Cautiously worried about bird flu, medical advancements, and emotional support alligator

Today I pulled my 9-year-old into my cozy rocking chair (which is super-wide) so we could play a game on my phone together. I haven’t done that in a while. In this house, we all have our own devices. I don’t really like playing games with other people anyway. But it was extremely snuggly today, and I’m always amazed at how quickly he picks things up. He notices stuff I never do. He only needed about 1-2 minutes watching the game to grasp most of the rules.

It was nice snuggling. He’s been sick, so I was limiting contact to limit my own viral load. I think I did get the bug from him a bit. I was achy and exhausted yesterday. We’re both doing better though! So I got to refill my cup on Sunshine snugs.

Meanwhile I have been spending the vast majority of my time with 13yo by going on long walks. I like it because I have a hard time listening to people talk if we are just sitting around talking. Once I start walking, I can hear and absorb everything. I *want* to hear everything they say. It’s so frustrating how normally my attention wanders. This way, we get sun, we get movement, we get a real connection.

I’ve been saying walks are like medicine, because they are. My mental health is garbage if I don’t administer that medicine each day. I’ve noticed a significant impact on my kids too, so if I see they’re not feeling good, it’s time to put on shoes and get out there.


I’ve been watching the whole bird flu outbreak in American dairy cows. I took a week or two off buying milk while I waited for the FDA to confirm that there’s no live virus in dairy products, and it’s looking good. (Gizmodo via Quartz) Yesterday they announced their most extensive tests showed no live virus.

That doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods, though.

Bird flu is always a potentially serious threat in part because flu strains native to birds are less familiar to the immune system of humans and other mammals. Right now, these viruses can’t transmit well between people. But the longer that H5N1 is able to linger in cows, the greater the likelihood that some strains will adapt and become better at spreading between mammals, humans included. And the right assortment of mutations could turn a bird flu virus into a deadly and fast-spreading pandemic germ.

This is my main concern at the moment. I’ve been worrying about the Next Pandemic since we still never took the kind of systemic actions we needed against the Last Pandemic (like, broad clean air initiatives). I’ve expected it would be soonish because of climate change. This one comes from dreadful agricultural practices, though. My understanding is that cows got infected because they’ve been fed chicken crap en masse. The dairy farmers hoped this would mean antibiotics and steroids in the chickens doing double duty once they enter the cows, but it actually just made an outbreak.

I’ve had lots of bird flu articles tagged in my RSS reader. A couple other recent articles are not really alarming in regards to humans: Barn cats dying when they got bird flu from raw milk (Ars Technica), and a dolphin previously getting bird flu (Gizmodo).

But Digby’s Hullaballoo noted that it’s likely there’s already a lot of bird flu in human dairy workers. We aren’t testing for it seriously yet.


Sorry, I know that subject is grim. But I don’t feel like we should be afraid right now — just watchful. We are little dudes on a big planet. In our society, we are little more influential than cells in a body.

Balancing the grimness of More Pandemics is the fact we are learning a lot in medicine right now. Smithsonian Mag talks about personalized melanoma vaccines. It really seems like cancer tech is moving forward in leaps and bounds.

Plus, patients in the NHS are getting a life-changing drug for sickle cell anemia. (The Guardian)

On a not-medical level, the G7 nations have agreed to (mostly?) stop using coal by 2035. (Smithsonian Mag)

It doesn’t feel like we’re moving forward, but we really are. All the good and bad stuff happens at the same time. It always has.


What’s more high-tech dystopia than a drone designed to cover graffiti? (also Gizmodo)

A lot of things, honestly. I’m not talking much about college protests here because I don’t have any particular insights to add, but those are incredibly dystopian.

This article on Balloon Juice has a lot more useful stuff to say than I could muster.

Students wanted to be heard, and taken seriously, and you can do that independently of the ask. And it builds trust in the adminsitration so that if you do need to go to the demonstrators about a safety concern, they are more likely to believe that you have an actual safety concern. Instead of asking them to take an encampment down, can we move you over here where you’re still visible but aren’t blocking an evacuation route. We didn’t like the encampment, but the whole point of the encampment was that we didn’t like it. Not asking them to take it down is a soft way of saying ‘we respect your decision’. Trust has to be earned, and re-earned with every generation of students.

Basically it’s a perspective from a college administrator talking about what administrators can and should be doing about the protests on a very practical level, and none of it involves cops arresting students.


On the bright side, that 1864 anti-abortion law in Arizona has already been repealed. (AJE)

I saw lots of coverage of the law’s passage. I kinda hope I will see coverage of its repeal too? I just think folks need to know when the really egregiously bad stuff gets kicked to the curb.


If Biden’s administration has its way, cannabis is getting reclassified on the federal level. (NPR)

From the perspective of someone who is generally pro-weed but cannot have a healthy relationship with it:

Anything we can do to rectify the harms of the drug war is good. We need to stop punishing people for use of herb. We especially need to get people out of prisons for cannabis-related offenses.

But there’s probably gonna be a lot of cannabis use disorder for a while as we reclaim our social memory of safe cannabis usage. I won’t be the only person who bakes herself into a stupor, discovers you can get COPD from that, and has to quit the thing. A number thrown around in recovery groups is 1/5: that is to say, 20% of people can’t have a healthy relationship with it. It’s a lot like alcohol. Some folks drink lightly — no big deal — and then there’s people like me, who can overuse anything.

I predict there will be a dramatic spike in cannabis use disorder because it’s often marketed as a wonder drug, totally harmless. Give it a decade or two to start settling down and get treated with proper respect.


On a lighter note, a man has lost his emotional support alligator. (The Guardian) Someone let the gator loose while the human was elsewhere.

I just really, really don’t think humans should be keeping alligators as pets on any level. I’m sorry if the dude is sad. I think the gator is probably better off freed, though.

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