Hospitals, politics, viral mutations, blood donations

Thank you for serving our communities

March 24: “According to the current research, the virus that causes COVID-19 has a low “error rate,” meaning that its pace of mutation remains slow despite its rapid spread. Because it remains more or less stable as it travels through hundreds of thousands of patients, researchers state that it is less likely to become more dangerous (or less) as it spreads.

March 26: “Landon Spradlin, a Virginia pastor who claimed the “mass hysteria” around the coronavirus pandemic was part of a media plot against Trump, has died from the virus.”

March 28 (NYT): “In a matter of days, [New York] city’s 911 system has been overwhelmed by calls for medical distress apparently related to the virus. Typically, the system sees about 4,000 Emergency Medical Services calls a day. On [March 27], dispatchers took more than 7,000 calls — a volume not seen since the Sept. 11 attacks. The record for amount of calls in a day was broken three times in the last week.”

March 30: “General Electric factory workers launched two separate protests demanding that the company convert its jet engine factories to make ventilators. At GE’s Lynn, Massachusetts aviation facility, workers held a silent protest, standing six feet apart. Union members at the company’s Boston headquarters also marched six feet apart, calling on the company to use its factories to help the country close its ventilator shortage amid the coronavirus pandemic.”

April 1: “It wasn’t government spending the Tea Party opposed, it was government spending on “losers,” imposed by the party that the “losers” had brought to power. That’s why a less-than-$1 trillion bill meant to stave off a depression garnered enough outrage from those on the right to start a movement, while a piece of legislation more than twice its size prompts celebration by those same people. The CARES Act, the largest spending bill in American history, sparked no Tea Party rebellions, no protesters in tricorne hats, no cries of “take our country back,” and no invocations of “Second Amendment remedies.” The illegitimacy of Democratic Party governance, not the size of the deficit, the reach of the federal government, or the fact of economic stimulus itself, was the problem.”

April 2: “The new policy states that the [period of not being eligible to donate blood] for MSM will change from 12 months to 3 months. These guidelines also apply to female donors who would have been deferred for having a sex with a man who has sex with men, as well as individuals who have recently received a tattoo or piercing. The FDA has also revised their policy in regards to people who engage in commercial sex work (CSW) and injection drug use (IDU), changing their indefinite deferrals to 3-month deferrals.” …So now we know what it takes to make that happen, huh.

April 4 (NYT): “As Dr. Rosenberg walked down the corridor, nearly every door he passed had a neon colored sticker warning that personal protective equipment must be worn inside. “COVID” was handwritten on many of them.” Notes from the dystopian landscape of NYC hospitals.

April 4 (also NYT): “…it breaks my heart that Americans who get sick enough to need them won’t know what desperate situations they face, nor will they understand what ventilators can do to help, and what they can never fix. As hard as the facts may be, knowledge will make us less afraid.” Medical information about how this lung failure works.

Ways to help, things to do, Eurovisions to watch

I’m watching the recordings of Eurovisions past…and 2015 opens with a montage of “people in all different home countries making long-distance connections with each other” that, if you’re anything like me, will mean all of a sudden you need a minute, you’ve got something in your eyes.

A set of productive, helpful, or at least generally non-awful links:

Folding@home lets you donate your computer’s spare processing power to disease-fighting research. Since March 10, that includes simulations to design potential treatments for COVID-19.

If the program gives you any trouble or doesn’t pick up much to do, try World Community Grid, actively working on AIDS, tuberculosis, childhood cancer, and more. That’s the one I’ve been running on-and-off for more than a decade. (Full disclosure, it’s a referral link….but the only thing I get out of it is a 50x50px image to commemorate how many people I’ve referred.)

And if you have money to spare, Doctors Without Borders is one of the organizations that will make good use of it.

History’s Deadliest Viruses Illustrated to Scale.” (Illustration.)

Finally, some personal posts about people’s medical experiences. Not an endorsement of specific treatments, just a recommendation to read them, and decide if any of it would be personally helpful for you to explore further.

“The important thing to note here is that lysine is not immune-system-boosting in the vague ‘we hope it does something but we aren’t sure what’ way of many herbs; lysine, as an amino acid, is a basic building block for immune cells, particularly antibodies.

I’ve been seeing a lot of people who don’t normally worry about lung complexities ask questions about it, and my lungs are also going through their change of season crankiness, so now seems a really good time to write up some notes about things I’ve found helpful.”

A monumental Fluffdate before the solemn link roundup

Earlier this afternoon…a breakthrough.

I keep the fluff’s brush on the couch, so when he comes close enough I can hold it out for him to sniff. Sometimes even get away with a light stroke — not enough to actually reach any tangles, all it achieves is reassuring him that it’s Not Dangerous — before he darts away.

So he hops down from the windowsill, and I offer the brush for the usual investigation, and…

For a solid five minutes he just rolled around under the brush, twisting so I could get different angles, head butting up against my arm. There was, briefly but unmistakably, purring.

At first I was sure he’d lose his nerve if I reached for the phone to take any pictures. Then I risked it. He stuck around. I snapped these adorable shots. He kept it up.

It has been almost exactly 51 week since I brought him home. Just shy of a solid year. Six months ago, when people asked if he was letting me pet him yet, I told them it would be at least another six months — well, look at him now.

I got a fair amount of loose fur out of his coat. Even managed to do a bit of bare-handed skritching, long enough for me to confirm that he is Very Soft, before I got a light swat to let me know he was Done. (He sat around on the couch with me for a while afterward, though, so it wasn’t like he was mad about it.)

Wonder how long it’ll take before he comes back for more. I guess we’ll find out. Bet it won’t be as long as 51 weeks this time, though.


…the rest of this is COVID-19 news links, ordered by date.

(So, a timeline of what it’s like to live through the point in every disaster movie where the experts say “we’ve scienced up some great preventative measures here, but please, you have to do them Right Now or it’ll be too late.”)

March 11: “From a woman whose symptoms started with a fever, to a man who said he was an inch from death, coronavirus survivors have begun speaking out about the worldwide pandemic.

March 18: “Gen. Dave Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, confirmed that military cargo planes were moving coronavirus testing kits, but did not give specific details during a Wednesday briefing at the Pentagon. The general acknowledged that ‘we’ve just made a pretty significant movement into Memphis.’” …From Italy. You know, they need those in Italy.

March 22: “People say Contagion is prescient. We just saw the science. The whole epidemiological community has been warning everybody for the past 10 or 15 years that it wasn’t a question of whether we were going to have a pandemic like this. It was simply when.” Interview with Dr. Larry Brilliant, the epidemiologist who helped eradicate smallpox.

March 23: “Product distributed by Diamond [i.e. comics, especially floppy single issues, to local comic shops] and slated for an on-sale date of April 1st or later will not be shipped to retailers until further notice.

March 24: “This particular group of Chicago workers was fed up with [Amazon] failing to provide paid time off or vacation it promised to part-time workers. They organized; Amazon resisted — and at last, the coronavirus acted as tiebreaker.” Good for them.

March 24 again: “‘We saw his press conference. It was on a lot, actually,’ she said. ‘Trump kept saying it was basically pretty much a cure.’ […] They mixed a small amount of the substance with liquid to drink. Within 20 minutes, both fell ill. Her husband could not be revived in hospital and she remains in critical care.” It’s been obvious for years that Trump is a compulsive liar, and everyone who’s still ignoring that gets horrifically damaged by it eventually, but this must be some kind of record for the fastest trajectory from “trusting something he said” to “horrible consequences.”

March 25: “A 52-year-old man [from Durban, South Africa] who allegedly tested positive for Covid-19 but went back to work, has been arrested for attempted murder. ” Sounds right. If a country has specific bioterrorism laws, time to start charging people under those, too.

Various dates, on each individual photo: Reuters slideshow of the temporary hospitals and medical facilities being hastily set up around the world. It is tragic that we need these, but amazing to see the competence and dedication that’s getting them up.

May I offer you some non-awful links in this trying time

First, a quick Fluffdate: As you may remember, back in February my cat had a Vet Ordeal, and came home with, among other things, a therapeutic shave.

After he got back I rearranged some things around the apartment…which opened up The Warm Spot.

It’s a part of the floor that’s right over a hot-water pipe. Unsurprisingly, this is Marshmallow Fluff’s new favorite place to sleep. Even before I put a blanket there.

Well, as of last night, the fluff’s fur has grown back enough that he’s officially resumed a position I’ve only seen from longhair cats: Sleeping On Your Back To Air Out Your Tummy.

Look at that conked-out little face. Look at those cozy little paws.

Some links to other uplifting things to look at:

Scribd, a service for digital books/audiobooks/etc, is offering free 30-day trials with no credit card information necessary. I’m listening to books that my library doesn’t have on Overdrive, starting with Gideon the Ninth. (It’s extremely good, you guys.)

ComiXology Unlimited has gone up to free 60-day trials. (Check out the PDF downloads of But I’m A Cat Person, let’s find out what kind of royalties I get from Unlimited readership.)

Streaming platforms during quarantine (video)

Arthur Shappey, of Cabin Pressure, doing a series of “Cabin Fever” check-ins from OJS Airlines self-isolation (also video)

Twin toddlers having a solemn discussion of quarantine (adorable video)

People with recent construction or remodeling projects are advised to check your leftover supplies — some are finding unused masks. (Call hospitals before bringing anything in, to make sure you have the kind they need.)

Someone kindly masked up the Make Way For Ducklings statues in the Boston Public Garden. (Tiny fake masks, not human-sized real masks, don’t worry.)

Vintage photo of a family masked-up against the 1918 flu epidemic. That’s the archival entry on Calisphere — I saw it on Tumblr but wanted to be sure it was legit. (The Tumblr version was inset with a close-up on the cat.)

Fun and thoughtful fandom links for your quarantine reading

Made my last outside-the-home trip for the foreseeable future, to Walgreens for meds and a couple other supplies. The shelves were out of thermometers…but on my way to the checkout I passed a couple of clerks discovering 4 of them from a box they just unearthed in the back. So I finally landed one.

(Didn’t feel feverish, but it was nice to have the numbers to back it up. Also, clocked in at a slightly lower temperature than what the Red Cross got last Tuesday, suggesting I was already ramping up to the obvious fever I had Wednesday. But, yeah, all good now.)

Day Job is closed until further notice. Fortunately, part of their emergency-closure protocol is that we all still get paid. Every employee in every job should have the right to that. And those of you staffing pharmacies and grocery stores deserve higher wages and hazard pay.


All links from weeks/months ago, with no current events whatsoever:

Jenny Nicholson really nails a lot of what I thought was weird about Frozen 2. (It’s pretty enjoyable anyway, but still.) Plus a pitch for an alternate version that would be a lot of fun.

“Hence the Fansplaining Shipping Survey, which we launched on April 2, 2019, and discussed in Episode #97, “The Shipping Question.” It ran until April 16th and ultimately attracted 17,391 respondents. […] You can read the questions, download the raw data under a CC BY 4.0 license, and explore the cleaned-up data through an interactive visualization. This is the first of several pieces we’ll write analyzing the results.”

“The Language that Gets People to Give: Phrases that Predict Success on Kickstarter.” (One of the lessons is, that title should say “buy”, not “give”. It’s not a donation, it’s a preorder!)

“The point of me recounting all of this is to try and illustrate how much of the current hostility over fan content probably stems from that loss of content control. The toxicity of the purity discourse has made it hard for some of us to look for the root cause.”

The survey asked for participants to indicate what [online social-media fandom] platforms they use/used from a given list, and also to indicate a date range (e.g., Tumblr 2006-2018). I parsed those date ranges in order to determine for a given platform how many of our participants were active in a given year. ”

This document is made with the intention of keeping track of the issues the community has with [SmackJeeves] as it stands, be it from what functions the site has (or lacks), to issues with loading the site. Anyone is free to add issues they’re aware of that aren’t listed already.”

Meet the genderqueer asexual who has cataloged over a thousand mostly-queer webcomics.”

I happened to go over and check, and reader, it must have been the Sale Charts Gods looking over me, because what did I find except Raina Telgemeier’s new book Guts at the very top of the chart. Not the graphic novel bestseller list, not the kids bestseller list. THE REGULAR OLD BOOK/BOOK BESTSELLER CHARTS, with 76,216 copies sold that week. Looks like that 1 million copy first printing was a good idea.”

Non-COVID-19 linkspam (reproductive health, corruption, climate change, the scam of InfoWars)

So I’m reading this Scrooge McDuck comic, which was only written 30ish years ago, and some of the values dissonance is wild. “Wherever I go, there are blackguards who want to steal their fortune rather than work for it!” laments Scrooge, whose last three money-earning ventures involved cattle rustling on stolen land in Texas, homesteading on stolen land in Montana, and digging a gold mine on colonized land in South Africa.

…anyway, have a bunch of political links from the last couple months. Specific players and policies may have come and gone, but the overall themes are forever.

“Warren’s vision is deeply rooted in her policies solving the ills of society, whereas Sanders is calling for a social movement to upend the American political order as we know it. Then again, it’s hard to ignore that they back many of the same policies.

“During the Trump presidency, corruption has flourished in previously unthinkable ways, and at such a remarkable rate, that it’s almost impossible to keep it all straight—here’s what we know so far.

“Trump decided to skip a debate hosted by the network just before the Iowa caucuses in January 2016, and hold his own, competing event instead — a televised fundraiser for veterans. Shockingly enough, it turned out the event wasn’t quite on the level.” (He’s been ordered to pay back $2 million. Baby steps.)

“Their 2016 paper, “Wealth Inequality in the United States Since 1913,” distilled a century of data to answer one of modern capitalism’s murkiest mysteries: How rich are the rich in the world’s wealthiest nation? The answer—far richer than previously imagined—thrust the pair deep into the American debate over inequality.”

“America is one of the only developed countries in the world that pays people to donate blood, much of it sold abroad (70% of the world’s plasma is of US origin), and as commercial blood donations have soared, blood now accounts for 2% of the country’s exports — more than corn or soya.”

“The picture that emerges is of a system of staggering complexity, riddled with obstacles and cracks, that prioritizes babies over mothers, thwarts women at every turn, frustrates doctors and midwives, and incentivizes substandard care. It’s ‘the extreme example of a fragmented system that cares about women much more in the context of delivering a healthy baby than the mother’s health in and of itself.’

“I quit film school and moved nearly a thousand miles to Austin, Tex., fully invested in propagating his worldview. By the time I found myself seated next to [Alex] Jones speeding down the highway, I had seen enough of the inner workings of Infowars to know better.

“Veneto regional council, which is located on Venice’s Grand Canal, was flooded for the first time in its history on [November 12] — just after it rejected measures to combat climate change.”

The best-laid coronavirus plans…

Well, I gave blood, and then promptly started feeling sick, so I called the follow-up number today and they’re not using it. So much for that effort :(

…nobody panic, it’s just a sore throat and feeling mildly feverish/congested, no chronic cough. Glad I stocked up the cupboards, though, so I can play it safe and stay home for a bit.

On that note: it is weirding me out how baffled some people seem at the “stock up on 2 weeks’ worth of food” precaution. I don’t mean people saying they’re on a tight budget and can’t afford it, or that they’re in a shoebox apartment and there’s no space for it, or any other specific reason — I mean people going “2 weeks’ worth of food?! Who would ever buy/store such an Unreasonable Amount all at once??”

Like…if you think about a row of 14 breakfast smoothies in the fridge, a stack of 14 cans of soup in the cupboard, and a pile of 14 TV dinners in the freezer — that’s not some mind-boggling volume of food?

I don’t maintain that level at all times, but I definitely stock up enough that I’ve gone 2 weeks between grocery runs. And could stretch it out longer in an emergency. (The meals wouldn’t exactly be fancy, or, y’know, balanced, by the end…but, look, there’s a 10-pound bag of rice in the cupboard, that’ll keep you going for a while.)

Anyway. Gonna pass on the link to the COVID-19 information and advice on FlattenTheCurve.com. Directed at US residents, so there are parts that won’t apply if you don’t live here, but if you do, it rounds up basically all the actionable info I’ve seen anywhere else. (And “dammit, wash your hands” is always relevant.)