The innocuous “How are you?” at the start of a conversation—which is normally understood in American culture to be a polite way of expressing concern for a person’s well-being, and to which the socially agreed-upon response is “I’m good,” “I’m fine,” or “I’m doing well”—hits differently in the COVID-19 era. The coronavirus pandemic and its effects are dramatic and widespread enough that it’s safe to assume everyone’s life has changed for the worse in some way. This moment has laid bare the extent to which “How are you?” is a mere pleasantry and not an honest inquiry in search of an honest answer. To ask “How are you?” is either to make the conversation very gloomy, very fast or to force someone to lie straight to your face and say they’re fine. We need better questions to ask.
Don’t Panic: The comprehensive Ars Technica guide to the coronavirus: “You should be concerned and take this seriously. But you should not panic. This is the mantra public health experts have adopted since the epidemic mushroomed in January—and it’s about as comforting as it is easy to accomplish. But it’s important that we all try.”
You’re Likely to Get the Coronavirus: Most cases are not life-threatening, which is also what makes the virus a historic challenge to contain.: “Certain containment measures will be appropriate, but widely banning travel, closing down cities, and hoarding resources are not realistic solutions for an outbreak that lasts years.”
Goop’s Netflix series: It’s so much worse than I expected and I can’t unsee it: “Disclaimer: This review contains detailed information about the Netflix series the goop lab with Gwyneth Paltrow. If you plan to watch the show (please, don’t) and do not wish to know details in advance, this is not the review for you. Normally, we would refer to such information as ‘spoilers,’ but in our editorial opinion, nothing in this series is spoil-able.”
Well, this is interesting:
As of January 1, 2019, all Washingtonians with state-regulated insurance can now pick up over-the-counter contraceptives for free at their in-network pharmacies, according to the Office of the Insurance Commissioner. Those contraceptives include “condoms, spermicides, emergency contraceptives, and sponges.”
So—if you’re not on Medicaid, and if you don’t work for a mega-company that self-insures—then you can just stroll into a Walgreens (or a Rite Aid, or whatever pharmacy is in your network), walk up to the pharmacy counter, and ask for some Plan B, some condoms, or whatever a “sponge” is, and they’ll give it to you for freeeeeee.
You can also get sterilized or get a vasectomy for free. No copays and no deductibles. You can just walk into your doctor’s office and get snipped!
I’m not a fan of the “whatever a ‘sponge’ is” bit (c’mon, Stranger, this is base-level contraceptive knowledge, and whether that was serious or snark, is a stupid line), and I’d bet that women would still have far more difficulties with sterilization procedures than “walk into your doctor’s office and get snipped” — for men, of course, it likely would be about that easy — but still. Good news!
Sometime between November 14th and November 29th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!
- Neuroscience says listening to this song reduces anxiety by up to 65 percent: “The group that created ‘Weightless’, Marconi Union, did so in collaboration with sound therapists. Its carefully arranged harmonies, rhythms, and bass lines help slow a listener’s heart rate, reduce blood pressure and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.”
- Physicist Wins Ig Noble Prize For Study On Whether Cats Should Be Classified As Liquids Or Solids: "At the center of the definition of a liquid is an action: A material must be able to modify its form to fit within a container," Fardin said. "If we take cats as our example, the fact is that they can adapt their shape to their container if we give them enough time. Cats are thus liquid if we give them the time to become liquid."
- Pseudoarchaeology and the Racism Behind Ancient Aliens: “Where, exactly, the idea of ancient aliens building the pyramids began — and why some academics think racism lies at the heart of many extraterrestrial theories.”
- Do you have any advice for someone who is 16?: "Watch Star Trek. // I’m sorry anon. I realized belatedly that I basically just told you 'turn to Jesus!' and walked away without explanation. I’m absolutely not kidding, though: Star Trek. Especially in times of difficulty and change: watch Star Trek."
- This is the Greatest Example of Wanton Cruelty in All of the Star Wars Universe: "There’s a lot here that can be considered cruel—torture, enslavement, sadism, and so on—but the really cruel thing isn’t directly happening in the scene, but it does make the scene possible. It’s the fact that droids can feel pain."
Sometime between September 23rd and October 1st, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!
- Well, this is a good way to keep me from visiting New Zealand:: "New Zealand's Customs and Excise Act 2018 went into effect today. That means travelers who refuse to give their phone or laptop password to customs officials will be fined NZ$5000. In addition, their devices will be confiscated and forensically searched." Not that I had plans to visit New Zealand, but this sure puts a damper on any interest.
- The Eternal Life of the Instant Noodle: “Last year, across the globe, more than 100 billion servings of instant noodles were eaten. That’s more than 13 servings for every person on the planet.”
- Science Says Toxic Masculinity — More Than Alcohol — Leads To Sexual Assault: "Every drink is downed amid cultural expectations and societally mediated attitudes about women and power. Those things — and how young men absorb them — have a stronger causal influence than the alcohol alone. When a man feels entitled to assault someone, he may get drunk before he does it, but the decision to act was ultimately his alone."
- iOS 12 Siri shortcut for traffic stops: Pauses music, dims the screen, turns on Do Not Disturb, and activates video recording on the front-facing camera. When done, sends the video to a trusted contact or uploads the file to Dropbox. Clever.
- Everything You Know About Obesity Is Wrong: “For decades, the medical community has ignored mountains of evidence to wage a cruel and futile war on fat people, poisoning public perception and ruining millions of lives. It’s time for a new paradigm.”
Sometime between September 1st and September 3rd, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!
- It Came From the ’70s: The Story of Your Grandma’s Weird Couch: “The ’70s, however, was a time when everyone, even the Western-loving square, was more open to experimenting in some way. Some people tried drugs or hosted swinging sex parties; others channeled their sense of adventure exclusively into garish upholstery.”
- Why tech’s favorite color is making us all miserable: “The cold blue light of modern touchscreens may be aesthetically pleasing, but it poses health problems. Designers and technologists should take cues from military history and embrace the orange.”
- Lego Wants to Completely Remake Its Toy Bricks (Without Anyone Noticing): “It wants to eliminate its dependence on petroleum-based plastics, and build its toys entirely from plant-based or recycled materials by 2030.”
- The man who owns the Moon: "For more than 35 years, Dennis Hope has been selling land on the Moon. Hope registered a claim for the Moon in 1980 and, since the US government & the UN didn’t object, he figures he owns it (along with the other planets and moons in the solar system)."
- A twitter thread in which I drag every single US president in order:: Not many get off lightly — nor should they. Not an approach to history you're likely to find in most history classes.
Sometime between August 1st and September 1st, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!
- The P-I error that changed Seattle history: "Occasionally, newspapers report factual errors. A well-intentioned interview subject gives bad information, a name is spelled wrong, a breaking news story is inadvertently peppered with grammatical errors. But no incorrect newspaper story has had a bigger impact on Seattle history than one published June 7, 1889."
- 98.6 degrees is a normal body temperature, right? Not quite: “Forget everything you know about normal body temperature and fever, starting with 98.6. That’s an antiquated number based on a flawed study from 1868 (yes, 150 years ago). The facts about fever are a lot more complicated.”
- The “I Am Steve Rogers” Joke in ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Is the Definitive Captain America Moment: That’s who Captain America is, a man who listens to and believes in people when they tell him who they are. That’s a lesson we all should take away from that moment.
- The Bullshit Web: “An honest web is one in which the overwhelming majority of the code and assets downloaded to a user’s computer are used in a page’s visual presentation, with nearly all the remainder used to define the semantic structure and associated metadata on the page. Bullshit — in the form of CPU-sucking surveillance, unnecessarily-interruptive elements, and behaviours that nobody responsible for a website would themselves find appealing as a visitor — is unwelcome and intolerable.”
- Ignorant Hysteria Over 3D Printed Guns Leads To Courts Ignoring The First Amendment: "…in the last few days the hysteria [over 3D-printed guns] has returned… and much of it is misleading and wrong, and while most people probably want to talk about the 2nd Amendment implications of all of this, it's the 1st Amendment implications that are a bigger deal." Interesting. I'm not at all comfortable with wide availability of 3D-printed guns, but this analysis of the issues is worth reading.
Sometime between May 28th and June 15th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!
- Why is English so weirdly different from other languages?: No, English isn’t uniquely vibrant or mighty or adaptable. But it really is weirder than pretty much every other language.
- PureText: Have you ever copied some text from a web page, a word document, help, etc., and wanted to paste it as simple text into another application without getting all the formatting from the original source? PureText makes this simple.
- Let’s Be Real: Americans Are Walking Around With Dirty Anuses: “I find it rather baffling that millions of people are walking around with dirty anuses while thinking they are clean. Toilet paper moves shit, but it doesn’t remove it. You wouldn’t shower with a dry towel; why do you think that dry toilet paper cleans you?”
- The Racist History of Portland, the Whitest City in America: All in all, historians and residents say, Oregon has never been particularly welcoming to minorities. Perhaps that’s why there have never been very many. Portland is the whitest big city in America, with a population that is 72.2 percent white and only 6.3 percent African American.
- No more ‘product of its time,’ please:I don’t think that we should hide texts with troubling elements. They are part of the literary canon and they have influenced us, for both good and ill. We should definitely be reading them, and we should also be talking about them. A lot.