Jason Kottke's weblog, home of fine hypertext products
NASA is reintroducing its 70s "worm" logo. It'll be displayed on the side of the Falcon 9 rocket that will take astronauts to the ISS. [nasa.gov]
Ching Ming Stories is encouraging families in the Chinese diaspora to observe the tradition of Ching Ming (remembering ancestors) virtually this year. Includes a discussion guide to help get you & your family started. [chingmingstories.com]
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I really liked How We Use Our Bodies to Navigate a Pandemic by NY Times dance critic Gia Kourlas on how many people struggle with the awareness of what their bodies are doing in public and that social distancing measures require a higher level of attentiveness to how we move and coordinate our movements with others.
Tags: cities COVID-19 dance Gia Kourlas
In this time of confinement, we have been given one immeasurable gift — the freedom to go outside. In exchange, we must abide by a simple rule: Stay six feet away from others. As choreographic intentions go, that’s not remotely vague. Yet during my runs and walks in Brooklyn over the past few days, I’ve noticed that six feet doesn’t mean the same thing to everybody.
Spatial awareness, like coordination, isn’t a given. Watching the choices people make when they move in public, much less in this time of social distancing, can be shocking, from the much-bemoaned tourist who comes to a grinding halt in Times Square to the woman with a yoga mat knocking people aside to get her spot on the floor. (It’s OK; she’ll still feel good about bowing her head and saying namaste.)
Now the choreography of the streets has taken on higher stakes. It’s the difference between health and sickness, life and death. Inside we’re alone. Outside, a new alertness is in order, one that demands a deep connection to the position and movement of the body — or proprioception, sometimes referred to as the sixth sense.
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.Tags: Adam Mansbach COVID-19 Jimmy Kimmel Samuel L. Jackson swearing TV video
From a pair of Harvard professors of epidemiology/immunology: "Navigating the Covid-19 pandemic: We're just clambering into a life raft. Dry land is far away." [statnews.com]
How South Korea Solved Its Face Mask Shortage. "Neighborhood pharmacists and government intervention were the secret weapons." Good government matters. [nytimes.com]
Sent out the latest @kottke newsletter last night: virtual travel, mask wearing advice, and baking bread w/ 4500-year-old yeast. [mailchi.mp]
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From Dr. Aisha Ahmad, some advice for how to adapt to conditions of a long-term crisis like the pandemic we are currently facing. (This was written specifically for educators, but applies to anyone.) First, the necessary sobering bit (italics mine):
The answer to the question everyone is asking — “When will this be over?” — is simple and obvious, yet terribly hard to accept. The answer is never.
Global catastrophes change the world, and this pandemic is very much akin to a major war. Even if we contain the Covid-19 crisis within a few months, the legacy of this pandemic will live with us for years, perhaps decades to come. It will change the way we move, build, learn, and connect. There is simply no way that our lives will resume as if this had never happened. And so, while it may feel good in the moment, it is foolish to dive into a frenzy of activity or obsess about your scholarly productivity right now. That is denial and delusion. The emotionally and spiritually sane response is to prepare to be forever changed.
I’ve had a few weeks to process the fact that this will never end, but seeing it stated like this, so matter-of-factly, is still shocking. Luckily, Ahmad spends the rest of the piece gently and generously advising us on how to handle this changed state of affairs.
Now more than ever, we must abandon the performative and embrace the authentic. Our essential mental shifts require humility and patience. Focus on real internal change. These human transformations will be honest, raw, ugly, hopeful, frustrated, beautiful, and divine. And they will be slower than keener academics are used to. Be slow. Let this distract you. Let it change how you think and how you see the world. Because the world is our work. And so, may this tragedy tear down all our faulty assumptions and give us the courage of bold new ideas.
In a Twitter thread, Ahmad shared some further thoughts on adapting to our new reality.
To start, know that your feelings today are not going to last all summer. It’s just a transition period. Right now, it feels like your whole world has been taken away, but that’s just because you haven’t hit your creative adaptation phase yet. Trust the process.
It’s upsetting when our expectations & plans are overturned. Give yourself a moment to grieve. But don’t let your grief trick you into thinking you’re going to suffer every day. That’s not happening. Your mind & body will adjust. Joy & freedom are still on the table.
And this was my favorite bit:
Second, embrace radical acceptance. Let go of expectations and control. What you did last month doesn’t serve you today. Let the world, today, teach you a new way to be happy, joyous, and free. If we live in denial, fear, or self-pity, we will miss the gift.
See also how to deal with our collective pandemic grief. (thx, meg)Tags: Aisha Ahmad COVID-19
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.Tags: COVID-19 design Jennifer Baer travel
Data visualization of 30 years of the Hubble Space Telescope's discoveries [physicstoday.scitation.org]
Stop Trying to Be Productive. "Staying inside and attending to basic needs is plenty." [nytimes.com]
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Before he begins filming any of his movies, director Bong Joon-ho draws out storyboards for every single shot of every single scene of the film. From an interview with Bong in 2017:
I’m always very nervous in my everyday life and if I don’t prepare everything beforehand, I go crazy. That’s why I work very meticulously on the storyboards. If I ever go to a psych ward or a psychiatric hospital, they’ll diagnose me as someone who has a mental problem and they’ll tell me to stop working, but I still want to work. I have to draw storyboards.
For his Oscar-winning Parasite, Bong has collected the storyboards into a 304-page graphic novel due out in mid-May: Parasite: A Graphic Novel in Storyboards.
Drawn by Bong Joon Ho himself before the filming of the Palme d’Or Award-winning, Golden Globe(R)-nominated film, these illustrations, accompanied by every line of dialog, depict the film in its entirety. Director Bong has also provided a foreword which takes the reader even deeper into the creative process which gave rise to the stunning cinematic achievement of Parasite.
The book has already been released in Korea, and Through the Viewfinder did a 5-minute video comparison of the storyboards with the filmed scenes for the peach fuzz montage scene (and another video of the flood scene).
Amazing. That’s a whole lotta film school packed into five minutes of video.Tags: Bong Joon-ho books film school movies Parasite video
Wimbledon has been cancelled due to COVID-19. First time since WWII. "There will be no professional tennis anywhere in the world until at least 13 July." [bbc.com]
Interesting thread on how Fox News makes money and where they might be vulnerable (cable revenues & pandemic liability lawsuits) [twitter.com]
Damon Lindelof is writing a serialized story for Nextdraft called Something, Something, Something Murder. "I heard them whispering... I heard them say murder and then the floorboard creaked and they stopped." [nextdraft.com]
Overly descriptive color palettes. Colors include "isotopic light periwinkle", "unstatesmanlike reddish grey", and "acanthoid bubble gum pink". [colors.lol]
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)Tags: birds Kristina Dutton photography remix video Xavi Bou
A couple of weeks ago, Sarah Pavis (who has guest edited here in the past) shared some of her favorite YouTubers that post videos of themselves walking around as a way to ease our lack of mobility during the pandemic quarantine. (Remember walking around outside among other people? Ahh, those were the days…)
Most of these are of city walks, the kind of walking I miss most acutely.1 Some of the videos are narrated, but most contain just ambient city noise. You can find lots more walks, including those in more natural settings, by searching YouTube for “4K walks”, “binaural walks”, or similar terms.
See also Virtual Travel Photography in the Age of Pandemic.
Here in Vermont, I feel very lucky that we have access to plentiful uncrowded outdoor spaces to exercise in. And our statewide shelter-in-place order allows people to leave the house for exercise (which is essential for many people’s physical and mental health).↩
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:
Update: The music video for Cassius’ Go Up uses a similar technique of juxtaposing stock videos. (via @endquote)Tags: art mesmerizing remix video
If your school is considering cancelling IRL graduation ceremonies, here's a helpful guide to creating a virtual graduation ceremony instead. [medium.com]
Whoa, Dark Sky (the weather app) got bought by Apple. [blog.darksky.net]
Rebecca Marquardt works at a grocery store and has some tips/suggestions/requests for grocery shoppers on how to keep themselves and grocery store employees healthy while shopping during the pandemic.
1. Make an organized shopping list so you can get in and out.
2. Stock up (DON’T hoard) so you don’t have to come in as often.
3. Go to the bathroom at home.
4. Sanitize your hands right before you enter the store.
4 1/2. Forgot when I filmed — wipe down the shopping cart/basket.
5. Touch only what you need to.
6. Maintain space between you, other customers, AND employees.
7. Ask if we’d like you to bag your own groceries.
8. Wash your reusable bags!
9. Sanitize your hands when you leave the store.
Are people serious with #3?! Jesus. I know it can be difficult to think of something as simple and ubiquitous as grocery shopping as requiring forethought, but these are not normal times. Make a plan and stick to it. The goal is to minimize your exposure (to keep yourself and workers safe) while getting necessary supplies. Marquardt’s list is really good, but I’d add a few more things based on common sense & policies I’ve seen at other stores:
1. Send only one person per family to do the shopping. And especially don’t bring your kids into the store.
2. Wear a mask.
3. Take only what you absolutely need into the store — no big purses or bags if you can help it. Use a paper shopping list; keep your phone in your pocket. Have your credit card out of your wallet and in a pocket for ease of use. All this minimizes the things you touch and need to potentially disinfect later.
Again, I know it feels completely idiotic to have to think about going to the store like you’re Serena Williams prepping for a Grand Slam final. It seems like an overreaction. But as Williams would probably be the first to tell you, preparation and careful execution of a plan are things that can help you feel more confident, comfortable, and in control about a potentially stressful event. We owe it to Marquardt and other store workers to keep them safe during all of this while they work to keep us fed and stocked with essentials. (via digg)Tags: COVID-19 Rebecca Marquardt video
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.
Tags: art Chris Ware COVID-19 illustration medicine The New Yorker
“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.
Quarantene, a song about staying home sung to the tune of Dolly Parton's Jolene. "Quarantine, Quarantine, Quarantine, Quarantine. Please don't go out just because you can." [joshlafayette.bandcamp.com]
Patrick Stewart is reading a Shakespeare sonnet every day on Instagram. "A sonnet a day keeps the doctor away?" [instagram.com]
I’ve been wanting to write something about this for a few weeks now, so I was glad to find this short but meaty Twitter thread by Dan Gardner about how people react in a crisis: they get more cooperative, not less.
Please remember: The idea that when disaster strikes people panic and social order collapses is very popular. It is also a myth. A huge research literature shows disaster makes people *more* pro-social. They cooperate. They support each other. They’re better than ever.
But the myth matters because it can lead people to take counterproductive actions and adopt policies. The simple truth is we are a fantastically social species and threats only fuel our instinct to pro-social behaviour.
Incidentally, this point is made, and is forgotten, after every disaster. Remember 9/11? Everyone was astonished that snarling, greedy, individualistic New Yorkers were suddenly behaving like selfless saints. No need for surprise. That’s humanity. That’s how we roll.
A reader suggested I check out Rebecca Solnit’s writing on the topic, and indeed she wrote an entire book in 2010 about this: A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster. Solnit recently spoke to CBC Radio about her research.
I had learned by reading the oral histories of the 1906 earthquake, and by reading the wonderful disaster sociologists in a field that begins in part with Samuel Prince, looking at the Halifax Explosion in 1917 … that actually in disasters, most people are altruistic, brave, communitarian, generous and deeply creative in rescuing each other, creating the conditions for success of survival and often creating these little disaster utopias where everyone feels equal. Everyone feels like a participant.
It’s like a reset, when you turn the machine on and off and on again, that our basic default setting is generous and communitarian and altruistic. But what’s shocking is the incredible joy people often seem to have, when they describe that sense of purpose, connection, community agency they found. It speaks to how deeply we desire something we mostly don’t have in everyday life. That’s a kind of social, public love and power, above and beyond the private life.
I’ve put this 2016 episode of On Being with Solnit on my to-listen list.
The amazing thing about the 1989 earthquake — it was an earthquake as big as the kind that killed thousands of people in places like Turkey and Mexico City, and things like that. But partly, because we have good infrastructure, about 50 people died, a number of people lost their homes, everybody was shaken up. But what was so interesting for me was that people seemed to kind of love what was going on.
That same year in the aftermath of the election, she wrote an essay called How to Survive a Disaster.
I landed in Halifax, Nova Scotia, shortly after a big hurricane tore up the city in October of 2003. The man in charge of taking me around told me about the hurricane-not the winds at more than a hundred miles an hour that tore up trees, roofs, telephone poles, not the seas that rose nearly ten feet, but the neighbors. He spoke of the few days when everything was disrupted and lit up with happiness as he did so. In his neighborhood all the people had come out of their houses to speak with each other, aid each other, to improvise a community kitchen, make sure the elders were okay, and spend time together, no longer strangers. “Everybody woke up the next morning and everything was different,” he mused. “There was no electricity, all the stores were closed, no one had access to media. The consequence was that everyone poured out into the street to bear witness. Not quite a street party, but everyone out at once-it was a sense of happiness to see everybody even though we didn’t know each other.” His joy struck me powerfully.
More reading material on this, via Gardner: Disaster Mythology and Fact: Hurricane Katrina and Social Attachment, Psychological disaster myths in the perception and management of mass emergencies, There Goes Hurricane Florence; Here Come the Disaster Myths, and 5 Most Common (and Most Dangerous) Disaster Myths.
Note: A version of this post first appeared in Noticing, the kottke.org newsletter. You can subscribe here.Tags: A Paradise Built in Hell books COVID-19 Dan Gardner Rebecca Solnit
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, John Krasinski thought it would be worthwhile to pause and take note of some good news happening in the world in this new YouTube series. As Andy Baio noted, this hewed so closely to Ze Frank’s The Show that I kept expecting to hear him call viewers “speed racers” and ask us to make an Earth sandwich. Keep your eyes peeled for a small The Office reunion with a certain regional manager via Zoom.Tags: John Krasinski Steve Carell The Office TV video
This is super depressing but not surprising: The Social-Distancing Culture War Has Begun. "They made a show of shaking hands, and complained loudly about the 'stupid hoax' being propagated by virus alarmists." [theatlantic.com]
Fun web toy for making colorful patterns [colorpush.wetransfer.com]
With movie theaters around the world closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, drive-in movie theaters are having a moment in the spotlight [theatlantic.com]
Advice from a cinematographer on how to look & sound your best while video conferencing (mind your angles & your light). You could also ask a friend who's good at selfies for advice. [medium.com]
Lots of folks are baking bread while sheltering from the pandemic, but not many of them are doing so using 4500-year-old yeast and ancient Egyptians recipes and methods. [twitter.com]
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban was just granted the power to rule by decree in fighting the pandemic with no time limit to hand that power back. (This happened with Palpatine in Attack of the Clones...and that didn't turn out so well...) [bbc.com]
I don’t know about you, but Marcus Cederberg’s minimalist photography has a soothing effect on me. Check out his Instagram for the newest stuff.Tags: Marcus Cederberg photography
Colorables, a collection of free printable coloring pages [colorabl.es]
This is lovely & joyous: twin boys from Sicily play Coldplay's Viva La Vida on the violin [twitter.com]
Closed Japanese schools are holding graduation ceremonies in Minecraft [twitter.com]
Dutch swear words are more often about disease than are English swears. "An undesirable person might be told to 'typhus off' (optyfussen) or 'get consumption' (krijg de tering)." [economist.com]
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:
Don’t buy masks (or use new masks you might have at home) while there is a shortage for healthcare workers, especially not N95 respirators (which are difficult to use properly anyway). Make a mask at home. Skiers & snowboarders, wear your buffs or ski masks. Donate any unused masks or respirators you may have to healthcare workers.
Make sure your mask fits properly — limit any gaps between the mask and your face as much as you can. (Facial hair can limit mask effectiveness.)
While wearing your mask in public, don’t fuss with it — touching your face is bad, remember? Wear it at home for a few hours to get used to the sensation. Then when you’re ready to go out, put it on properly and don’t touch it again until you’re back home (or in the car or whatever). Part of the point of the mask is for you to touch your face less.
Limit reuse of potentially contaminated masks. Discard or, if possible, wash or disinfect masks after public usage or at the end of the day.
Wearing a mask doesn’t mean you can safely go do a bunch of things without fear of getting infected. The idea here is to protect yourself while engaging in necessary activities in public. Wearing a mask doesn’t mean you can visit grandma safely or discard the six-feet-away rule.
Don’t do anything stupid like spraying your mask with a household cleaner that contains bleach and put it on. Come on.
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.Tags: COVID-19 Ed Yong fashion Ferris Jabr Jeremy Howard medicine science
People on Spring Break in Florida for the past couple of weeks were famously unconcerned with social distancing measures implementing in other areas of the country to help stem the tide of COVID-19 infections and save lives. Using cellphone location data from just the phones of the people gathered on a single beach in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, this video shows just how far those people spread across the country when they went home, possibly taking SARS-CoV-2 with them. They go everywhere.
Show of hands: who feels uncomfortable being reminded of the extent to which 3rd party companies know the location of our cellphones? With tools like the one demonstrated in the video & other easily available info, it has to be trivial to identify individuals by name using even “randomized” data and so-called metadata. (via @stewartbrand)Tags: COVID-19 infoviz maps telephony video
"If you take basic precautions, including washing your hands frequently, the danger from accepting a package from a delivery driver or from takeout from a local restaurant or from buying groceries is [small and manageable]." [washingtonpost.com]
From Apple, CDC, and FEMA, an app and website that offers up-to-date information & guidance on COVID-19. [apple.com]
The Four Possible Timelines for Life Returning to Normal. "Come summer, Americans might get restaurants but no music festivals, offices but no crowded beaches, bars with spaced-out seating." [theatlantic.com]
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.Tags: COVID-19 Grant Sanderson mathematics medicine science video
"The Board Game Remix Kit is a collection of games that you can play using the boards and pieces from games you might already own: Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly, Clue and Scrabble." Now available for free download. [bgrk.itch.io]
YES! THIS! "A huge research literature shows disaster makes people *more* pro-social. They cooperate. They support each other. They're better than ever." [twitter.com]
From Jon Lefkovitz, Sight & Sound is a feature-length documentary film about the legendary film editor and sound designer Walter Murch, who edited and did sound design for films like The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, and The Conversation.
This feature-length documentary, viewed and enjoyed by legendary film editor and sound designer Walter Murch himself (“The Conversation”, “Apocalypse Now”), was culled by Jon Lefkovitz from over 50 hours of Murch’s lectures, interviews, and commentaries.
That’s the whole film embedded above, available online for free. Here’s the trailer in case you need some prodding. I haven’t watched the whole film yet, but I’m definitely going to tuck into it in the next few days.
See also Worldizing — How Walter Murch Brought More Immersive Sound to Film.Tags: film school Jon Lefkovitz movies Sight & Sound video Walter Murch
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.Tags: Bjian Stephen blogging COVID-19 Kevin Nguyen Kyle Chayak
Maybe I’m gonna get some guff for this, but I believe that Coldplay is an underrated band. Oh sure they’re popular, but they are also good, better than their reputation suggests. Brian Eno doesn’t work with just anyone after all. Their recent Tiny Desk Concert at NPR bears this out. Backed by a fantastic nine-person choir (who previously performed with the band at a prison-reform benefit), Coldplay frontman Chris Martin and guitarist Jonny Buckland joyously perform a few of their songs (like Viva La Vida and Champion Of The World) as well as a rousing cover of Prince’s 1999.Tags: Coldplay music video
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has COVID-19 [twitter.com]
A ranking of Radiohead's 40 greatest songs. "'I want you to notice when I'm not around,' Yorke broods, a perfect lyric he probably hates." [theguardian.com]
Six Feet of Separation, an online youth newspaper started by a group of quarantined kids in San Francisco. The contributors ages range from 2 to 19. [flipsnack.com]
Portrait of a Lady on Fire premieres on Hulu tomorrow. VOD in April. One of the best new movies I've seen in the past year. [twitter.com]
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.
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!↩
It would have been Opening Day for baseball here in the US. Since we’re without the actual thing due to COVID-19, Ken Burns asked PBS to allow people to stream his 18-hour documentary series on baseball from 1994 for free (US & Canada). Here’s part one:
(via open culture)Tags: baseball Ken Burns PBS sports TV video
Bread baking is on the rise (*ahem*) during the pandemic. Yeast and flour are in high demand (my local store has been sold out of yeast for at least a week and a half). [eater.com]
Epidemiologists have been puzzled at how Japan has kept COVID-19 at bay even though folks there are mostly going about their normal lives. Now their luck may be running out. [nytimes.com]
ELECTRICITY BISCUIT! [twitter.com]
"An emerging consensus points to aggressive tracing of contacts of sick people, much broader testing, targeted quarantines, and new online tracking technology as strategies that would facilitate the easing of social distancing measures." [statnews.com]
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)Tags: COVID-19 David Kessler death interviews Scott Berinato
This is a short drone tour of San Francisco with the shelter-in-place order in effect — it looks abandoned. Fisherman’s Wharf, downtown, Market Street, the Haight — I think I saw like 8 people total during the whole video. Heartening to see that people are taking shelter-in-place seriously.
Update: Walking through the empty streets of Rotterdam:
A similar amble through Amsterdam. Here’s NYC:
(via the morning news)Tags: COVID-19 drones San Francisco video
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.Tags: COVID-19 Ed Yong medicine politics science USA
Mailchimp will be showing more than 70 short films that were supposed to show at the cancelled SXSW Film Festival [mailchimp.com]
Singapore will open source the code for TraceTogether, a contact tracing app for use during the pandemic. "The TraceTogether app can identify people who have been within 2m of coronavirus patients for at least 30 minutes." [straitstimes.com]
Chef Floyd Cardoz (of NYC's Tabla) has died from complications related to COVID-19 [ny.eater.com]
Starting from a seed, a sunflower plant grows, flowers…and then wilts. I’ve always thought these kinds of videos were wonderful, but given recent events, they are hitting with an extra poignance. Or maybe hope in a strange sort of way? I don’t know what one is supposed to be feeling about anything these days.
In this other sunflower time lapse, you can more clearly see the little seed helmets worn by the tiny plants soon after sprouting. Cute!Tags: time lapse video
Instructions for staying at home during the pandemic, courtesy of Ikea Israel. (thx, caroline)Tags: COVID-19 Ikea
Page created: Fri, Apr 03, 2020 - 09:05 AM GMT