Pentcheva started telling Abel about the Hagia Sophia — how we couldn’t really understand the experience of worshipers there unless we could hear the music the way they did. And as she talked, Abel started to feel a prickling of excitement. They could recreate what that music would sound like. If only they could get in the Hagia Sophia and pop a balloon.

When a balloon pops, it makes an impulse, a sharp, quick sound that takes on the character of whatever space it’s in. So when a balloon pops, you’re really hearing the acoustics of the space itself, says Abel.

In this clip from 2013, the Cappella Romana choir sings a hymn passed through an early version of the Hagia Sophia filter:

The marble interior of Hagia Sophia was 70 meters long, while in height it reached 56 meters at the apex of the great dome. The vast chamber and its reflective surfaces of marble and gold resulted in unprecedented acoustics of over ten seconds reverberation time. As a museum Hagia Sophia today has lost its voice, no performances could take place in it. Using new digital technology developed at CCRMA, the second portion of Cappella Romana’s concert at Bing aims to recreate sound of what singing in Hagia Sophia must have been like. Each singer caries a microphone that records the sound transforming it into a digital signal, which is then imprinted with the reverberant response of Hagia Sophia. What you hear as a wet sound is the product of a digitally produced signal transmitted through loudspeakers placed strategically to create an enveloping soundfield. This digital signal may shock you with the way it relativizes speech, transforming its content into a chiaroscuro of indistinct but immersive sound. For the Byzantines, this sonic experience was associated with the water: the waves of the sea.

Last year, the Cappella Romana released an entire album of choral music recorded with the filter — you can listen on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, Tidal, or Pandora.

Needless to say, the album sounds better with the best pair of headphones you can muster. You can find out more information about the filter and the acoustics of the Hagia Sophia at Icons of Sound.

See also this online Gregorian chant generator.

Peak Car - Scenes from an Automobile Addicted World

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 04, 2020

Peak Car

Peak Car

Overview celebrates the potential passing of “Peak Car” with a series of satellite imagery that shows just how much automobiles have altered our lives and landscapes.

Automobiles make up 70% of the emissions from all forms of transportation. There are an estimated 1 billion cars on the planet, with around 80 million new cars sold each year. Despite continually strong sales, experts suggest we have reached ‘Peak Car’ — meaning the average distance traveled per person in cars has peaked, and will continue to fall over time. There are many different factors contributing to this trend, such as a global shift towards urban living, new forms of mobility, new government policies for reducing traffic, and a slowing expansion of road networks.

Pandemic Travel Posters (Inviting You to Stay Home)

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 02, 2020

Pandemic Travel Posters

Pandemic Travel Posters

Jennifer Baer of the “Coronavirus Tourism Bureau” made some travel posters designed to get you interested in staying inside and exploring your own home during the pandemic. Posters are available for purchase.

Chris Ware’s Moving Pandemic-Themed Cover for the New Yorker

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 31, 2020

Chris Ware Covid-19

This is Chris Ware’s illustration for the cover of this week’s New Yorker, the magazine’s annual Health Issue. The pandemic had to be the topic for the cover, and Ware’s daughter suggested that the specific theme focus on the families of the healthcare workers on the front lines of the crisis.

“As a procrastination tactic, I sometimes ask my fifteen-year-old daughter what the comic strip or drawing I’m working on should be about — not only because it gets me away from my drawing table but because, like most kids of her generation, she pays attention to the world. So, while sketching the cover of this Health Issue, I asked her.

“‘Make sure it’s about how most doctors have children and families of their own,’ she said.

“Good idea. And a personal one: one of her friend’s parents are both doctors; that friend, now distilled into a rectangular puddle of light on my daughter’s nightstand, reported that her mom had temporarily stopped going to work, pending the results of a COVID-19 test.

The Long Goodbye

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 09, 2020

British rapper and actor Riz Ahmed released an album last week called The Long Goodbye. It’s a breakup album with a twist — Ahmed is not breaking up with a partner but with a racist, post-Brexit Britain. A Guardian review describes it as “a conceptual work based around the idea that British Asians are locked in an abusive relationship with the UK and that the rising tide of racism spawned by Brexit might represent the moment at which they’ve finally been dumped”.

To accompany the album, Ahmed collaborated with director Aneil Karia to make a short film (embedded above). It starts out with a typical British domestic scene but after a few minutes, it becomes something else entirely. Be warned: this film is quite intense & dystopian. (via dunstan)

What To Do About Our Collective Pandemic Grief Before It Overwhelms Us

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 26, 2020

For That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief, HBR’s Scott Berinato interviewed David Kessler, who he calls “the world’s foremost expert on grief”, about what we’re collectively feeling as we deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

HBR: People are feeling any number of things right now. Is it right to call some of what they’re feeling grief?

Kessler: Yes, and we’re feeling a number of different griefs. We feel the world has changed, and it has. We know this is temporary, but it doesn’t feel that way, and we realize things will be different. Just as going to the airport is forever different from how it was before 9/11, things will change and this is the point at which they changed. The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.

HBR: You said we’re feeling more than one kind of grief?

Kessler: Yes, we’re also feeling anticipatory grief. Anticipatory grief is that feeling we get about what the future holds when we’re uncertain. Usually it centers on death. We feel it when someone gets a dire diagnosis or when we have the normal thought that we’ll lose a parent someday. Anticipatory grief is also more broadly imagined futures. There is a storm coming. There’s something bad out there. With a virus, this kind of grief is so confusing for people. Our primitive mind knows something bad is happening, but you can’t see it. This breaks our sense of safety. We’re feeling that loss of safety. I don’t think we’ve collectively lost our sense of general safety like this. Individually or as smaller groups, people have felt this. But all together, this is new. We are grieving on a micro and a macro level.

And what can we start to do about our grief?

Understanding the stages of grief is a start. But whenever I talk about the stages of grief, I have to remind people that the stages aren’t linear and may not happen in this order. It’s not a map but it provides some scaffolding for this unknown world. There’s denial, which we say a lot of early on: This virus won’t affect us. There’s anger: You’re making me stay home and taking away my activities. There’s bargaining: Okay, if I social distance for two weeks everything will be better, right? There’s sadness: I don’t know when this will end. And finally there’s acceptance. This is happening; I have to figure out how to proceed.

Acceptance, as you might imagine, is where the power lies. We find control in acceptance. I can wash my hands. I can keep a safe distance. I can learn how to work virtually.

Kessler recently came out with a new book called Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief.

I wrote a bit about grief a couple years back in this post How Do You Help a Grieving Friend?

One of the odd things about getting older (and hopefully wiser) is that you stop chuckling at cliches and start to acknowledge their deep truths. A recent example of this for me is “the only way out is through”. As Devine notes, in this video and her book It’s OK That You’re Not OK, there’s no shortcut for dealing with pain…you have to go through it to move past it.

See also a collection of resources for dealing with death compiled by Chrysanthe last year. (via laura olin)

Update: Trouble Focusing? Not Sleeping? You May Be Grieving by novelist R.O. Kwon:

Other people who couldn’t stay home were going to work every day — many without the option, the privilege, of doing otherwise — while here I was, home, and I couldn’t, of all things, write. Yes, there’s a pandemic, and yes, I felt by turns anxious, furious, and terrified, but it’s 2020 in America, and I’ve felt quite anxious, furious and terrified for a while. The inability to work, though, was new.

But then it occurred to me, as I ate another astringent chip, that this lassitude, the trouble focusing, the sleep difficulties, my exhaustion: Oh yes, I thought, I remember this. I was grieving. I was grieving in early March, I’m still grieving now, and chances are, you are, too.

(via @_chrysanthe)

How to Wash Your Hands Properly

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 13, 2020

Most humans have been washing their hands since childhood, but I bet very few of us have been doing it correctly. Because of the effectiveness of hand-washing with soap in preventing the spread of COVID-19, the CDC and the WHO (and health professionals everywhere) both make it their top recommendation and provide guidance on how to do it properly: CDC hand-washing instructions, WHO hand-washing instructions.

Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.

Here’s a video from the WHO on proper hand-washing technique (and a similar one from Johns Hopkins that has subtitles):

And a graphic from the WHO:

Wash Hands Instructions

And if you’re getting sick of singing Happy Birthday while washing your hands, a site called Wash Your Lyrics can help you make a hand-washing infographic with your favorite song’s lyrics.

Stand Among the Giant Redwoods

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 03, 2020

Wirth Redwoods

Wirth Redwoods

Using an infrared camera, Nathan Wirth took some great black & white photos of redwoods from the Lady Bird Johnson Grove in California’s Redwood National Park. I visited several redwood groves last summer and took hundreds of photos, so I can appreciate the difficulty of capturing the size & majesty of these amazing trees on film. Lovely work. (via moss & fog, both of which are abundant in redwood forests)

COVID-19 and Food Safety

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 23, 2020

Like many of you, I’ve been wondering about COVID-19 & food safety. Is it safe to eat takeout prepared by your local restaurant? To answer that and many other questions, Kenji Lopez-Alt has compiled a comprehensive guide to food safety and coronavirus for Serious Eats. Kenji is the most fastidious and exacting food person I know — how could you think otherwise after having read The Food Lab? — so I take his thoughts and research on this very seriously.

Even so, plenty of folks — myself included — have been confused or curious about the safety of allowing restaurants to continue preparing and serving food. Is it actually safe? Should I reheat the food when I get it home? Is it better to support local businesses by ordering food, or am I only putting workers and delivery people at risk? And if I’m cooking my own food, what guidelines should I follow?

To answer these questions, I referenced dozens of articles and scientific reports and enlisted the help of Ben Chapman, a food safety specialist from the North Carolina State University and cohost of Risky or Not and Food Safety Talk.

Let’s get right to the nitty gritty:

Q: Can I get COVID-19 from touching or eating contaminated food?

According to multiple health and safety organizations worldwide, including the CDC, the USDA, and the European Food Safety Authority, there is currently no evidence that COVID-19 has spread through food or food packaging. Previous coronavirus epidemics likewise showed no evidence of having been spread through food or packaging.

Be sure to read on for answers to questions like “Are we going to run out of food?” and “Am I more likely to get COVID-19 from take-out, delivery, or cooking at home?”

The FDA has a coronavirus safety page on their website as well.

Unlike foodborne gastrointestinal (GI) viruses like norovirus and hepatitis A that often make people ill through contaminated food, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, is a virus that causes respiratory illness. Foodborne exposure to this virus is not known to be a route of transmission.

In a piece from March 14, Amanda Mull talked with epidemiologist Stephen Morse from Columbia University about food safety:

Even if the person preparing it is sick, he told me via email, “cooked foods are unlikely to be a concern unless they get contaminated after cooking.” He granted that “a salad, if someone sneezes on it, might possibly be some risk,” but as long as the food is handled properly, he said, “there should be very little risk.”

And Don Schaffner, a professor in the food science department at Rutgers, has been posting information on food safety & COVID-19 on Twitter.

Even if a sick worker sneezed on my food (I know that’s gross), my risk of contracting COVID-19 from it are very low.

First it’s important to realize that this is a respiratory illness as far as we know. The biggest risk is being around sick people who are shedding the virus when they sneeze or cough.

Even if the virus did get onto food, we’re going to put that food in our mouth and swallow it so the virus will end up in our stomach. Our stomachs have a low pH which would likely in activate the virus.

Some People

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 20, 2020

Some people feel helpless & anxious.

Some people are bored.

Some people are self-quarantined alone and are lonely.

Some people are realizing that After will be very different from Before.

Some people are really enjoying this extra time with their kids and will miss it when it’s over.

Some people just got off their 12th double shift in a row at the hospital and can’t hug their family.

Some people visited their favorite restaurant for the last time and didn’t realize it.

Some people have died from COVID-19.

Some people can’t stop reading the news.

Some people cannot afford soap.

Some people are learning how to bake bread.

Some people are working from home while simultaneously trying to homeschool their kids.

Some people are single parents trying to work from home while simultaneously trying to homeschool their kids.

Some people are living paycheck to paycheck and the next one will not arrive.

Some people are unfit to be President.

Some people left the city for their home in the country.

Some people can’t go to the grocery store because they’re at risk.

Some people lost their jobs.

Some people can’t sleep.

Some people are watching free opera online.

Some people have been quarantined for weeks.

Some people can’t work remotely.

Some people have contracted COVID-19 and don’t know it yet.

Some people can’t concentrate on their work because of anxiety.

Some people can’t afford their rent next month.

Some people are still gathering in large groups.

Some people are keeping the rest of us alive at significant personal risk.

Some people didn’t buy enough hand sanitizer.

Some people bought too much hand sanitizer.

Some people are missing their therapist.

Some people can’t go to work but are still being paid by their employers. For now.

Some people are mainly concerned about what to watch next on Netflix.

Some people are volunteering.

Some people are going to lose their business.

Some people are realizing that teachers are amazing.

Some people are ordering takeout from local restaurants.

Some people would really just like a hug.

Some people can’t convince their elderly parents to take this seriously.

Some people are worried about their 401K.

Some people have never had a 401K.

Some people will face increased abuse at home.

Some people are going to get sick or injured and will have a harder time getting medical care.

Some people can’t buy the food they need because the WIC-eligible stuff is sold out.

Some people won’t stop partying.

Some people lost their childcare.

Some people are doing everything they can to remain calm and hopeful and it’s not working.

Some people are watching Outbreak & Contagion and playing Pandemic.

Some people don’t know what they’re going to do.

Some people are overwhelmed with advice on how to work from home.

Some people are drinking or eating too much.

Some people are thinking about after.

Some people are upset because they can’t travel.

Some people are horny.

Some people are planning for a larger garden this year.

Some people won’t see their families for months.

Some people are logging off to stay grounded.

Some people can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Some people will realize they need to split with their partner.

Some people are singing Imagine.

Some people aren’t on this list.

These are all based on the experiences of real people drawn from news stories, social media, and friends. Take heart: you are not the only person experiencing what you are going through. But be mindful: not everyone is having the same experience you are. Ultimately though, we are all in this together.

No Frills Branding

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 12, 2020

No Frills Branding

No Frills Branding

No Frills Branding

Designer Kunel Gaur, head of a creative agency called Animal, has redesigned the packaging for several familiar brands using minimal black & white graphics and unadorned typography. The designs don’t seem to be collected in one place, so you’ll have to poke around his Instagram to find them.

That LV bag actually looks like something Virgil Abloh would design — it would sell like hotcakes. Dye it millennial pink and you’ve got a freaking worldwide sensation. Fashion design is so easy!! (via moss & fog)

Russian Multiplication: A Different Way to Multiply

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 24, 2020

I’ve loved math since I was a kid. One of the big reasons for this is that there’s always more than one way to solve a particular problem and in discovering those solutions, you learn something about mathematics and the nature of numbers.1

In this video, math fan Johnny Ball shows us a different method of multiplication. In Russian multiplication (also called Ethiopian multiplication and related to ancient Egyptian multiplication), you can multiply any two numbers together through simple addition and doubling & halving numbers. The technique works by converting the numbers to binary and turning it into an addition problem.

I loved learning about this so much that I scribbled an explanation out on a napkin at brunch yesterday to show a friend how it worked. We’re friends because she was just as excited as I was about it. (via the kid should see this)

  1. I’ve probably told this story here before, but for an assignment in a quantum mechanics class in college, we had to derive an equation using two different techniques. After much struggle at the whiteboard on a Saturday morning, a friend and I got the results of these two approaches to converge on the same answer and it felt like we had unlocked a deep secret to the universe.

Covid-19 Now the Leading Cause of Death in America

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 10, 2020

This week, Covid-19 passed heart disease and cancer as the leading cause of death per day in the United States. In this graph made by Dr. Maria Danilychev using data from Worldometer and the CDC, you can see that Covid-19 overtook heart disease sometime on Monday or Tuesday.


If the data in NYC is any indication, the number of nationwide Covid-19 deaths may be undercounted, so this transition probably happened sooner.1 Hopefully through the social distancing and other measures put in place to flatten the curve, the number of daily Covid-19 deaths won’t start beating out all other causes combined before it starts declining.

  1. Several months from now, it will be easier to get a more accurate count of how many people died by looking at the “baseline” rate of death and comparing it with the actual numbers. Unless this sort of recount is politicized, which it will be, and *siiiigh*

Italy Sings Together During Coronavirus Lockdown

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 14, 2020

People under quarantine lockdown in Italy due to the country’s COVID-19 outbreak have been singing and playing music out their windows and on their balconies to keep their spirits up while social distancing.

Here’s a Twitter thread with more videos from Salerno, Turin, Naples, Siena, Florence, etc.

No matter how much fear and panic and anxiety and negativity are on display during a crisis, it also brings out the best in people. Humans are social animals and we can’t help sharing with our neighbors, comforting one another, and coming together even when we’re physically apart.

The Girl with a Schmeared Earring

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 24, 2020

Girl with the Schmeared Earring

From Joseph Lee, a super abstract rendition of Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. Another one for my collection of GPE remixes.

Previously from kottke.org on Joseph Lee’s work: Ultra-Impressionistic Portraits Made with Just a Few Thick Strokes of Paint.

Trailer for Season 2 of Ugly Delicious

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 25, 2020

Chef David Chang, who I guess is in the process of being not a chef now in the way that Bourdain became not a chef, is back for season 2 of Ugly Delicious, a food/travel/culture show on Netflix. From Eater:

Like the first season, this one promises to “use food as a vehicle to break down cultural barriers, tackle misconceptions and uncover shared experiences,” per a press release. The four episodes — only half the number of episodes as season 1 — will focus on food made for babies and children (“Kids’ Menu”), the vast world of Indian food (“Don’t Call It Curry”), the appeal and mystique of steak (“Steak”), and the varied cuisines that encompass what’s generalized as “Middle Eastern” cooking (“As the Meat Turns”).

I really liked season 1 of this show and I am not going to lie, I would love to somehow be involved in season 3. David, I have a passport, love to eat, and can talk about *gestures around at website* almost anything. Hit me up!

Radiohead Putting Classic Live Shows on YouTube During the Pandemic

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 09, 2020

Starting today and continuing weekly, a little musical band you have never heard of called Radiohead is putting classic live shows up on YouTube. First up and embedded above is a concert they performed in Ireland in October 2000. Here’s the setlist in case you want to skip around a little. The band says they’ll be putting shows up every week until “either the restrictions resulting from [the] current situation are eased, or we run out of shows”.

I went to a show of theirs in Oxford in 2001 and I would love to see it again. They played Creep for the first time in ages after an equipment failure 86’d whatever song they were supposed to play — and the crowd went fricking bananas.

Update: You can find all of the live shows they’ve uploaded in the At Home with Radiohead playlist. They include Bonnaroo 2006, Buenos Aires 2009, Berlin 2016, and Coachella 2012. Tomorrow’s show will be Summer Sonic 2016 (streaming begins at 9am ET).

Max Richter’s Tiny Desk Concert

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 21, 2020

This is lovely: composer Max Richter, accompanied by a string quintet, plays a Tiny Desk Concert at NPR.

Half way through this performance of Max Richter’s achingly beautiful On The Nature Of Daylight, I looked around our NPR Music office and saw trembling chins and tearful eyes. Rarely have I seen so many Tiny Desk audience members moved in this way. There’s something about Max Richter’s music that triggers deep emotions.

Richter is one of my favorite composers, so this was really fun to watch.

Caremongering

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 17, 2020

Canada caremongering

In Canada, “caremongering” groups are being organized to connect helpers with those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first “caremongering” group was set up by Mita Hans with the help of Valentina Harper and others. Valentina explained the meaning behind the name.

“Scaremongering is a big problem,” she tells the BBC. “We wanted to switch that around and get people to connect on a positive level, to connect with each other.

“It’s spread the opposite of panic in people, brought out community and camaraderie, and allowed us to tackle the needs of those who are at-risk all the time — now more than ever.”

During times of crisis, Mister Rogers urged children to “look for the helpers”. As adults, we need to step up and be those helpers, even though many of us are self-quarantined at home. (via jodi)

Free stock photo of hockey player on phone courtesy of Canada’s Internet Registration Authority.

Indoor Voices, A Quarantine Group Blog Just Like The Old Days

posted by Aaron Cohen   Mar 27, 2020

A few weeks ago, writer Kyle Chayka Tweeted “I predict a great Blogging Renaissance,” to which also writer Kevin Nguyen responded, “i kinda wanna do a weird free-for-all quarantine blog.” Then they added other writer Bijan Stephen and started Indoor Voices, a group blog which has now grown to about 80 members, all of whom miss what the internet used to be like AND happen to be home quite a bit at the moment. (To cement old school credentials, Indoor Voices is hosted on ancient blogging platform Blogspot, the place I got my blogging start in 2004. (Out of an abundance of shame, I absolutely will not be linking to this first blog.))

From the Indoor Voices about page:

Blogging is not a substitute for direct action. Direct action in this case involves staying home. Blogging is one thing to do while staying at home. Please wash your hands. It’s hard to believe, but there was a time where the internet was just full of casual websites posting random stuff. And you’d go to them maybe even multiple times a day to see if they had posted any new stories. It was something we all did when we were bored at our desks, at our jobs. Now there are no more desks. But there are still blogs.

There’s no theme, except quarantine. There’s no schedule, except people post every day whenever they want. As you might expect from a group of 80 people, post subjects vary. There are beauty tips, missives to Deadwood and Steven Universe, strategies to get through your pile of New Yorkers, and a regularly featured What Should You Do Tonight? I myself have posted about working from home with kids (it’s…fine), what help small businesses need right now, and Quarantine, an anthem sung to the tune of Dolly Parton’s, Jolene. (This level of blogging productivity hasn’t been seen by me since 2014.)

In a brief interview, cofounder Kevin Nguyen had this to say about Indoor Voices:

We started Indoor Voices because we were nostalgic for classic days of blogging, and partly as an inside joke. Then we realized that the blogs we missed felt like an inside joke that a small community was in on. So far, we’ve been really thrilled with the creative, chaotic energy that people have been putting forward. It’s writing for writing’s sake, and we’ve enjoyed seeing just how diverse and funny and strange that’s been. Probably helps that we’re all slowly going stir crazy.

Note also, Kevin’s first novel, New Waves, is finally out. It’s my most anticipated read of the year, but don’t take my word for it. Almost every publication that writes about books regularly listed it as anticipated as well.

Ken Burns Presents The Gene: An Intimate History

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 08, 2020

From Ken Burns and Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Gene: An Intimate History, a series about the history of genetics based on Mukherjee’s book of the same name. Here’s a trailer:

The series tells the story of the rapid evolution of genetic science from Gregor Mendel’s groundbreaking experiment in the 19th century to CRISPR, and the hope that newfound powers to alter DNA with pinpoint precision will transform the treatment of some of the world’s most complex and challenging diseases. The series also tackles the daunting ethical challenges that these technologies pose for humankind.

This looks great, especially if this clip about Nancy Wexler’s crusade to find a cure for Huntington’s disease is representative of the whole:

In 1968, Nancy Wexler’s mother was diagnosed with a rare genetic disease - Huntington’s. Facing a 50-50 chance of contracting Huntington’s herself, Wexler — a non-scientist — began an odyssey to find the gene that causes the disease. For three decades, Wexler searched for treatments but chose not to get tested. As time passed, she noticed changes in the way she moved. Finally, in early 2020, Wexler decided to face her fears.

Part 1 of the series is now streaming on PBS with part 2 set to premiere next week.

Living Through Coronavirus Around the World

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 13, 2020

YouTube channel Great Big Story (which is a frequent source of videos for kottke.org) recently asked eight filmmakers in eight different countries to report in on how they, their families, and their communities are doing during the pandemic.

Our daily routines have been disrupted, and many of us have been separated from friends, family and work. We checked in on eight households to see how they are feeling, how they are passing the time, how they are keeping connected to others, and what they are looking forward to in a post-pandemic world. From Beijing, China, to Mashhad, Iran, to Melbourne, Australia, here’s how we’re all working through this thing, one day at a time, together.

They’re asking viewers to donate to the UN’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organization. Google is matching $2 for every $1 donated, so please join me in donating if you are able.

See also Pandemic Stories from Around the World, sent in by kottke.org readers.

Can America Turn Our COVID-19 Failure into Some Sort of Success?

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 25, 2020

From Ed Yong at the Atlantic, a great article on the current state of the pandemic in the United States, what will happen over the next few months, how it will end, and what the aftermath will be.

With little room to surge during a crisis, America’s health-care system operates on the assumption that unaffected states can help beleaguered ones in an emergency. That ethic works for localized disasters such as hurricanes or wildfires, but not for a pandemic that is now in all 50 states. Cooperation has given way to competition; some worried hospitals have bought out large quantities of supplies, in the way that panicked consumers have bought out toilet paper.

Partly, that’s because the White House is a ghost town of scientific expertise. A pandemic-preparedness office that was part of the National Security Council was dissolved in 2018. On January 28, Luciana Borio, who was part of that team, urged the government to “act now to prevent an American epidemic,” and specifically to work with the private sector to develop fast, easy diagnostic tests. But with the office shuttered, those warnings were published in The Wall Street Journal, rather than spoken into the president’s ear. Instead of springing into action, America sat idle.

Rudderless, blindsided, lethargic, and uncoordinated, America has mishandled the COVID-19 crisis to a substantially worse degree than what every health expert I’ve spoken with had feared. “Much worse,” said Ron Klain, who coordinated the U.S. response to the West African Ebola outbreak in 2014. “Beyond any expectations we had,” said Lauren Sauer, who works on disaster preparedness at Johns Hopkins Medicine. “As an American, I’m horrified,” said Seth Berkley, who heads Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “The U.S. may end up with the worst outbreak in the industrialized world.”

If you’ve been reading obsessively about the pandemic, there’s not a lot new in here, but Yong lays the whole situation out very clearly and succinctly (he easily could have gone twice as long). The section on potential after effects was especially interesting:

Pandemics can also catalyze social change. People, businesses, and institutions have been remarkably quick to adopt or call for practices that they might once have dragged their heels on, including working from home, conference-calling to accommodate people with disabilities, proper sick leave, and flexible child-care arrangements. “This is the first time in my lifetime that I’ve heard someone say, ‘Oh, if you’re sick, stay home,’” says Adia Benton, an anthropologist at Northwestern University. Perhaps the nation will learn that preparedness isn’t just about masks, vaccines, and tests, but also about fair labor policies and a stable and equal health-care system. Perhaps it will appreciate that health-care workers and public-health specialists compose America’s social immune system, and that this system has been suppressed.

Aspects of America’s identity may need rethinking after COVID-19. Many of the country’s values have seemed to work against it during the pandemic. Its individualism, exceptionalism, and tendency to equate doing whatever you want with an act of resistance meant that when it came time to save lives and stay indoors, some people flocked to bars and clubs. Having internalized years of anti-terrorism messaging following 9/11, Americans resolved to not live in fear. But SARS-CoV-2 has no interest in their terror, only their cells.

I really hope that Betteridge’s law is wrong about that headline I wrote.

Decrease in Economic Activity Due to COVID-19 Reduced Air Pollution and Saved Lives

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 11, 2020

COVID-19 Pollution

Stanford professor Marshall Burke, who does research on the social and economic impacts of environmental change, wrote a post about how the decrease in economic activity in China due to COVID-19 quarantine and other countermeasures resulted in a significant drop in air pollution, which Burke estimates will save more lives than deaths caused by COVID-19.

Putting these numbers together [see table below for details] yields some very large reductions in premature mortality. Using the He et al 2016 estimates of the impact of changes in PM on mortality, I calculate that having 2 months of 10ug/m3 reductions in PM2.5 likely has saved the lives of 4,000 kids under 5 and 73,000 adults over 70 in China. Using even more conservative estimates of 10% reduction in mortality per 10ug change, I estimate 1400 under-5 lives saved and 51700 over-70 lives saved. Even under these more conservative assumptions, the lives saved due to the pollution reductions are roughly 20x the number of lives that have been directly lost to the virus.

And his conclusion is not that viral pandemics are a net positive for the world (you will see people naively arguing this, siding a little too closely with a snapping Thanos for my comfort) but that situations like this remind us, as Burke summarized on Twitter: “the way our economies operate absent pandemics has massive hidden health costs”:

But it seems overall incorrect and foolhardy to conclude that pandemics are good for health — and again I emphasize that the effects calculated above are just the health benefits of the air pollution changes, and do not account for the many other short- or long-term negative consequences of social and economic disruption on health or other outcomes. But the calculation is perhaps a useful reminder of the often-hidden health consequences of the status quo, i.e. the substantial costs that our current way of doing things exacts on our health and livelihoods.

Graphic above via NASA.

The Long Life and Fun Times of Roger Angell

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 18, 2020

This interview with living legend Roger Angell, whose writing first appeared in the New Yorker in 1944 and is still writing for them at the age of 99, is full of gems like this one, when he interview Benny Goodman as a high schooler:

Then in high school, at Pomfret, I tried out for the school newspaper, and one of the first people I interviewed was Benny Goodman. I was fourteen or fifteen, and I went to the Madhattan Room, at the Hotel Pennsylvania, where he was playing, and one of the people there was S.J. Perelman, a young humor writer my mother knew, and he knew Benny Goodman.

I asked Benny Goodman if I could interview him, and he said, “Come to my hotel room tomorrow, at one in the afternoon.” So I went up at one and rang his bell and rang it and rang it, and then he came to the door wearing his jockey shorts and his eyeglasses, very sleepy. I’d woken him up. My lede on the story was “Great bandleaders get to sleep late.”

And this one, about Joseph Mitchell:

The thing about Joe Mitchell is that he knew everything. No subject escaped him, from James Joyce to horse breeding, backcountry life, culture. A.J. Liebling, his close friend and colleague, resented this. So one day Liebling is wandering around Sixth Avenue — it still had the elevated track — and there was a little taxidermy shop under the subway, and he goes in and finds a little set of bones. The owner says, “These are very interesting. They’re the bones of a young male opossum, which has a bone in its penis.” Liebling buys this collection of bones for six dollars and brings it over to the office wrapped up in a paper bag. Mitchell is typing. Liebling knocks on the door, comes in, unwraps the package, and puts it on the table. Mitchell looks at it and says, “Pecker bone of a young male opossum — anything you want to know about that?”

FRONTLINE - Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 20, 2020

From PBS’s FRONTLINE comes Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos, a feature-length documentary investigation into Amazon and its founder.

Jeff Bezos is not only the richest man in the world, he has built a business that is without precedent in the history of American capitalism. His power to shape everything from the future of work to the future of commerce to the future of technology is unrivaled. As politicians and regulators around the world start to consider the global impact of Amazon — and how to rein in Bezos’ power — FRONTLINE investigates how he executed a plan to build one of the most influential economic and cultural forces in the world.

One of the 10 key takeaways from the film is how deliberately Amazon attacked the publishing industry:

“Amazon took over a large market share of the publishing industry very, very fast,” James Marcus, a former senior Amazon.com editor, tells FRONTLINE — a situation that he says prompted publishers to realize, “‘Oh, wait a minute, they’re our partner, but they now have the beginnings of a boot on our windpipe’.” Inside the company, the team had launched a strategy that some called “the Gazelle Project,” because they’d heard Bezos wanted them to pursue publishers the way a cheetah pursues a sickly gazelle. “Well, you don’t go after the strongest,” Randy Miller, who ran the European book team, says of the strategy. “He’s like, ‘The cheetah. The cheetah looks for the weak, looks for the sick, looks for the small.’” That way, by the time it comes to take on the publishers at the top, “the noise has gotten back to them. They’re going to know this is coming, and chances are you may be able to settle that without a full-on war.”

Here’s a trailer but the whole thing is available online, embedded above and on YouTube.

A Lego Justin Trudeau Talks to Children About the Covid-19 Pandemic

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 07, 2020

During a press conference last month, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spent a couple of minutes talking directly to the nation’s children, acknowledging their hardships and role in mitigating the effects of the pandemic. Tyler Walsh and his two sons spent a week making this Lego stop motion animation of Trudeau’s address, something that kids might be more likely to watch.

In an interview with the CBC, Walsh described their process:

“[It took] a fair amount of time and hundreds and hundreds of photos,” he said.

Each working to their strengths, Walsh said the kids were primarily in charge of piecing together the Lego elements — such as a podium, as well as hair and a bearded head for Trudeau — to bring the set to life.

“I would have questions for them like, ‘I need a sad kid. Do we have any sad kid Lego heads?’”

Trudeau himself responded to the Lego version of his address:

This is really great, Tyler. I think my kids — and a whole lot of others — will get a kick out of this, all while hearing how they can help out too. Thanks for helping spread that message.

(via @auntmaureen)

Was the World’s Oldest Person a Fraud?

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 18, 2020

Maybe it was all the Guinness Book of World Records reading when I was a kid, but I probably pay more attention than many people to the list of the world’s oldest people. At 122 years and 164 days, Jeanne Calment is the oldest person to have ever lived. At the time of her death, she had lived for almost 5 years longer than the previous record-holder, which I have always found a little fishy. So it was with great interest that I read Lauren Collins’ New Yorker piece on a recent challenge to Calment’s age.

The passage of time often quells controversy, but, in the Calment case, it only unsettled the dust. As the world’s population continued to grow, the cohort of people living to the age of a hundred and twenty-two did not. More than two decades after Calment’s death, her record still stood, making her a more conspicuous outlier with every year that went by. Either she had lived longer than any human being ever or she had executed an audacious fraud. As one observer wrote, “Both are highly unlikely life stories but one is true.” In “Les 120 Ans de Jeanne Calment,” her validators had reproduced the only picture known to exist of the two Calment women as adults. In it, Yvonne appears to be sitting on a windowsill. Jeanne stands to her left, behind a table, looking down at a basket of flowers and a wrapped gift. The women are both wearing white shirts and dark sweaters. Accompanying the photograph was a tantalizing caption: “Jeanne and Yvonne, her daughter. Which one is which?”

I won’t spoil the ending, but if you’re aware of Betteridge’s law you may already have a good idea what it is.

Samuel L. Jackson: “Stay the Fuck at Home!”

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 02, 2020

On Jimmy Kimmel the other night, F-bomb maestro Samuel L. Jackson read a new short story/poem by Adam Mansbach (author of Go the Fuck to Sleep) called Stay the Fuck at Home to promote safe behavior during the pandemic. You can skip to about 6:00 to hear the story:

The book isn’t available for sale, so Jackson, Kimmel, and Mansbach are asking people to donate to Feeding America.

Exponential Growth and Epidemics

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 10, 2020

From 3blue1brown’s Grant Sanderson, this is an excellent quick explanation of exponential growth and how we should think about it in relation to epidemics like COVID-19. Depending on how rusty your high school math is, you might need to rewind a couple of times to fully grasp the explanation, but you should persevere and watch the whole thing.

The most important bit is at the end, right around the 7:45 mark, when he talks about how limiting person-to-person exposure and decreasing the probability of exposures becoming infections can have a huge effect on the total number of people infected because the growth is exponential. If large numbers of people start doing things like limiting travel, cancelling large gatherings, social distancing, and washing their hands frequently, the total number of infections could fall by several orders of magnitude, making the exponential work for us, not against us. Small efforts have huge results. If, as in the video, you’re talking about 100 million infected in two months (at the current transmission rate) vs. 400,000 (at the lowered rate) and if the death rate of COVID-19 is between 1-3%, you’re looking at 1-3 million dead vs. 4-12,000 dead.

So let’s start flattening that exponential curve. South Korea and China both seem to have done it, so there’s no reason the rest of the world can’t through aggressive action. (thx, david)

Update: Vox has a nice explainer on what epidemiologists refer to as “flattening the curve”.

Yet the speed at which the outbreak plays out matters hugely for its consequences. What epidemiologists fear most is the health care system becoming overwhelmed by a sudden explosion of illness that requires more people to be hospitalized than it can handle. In that scenario, more people will die because there won’t be enough hospital beds or ventilators to keep them alive.

A disastrous inundation of hospitals can likely be averted with protective measures we’re now seeing more of — closing schools, canceling mass gatherings, working from home, self-quarantine, avoiding crowds - to keep the virus from spreading fast.

Epidemiologists call this strategy of preventing a huge spike in cases “flattening the curve”.

Here’s the relevant graphic explanation from Our World in Data’s COVID-19 package:

Flatten The Curve

Stream Helvetica & Other Design Documentaries for Free

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 23, 2020

Thinking that some people might need high quality entertainment while shut inside due to the COVID-19 pandemic, filmmaker Gary Hustwit is streaming his films online for free, one film per week. First up (from Mar 17-24) is Helvetica, his documentary on typography and graphic design. Here’s the trailer:

Click through to watch the whole film. (via daring fireball)

Visualizing the History of Pandemics

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 19, 2020

Visualize Pandemics

From Nicholas LePan, Visualizing the History of Pandemics.

The practice of quarantine began during the 14th century, in an effort to protect coastal cities from plague epidemics. Cautious port authorities required ships arriving in Venice from infected ports to sit at anchor for 40 days before landing — the origin of the word quarantine from the Italian “quaranta giorni”, or 40 days.

One of the first instances of relying on geography and statistical analysis was in mid-19th century London, during a cholera outbreak. In 1854, Dr. John Snow came to the conclusion that cholera was spreading via tainted water and decided to display neighborhood mortality data directly on a map. This method revealed a cluster of cases around a specific pump from which people were drawing their water from.

While the interactions created through trade and urban life play a pivotal role, it is also the virulent nature of particular diseases that indicate the trajectory of a pandemic.

One of my big takeaways from the Tracking Infectiousness section of the piece is: holy shit, look at how contagious measles is! An R0 of 16! (The common flu is about 1.5 and ebola is 2.0.) And people want to keep their children from getting vaccinated for this?!

Dr. Seuss’s Fox in Socks Rapped Over Dr. Dre’s Beats

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 09, 2020

As someone who a) thinks Dr. Dre was an amazing producer, and b) read Dr. Seuss’s Fox in Socks to his children roughly 1 million times (enough to be able to, eventually, get through the entire book at a comically high rate of speed w/o any tongue twisting slip-ups), I thought Wes Tank’s video of himself rapping Fox in Socks over Dre’s beats was really fun and surprisingly well done.

Tank has also done Green Eggs and Ham (over the beats from Forgot About Dre) and The Lorax. (thx, andrew)

A Kid-Friendly Explanation of How Hand Washing with Soap Clobbers Coronavirus

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 19, 2020

I don’t know if they specifically had this in mind when making it, but this video from Vox about the importance of hand washing with soap to kill coronavirus is very kid-friendly. From my pals at the excellent The Kid Should See This

Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water. This is the very best way to kill viruses like coronavirus. But why? What’s happening on our hands when we use soap and water? And why do we have to wash with soap for 20 seconds? Why not ten?

The glow-in-the-dark explanation of the 20-second rule was extremely convincing.

See also How to Wash Your Hands Properly and Washing Your Hands Is Important Because Soap “Absolutely Annihilates” Coronavirus. (via tksst)

Update: Mark Rober did an experiment with a powder that glows under UV and can be transferred from surface to surface (or hand to surface). You can see the germs spreading from person to person and all over that classroom. Yikes.

Mug

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 28, 2020

This slow and meditative video features a potter making a mug from scratch. There’s no dialogue but don’t skimp on the sound…headphones are best. I could have watched this for an hour. (via @craigmod)

Photos of an Abandoned & Decaying Ohio Mall, Once the World’s Largest

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 04, 2020

Randall Mall

Randall Mall

Randall Mall

When it opened in 1977, Randall Park Mall in Ohio was (briefly) the largest shopping mall in the world. But the place was never a huge success and was finally closed in 2009 in the wake of the financial crisis. For six years it lay abandoned and during that time, photographer Michael Christopher captured the decaying building inside and out for his book, Abandoned America.

Whichard Real Estate, who purchased the mall in 2006 for $6 million, was $200,000 behind on property taxes in 2008 and had multiple mortgages on the mall. The next February, Sears announced it was closing its Randall Park location, and with that the mall’s last anchor was gone. The few struggling stores inside the mall, many of which were owned by small business people doing their best to keep the mall afloat, were vacated a month later in March of 2009. The power was shut off in May, and save for the dusty sunbeams streaking through the skylights on sunny afternoons, the mall went dark.

The mall was finally torn down in 2014 and the site is fittingly now home to an Amazon fulfillment center.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag Play to be Streamed Online

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 07, 2020

Fleabag Play

A recording of a live performance of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s play Fleabag (on which the TV show is based) is going to be streamed online to raise money for those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Said Waller-Bridge:

I hope this filmed performance of Fleabag can help raise money while providing a little theatrical entertainment in these isolated times. Thank you to all our partners and to the creative team who have waived their royalties from this production to raise money for such vital causes in this unbelievably challenging situation. All money raised will support the people throughout our society who are fighting for us on the frontlines and those financially devastated by the crisis, including those in the theatre community. Thank you in advance to those who donate. Now go get into bed with Fleabag! It’s for charity!

It’s available in the UK & Ireland right now and will appear on Amazon Prime in the US on April 10. (thx, caroline)

Update: Here it is on Amazon — “all proceeds, outside of taxes, go to charities supporting those affected by COVID-19 pandemic”.

Pandemic Paradoxically Offers Relief from Depression & Anxiety for Some

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 06, 2020

This is an interesting piece by The Daily Beast’s Laura Bradley, who is one of a number of people who have seen their symptoms of anxiety and depression actually lessen during the pandemic. Part of it is the odd sense of joy experienced by some people going through disasters, but there are other possible explanations:

“I’m used to being in a room alone with my thoughts for an extended period of time,” Weinstein said, adding that under quarantine, “You kind of run through the gamut of, ‘OK what if I’m not out of here in 20 days; what if I’m not out of here in 40 days; what if I’m not out here in 60 days? What will happen to me?” Due to her history of depression and anxiety, Weinstein is also used to, as she put it, “shrinking away from life” for a period of time.

“These are thought processes I am used to having and welcome — and know how to cut off in a kind, loving way after they’ve been around a little too long,” Weinstein said.

It would also make sense that if your depression or anxiety focuses on being out in a busy and complicated world, dealing with a greatly simplified situation might be beneficial. Either way, this is another reminder of the infinite number of ways that different people can react to a crisis.

Tracing Starling Murmurations Through the Sky

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 01, 2020

Back in November, Patrick Tanguay and I posted about Xavi Bou’s Ornitographies project, photographs of the paths traced by birds in the sky. Now Bou has released a video extension of the project, which shows the paths of starlings wheeling & swerving through the sky in huge groups called murmurations. Soothing soundtrack by Kristina Dutton. (via dunstan orchard)

Media Paywalls Dropped for COVID-19 Crisis Coverage

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 11, 2020

In recent years, many media outlets have joined publications like the WSJ and NY Times in erecting paywalls around their online offerings, giving visitors access to a few articles a month before asking them to pay for unlimited access. Due to the continuing worldwide COVID-19/coronavirus crisis and in order to make information about the pandemic more accessible to the public, several publications have dropped their paywalls for at least some of their coronavirus coverage (thanks to everyone who responded to my tweet about this).

Among them are The Atlantic, WSJ, Talking Points Memo, Globe and Mail, Seattle Times, Miami Herald (and other McClatchy-owned properties), Toronto Star, Stat, Dallas Morning News, Medium, NY Times, Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor and several medical/science journals. Notably, The Guardian relies on online subscription revenue but doesn’t put anything behind a paywall, including their coronavirus coverage.

In addition, a group of archivists have created an online directory of scientific papers related to coronaviruses, available for free download.

“These articles were always written to be shared with as many people as possible,” Reddit user “shrine,” an organizer of the archive, said in a call. “From every angle that you look at it, [paywalled research] is an immoral situation, and it’s an ongoing tragedy.”

Kudos to those media organizations for doing the right thing — this information can save people’s lives. Let’s hope others (*cough* Washington Post) will soon follow suit. And if you find the coverage helpful, subscribe to these outlets!

BTW, like The Guardian, kottke.org is supported by readers just like you who contribute to make sure that every single thing on the site is accessible to everyone. If you’re a regular reader, please consider supporting this experiment in openness.

Update: Added the NY Times to the list above. I am also hearing that many European papers are not dropping their paywalls in the face of the crisis.

Update: Added several media outlets to the list, including Washington Post and Chicago Tribune. At this point, it seems to be standard practice now (at least in the US & Canada) so this will be the final update. (thx, @maschweisguth)

Corn with a Pearl Earring

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 21, 2020

Corn with a Pearl Earring

From artist Nanan Kang, Corn with a Pearl Earring. I have a bit of a thing for riffs on Vermeer’s masterpiece. See also Girl with a Pearl Earring and Point-and-Shoot Camera, The Girl with the Grande Iced Latte, Rihanna with a Pearl Earring, Girl with a Pearl Earring at the beach, and a Lego version of the painting. (via colossal)

Update: This is fun (courtesy of @jschulenklopper):

In Dutch (Vermeer’s native language) this one is even better. The original painting is called “Meisje met de parel” in Dutch, and corn is “mais”. So this one could be named “Maisje met de parel” which is pronounced almost identically.

How to Shop Safely in a Pandemic

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 26, 2020

Note: Please check the updates below for some important corrections to some of the information in this video.

From Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen MD, a video on how to ensure that your grocery shopping experience is as safe as possible and to avoid potential COVID-19 infection from plastic and metal surfaces. I’m going to be honest with you: a lot of this seems like overkill (as it should — see the Paradox of Preparation). However, this is also pretty much what I’ve been doing after grocery shopping for the past 2 weeks because I am a fastidious motherfucker1 with plenty of time to wipe down groceries. If it comes down to a choice between watching 7 more minutes of The Mandalorian or wiping down my groceries before putting them in the fridge, I’m gonna wipe them groceries. Baby Yoda can wait.

See also this PDF from Crumpton Group about how to keep your household free of the outside effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Household members should understand that their principal effort should be directed towards isolating the inside of the home from the pandemic effects outside. All physical thresholds of the home will serve as a cordon sanitaire. Strive to decontaminate everyone and everything to the best practical degree before entering.

Many of Dr. VanWingen’s recommendations mirror those in the PDF. See also expert guidance on COVID-19 and food safety. (thx, meg)

Update: I have not had a chance to read it yet (was attending to some other things this evening — family, trying to have some normalcy), but I’ve been told that this thread is a good response to the video above. I’ll have a closer look at it tomorrow.

Update: Ok, I’ve read Don Schaffner’s thread criticizing this video. At least I think this is the video he’s referring to because he never says it outright — which I’ll get to in a minute. (Schaffner is a professor in the food science department at Rutgers who I linked to the other day in my post on COVID-19 and food safety.) As he notes, there are a couple of factual errors and VanWingen does offer some dubious advice, particularly about washing food with soap (which I didn’t take seriously). I do not believe, however, that VanWingen was suggesting that people leave frozen items and perishables in a warm garage for 3 days and that the normal rules of food safety are somehow countermanded by potential coronavirus contamination. If you want to leave that box of Cheerios that you don’t need in the car for 3 days, go right ahead. He definitely should have been clearer on that point though.

But the bulk of VanWingen’s video was about how to handle your groceries and takeout food coming into your house to minimize the chance of infection. (And as I mentioned, much of it mirrors the advice in this document and in Dr. Michael Lin’s document from a couple of weeks ago — this isn’t just his opinon or my opinion.) If we are to take seriously a) the assumption that anyone could have COVID-19 (including yourself & grocery workers) that we are operating under w/r/t to handwashing & keeping a 6-foot distance, b) the preliminary results that suggest that SARS-CoV-2 can last on some surfaces for days, and c) that person-to-surface-to-person transfer of SARS-CoV-2 might result in infection (i.e. the reason we are doing all this handwashing and face not-touching), then we should be disinfecting surfaces that other people have been touching recently. Right? We should assume that all surfaces are contaminated. This doesn’t seem outlandish, especially when grocery stores are restocking shelves continuously — that bag of chips that you put into your cart may have been placed on the shelf only 30 minutes before. How is disinfecting your Oreos package when you get home from the store a bad idea? Sure, wash your hands before you eat, but if you have kids, you know how futile that can be sometimes, especially when Oreos are involved. So why not just clean the package? Ditto with transferring takeout food to new containers and giving it a blast in the microwave to warm it up.

Schaffner’s stance is that most surfaces aren’t contaminated to a high degree, which is undoubtably true. Having watched the video & read Schaffner’s advice (and other advice by other experts), where your personal comfort level with making sure the surfaces you and your family come into contact to are disinfected is up to you. Ultimately, advice from experts is still advice and you have to figure out whether it works for you. It’s easy to believe you should wash your hands frequently because that’s universal advice. But “you should disinfect surfaces you touch” and “you don’t have to worry too much about disinfecting your grocery packages” are genuinely conflicting bits of advice from well-meaning experts! You’ve gotta use your noggin and make up your own mind, based on your personal idea of risk and safety. It’s gonna land differently with different people.

Finally, I’m going to get a little cranky here, but I found Schaffner’s overall tone in the first few tweets of that thread mocking, ungenerous, and unhelpful. Instead of gently offering alternative authoritative advice, he subtweeted (by refusing to link to the video and calling Dr. VanWingen not by his name but referring to him as “the video MD”) and made fun of VanWingen’s outfit. I know it must be frustrating to see what you perceive as misinformation out there, but we do not need Doctor vs Doctor battles here. Everyone’s just going to get defensive and dig their heels in. </cranky>

Update: From Joseph Allen of Harvard’s School of Public Health, Don’t panic about shopping, getting delivery or accepting packages.

Yes, the virus can be detected on some surfaces for up to a day, but the reality is that the levels drop off quickly. For example, the article shows that the virus’s half-life on stainless steel and plastic was 5.6 hours and 6.8 hours, respectively. (Half-life is how long it takes the viral concentration to decrease by half, then half of that half, and so on until it’s gone.)

And here’s how to take reasonable precautions when getting a package delivery or going to the grocery store:

You can leave that cardboard package at your door for a few hours - or bring it inside and leave it right inside your door, then wash your hands again. If you’re still concerned there was any virus on the package, you could wipe down the exterior with a disinfectant, or open it outdoors and put the packaging in the recycling can. (Then wash your hands again.)

What about going to the grocery store? The same approach applies.

Shop when you need to (keeping six feet from other customers) and load items into your cart or basket. Keep your hands away from your face while shopping, and wash them as soon as you’re home. Put away your groceries, and then wash your hands again. If you wait even a few hours before using anything you just purchased, most of the virus that was on any package will be significantly reduced. If you need to use something immediately, and want to take extra precautions, wipe the package down with a disinfectant. Last, wash all fruits and vegetables as you normally would.

Important caveat: the coronavirus half-life times are for room temperature. For colder temperatures (like in the fridge or especially the freezer), the virus will last longer. So maybe wipe down that bag of frozen peas even if you’re not going to use them for a couple of days.

  1. Hey, if you don’t know what you should be doing in a certain situation w/r/t to coronavirus, just ask your most detail-oriented friend. You know, the one who shows up to things on time and is usually a fussy pain in your ass. They’ll have a plan all ready to go and will be happy to share it with you because they’ve been waiting YEARS for some shit like this to happen. NOW IS OUR TIME TO SHINE!

Freeride Skiing at Home

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 05, 2020

In the northern hemisphere, the Covid-19 pandemic ramped up right at the tail end of the ski & ride season, so many skiers and snowboarders had to cut their seasons short.1 Philipp Klein Herrero decided to take one more run — in his living room.

Just before the current health situation locked us in, I was about to go Freeriding with my family. It was supposed to be the big adventure of the year, the one I had been eagerly awaiting for a year. Therefore, the lockdown had me thinking about skiing the whole time, so I started to think how I could ski without leaving my living room.

The result is a cute stop motion hike to the top of a mountain followed by a ski down. As my kids would say: “sick!” (via the kid should see this)

  1. Here in VT, they even had to close all of the ski hills & resorts to uphill travel (i.e. skinning or snowshoeing up to ski down) to discourage people from travelling (from out of state!) to do it. They’ve closed all the mountain biking trails and it’s probably just a matter of time before they close hiking trails as well.