Thursday, April 30, 2009

Silly Swine Flu!

I just heard last night, via twitter, "Huntsville and Madison County schools are closed tomorrow: two possible cases of swine flu."

What?  I don't mean to be rude, but this is getting a bit silly now, folks.  Please, can we stop the media overhype?  Check out this article if you want a "real" media perspective (i.e., what I'm about to say, but from a real new station instead of little old me).

According to the CDC, 1 out of 91 cases of swine flu has resulted in death.  That's a little over 1%.

Again, according to the CDC, over 200,000 people are hospitalized with "regular flu" each year, and 36,000 of those result in death.  That's a nice 18%.  They also say that 5-20% of the American population (estimated) contracts a flu virus each year.  Yes, that ends up with a lower percentage of "death rate" than the 1 in 91 of swine flu (although the 1/91 is probably more relative to the percentage of hospitalizations vs. death of regular flu).

Now, I'm not saying, "Don't be careful."  But the precautions (recommended by the CDC) are the same as for "regular" flu:

  • Stay informed. This website will be updated regularly as information becomes available.
  • Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.
  • Take everyday actions to stay healthy.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
  • Stay home if you get sick. CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
  • Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds and other social distancing measures.
  • Develop a family emergency plan as a precaution. This should include storing a supply of food, medicines, facemasks, alcohol-based hand rubs and other essential supplies.
  • Call 1-800-CDC-INFO for more information.

Except I'm not so sure about that "prepare to stay in your house for weeks on end" suggestion.  Yeah, stay home from school if you get sick - not to avoid getting sick.  Do we ever shut down schools for "regular flu"?  Not really sure what the difference is.  From the World Health Organization:

What are the implications for human health?

Outbreaks and sporadic human infection with swine influenza have been occasionally reported. Generally clinical symptoms are similar to seasonal influenza but reported clinical presentation ranges broadly from asymptomatic infection to severe pneumonia resulting in death.

Since typical clinical presentation of swine influenza infection in humans resembles seasonal influenza and other acute upper respiratory tract infections, most of the cases have been detected by chance through seasonal influenza surveillance. Mild or asymptomatic cases may have escaped from recognition; therefore the true extent of this disease among humans is unknown.

Whatever.  They even admit that the "91 reported cases" may be underestimated; it just so happens that someone noticed one particular case was of a particular type, so that particular type is now getting a lot of attention.  Whatever.

What I want to know is what happened to all the antiseptic wipes that we all had to provide as part of our children's "school supplies" when they started school?  (Yeah, our kids were in Madison, but now they're not, as we've moved.)  One of my kids recently had a fairly nasty flu-like infection - we kept him home, he recovered in a day or two, and now he's fine.  Didn't even need Tamiflu or anything.  Back when we were in HSV a couple of weeks ago most of my family got sick with probably flu-like symptoms.  Whether it was allergies or flu, we don't really know.  But we're all still here.

Be careful, people, but don't be silly.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Obscure Phrases

I've decided to enlighten the world on the less-known origins of some common phrases.  To start, consider:
Kill two birds with one stone.
This particular phrase comes from the time of the Great Stone Age Depression, when stones, which were previously abundant and frequently used in bird hunting (which was, unfortunately, often done out of sport instead of for the bird's - or birds' - meat, feathers, hides, and beaks, which were fairly useful items for households, and led to the careless anthropogenic extermination of such varied species as the dodo bird and its less liked cousin the doo-doo bird, which was a common defacer of stone-age artwork) ... whew! that was quite the parenthetical insertion, wasn't it?  Anyway, back to the Great Stone Age Depression.  Back when stones, previously in abundance, suddenly became rare and expensive items.  Hunters, dealing with ever-decreasing quantities of and ever-increasing-replacement costs of stone, began to develop techniques wherein a single stone could be banked off one bird in a glancing blow, usually to the neck or head (causing terminal injury to the initial recipient of contact), and then into a second bird, typically causing a fatal injury to it as well (or at least enough of an injury to bring the bird to the ground, such as a broken wingtip, where the expert marksman would finish the bird, often with the original stone after it had been retrieved from wherever it fell, since stones were quickly becoming precious commodities).  In fact, in some cases, particularly accurate bird hunters could take down three or more birds with a single stone, but the more common (and frequent) occurance was to fell two birds.  Hence the saying: "kill two birds with one stone."

As part of this downturn in the stone-age economy, navite Australians began to fashion stones into exotic shapes that would, when thrown, return to the thrower after ringing in two or more birds, thus saving the hunter the task of retrieving the thrown stone and potentially having the stone stolen by stone-starved, hungry hunters hiding in the nearby bush to grab the stone once it fell to earth.  This, as you can imagine, led to the later development of the boomerang.

Come back next time as we explain the meaning of "don't count your chickens before they hatch" (preview: one farmer had three dozen eggs, and pre-sold the thirty-six chickens; unfortunately for him, half of the eggs were actually twins, but he had only pre-sold the thirty-six instead of the fifty-four, leaving him with an extra eighteen chicks; why is this a problem, you might ask? well, what would you do with eighteen chicks? if he sold those, that would drive down the price and he would not get as much for his next round of chickens due to overproduction, so the poor famer had to settle for keeping eighteen chickens as pets, and chickens do not make very good pets).

Saturday, April 11, 2009


I just turned to see my daughter eating M&M's and Mustard. (She says she was eating pretzels & mustard, but I know better.) Gross.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

77 seconds of TV

Why do writers of TV shows like "Destroyed in Seconds" (guess what I'm watching right now?) and "The Detonators" insist on repeating what you've already watched after returning from each commercial break?  Do they really think that Americans are of such limited intelligence that we can't recall what's happened in the first ten minutes of the half-hour show across the 2-4 minute break?  Or that we've forgotten what is going on just before the break?  I've decided that, given this phenomenon, along with the "repeated video" during the episode, we get roughly 77 seconds of original material per half-hour show, as follows:
  • intro: 23 seconds
  • outtro: 23 seconds
  • four 3-minute commercial breaks: 12 minutes
  • one-minute recaps after each commercial break: 4 minutes
  • title credits: 2 minutes 30 seconds
  • ending credits: 3 minutes 30 seconds
  • super-slo-mo and repeated, multi-angle video of the same event for each segment of original material (assuming seven original video segments and 51 seconds of repeated/slo-mo per segment): 5 minutes 57 seconds
  • original material: 77 seconds (i.e., 11 seconds per each of seven original segments)
Wow.  I just spent 1/2 hour of my life for seventy-seven seconds of original material.  At least it's the "perfect" or "complete" amount of original material, eh?