Breezy, with a Chance of Cytokine Storms...

Cytokine Storm is my new least favorite phrase.

Here's a primer for you:


And please bookmark this site. It's an important one:



holy swine flu, batman!

it's time to break out the face masks!

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Tests have confirmed that eight New York City schoolchildren had a type A influenza virus, likely swine flu, city Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Frieden said Saturday.

Samples have been sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for further testing to see if they are indeed the unusual H1N1 flu strain that has killed up to 68 people in Mexico and may have sickened others, Frieden told a news conference.

"In every single case, illness was mild. Many of the children are feeling better," Frieden said.

"What is concerning about this is that it is likely swine flu and second that it is spreading person to person," Frieden said. He added, "We have seen no increase citywide in flu-like cases."

About 100 students at a school in the New York City borough of Queens became sick last week, prompting the tests, according to local media reports.

A quick throat swab test can tell if a person has influenza but further testing is usually required to determine the strain.

The World Health Organization has declared the swine flu outbreaks in Mexico and the United States a "public health event of international concern," but says more information is needed before raising the pandemic threat level.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed eight people from California and Texas were infected with the H1N1 strain, but all had recovered.


Everyday Preppers

I've long been fascinated by survivalism and all of its subtypes: flu preppers, peak oil preppers, and now economic survivalists. I have to admit, while I'm too lazy to do it myself, there is something very appealing and comforting about the idea of stockpiling food "to last two winters," as they say. Having a flour and grist mill is apparently very important, and there are some fancy ones out there that I've found recommended on prepper sites. It's kind of hard to imagine grinding flour to make -what? bread? matzoh?- during the apocalypse when there's a war of all against all. But I have a feeling that survivalists will be eating well in the fraught future while the rest of survive on cold cans of Spaghetti-o's.

Here's a few favorite sites to get you started:





Pandemic Watch 2009

So the news is that avian flu is mutating into something less virulent--and therefore more able to become pandemic. This might make you reconsider your trip to Egypt this year:


p.s. there is also apparently a board game called Pandemic which I would like to check out.


Ameros for everyone

Someone sent me this video about the Amero conspiracy.

According to these people, the US dollar will soon have no value, and any assets in dollars "will no longer be money, and a whole bunch of us will be instantly destitute." The government will then convert all US, Mexican and Canadian money into Ameros, which they will sell for pennies on the dollar. The government will then bring the military home from Iraq and establish a police state as enraged, destitute Americans take to the streets.

Well, if it brings the troops home, I guess this conspiracy theory isn't all bad...


I liked this video response:



SARS, Mumps and Creepy PSAs

Ever since the Toronto SARS outbreak (a deadly pneumonia-like pandemic that swept the city's hospitals), the people of TO have been generally wary of hospitals. If you get sick here, it's not uncommon to hear someone say: "Whatever you do, don't go to the hospital!" SARS has become part of our cultural fabric; for example, CTV produced a deliciously cheesy movie about the pandemic called Plague City: SARS in Toronto. See trailer:


Oh sure: blame everything on the Yuen Tak Butcher Shop! Truth is, even without SARS, Canada's hospitals, being state-funded, are often grotty and sometimes frightening. (Michael Moore just doesn't get it). So the government is trying to win us back to the medical system, especially basic services like immunization which have fallen to the wayside for a lot of people.

How are they doing this? By frightening the hell out of us! Check out this ad:



Break-Ins: a Hot Trans-Pacific Trend

I live in a rather subdued and safe neighborhood, and the apartment complex is watched at all hours by a group of security guards. In the past three years since I moved back to Seoul, I never worried about open windows--until yesterday, that is.

The first thing I noticed when I confusedly stepped through the unlocked front door was the open box of my forgotten, unused Japanese sauce dishes on the kitchen table. The unfamiliar sight of those dishes was instantly followed by the thunderous realization that something was amiss. Thunderous. Then, half my body still out the door, I saw that all the drawers and boxes I could see were open--at least partly. You never know how many big and small boxes you live with, when they are all stored neatly out of sight. Shoe boxes, plate boxes, photo boxes, jewelry boxes, and even boxed presents and gifts that you lay aside for future use. They were all open, and things were all out. When I calmed down a bit later, I was actually quite impressed with the thoroughness of the burglars, who went through all the drawers and even looked into the few unused perfume boxes in the closet without taking the perfumes.

Thankfully, the several policemen who came to "the crime scene" were very nice and efficient. One of them was a Crime Scene Investigator, and explained to me how the intruders got in, pointing at the bent bar in one of the windows and the shoe marks left on the windowsills and the floor. While the investigation was going on, they did a good job of patiently comforting and reassuring me who was worried beyond description that the intruders might repeat their visit now that they learned this was a one-woman household. They told me where to call for a quick installation of extra-security window locks and even gave me a few alarm bells that I can attach to doors and windows. These alarm bells have sensors so they will scare and deafen intruders, in lieu of Randolph's roaring, when windows are forced open. Later, two young, sprightly police officers came back twice to see how I was doing.

Most of us earthlings are affected by the extended global financial crises, and we are suffering from the new economy of no economic policies at all (except for "the-rich-get-richer" policy) in this part of the world as well. I had heard of the increasing number of break-ins in recent news, but I never thought those breaker-inners should redistribute MY wealth--or my lack thereof. And I hardly knew whether to be angry or sorry. When I asked the police about the possiblity of repeated intrusion, I was secretly afraid that the extent of my "wealth" offended the burglars and that they might want to take revenge on me for their wasted labor. I only hope that the few trinkets they bothered to take would remind them that most ordinary people should be spared from their grand masterplan of wealth redistribution.

Economic concerns, however, may be a less immediate issue than personal safety. I have an alarm bell on my bedroom door now. While putting it on the door, I asked myself: Will it keep me safe, let alone my wealth? It's supposed to help, of course. But if I ever hear that alarm bell go off in the middle of the night, it means I'm in the presence of an intruder in my own bedroom. This is a strange idea to entertain. Here I am, trying to use something the use of which I should NEVER EVER benefit from. It seems, in the end, nothing can ever keep us safe. All the same, I also had the extra-security window locks installed ASAP as the police recommended. Am I safe, now? I choose to go with the illusion that I am. At least for now.


Traffic Can Triple Heart Attack Risk

Make sure your vessels are free of plaque before you take a bike ride Angelenos...thank god I perfected FTL travel...it's the only way LA is manageable!


Break-Ins: The hot new job

As our economy continues to unfurl like a evil poisonous flower into the "new economy" of rampant unemployment, packs of wild dogs galumphing through the streets, and the ever more manic "social networking" that may just possibly hook one up with a job some day, BREAK-INS will become a more popular and horrible way of wealth redistribution.

I myself have none of the skills necessary to join in on the break-in phenomenon, except for what I have gleaned from movies and television. I don't think I would be capable of making my way Mission Impossible style through all those invisible red laser lines. If only there were some kind of underground economy version of the Learning Center that offered "Break-In 101."

Our Korean correspondent suffered a break-in just yesterday. She described it as:

"All the drawers and boxes in the apartment were turned upside down when I came home, and there was a serious CSI situation for a while, with the police officers taking shoeprints etc. I just finished cleaning things up. Fortunately I had nothing worth stealing, and didn't lose much. My youngest brother came over to stay here tonight. I can't wait to fall asleep--will update tomorrow."

Hopefully once she has the peace of mind, she can post about it here.

I've suffered two break-ins in my time.

The first was a couple of decades ago in Highland Park.

My girlfriend of the time and me returned to our rented house to discover that everything had (as above) been emptied out onto the floor. All 16 of my CDs had been stolen. They seemed very valuable at the time. They had gone through my non-CD music as well. To my dismay, they had rejected all of it save the Prince stuff. My girlfriend's jewelry was safe. I had thought myself very clever one day when I found a moveable ceiling board and put her jewelry above it. But I never anticipated that it would ever be needed.

The weirdest thing was the discovery of the item that pointed to how they entered the house. All the doors were still locked. Only the tiny bathroom window had been left open. Once I put all my shirts back in the drawers and closet, I discovered that I had acquired a new shirt: a small boy's shirt. He must have climbed through the little window to let the others in. And found a shirt of mine that he had liked better, I suppose. I never figured out which shirt was so alluring.

You would think that I would have learned my lesson: keep all the windows locked.

But who learns lessons?

So some years later, we were living in an apartment on the west side and had lazily slid into the habit of leaving our windows open on hot summer nights.

I woke up one night needing to go to the bathroom. I was naked and I wasn't wearing my glasses. As I entered the hallway, I could see the blurry figure of a male in the living room.

Adrenalin took over and directed me into some primeval and foolish behavior. I rushed toward the figure and literarily ROARED. Yes indeed I made a huge ROAR. Who knew I could ROAR?

Well it must have scared the shit out of the intruder. For instead of stabbing me with the kitchen knifes which were not too far from where he was standing or pulling out a gun and shooting me in the eye, he seemed to instantly leap backwards out the window he had entered. It was an amazing sight, like something out of a heavily CG'd superhero movie.

I kept moving forward driven by an adrenalin wave and looked out the window to see the perp doing a freak-out dash through the parking lot.

The adrenalin was still surging through my now clothed body when the cops arrived. But by then it had turned into feeling very very cold and an inability to stop shaking.

As in the previous incident, there were items left behind. The intruder had made off with my wallet. I was fortunate that he dropped it at the far end of the parking lot, sans money, but still holding IDs, credit cards, etc.

But during his American Panic Attack, he had also left something else behind, something just outside the window -- his SHOES.

I guess one of the things that you learn in Break-In 101 is to enter the sleeping household in your stocking feet. So he had gained my money, but had been forced to go back to the mean streets running like hell in his sock feet. There was some measure of victory in that. And I even felt some pity for him.

I was a little astonished at my own behavior. Couldn't I have just shut and locked the bedroom door and called 911? No, for some reason, my wild untrammeled self felt the need to run at the possibly armed and dangerous intruder and ROAR.

So learn from this. If you're going to fuck with me, wear earplugs.