NPR: In Vietnam, There Have Been Fewer Than 300 COVID-19 Cases And No Deaths. Here’s Why

From the fake news at NPR:

Vietnam shares a border with China, yet it has reported no deaths from COVID-19 and just 268 confirmed cases, when other Southeast Asian nations are reporting thousands.

Experts say experience dealing with prior pandemics, early implementation of aggressive social distancing policies, strong action from political leaders and the muscle of a one-party authoritarian state have helped Vietnam.

“They had political commitment early on at the highest level,” says John MacArthur, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s country representative in neighboring Thailand. “And that political commitment went from central level all the way down to the hamlet level.”

With experience gained from dealing with the 2003 SARS and 2009 H1N1 pandemics, Vietnam’s government started organizing its response in January — as soon as reports began trickling in from Wuhan, China, where the virus is believed to have originated. The country quickly came up with a variety of tactics, including widespread quarantining and aggressive contact tracing. It has also won praise from the World Health Organization and the CDC for its transparency in dealing with the crisis.

Delusional sleepy time conversations that I’ll never have

In the minutes and hours that I’m awake but in bed, I often have delusional conversations with myself about religion. I make up who the conversations are with. But they are with old friends and sometimes with family.

The stories nuance, but often are the same thing over and over. It’s frustrating, because these same thoughts do not occupy mental real estate during the day.

Tina experiences similar conversations, not about religion, but about business or something with a friend. We both wonder if other people experience this same phenomenon, and assume they do.

In these religious conversations that I have, I indubitably offer the arguments that some believer has never heard before and I blow their minds. This is clearly delusion. My ideas are seriously not that great. But they are during these hours, because you know, I’m the smartest guy in the room. /sarcasm.

The conversation/speech I’ve been having the last couple of nights is the following:

Me to a believer: Let me ask you a question. Do you believe that when you’re eating communion that you are literally or figuratively eating the body and drinking the blood of Christ?

Answer: figuratively.

Me: When you’re at church and you tell the congregation to bath themselves in the blood of Christ. Is that literal or a metaphor?

Answer: figurative.

When your church makes an alter call or a call to bow down before the Lord, do they literally go to an alter for killing animals and pray or do they figuratively stand there with their hands up to God.

Answer: figuratively stand there with hands raised.

Do you believe that Adam and Eve, and their children, literally or figuratively, populated the earth, together, incestuously, until God smote the entire population of humanity via the great flood. Then a more-than 500 year old man named Noah, his three sons and their three wives then repopulated the earth with their incestuous children creating the different races, and languages, cultures and everything that followed.

All together: literally.

Do you believe that God literally decided that the best way to re-bridge the gap caused by original sin was to find a 14 year old girl living in a largely illiterate area of the middle east, and impregnate her with himself. She carried that baby to term with a man who believed her story in an era when they couldn’t understand science any more than they understood space … she gave birth to a son with unusual powers to heal and wow. He was murdered for claiming to be God, to satiate the need for sacrificing an animal to the most high. He died, went to hell, returned, spent 40 days (the magic number to many things biblical)

Answer: literally.

Let me ask you another question: when you refer to heaven or hell, is it a literal place or a figurative place? 


Why is the concept of hell so flimsy in the Bible and based primarily in oral, written and illustrative extra-biblical tradition? We wouldn’t have the concept of hell preached in sermons if it weren’t for folks like Hieronymus Bosch, Dante, and stories of the Bubonic plague. The Greeks and Romans had an underworld. And surely that influenced early illiterate people. Do you not know that Jesus refereed to a place called hell, or Gehenna, which was a literal place outside of Jerusalem? It was a trash pile that perpetually burned or smoldered. People went there to die, to throw out their refuse, or to exile when sick. 

It’s a literal place, Jeremy.

How is it that you hold these direct traditions of literal blood baths, alters, cannibalism as metaphorical symbols but erase all semblance of metaphor when referring to literally the most insane concepts of storytelling ever.

How do you mentally reconcile holding this level of metaphor mixed with the idea that so many other things are literal?

Answer: you’re possessed by satan.

Trump card. Conversation over.

I know my views are easily debunked by the bible told me so. It’s a seemingly endless, delusional conversation that I’ll never have with real people. But it seems to love the hours of lying in darkness thinking about the world, my brain and its occupation in it.

I hope that writing it out will help push my brain past the insistence on repetition. 

Jason Kottke: Jesus Christ, Just Wear a Face Mask!

Read it!

The conclusion from a recent paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A:

We conclude that facemask use by the public, when used in combination with physical distancing or periods of lock-down, may provide an acceptable way of managing the COVID-19 pandemic and re-opening economic activity. These results are relevant to the developed as well as the developing world, where large numbers of people are resource poor, but fabrication of home-made, effective facemasks is possible. A key message from our analyses to aid the widespread adoption of facemasks would be: ‘my mask protects you, your mask protects me’.

glutinous racism: it’s what’s for breakfast, second breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner, evening snack, midnight snack, etc. etc. …

If you’re paying attention, you’ve watched as coronavirus migrated from hot topic to shrouded in camouflage as protests and race riots commandeered the ship.

Long forgotten are the days of cheering on essential workers. And it was basically last week. You still hear squeaks of reports on coronavirus. But they are overshadowed by George Floyd and BLM.

This country couldn’t be more divided on “opinions” about everything from confederate flags, to the efficacy and strength of our president and governors.

I keep my 11th finger on the pulse of Breitbart, especially the comments sections. The articles alone are insanity times a zillion. But the comments are mind blowing. The views expressed on that site should scare the world into complete reform of our overall fabric. I’m not sure that’s ever going to happen, but I read the site astonished that the words there are emitting from real Americans.

“Surely these are Russian bots,” I think to myself. I wish there were ways to identify who they are.

The number of people claiming “I’m not a racist” is through the roof. It’s usually followed by, “I grew up with black people. They are my friends. But let me say, ‘Fuck Black Lives Matter.'”

Pro Tip: if you claim you aren’t a racist, you are a racist.

I’m a racist. You’re a racist. We’re all racist. The key to the puzzle is self identifying as someone who needs to grow and learn about what is and what isn’t racism.

I do my best to not be racist, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have racist tendencies. I make snap judgements, based on my evolved brain, that immediately snaps judgements of people based on their appearances.

I make comments that I have to stop myself and ask, “Wait, was that racist?”

Racism comes in many forms. It could be assuming that someone you can’t see driving a car is a certain race. It could be crossing the street when you see a person of color walking toward you on your side of the street. It could be talking down to someone because you hear on the phone that they aren’t your color.

Hell, how many times do you hear a story and either identify someone as a “black person” but do not qualify another person as “white”?

Or during a story, someone doesn’t identify someone as a color and the first question you ask is, “Were they black?”

We need to heal. We need to understand each other. We need to listen hard to the stories about black people unnecessarily arrested, needlessly stopped, blatantly mistreated, egregiously abused because of the color of their skin.

I wish that the November 3 election were the impending cure to all that ales us. But I’m afraid we put too much pressure on dates as scapegoats. Or on people. Or on viruses. Or on memetics.

Let’s all heal, grow and learn. Take a second to focus on your racism like your breath. Agree that it exists and fix it … together.

Thank the universe I live in Chicago

Yesterday, I was shopping at at a grocery store. In the checkout line, I was struggling to find my six feet wondering when it was appropriate to place my three items on the conveyer belt. Suddenly a male voice behind me asked, “Hey man, do you mind if I cut in front of you? I only have two things and I’m trying to get up to the protest.”

I looked down at my three items again and thought, “Yeah, why not?”

“Sure, man. Go ahead.”

So he jumped in front of me with his two boxes of Capri-Suns.

“Where is the protest starting,” I asked him.

“Up at the Riv,” he responded.

“Okay, cool. Do you happen to know which way it’s going and how far?” I asked.

“Um,” he paused and checked his phone. “It’s going from the Riv to the Sheridan Redline stop and back up to the Riv area.”

“Okay, cool,” I said.”And thanks for doing what you’re doing. It’s important work.”

“I don’t know about that,” he said. “I’m one of many.”

“One of many doing an amazing service and necessary act for this country,” I said. “Stay safe and have a great day.”

Later in the day, I talked to my best friend in NC. He asked about the protests and riots. I told him that it felt more tame on Wednesday and Thursday, but it was still happening. “I’ve heard the flash bangs every night.”

“Get your ass back down here asap, brother,” he said.

“Nah, man. I kinda like it here.”

“Oooo-kay,” he eeked out.

I’m not sure I got a chance to really explain. But I somehow feel safer here than in NC at times. My parents don’t believe in masks. North Carolina has been back to “normal” for a few weeks. People are likely out spreading the disease more than they think.

Not to mention that here in Chicago, we have much more diversity and intrigue.

It’s summer-time temps. People are out in abundance and it makes me so happy. I love being in a place where expression is vast and frequent. I love living in a city where protests are massive. Where people are creatively writing signs and holding them high over their heads.

A city where I get texts saying, “Be careful out there. Traffic is a nightmare and exits on the highways are closed.”

I love life in North Carolina, but it just can’t compare to the adoration I have for Chicago … especially in warmer temperatures when the variety of our neighbors is in full view.

The riots and violence are part of our fabric. I’m not sure why I’m able to accept it. I don’t stare at it in complete horror.

Destructive protesting has a much louder voice than we imagine.

I have a temper. And that fucking temper gets the best of me. But you know what? My temper has forged longtime relationships of iron strength. It’s also removed relationships that, for fuck’s sake, I didn’t want in the first place.

People reminded me with broken record advice, “Do not cry in public. Do not lose your temper in public. Do not show a temper tantrum emotion. That’s bad. Expressing anger is negative. It’ll get you no friends. It’ll produce no good.”

But the truth is the opposite.

Anger is an expression of vulnerability. And when seen in a certain light, it breaks down barriers. It exposes raw, animal-like behavior. It humanizes us. And ultimately, it binds together groups.

I don’t believe that the cops who are committing atrocities toward black people and people of color are angry. I think they think they are intelligent and superior. Their group think is to control others anger. Their approach stems from ignorance and lack of self-awareness and self-control.

The result of their behavior is anger by onlookers. And anger must be expressed. It is natural. It is honest. It is requisite to a sound mind.

Sure, peaceful protests are preferred. But if destruction creates awareness. If it sparks conversation. If damage provokes an iota of thought. If it seeps into every conversation and overshadows all other discussion, then yes. Riots and looting is somehow a version of acceptable.

Our black neighbors need to be heard. Give them voice and lend your ears. And if they start shouting, banging drums or smashing windows, or drumming doors down … they are playing the music that you desperately need to hear, dear reader.

Please listen.

As cacophonic as explosive tempers seem … it is a song that seriously needs amplification.

Inhaling, exhaling, smokers, sneezers, bad breath, olfactory nerves, coronavirus and you

When I see runners up and down the streets of Chicago who are not wearing masks, I repeat the same line: “How fucking irresponsible.”

Perhaps runners think, “I must be healthy. I show no signs of disease. I obviously don’t have a respiratory illness; I’m running and my lungs feel fine!”

Or maybe a collective apathy toward self-protection is on the rise.

Or maybe runners are assholes.

I’m a runner. Runners push air from their lungs with much greater force than walkers. And from what we know of the spread of this respiratory disease (e.g. here, here, and here), inhaling droplets infected with the virus is one of the quickest ways that it spreads.

Not only am I breathing out harder, I’m inhaling deeper. This puts my risk level higher, I would imagine.

My runs have been between one and two hours, and I’ve worn a mask the entire time or most of the time. If I’ve pulled down my mask to help catch my breath, it’s because I don’t see anyone around and I feel I can do so. But at street corners or passing another biker, runner, or pedestrian, I pull my mask up. It’s a curtesy to them and a precaution for me.

Do I feel like some masked vigilante at times with my sweat-soaked bandana swinging around my neck like a turkey waddle? Yes. Does it make it difficult to breathe at times? Yes. But it’s not impossible.

During the run, I also try to sense which way the wind is traveling. If I’m running into the wind, I make sure my mask is pulled up. I wonder how far droplets surf on invisible wind waves and a neurosis take over my brain.

One of the thoughts that keeps coming to mind is the distance cigarette smoke travels from a smokers exhalation. This is an unscientific observation. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been outside somewhere, and I smell cigarette smoke long before I see a smoker. I look around and sometimes they are 30 to 50 feet away. Maybe more.

Or you exit a building where smokers are huddled 15 feet from a doorway and you suddenly remember the bar scene before January 1, 2008.

Again, not scientific, but the smoke I’m smelling is coming partly from exhalation. Does that mean I’m recognizing the possibility of droplets because one of my senses is recognizing it? I mean, minutes after someone smokes pot, you can smell it. Hell, sometimes a bathroom carries an odor of its previous occupant for up to how long.

Is olfactory sensation an indication of airborne droplets?

Just this week, I was cooking a garlic-y meal. I had to take my dog outside to go pee. Outside, I could smell garlic. When I walked back in the front door on the first floor, it became much stronger. Walking through the front door one flight up, garlic slapped me in the face.

We can’t smell halitosis from certain distances, but if we had dog noses, could we? And what would that mean for the length of time droplets can float before gravity pulls them to the ground?

Science has recognized that sneezes throw droplets farther than we can really measure. Runners exhale with great force. A cough also pushes out air with force.

We can all relinquish care and assume we are all going to get the virus. And maybe that is driving the drop in mask use around town. Or maybe I’m misinformed and need another lesson what is and what isn’t safe.

I guess one point I’m trying to make is: if you could smell coronavirus like you can smell cigarette or pot smoke, would more people wear a mask. Would it make it more real if one of our available senses could identify it?

Just a thought or two to start your Saturday.

Thanks for giving me a platform to express my neuroses and curiosities.

Oh, and wear a fucking mask.

Candle lighting ceremonies and Covid-19

image from here.

Every Christmas, our family attended Christmas church services. It was the highlight of my pyromaniac year.

Upon entry, the ushers handed out little white candles with round cardboard wax catchers to almost everyone taller than 4′. The entire service passed by: the carols, the scripture readings, the sketches, the children’s choir, the message usually from Matthew or Luke and then … the best part … the candle lighting ceremony.

The same message was repeated every time.

“When you spread the word of Jesus Christ, it starts with a single light in the darkness … but it spreads and consumes the darkness with light.”

By the end of the ceremony, the whole church was illuminated in the prettiest flickering light. As everyone sung “Silent Night,” candles were carefully lifted over head.

It was a one of the most beautiful symbols I remember of the church because felt slightly more literal than metaphor. You could see the action it represented. One could watch the spread of light. And as a future photographer, I fell in love with that quality of flickering beauty.

This contradicted the times when the pastor said, “Bow before God,” but in our church it was figurative. We never knelt on our knees like Catholics, Episcopalians, Methodists or Wesleyans.

My mind keeps returning to this metaphor of spreading one bit of phenomenon to many and how it pertains to the spread of viruses.

Covid-19 seemingly starts in the darkness, and by George, you can watch it spread via scientific discovery, testing and by following symptoms.

Gosh, you could use the metaphor for systematic racism or any other memetic virus.

Back in late March and April, Tina and I escaped to our investment property in North Carolina. While there, we ended up painting the exterior of the home. We planned on hiring pros to do it, but after the pandemic hit, we wanted to save some money.

It was a welcome distraction.

The color we mainly used was white. Over time, I noticed I left clues of the places I’d been or frequented. There are stairs leading out of our back yard into the front. There were white smears at the place I ascended, grabbed the gate and pulled my way up.

There were white smears on the doorknobs and on the floors where I tracked it through.

It was like there was a permanently illuminated blacklight forensics team showing me my crimes against our property.

Thing was, I thought I was cleaning up after myself. I thought I was washing my hands. But the evidence proved me wrong.

I finally realized that I needed to clean my hands and shoes more often. Not only more often, but more effectively. I needed to remove shoes before entering the house. I needed to grab handles with a clean cloth.

To what end?

To quell the spread of white paint on our clean floors, knobs, faucets, gates and misc property.

It’s quite an interesting observation to literally see what I was touching.

My observation led to an eye-opening moment: if I can’t keep track of everything I’ve touched after I’ve got paint on me, how much does the average bear know exactly what they’ve touched and how much its affecting those around us.

That, in part, is why I decided that wearing a mask was an important part of my public persona. I couldn’t see my path of destruction, just like I couldn’t see anyone one else’s. Someone with Coronavirus cannot see how far their breath goes and I can’t see where it is either.

It’s not a candle held to another candle held to another. It’s not white paint on fixtures around a home.

It’s “invisible” to the naked eye and it could easily be everywhere.

This isn’t to say I’m a neurotic shit.

It’s to spread a light in the darkness.

Too many loved ones still do not wear a mask. They are too big for the monster that is spreading like a Christmas Candle-lighting Ceremony.

And that’s sad.