(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘pandemic

“It is sad to go to pieces like this but we all have to do it”*…

Still, some species “do it” differently than others…

It is well known that somatic mutations — mutations in our body’s genetic code that accumulate over time — can cause cancer, but their broader role in ageing is less clear.

Now a team of researchers have measured the somatic mutation rates of a range of mammals and discovered a striking correlation between mutation rate and lifespan. Lending evidence to the theory that somatic mutations are a cause of ageing rather than a result of it…

Ageing is linked to accumulated mutations: “The lifespan secret: why giraffes live longer than ferrets,” from @Nature.

* Mark Twain, on aging

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As we grow old gracefully, we might send carefully-deduced birthday greetings to William Ian Beardmore (WIB) Beveridge; he was born on this date in 1908.  A veterinarian who served as  director of the Institute of Animal Pathology at Cambridge, he identified the origin of the Great Influenza (the Spanish Flu pandemic, 1918-19)– a strain of swine flu.

WIB Beveridge

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Happy Shakespeare’s Birthday!

“The whole of the global economy is based on supplying the cravings of two percent of the world’s population”*…

Perhaps that’s an oversimplification; but as a new McKinsey Global Institute study suggests, perhaps not by much…

We have borrowed a page from the corporate world—namely, the balance sheet—to take stock of the underlying health and resilience of the global economy as it begins to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic. This view from the balance sheet complements more typical approaches based on GDP, capital investment levels, and other measures of economic flows that reflect changes in economic value… [and] provides an in-depth look at the global economy after two decades of financial turbulence and more than ten years of heavy central bank intervention, punctuated by the pandemic.

Across ten countries that account for about 60 percent of global GDP—Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States—the historic link between the growth of net worth and the growth of GDP no longer holds. While economic growth has been tepid over the past two decades in advanced economies, balance sheets and net worth that have long tracked it have tripled in size. This divergence emerged as asset prices rose—but not as a result of 21st-century trends like the growing digitization of the economy.

Rather, in an economy increasingly propelled by intangible assets like software and other intellectual property, a glut of savings has struggled to find investments offering sufficient economic returns and lasting value to investors. These savings have found their way instead into real estate, which in 2020 accounted for two-thirds of net worth. Other fixed assets that can drive economic growth made up only about 20 percent the total. Moreover, asset values are now nearly 50 percent higher than the long-run average relative to income. And for every $1 in net new investment over the past 20 years, overall liabilities have grown by almost $4, of which about $2 is debt…

The rise and rise of the global balance sheet: How productively are we using our wealth?,” from @McKinsey_MGI

(Image above: source)

* Bill Bryson

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As we recalculate: we might spare a thought for composer, musician, director, and producer Frank “anything played wrong twice in a row is the beginning of an arrangement” Zappa; he died (of pancreatic cancer) on this date in 1993 at age 52.

“Politics is the entertainment branch of industry”

“The bottom line is always money”

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“There will be sleeping enough in the grave”*…

After a busy year, morticians let loose at their annual gathering in Nashville…

The theme of the National Funeral Directors Association’s 2021 convention and expo was “Together Again!” That may sound like an oddly upbeat slogan following a global pandemic, but morticians like to party as much as anyone — especially after a big year for business. So this October, roughly 5,000 funeral service providers from around the country descended on Nashville, trading in their mortuary makeup and three-piece suits for cowboy hats and boots.

On a surprisingly chilly morning, I joined them at Music City Center, the city’s sprawling convention facility and, for the next few days, the beating heart of the American funeral industry. The enormous hallways were clogged with reunions, as former students chatted with their mentors, funeral home owners met their favorite vendors in the flesh, and fans introduced themselves to niche podcasters and social media stars. “Funeral directors, we’re not the most popular kids at the party,” Glenda Stansbury, a licensed funeral director and embalmer in Oklahoma, told me, with her signature raspy laugh. But in the riverside city, with its total lack of COVID restrictions, the pandemic’s last responders could finally let loose…

Eleanor Cummins (@elliepses) reports: “‘I feel like a survivor’: Inside the funeral industry’s 2021 national convention,” from @mic.

* Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

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As we undertake to understand undertakers, we might recall that it was on this date in 1896 that the Nobel Prizes were established. In 1888, Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, read his own obituary– entited “The merchant of death is dead”– in a French newspaper. (It was actually meant to be the obit of his brother, Ludvig.) Chastened, Alfred redrew his will with an eye to creating a more positive– and popular– legacy.

On this date in 1896, Nobel actually died. His estate established a series of prizes for those who confer the “greatest benefit on mankind” in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace (economics was added later). The first Prizes were awarded in 1901.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

December 10, 2021 at 1:00 am

“The threat of a pandemic is different from that of a nerve agent, in that a disease can spread uncontrollably, long after the first carrier has succumbed”*…

We were, of course, warned. As we do our best to digest the news of emergent new strains of the COVID-19 virus, a look back at Annie Sparrow‘s 2016 New York Review of Books essay on pandemics…

Pandemics—the uncontrolled spread of highly contagious diseases across countries and continents—are a modern phenomenon. The word itself, a neologism from Greek words for “all” and “people,” has been used only since the mid-nineteenth century. Epidemics—localized outbreaks of diseases—have always been part of human history, but pandemics require a minimum density of population and an effective means of transport. Since “Spanish” flu burst from the trenches of World War I in 1918, infecting 20 percent of the world’s population and killing upward of 50 million people, fears of a similar pandemic have preoccupied public health practitioners, politicians, and philanthropists. World War II, in which the German army deliberately caused malaria epidemics and the Japanese experimented with anthrax and plague as biological weapons, created new fears…

According to the doctor, writer, and philanthropist Larry Brilliant, “outbreaks are inevitable, pandemics are optional.”

Much of human history can be seen as a struggle for survival between humans and microbes. Pandemics are microbe offensives; public health measures are human defenses. Water purification, sanitation, and vaccination are crucial to our living longer, better, even taller lives. But these measures of mass salvation are not sexy. While we know prevention is better and considerably cheaper than cure, there is little financial reward or glory in it. Philanthropists prefer to build hospitals rather than pay community health workers. Pharmaceutical companies prefer the Western market to the distant and poor Global South where people cannot afford to buy treatments. Education is a powerful social vaccine against the ignorance that enables pathogens to flourish, but insufficient to overcome the corruption of public goods by private interests. The current enthusiasm for detecting the next panic-inducing pathogen should not divert resources and research from the perennial threats that we already have. We must resist the tendency of familiarity and past failures to encourage contempt and indifference…

An important (and in its time, sadly, prescient) read: “The Awful Diseases on the Way,” from @annie_sparrow in @nybooks.

See also “6 of the Worst Pandemics in History” (source of the image above) and “A history of pandemics.”

[TotH to MK]

Hannah Fry

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As we prioritize preparation, we might recall that it was on this date in 1935 that physicist Erwin Schrödinger published his famous thought experiment– now known as “Schrödinger’s cat“– a paradox that illustrates the problem of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics.

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“At this season of the year, darkness is a more insistent thing than cold. The days are short as any dream.”*…

Tis the season. Kathryn Jezer-Morton explores…

We are burrowed deep within cozy season on social media. It surrounds us in clouds of neutral-toned knits, it shrouds us in the steam of freshly-brewed hot drinks. Our socks encase our ankles with soulful seasonal droopiness. Our beanies threaten to envelop our entire heads in their snuggly embrace. We have a candle burning, we have a new book ready to crack. We are not getting up from this spot.

The momfluencers are big into representations of coziness, but this is one social media theme that it seems like everyone embraces. At the start of the season, I noticed that coziness was coming on with extra ferocity this year, although one never can be sure — seasons always seem so loud online. I can say for certainty that over the last year or so, coziness has become a powerful social media aesthetic, probably due to the pandemic and people being homebound.

Whatever the origins of the aesthetic of coziness online might be, it started out as a feeling, not a collection of objects. The aesthetic tries to conjure the feeling, and I have two questions: How well does it succeed, and why do we want that feeling so bad?..

Find out: “Is ‘cozy season’ a cry for help?,” from @KJezerMorton.

C.f. also: “It’s Decorative Gourd Season, Motherf**kers.”

* E.B. White

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As we settle in, we might recall that today is National Bundt Cake Day, an annual celebration on this date of the Bundt cake and the Bundt pan that makes it possible.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 15, 2021 at 1:00 am

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