COVID-19: Sing alone, if at all

Screenshot anime MomoKuri

“I’ve disinfected my hands.” Unfortunately, disinfecting your hands may not be enough, or even the most important thing this time.

The COVID-19 pandemic has entered its second wave here in Europe. In much of the Americas and some other parts of the world, the first wave is not even over. Ironically, a vaccine seems to be only a few months away. If only we could keep it away a brief time longer!

At least we know more about how it is transmitted now. Or at least some of us know. So I thought I should say a few words about that. (A few words, hah.)

When the pandemic was new, we were in the strange situation of having its entire genome but not knowing for sure how it spread. This has never happened before, and it may have caused some of the jumping to conclusions that made the first wave so bad. See, the genome showed that the virus was fairly closely related to the original SARS virus from 2002. In fact, the new virus was named SARS-CoV-2 and still is. So it seemed a reasonable assumption that it spread similarly. Not quite the same way obviously, but perhaps that way too.

The original SARS was infamous for spreading by indirect contact. Its first “shock and awe” episode was when several people died after touching the same elevator button as a patient. As a result, some of the first advice was to wash your hands thoroughly and for a long time with soap, disinfect door handles and other shared surfaces, and not touch your face. (Leaving alone the stupidity of telling people to not touch their face, which even the health advisors continued to do at the press conferences where they told people not to do it, it is actually only the eyes, nostrils and mouth that needs avoiding even with surface contamination. Unbroken skin is very resistant to virus infection, even when it is thin.) People were also encouraged to wash perishable food (but not with chemicals!) and disinfect packaging, and let non-perishables stand untouched for three days to let the virus die.

Today we know that while this “hygiene theater” is mostly harmless, it is also mostly useless when it comes to COVID-19. The virus is mostly airborne, and resides in droplets that come out of people’s mouth and occasionally nose. Larger droplets fall to the ground after a distance of around 6 feet or close to 2 meters. But it has gradually become necessary to admit that a main pathway – perhaps THE main pathway – of transmission is aerosols,  or micro-droplets if you will use a more understandable name. These are so small and lightweight, they can float in he air for hours. And they are expelled even when breathing, particularly through the mouth, even more so when breathing heavily or talking, very much when talking loudly, and excessively when singing.

The great “shock and awe” episode of COVID-19, at least in the western world, was when a large part of a choir died after singing together, despite keeping the recommended distance and not facing each other. Similar but lesser episodes have happened elsewhere, among other places in Sweden where a local outbreak started after a song gathering. Here in Norway, a severe outbreak started in a Muslim community and spread to many schools after a festival.

Unlike some virus, the severity of this one seems to depend somewhat on how much virus you inhale, if you have a functioning immune system at all. Inhaling just a few virus seems to not cause infection at all in most, while inhaling a small dose will usually cause a mild disease except in the very old or sickly. Conversely, health workers who are exposed to massive doses of the virus often get critically ill and sometimes die, even when young and healthy.

In this situation, you would expect teachers to die like canaries in a coal mine, given how ubiquitous singing is in especially primary school. But there is one thing that comes to their rescue: The amazing ability of children to infect everyone around them with every germ that comes to town.

A Swedish study showed that in a control group who had not had COVID-19, about 1/3 still had T-cells that reacted against the virus. It is believed that these had been exposed to other corona-virus which cause common cold. (Please note that there are many different virus that cause “common cold”, which is merely a set of symptoms and not a particular species of virus.) There are at least four common colds that come from corona-virus, the latest one having split from bovine corona-virus around 1880. It is possible that the current pandemic will eventually join this crowd and become a recurring but mostly harmless cold, but for now it must be taken much more seriously. The good news is that most kids and their teachers probably have some resistance to it already because they have been exposed to related virus.

That said, if at all possible, singing should be suspended for the duration of the pandemic, or until a vaccine or effective treatment is widely available. Locales should be aired as much as feasible, and any activity that can take place outdoors should do so. Outdoors, the micro-droplets will rapidly disperse: Even if there is no breeze, convection and Brownian motion will quickly remove them from face height. This would explain why the large demonstrations in many countries this summer had minimal effect, while weddings and birthday celebrations are pure murder, since they tend to be held indoors in whole or in part.

For more reading, not by me, Elemental has an article on this topic, partly overlapping with mine but with a different focus: The most likely way you’ll get infected with COVID-19

In Russia, space explores YOU!

Screenshot YouTube: Meteor explosion Russia February 15, 2013

This just to note the big meteorite that exploded today over the Chelyabinsk area in Russia this morning. It is said to have had a kinetic energy corresponding to 20 Hiroshima bombs, but of course this kind of energy does not cause radioactivity. It did cause some light and heat, but most of the energy was spent in a sonic boom that destroyed windows and to some extent doors and walls in the nearest city, wounding more than a thousand people, but most of them lightly. Most of the territory is however sparsely populated, so the damage was moderate. If one of these rocks had exploded right above a major city with millions of inhabitants, things would have looked far worse.

A few hours later, an asteroid big enough to end the Age of Mammals flew harmlessly by Earth, so close that it could be seen with binoculars. Lately, with our better telescopes, we are kind of getting used to those fly-bys. There will probably be some questions of the type “What is NASA doing to detect and prevent an asteroid impact”, and a few days later most of us have forgotten it until next time.

Respect and shooting laptops

Not a conservative thing to do. Not good and proper use of handguns and laptops and fatherly authority.

By now I guess most people have seen the video of this guy in cowboy hat shooting his daughter’s laptop. (Or possibly the laptop he lent her, she was just 15 so probably could not afford her own.) I am not sure I even need to link to it, but hey. Here’s one copy, for as long as it last.

Now, some of my friends are conservatives, and I’m not ashamed of that. But I am ashamed that they so quickly side with this guy. I can see why, in America: There this total war or ideology, where the liberals and conservatives generally disagree on everything. If they were to agree on anything by now, one of them would need to quickly change their mind! One of these things is that liberals want law-abiding people to not have guns, so of course when conservatives see this guy has a gun and ain’t afraid to use it, they assume he is one of them.

Let us call him on that.

See, I grew up around guns. OK, those were rifles, but that doesn’t really make things better. We learned to use them while we were still growing up, and to maintain them, but we also learned something else: We learned to respect them. Guns are not can openers. They are made for ending lives. Handguns, of course, are specifically made for ending human lives (although they can also be used on rabid animals). Rifles can also be used for hunting, but the point still stands. These things are specialized bringers of death. As such, they command a particular respect. Life is sacred, certainly human life is. A tool for taking life earns a kind of “mirror” sacredness from this. It is something you treat with respect. You use it for practice, and if the Light is merciful, that is all you will ever need it for. You don’t use it interchangeably with any random tool. Unless you lack respect. This guy does that.

This point is important. What he does shows a lack of respect. A lack of keeping things to their proper use. That kind of respect, or knowing what is proper, is what being a REAL conservative is all about. Bringing handguns into a family dispute is very far from proper. So no, he did not point it at his daughter. Seriously, that’s setting the bar really low. Like in the grass somewhere. You have to be pretty inbred to do that and tell the world, since you’d get hauled off by the sheriff the next day. So, shooting office equipment is pretty much as far as he can get away with. In any case, it is not proper, it is not respectful toward the power and purpose of a weapon.

But if you don’t get that, let us continue with his next disrespect, which is for the value of useful things. Rather than just confiscating the computer, perhaps formatting it, perhaps selling it, perhaps giving it to charity or whatever, he thinks it is a good idea to destroy it. To teach his daughter a lesson. Yes, and what is that lesson? That he is willing to completely destroy what he has invested money and time in? That is a very useful message for a kid to hear, given that there is nothing parents have invested so much time and money in as their children. I am sure she is thrilled to know that. But let us get back to the “useful thing” part.

Let’s say she had been driving a car recklessly – would it be OK to take a sledgehammer to the car and reduce it to rubble? To send her a message?

If she’d sneaked a boyfriend into the house and made out there – would he set the house on fire, to teach her a lesson?

Destroying perfectly useful things is disrespectful. Of course, he could probably afford it, given that they had hired help in the house and such. I am sure he could afford it. So if you could afford another house, would it be a good idea to set fire to one of them? I don’t think so. It is what we used to call “wanton destruction”. It is disrespectful to those who made a useful thing, and it is disrespectful to those who could have used it. I know people these days are throwing away stuff, but conservatives usually try to have a yard sale or flea market or something. Just destroying them is more of the hip urban lifestyle.

I don’t really need to point out that belittling his daughter on YouTube was disrespectful to her. At least she deserved it. After all, she started it! But… a father sinking to the same level as a 15 year old, having to make sure everyone knows that he got the last word, that he is The Man – that is not dignified. Sorry man, but that is beneath you as a parent. If you filmed it and showed it to your daughter, OK. But having to compete with an underage girl for status is… well, not conservative. It is not dignified, it is not proper. If this guy has any living parents, I hope they don’t have Internet access. This is just embarrassing.

See, respect is not something you can take. It is something you get. You cannot make people respect you except by living with integrity, by being a honest and righteous person. What you’re doing is intimidation, not the same thing.

Now, to demand respect from others and not show respect where you should, that is not integrity. That is hypocrisy. You want to be respected but you don’t show proper respect for things and for people and for yourself. There is no denying that this girl showed a horrible lack of respect and propriety. And there is not much doubt where she got it from, either.

Sendai Mag 8.9

Too familiar.

Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 is an anime about an earthquake. It is more education than entertainment, I guess. It portrays a brother and sister who are caught away from home in a large earthquake.  The sister is in first year of middle school, her brother in third year of elementary school. She is accompanying him to a robot exhibition, but she is not happy about it. While waiting outside, she types on her cell phone: “The world should just break.” And then the earthquake hits.

Earthquakes and tsunamis are part of life in Japan, but usually they are small. A magnitude 8.0 quake in the bay outside Tokyo would be pretty devastating, and unfortunately not completely unlikely. So this is probably a thing that is on people’s minds off and on.

The animated TV series is simple and realistic. It shows that even when the damage is not total, it is just so widespread. Even though there are stretches of road that are OK, they are separated by broken ground, fallen bridges, wreckage and abandoned cars, so you still can’t get anywhere with car or motorbike.  And even when buildings are still standing, they may be so damaged that they collapse later. One of the main characters of the story dies as a result of this.  Other homes are fine, but then catch fire because of a gas leak in a neighboring home. Whole neighborhoods are lost to fire because water mains are broken and fire trucks cannot get around either.

Seeing the news today was eerily familiar. Of course, it was not Tokyo this time, although they got their share of swaying buildings. But then it was not magnitude 8.0 either.  Earthquakes are measured on a log-10 scale, so that 8.9 is not roughly ten percent stronger than 8.0, but closer to 10 TIMES stronger. (That would actually be 9.0, but you get the point.) If this had happened right under a city, it would have been second only to a nuclear attack in devastation. As it was, it happened in the ocean outside, so the greatest damage was wrought by the tsunami, the giant wave.

It must be strange, living with the knowledge that at some point, disaster will strike. Knowing approximately what form it will take, but not which day or year.  Japanese are not the only ones:  Major population centers in California are sure to meet a similar fate. And several volcanoes are ready to blow their top, obliterating the nearby cities.  There is also the small matter of the supervolcano under Yellowstone, which could devastate much of North America right away, and destroy most of earth’s food production for the following decade. I am sure there are other disasters waiting in the wings around the world.

And of course, in the end the most certain thing about life is that we are not getting out of it alive. When Jesus Christ heard about a collapsed building that had killed several people, he asked: “Do you think these were greater sinners than other people in Jerusalem?” I suppose there are a few causes of death that are for “greater sinners”, such as death by alcohol or by fat. Earthquakes are not quite that selective. And in the end, no matter how pious and clever and lucky we are, we’ll have to join those who have gone before us.

But I’m in no hurry. Of course, neither were those on the beaches of Sendai. Some people will look for a meaning in the deaths, but I think we should firstly and mostly look for the meaning in our lives while we still have them.