Respiration in the ’30s, virus images in the ’60s, ambulances in the ’70s, vaccines in the now

Virology and medical history links

The first images of a coronavirus were taken by June Almeida in the 1960’s. She was one of a group who submitted the findings to Science, which rejected the paper on the grounds of “that’s not a new discovery, that’s a flu virus and you took a bad picture.”

“In 1934, Wells and his wife, Mildred Weeks Wells, a physician, analyzed air samples and plotted a curve showing how the opposing forces of gravity and evaporation acted on respiratory particles. […] Randall paused at the curve they’d drawn. To her, it seemed to foreshadow the idea of a droplet-aerosol dichotomy, but one that should have pivoted around 100 microns, not 5.

Those men you see interviewed, they were the first EMTs, the first paramedics. Not just in Pittsburgh, but anywhere. The first “ambulance” driver may have been some poor Spanish conscript back in the 15th century, but the men who made up the first-ever ambulance squad with trained paramedics? Those guys are still around.” A 1970s (!!) success story about taking a job out of the hands of police, and putting it in the hands of professionals with actual relevant training.

“The [measles] outbreak began that September, when an infected passenger is thought to have flown to [Samoa] from New Zealand. Infection quickly spread among the island’s by then substantial population of unvaccinated children. According to Dr Katherine Gibney of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, one in every 150 babies aged between six and 11 months died.” This is the future that antivaxxers want.

Virology and medical present-day links

“Early reports showed high mortality from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), while current United States data mortality rates are lower, raising hope that new treatments and management strategies have improved outcomes. For instance, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show that 6.7% of cases resulted in death in April, compared with 1.9% in September.

“During the 2019 flu season from Sept. 29 to Dec. 28, the CDC reported more than 65,000 cases of influenza nationwide. During the same period this flu season, the agency reported 1,016 cases.” COVID keeps flourishing whenever we slack off on safety protocols, but hey, seems like even halfhearted anti-COVID measures can do a great job at blocking the flu.

“The strategy signals a shift from the past year, during which the Trump administration largely delegated responsibility for controlling the virus and reopening the economy to 50 governors, fracturing the nation’s response. Interviews with more than 100 health, political and community leaders around the country and a review of emails and other state government records offer a fuller picture of all that went wrong.

“I am concerned that the underrepresentation of Black people among those who have received the vaccine so far will lead to a further widening of racial disparities in Covid-19 infection and death rates. And so I share my journey from “no” to “yes,” my own #BlackWhysMatter, with whoever will listen.

“Oregon healthcare workers who were stranded in a snowstorm on Tuesday began administering leftover coronavirus vaccines to motorists on the side of the road rather than let the doses go to waste.” Heroes!

Family vac[cin]ations, the cat vs. the Horrible Strangers, reactions to Black Widow, Loki, Check Please!, Leverage: Redemption

Stuff about stuff that’s been up.

Family vac[cin]ations

My parents and brother came to town, making it the first time we’ve all been in one place for almost 2 years. (Parents have been vaccinated for a while, and they visited earlier in 2021. Brother is (a) young, (b) low-risk, and (c) not in a customer-facing position, so he only skated over the “2 weeks since second dose” theshhold just in time to get here.)

We visited a bunch of the local relatives. On one side, the grandparents who flatly refused to entertain unvaccinated visitors (so everyone’s had their shots). On the other, the grandparents who got their own shots as soon as possible, but were having unmasked indoor visits with my virulently antivaxxer aunt and her kids right up until they — the grandparents — tested positive.

Grandfather, who’d only had his first shot, got pretty sick and was hospitalized, but pulled through. Grandmother, who’d had both shots, barely got the sniffles, wouldn’t even have thought of getting tested if she didn’t live in the same house as a seriously-ill person. Aunt has only doubled down on how these fraudulent vaccines don’t even do anything, you guys.

I, uh, timed my part of the visit to not encounter the antivaxxer aunt.

Banging and drilling

A few relatives came over to my apartment to do some handiwork projects. Which meant the Fluff had his space invaded by Horrible Strangers, who talked and hammered and drilled and vacuumed and generally made Horrible Noises.

This cat was not a happy camper.

Normally he hides under the daybed, crouched on top of the boxes I keep under there. This time, he managed to shove one of the boxes away from the wall, so he could squeeze himself in behind it. Note, these are the boxes with the Leif & Thorn books in them — they’re heavy.

It took a solid 2 hours after the Horrible Strangers left before the fluff poked his nose out of his hiding spot. And then he went back under. It was a few more hours, and a few more exploratory peeks, before he was walking around the place like normal again.

Poor guy. He’s had such a nice year, and now this.

Black Widow (no specific spoilers)

Family had a bunch of Potential Outings planned, but the only one we actually did was seeing Black Widow on the big screen.

The building had small groups of other patrons; our theater was flat-out empty except for us. (So if you tentatively want to catch a movie but are worried about large groups in enclosed spaces…give it a shot.)

The movie was good! Mostly takes place during the period when Natasha was on the run after Civil War, gives her a solo adventure that fleshes out her backstory — both parts we knew about, and parts that are new. Funny, heartwarming when it wanted to be, makes good use of that Disney “sure, blow up all the cars you want” money.

I’m usually more into the magic and sci-fi sides of the MCU, and this was a Cap-style action-spy-thriller, no super-science beyond what you can use for “excuses to do cooler stunts.” So it wasn’t an instant favorite the way Captain Marvel was.

But it was good at what it wanted to be. It wasn’t a perfunctory “I want to support the general idea of more female superheroes getting their own solo movies” thing. It was fun, and I liked it. Marvel did good.

Speaking of Marvel:

Loki (also no specific spoilers)

The whole 6-episode series is out now, and I…

…didn’t…like it?

Which is wild, because it has all the ingredients for a thing I should like. Magic! Sci-fi! Time travel nonsense! Alternate versions of the same character having to deal with each other! Significant chunks of action on alien planets! Major queer and/or female characters! Shapeshifters! Quippy banter! Sassy, petty villain getting dragged kicking and screaming into a redemption arc!

The first episode sure felt like it was going to deliver on all those things in a way I enjoyed. And then every subsequent cliffhanger was like “okay…there were a couple specific scenes that are fun, but…is this going anywhere? This big moment should’ve been good, but why didn’t it have buildup? That dramatic setup we did get, why hasn’t it had any payoff? This weird bit, I can think of some in-universe reasons why it was weird, so is it setting up one of those, or is it just sloppy writing?”

And the answer was always “it’s just sloppy writing.”

…to be fair, I think sometimes the answer was COVID. There were scenes where you could see “none of the actors except the 2 leads are getting within 6 feet of each other, and it’s really restricting what the narrative can do.”

But that doesn’t explain all of it.

Feels like it should’ve been a full-length season. Make it a procedural, have Loki and company facing a Time Shenanigans case-of-the-week, and have the characters/relationships develop slowly over each case. Then at the end we get a multi-episode arc where the plot is all interconnected, the developments all come to a head, the status quo gets flipped over.

Instead we got pieces of that arc without any connective tissue. You get prickly suspicious characters skipping from “tense, mistrustful opponents” to “tentative admissions of Friendship” when they’ve only known each other for, what, a few days? With no tangible reason for their feelings to change. It’s just “this is the part of the story where that happens, so it’s happened.”

Ugh. It could’ve been so good! And it just…wasn’t.

…and speaking of “things I just finished that didn’t have connective tissue”:

Check, Please!

The famous, award-winning, funding-record-making, m/m webcomic? That I didn’t read during the whole length of its run. Finally picked up the print volumes when I saw them at the library, and that’s how I got through the whole thing.

It was really thin. Cute and fluffy and disjointed. Kept setting up potential conflicts, but then skimming right over them.

I flipped back through some fail_fandomanon threads from when the updates were being released live, and it was a recurring theme for new readers to go “wait, was this just…resolved offscreen? Or did I accidentally skip a page?” (I was reading a physical book and would occasionally wonder if it skipped a page. It never did.)

…unsurprisingly, the author was in Hockey RPF fandom, and a lot of fans were bringing their interests from Hockey RPF fandom. So you would have character show up in the background, and readers would be like “aha, I can tell this is an expy of Real Player X, I enjoy him because I’m transferring my fannish feelings about Real Player X onto him.” Then they’d still be invested even if he only appeared 2-3 times and never did anything significant in-universe.

Reading it over the course of a couple afternoons — and with zero personal background in who these IRL hockey players are — was a breezy experience.

But, wow, I totally get why it was so intense and frustrating for so many people reading it in realtime. It would’ve been a constant cycle of “sets you up for something interesting, keeps you on the hook for a week or a month or several months for the next update, dashes your hopes when the setup gets deflated or sidestepped or offscreen-resolved, but hey, now there’s setup for another something interesting, maybe if I just wait for the next update in a week or a month or–“

It did work well enough for enough readers to bring the author buckets of money, though. And she delivered a complete series by the end — everyone who backed a Kickstarter to get a book, got a book — which is more than you can say for a lot of webcomickers who’ve taken people’s money. As many faults as I could pick apart in the writing: you go rake in that cash, girl.

Okay, to end this on a brighter note:

Leverage: Redemption

Sequel to the original TV series. Not a reboot, a retcon, or a reimagining — just “it’s been a decade in-universe, let’s pick back up with these characters and see how they’re doing now.”

And, wow. It’s the rare follow-up that’s so well-done, and so worth it.

The first 8 episodes are streaming free (at least in the US). The cases-of-the-week have the same “yeah, we didn’t fix the system, but we gave a complicated and satisfying comeuppance to this one exploitative scumbag” vibe of Leverage Classic. There are bits that make it clear it’s set in the 2020s — a Big Pharma creep who took CARES Act money, a reference to a politician who sounds like an AOC expy, that kind of thing — but it’s not “chasing the trending headline” in a way that’ll make it feel dated and irrelevant too fast.

They killed off Nate (his actor has sexual-assault accusations, makes sense not to employ the guy), and the other characters miss him in a way that’s present without taking over the show. Brought Sophie/Parker/Eliot back together. I assume Hardison’s actor has a job with a better-paying show, because he guest-starred briefly to establish that he’s still around, then brought in his also-genius-hacker kid-sister replacement on the team.

They also picked up a not-quite-Nate-replacement — he’s a newbie but learning the ropes fast, and he can fill the role any time they need a clean-cut business-savvy white guy.

After Elliot’s actor did a stint on the crew in The Librarians, it’s delightful to me that Flynn’s actor is the new guy on the Leverage crew. Please let the creators find an excuse to cameo Eve, Exekiel, and Cassandra in the next half of the series. That would be crossover catnip.

a year’s worth of bad things, political warnings, and lingering Trump links

2015, and still relevant: The USPS isn’t in financial trouble because people aren’t using it enough. It’s in “financial trouble” because Congress ordered it to stockpile enough cash to pre-fund all employee pension and health insurance costs for the next 75 years. Even if we all sent enough mail to cover that unnecessary liability, Congress could easily pass another law saddling it with another unnecessary liability. We fix this by yelling at our representatives to shape up, not by buying more stamps.

May 2020: “Despite her visible role in the fight against abortion, McCorvey [aka Jane Roe] says she was a mercenary, not a true believer. And Schenck, who has also distanced himself from the antiabortion movement, at least partially corroborates the allegations, saying that she was paid out of concern ;that she would go back to the other side,; he says in the film. ‘There were times I wondered: Is she playing us? And what I didn’t have the guts to say was, because I know damn well we were playing her.'”

May 2020: “Finland ran a two-year universal basic income study in 2017 and 2018, during which the government gave 2000 unemployed people aged between 25 and 58 monthly payments with no strings attached. The payments of €560 per month weren’t means tested and were unconditional, so they weren’t reduced if an individual got a job or later had a pay rise. The study was nationwide and selected recipients weren’t able to opt out, because the test was written into legislation. ”

September 11: “Industry companies spent tens of millions of dollars on [plastic recycling] ads and ran them for years, promoting the benefits of a product that, for the most part, was buried, was burned or, in some cases, wound up in the ocean. Documents show industry officials knew this reality about recycling plastic as far back as the 1970s.

September 30: “Maybe “guided apophenia” is a better phrase. Guided because the puppet masters are directly involved in hinting about the desired conclusions. They have pre-seeded the conclusions. They are constantly getting the player lost by pointing out unrelated random events and creating a meaning for them that fits the propaganda message Q is delivering.” A game designer’s analysis of QAnon.

October 23: “A rightwing extremist boasted of driving from Texas to Minneapolis to help set fire to a police precinct during the George Floyd protests, federal prosecutors said. US attorney Erica MacDonald said on Friday that she had charged Ivan Harrison Hunter, a 26-year-old Texas resident, with traveling across state lines to participate in a riot. ” (It’s them. It’s always them.)

December 9: “Last week, CMD obtained the 2019 tax records of two right-wing funders who donated to the FDRLST Media Foundation that year: GOP megadonor and shipping supply billionaire Richard Uihlein and DonorsTrust, a donor-advised fund manager that has been dubbed “the dark money ATM” of the conservative movement.” Looks like we can add Uline Shipping next to StickerMule on the list of “this company’s owner will pass your money on to horrible causes.”

December 17: “Per capita gross domestic product and unemployment rates were nearly identical after five years in countries that slashed taxes on the rich and in those that didn’t, the study found. But the analysis discovered one major change: The incomes of the rich grew much faster in countries where tax rates were lowered. Instead of trickling down to the middle class, tax cuts for the rich may not accomplish much more than help the rich keep more of their riches and exacerbate income inequality, the research indicates.”

January 20: “Early in President Trump’s term, McSweeney’s editors began to catalog the head-spinning number of misdeeds coming from his administration. We called this list a collection of Trump’s cruelties, collusions, and crimes, and it felt urgent then to track them, to ensure these horrors — happening almost daily — would not be forgotten.”

January 29: “Donald Trump was cultivated as a Russian asset over 40 years and proved so willing to parrot anti-western propaganda that there were celebrations in Moscow, a former KGB spy has told the Guardian.”

February 18: “The Austin American-Statesman found a single, forgotten copy of that report on a Public Utilities Commission shelf in 2011. The paper went looking for it in 2011 because of the cold snap that hit Texas in February of that year. The state legislature held angry hearings, and later that spring Hegar introduced his bill to require the Public Service Commission to prepare a weatherization and preparedness report each year, an obligation that was later neglected.” Texas utility companies vs. history, or Yes, We Need That Infrastructure Bill.

March 11: “It isn’t easy to figure out exactly how much electrical energy these ‘idling cars’ are consuming, but even the lowest estimates are eye-wateringly bad. Cambridge University seems to have done the most legwork in figuring this out, and at the moment, the annualised power consumption of bitcoin mining is 128 terawatt hours. In 2019-20, every single thing plugged into Australia’s largest main grid consumed 192.

Haven’t made a link roundup post in a while, so the rounds are very up

A bunch of gun-violence and police-brutality news stories, assembled at random over the past…year, basically.

Links in chronological order by the time the news story happened, not the time when I found out about them.

2018: “Three officers moved in to restrain Epstein and he’s tackled to the ground [in an airport, where they wouldn’t let him get on a plane] while screaming, “Don’t beat me up, you motherf***ers!” and “They’re treating me like a f***ing black person!”

2018: “Detective Maurice Ward, who’s already pleaded guilty to corruption charges, testified that he and his partners were told to carry the replicas and BB guns ‘in case we accidentally hit somebody or got into a shootout, so we could plant them.’

2018: “‘Eight percent of all men killed in the U.S. are killed by cops,’ Frank Edwards, a postdoctoral associate at Cornell University told Mic. ‘That’s huge, and that number is even higher in some places than others. That’s really striking, to think of police as a major source of homicide deaths. It’s a public health problem.'” (…understandable the stats would be different for women, since they have “male ex-partners” as such a major factor.)

June 2020: “Those men you see interviewed, they were the first EMTs, the first paramedics. Not just in Pittsburgh, but anywhere. The first “ambulance” driver may have been some poor Spanish conscript back in the 15th century, but the men who made up the first-ever ambulance squad with trained paramedics? Those guys are still around.” A 1970s (!!) success story about taking a job out of the hands of police, and putting it in the hands of professionals with actual relevant training.

August 20: “ICE and ICA have subjected people to violent force by guards as they suffer the worst COVID-19 outbreak. Newly obtained records provide undeniable evidence of what people inside have been saying for years, and illustrate a years-long history of abuse that foreshadowed today’s tragedy. The ICE contracting system builds in an inhumane profit-driven incentive to keep people locked in detention. All the while, ICA is pursuing contracts to try to expand ICE detention to new regions, with no accountability for past and ongoing atrocities.”

November 23: “Officers can take cash and property from people without convicting or even charging them with a crime — yes, really! — through the highly controversial practice known as civil asset forfeiture. Last year, according to the Institute for Justice, the Treasury and Justice departments deposited more than $5 billion into their respective asset forfeiture funds. That same year, the FBI reports that burglary losses topped out at $3.5 billion.

November 30: “In the aftermath of the shooting, Ashland Police Chief Police Chief Tighe O’Meara emphasized police believe the blame lies with the shooter, not the young man who had been playing music in his car.” A statement this obvious shouldn’t be so newsworthy. Justice for Robert Paul Keegan.

January 16: “Over the course of the next 10 minutes, Eric was allegedly handcuffed and held down, and two deputies allegedly took turns putting their weight on the teen, whom the lawsuit describes as obese and not actively resisting after he was restrained. Once deputies realized he’d gone limp, according to the suit, Eric was taken to a local hospital, where he went into cardiac arrest. A coroner later ruled that Eric’s death was an accident.” Justice for Eric Parsa.

February 18: “The daily paths they travel as former death-row inmates are every bit as daunting, terrifying, and confusing as the burden of innocence that once taunted them. The post-traumatic stress faced by a wrongly convicted person who has awaited execution by the government doesn’t dissipate simply because the state frees the inmate, apologizes, or even provides financial compensation—which often is not the case. ”

April 14: “For well over a decade, Cariol Horne insisted she was wrongly fired for trying to stop a White colleague from putting a handcuffed Black man in a chokehold. The colleague said Horne, who is Black, had jumped on him while he struggled to gain control of an unruly suspect. Review after review of the incident declared he was right. Then he was convicted of abusing his badge by shoving the heads of four handcuffed African American teenagers into a police car.”

April 16: “A 73-year-old grandmother of nine was picking wildflowers on the side of the road in Loveland, Colorado, last summer when a local cop got out of his patrol vehicle and told her to stop—beginning a police encounter that ultimately left her with broken bones, bruised, and traumatized. “

Multifandom works roundup, 5/31

But I’m A Cat Person
BICP #MaskMay (art meme | Timothy, Miranda, Bianca, Jany | worksafe)

Leif & Thorn
Late-night almost-kiss (sketch | Leif/Thorn | worksafe)
Leif & Thorn #MaskMay (art meme | Leif/Thorn, Violet, Rowan, Hyacinth, Tansy, Woman in Black | worksafe)
Tactical Dex (sketch | Dexie | worksafe)
Maimakteros National Skyport (art | landscape | worksafe)
Babying Leif (art | Leif, Valrún | worksafe)
Rainbow castle pearls (art | gem!vampire servants, including Valrún | worksafe)

Avatar: The Last Airbender
Fiery Zucest (art | Zuko/Azula | worksafe)

General/Miscellaneous
Blank #MaskMay meme (what it says on the tin)

This Week in But I’m A Cat Person:
Smash-cut to a too-real scene downtown, in the annotated Chapter 4.

This Week in Leif & Thorn:
Thorn is: Considering how many laws he’ll break & what dark magical deals he’ll enter to let his bf have non-compromised sex