I rode the El yesterday for the first time since March 15th, because I had to take my car in for service. (It's 100% fine.) This divided up my day so I had to scramble in the afternoon to finish a work task, while all these news stories piled up:
Finally, author and Ohio resident John Scalzi sums up why he won't rush back to restaurants when they reopen in his state next week:
My plan is to stay home for most of June and let other people run around and see how that works out for them. The best-case scenario is that I’m being overly paranoid for an extra month, in which case we can all laugh about it afterward. The worst case scenario, of course, is death and pain and a lot of people with confused about why ventilator tubes are stuck down their throats, or the throats of their loved ones, when they were assured this was all a liberal hoax, and then all of us back in our houses until September. Once again, I would be delighted to be proved overly paranoid.
I have sympathy for the people who are all, the hell with this, I’ll risk getting sick, just let me out of my fucking apartment. I get where you’re coming from. You probably don’t actually know what you’re asking for. I hope that you never have to learn.
Note to Mr Scalzi: I hope to start The Last Emperox this week. I really do.
Since January 2019, Chicago has had only two months with above-average sunshine, and in both cases we only got 10% more than average. This year we're ticking along about 9% below, with no month since July 2019 getting above 50% of possible sunshine.
In other news:
- Former White House Butler Roosevelt Jerman, who served from 1957 to 2012, died of Covid-19 at age 91.
- One wonders, if the current White House had acted more propitiously, would Jerman have lived longer? Researchers suggest yes, if we'd locked down a week earlier, we would have 36,000 fewer Covid-19 deaths.
- The US saw 2.4 million more unemployment claims last week, bringing the national total to 39 million and Illinois' to 1 million.
- Ichan School of Medicine virologist Benjamen tenOever lays out how SARS-CoV-2 hijacks cellular machinery to suppress interferon production while boosting chemokines, which may explain why the virus is so damaging and hard to kill.
- President Trump "said the corrupt part out loud" in his threats to Michigan and Nevada yesterday, says Greg Sargent.
- Because it's 2020, and we haven't gotten through all the plagues yet, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts an above-average Atlantic hurricane season starting June 1st.
- What happens to cities that depend on giant cruise ships if the ships won't go there? (NB: Perfect time to visit Venice or Alaska right now, except for the virus.)
- Block Club Chicago lays out what could open if the state moves to Phase 3 of the "Restore Illinois" plan a week from tomorrow.
- Around the corner from where I lived until 2015, a condo association is suing the private school next door for fraud, alleging the Francis Parker School illegally attempted to take over the condominium board through straw-man condo purchases.
- The European Southern Observatory revealed evidence of planets forming around a nearby star.
Finally, having "walktails" with friends may be a thing, but because drinking alcohol on public streets in Chicago is prohibited by city ordinance, I cannot admit to ever doing this.
I bought my first CD on 8 May 1988, a little more than 32 years ago: Mozart's Mass in C Major K.317, performed by the Bavarian Radio Orchestra and Chorus under Eugen Jochum. I've bought a few more since then. And not all of them have gotten the love they deserve.
So, since I'm home anyway, I decided two weeks ago (on the 8th, no surprise) to listen to all of them again. After two weeks I've gotten up to #41, Beethoven's "Emperor" concerto, by the Vienna Philharmonic with director Hans Knappertsbusch and pianist Clifford Curzon. This immediately followed #40, the Beatles' Help!, and begins a string of classical CDs (Beethoven again, Brahms, Dvorak, Mozart, Debussy) before hitting a classic Simon & Garfunkel album (Bookends) at #47.
Listening to all of them in order really brings me back to high school and college. Early on, I concentrated on filling up my CD library with the essentials. So the early CDs bounce around the classical canon (Beethoven, Brahms, Haydn, Mozart) and the popular canon (The Beatles, Billy Joel, Simon & Garfunkel, Cat Stevens), and things really don't branch out until the early 1990s when friends started getting me into more modern stuff.
Keep in mind, I had vinyl and cassettes back home, so some of these purchases and gifts replaced the obsolete formats and also let me listen to them in my dorm, where I had a small CD boom box that could make mix tapes but no turntable or any other decent equipment. I also worked at the campus radio station, where I had access to just about anything I could think of. So the eclectic and somewhat narrow list of titles for my first hundred or so CDs wasn't all I listened to.
Now, 32 years later, I don't buy CDs much. In fact, a lot of the later titles in my "CD" library are actually purchased downloads and have no physical form at all beyond the array of magnetic particles on various hard drives and backup disks. Those are a long way off, however; I'm only up to October 1988.
Updates as the situation warrants.
The bascule bridge over the Chicago River at Michigan Avenue turned 100 today. The Chicago Tribune has photos.
And the New York Times interviewed science-fiction author John Scalzi, whose The Last Emperox came out two weeks ago.
Just when you thought the Republican Party couldn't become more anti-science and pro-profit (at the expense of workers), the Wisconsin Supreme Court just struck down Wisconsin's stay-at-home order on a 4-3 party-line vote.
If only that were all:
- Jennifer Rubin points out that "Trump's abject hypocrisy shows us where he's failed."
- Not only has Trump "lost the plot," he "has no plan," according to two articles this week in The Atlantic. How is this news cycle different from all other news cycles?
- The US Supreme Court listened to arguments this week about the electoral college and Trump's tax returns. It seems likely the nation will lose both cases.
- The judge presiding over Michael Flynn's case has asked a retired judge to brief him on whether to hold Flynn in criminal contempt for perjury, after the Justice Dept. sought to end its prosecution of Flynn.
- The City of Chicago has ordered food delivery services to disclose the fees they charge restaurants so consumers have more transparency. Restaurants have complained about price-gouging from GrubHub and others.
- Meanwhile, Uber is in talks to buy GrubHub. If we had a functioning FTC, this would never happen.
- David Kamp brings back my childhood with his paean to Zoom, the children's television show I watched religiously when I was a kid.
- Anthropologists have found a 45,000-year-old midden containing homo sapiens tools, bones, and jewelry in a cave in Bulgaria. It's evidence of the earliest modern humans in Europe.
- The New York Times has an oral history of Mad Max: Fury Road, which the author calls a "modern action classic." (It's one of my faves as well.)
Someday, we'll all look back on this time, laugh nervously, and change the subject.
Harvard Medical School epidemiologist Julia Marcus argues that "quarantine fatigue is real," and it may be healthier to start relaxing self-isolation (for many people) than to continue it:
Public-health experts have known for decades that an abstinence-only message doesn’t work for sex. It doesn’t work for substance use, either. Likewise, asking Americans to abstain from nearly all in-person social contact will not hold the coronavirus at bay—at least not forever.
I’m not talking about the people who are staging militaristic protests against the supposed coronavirus hoax. I’m talking about those who are experiencing the profound burden of extreme physical and social distancing. In addition to the economic hardship it causes, isolation can severely damage psychological well-being, especially for people who were already depressed or anxious before the crisis started.
[T]he choice between staying home indefinitely and returning to business as usual now is a false one. Risk is not binary. And an all-or-nothing approach to disease prevention can have unintended consequences. Individuals may fixate on unlikely sources of contagion—the package in the mail, the runner or cyclist on the street—while undervaluing precautions, such as cloth masks, that are imperfect but helpful.
[A]s years of research on HIV prevention have shown, shaming doesn’t eliminate risky behavior—it just drives it underground. Even today, many gay men hesitate to disclose their sexual history to health-care providers because of the stigma that they anticipate. Shaming people for their behavior can backfire.
Scientists still have a lot to learn about this new virus, but early epidemiological studies suggest that not all activities or settings confer an equal risk for coronavirus transmission. Enclosed and crowded settings, especially with prolonged and close contact, have the highest risk of transmission, while casual interaction in outdoor settings seems to be much lower risk. A sustainable anti-coronavirus strategy would still advise against house parties. But it could also involve redesigning outdoor and indoor spaces to reduce crowding, increase ventilation, and promote physical distancing, thereby allowing people to live their lives while mitigating—but not eliminating—risk.
Of course, the Trump Administration's abject failure to provide adequate testing and safety guidance will only prolong our anxiety and isolation. But right-wing governments never make the trains run on time, no matter what their propaganda says.
Illinois has had a stay-at-home order in effect for over seven weeks now, though last week the state and county opened up forest trails and other outdoor activities that allow for proper distancing and discourage people clumping together in groups. So today I drove up to the northern suburbs to the site of the largest Civilian Conservation Corps project undertaken during the agency's run from 1933 to 1940.
It was good to get outside. Not my fastest-ever pace, but still respectable, and somehow I got over 10,000 steps just on the walk.
And when I got back, this was waiting in my inbox:
Yes, yes, the world has most of the Biblical plagues going on right now, including apparently 40 mm–long hornets, but I can see some bright spots, despite (or because of) all this:
Alas, the rest of the news isn't as benign:
- White House economist Kevin Hassett, who has not made an accurate prediction in his entire career as far as anyone can see, projects zero Covid-19 deaths by next week. The CDC, which has a bit more reputation and a bit more experience in health care, projects 3,000 deaths per day—an entire 9/11 every day—by mid-June.
- Norwegian Cruise Line's latest SEC filing says it will probably sink into bankruptcy in the next few weeks. So if you want to buy a cruise ship at rock-bottom prices, now's your chance.
- The Lincoln Project, a never-Trump Republican organization whose members include George Conway, put out an attack ad so devastating it reduced the president to incoherent Tweeting. Of course, that's less a reduction than a normal Sunday morning, but still.
And finally, I mentioned a shooting in my neighborhood last week that hadn't yet made the papers. It took a couple of days, but CWB Chicago now has the story.
Clarence Busch, a man with multiple arrests for intoxication including a hit-and-run drunk-driving charge from less than a week earlier, killed 13-year-old Cari Lightner on a quiet road in Fair Oaks, California, on 3 May 1980. In response, Cari's mother Candace founded MADD: Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which in just four years got the Federal Government and most of the states to crack down on drunk driving. The organization and the legislation they got passed reduced drunk-driving deaths 40% by 2000.
My dad met Candy Lightner in 1982, and wrote an Emmy-nominated TV movie about her and her success in saving other people from drunk drivers, for which he received a Writers Guild award in 1984. (He would have won the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Special as well but for the truly groundbreaking Special Bulletin.)
You can watch the trailer for MADD on Video Detective, and the entire movie Special Bulletin on YouTube.
Happy May Day! Or m'aidez? Hard to know for sure right now. The weather in Chicago is sunny and almost the right temperature, and I have had some remarkable productivity at work this week, so in that respect I'm pretty happy.
But I woke up this morning to the news that Ravinia has cancelled its entire 2020 season, including a performance of Bernstein's White House Cantata that featured my group, the Apollo Chorus of Chicago. This is the first time Ravinia has done so since 1935.
If only that were everything.
First, via Josh Marshall, former Obama Administration disaster-preparedness expert Jeremy Konydndyk lays out the facts about our plateau (60,000 excess weekly deaths) and how the Trump Administration continues to do nothing to help us slow Covid-19 deaths.
Next, all of this:
- The Experimental Aviation Association cancelled AirVenture 2020, the huge annual fly-in that brings thousands of airplanes to Oshkosh, Wis. (Bonus: video of a brand-new Airbus A-380 landing at the small Wisconsin airport in 2009.)
- The New Republic on "the morbid ideology behind the drive to reopen America."
- Republican legislatures and governors made it harder to get unemployment benefits in general, which makes it needlessly difficult to get them in this current crisis.
- Trump whipped out his "very good people" trope to support the armed protesters who stormed the Michigan State Capitol this week.
- Paul Krugman: "Crashing economy, rising stocks: What's going on?"
- Megan Garber: "Groundhog Day was a horror movie all along."
- Bruce Schneier says Covid-19 contact tracing apps "have absolutely no value." Only "ubiquitous, cheap, fast, and accurate testing" will make a difference.
- Alexandra Petri: "Heroes, we cannot possibly repay you for your sacrifice, so we will make no effort to." ("We will give you everything except PPE, and we will offer you all the thanks in the world but an increase in compensation.")
But some good news:
Finally, while alarming in its own right, the record water levels in Lake Michigan (4 months in a row now) have exposed some historic shipwrecks.