Coffee Thoughts: March 2020

Welcome back to Coffee Thoughts, folks. The March edition, to be precise. Arm yourself with a mug, take your first sip, and let’s get rolling.

First off, let’s discuss the one issue that everybody (and I mean everybody) is talking about, everywhere in the world. C’mon, you know what it is. What else could it be, but … what, you thought I meant the U.S. presidential election? Nah, more like …

Coronavirus

Hey, you were warned. Hopefully you washed your hands. And seriously, folks: speaking as a former healthcare worker, please do wash your hands. Thoroughly. Frequently. And yes, yes, count to 20 while you do it. None of this “put-your-hands-under-the-water-and-splash-a-bit-and-take-them-right-back-out” nonsense that some people do.

Now, knowledge is power, and as COVID-19 continues to spread, one of the most important things people can do is learn more about what it is, who is at risk, and how to respond. To that end, as the Guardian explains, it’s important to know that COVID-19 is highly contagious. If it continues to spread, people all over the world will be at risk. At the same time, you should be aware that while the death rate is relatively low — deadlier than the flu, but around 2 percent in, for instance, the Hubei province — there are still thousands of people who have died, so as John Oliver put it, you should strike a balance between being cautious and not, you know, letting hysteria take over to the point where you go swallowing bleach, or something similarly dangerous.

Sadly, the people who will be most impacted by this are the same ones who usually suffer during such times: the elderly, the immunocompromised, and the economically disadvantaged. When it comes to societal inequality, as Bill Gates has said, according to CNBC, the healthcare systems in low-income nations are already struggling, and thus, “A pathogen like the coronavirus can quickly overwhelm them. And poorer countries have little political or economic leverage, given wealthier countries’ natural desire to put their own people first.”

Even here in the U.S., though, it looks like poor people are going to suffer a lot more than rich people will, because it seems the pharmaceutical industry is still up to its usual price-gouging bullshit: a few weeks ago, health secretary (and pharmaceutical lobbyist) Alex Azar refused to promise that if/when a coronavirus vaccine becomes available, that it would be affordable to all Americans. What he’s saying, in essence, is that the pharmaceutical industry is hungry to profit off the misery of sick people. Now, for one, fuck that. Two, that’s classism at its finest. And three, it’s bad science, because vaccines work most effectively when everyone gets them, allowing herd immunity to kick in.

So yeah, this is scary. You know what else is scary? Racism. And another thing that is absolutely, 100 percent not acceptable — and, sadly, is also happening right now — is that Coronavirus has sparked a wave of anti-Asian racism, as I wrote for Grunge, with countless individuals and/or businesses of Asian descent being bullied, ostracized, or even beaten, simply because of the fact the COVID-19 started in China. This sort of insane xenophobia and racism needs to stop, immediately.

Now, for something else

Okay, time to shift to something a bit less stressful, huh? Long, deep breaths. Here’s Nova, the ever-noble companion, being a dog, and doing dog things:

The struggles of finding gender neutral baby clothing are all-too-real

As a new father (almost four months!) I wanted to take a moment to mention this great article on Vox, by Chris Chafin, which discusses the real-life struggles of trying to clad your baby in clothing that isn’t hot pink or baby blue, and questions why society even cares so much about a baby’s gender, to begin with.

Until you become a new parent (or go shopping for somebody else’s baby, or what have you), it’s easy to underestimate just how aggressively the clothing industry wants you to clad your infant in the most ridiculously, stereotypically-gendered colors, prints, and styles imaginable. Now, as the father of a baby girl, I don’t have any issue with the color pink … or, say, butterflies. When she gets old enough to make her own fashion decisions, if she likes pink butterfly garments, she can happily choose those for herself. While she’s a baby, though, it’s downright ridiculous that the fashion industry tries to shove gender norms down your throat, to the point where it’s sometimes nigh-on impossible to find clothes that are, say, green, brown, red, orange, or so on.

The industry’s fixation on an infant’s gender is clearly unhealthy. So hopefully, as society evolves on topics of gender, in general, this is another area where we can evolve, as well.

Anyhow, that’s all for now. Have a great Monday, everybody!

Coffee Thoughts: February 2020

Hello out there, and welcome to the second monthly edition of Coffee Thoughts! As stated on the last time around, this space will cover some short form notes, observations, and (if we’re lucky) “insights” about the past few weeks, shared over a cup of coffee.

Happy Tu BiShvat!

To start this off, let me wish a happy Tu BiShvat to any fellow Jewish readers out there!

And for all you non-Jewish readers, a quick little explanation: Tu BiShvat is the Jewish new year for trees, celebrated annually on the 15th of Shevat. Now, here in climates like New Hampshire (rather than Israel), it can seem a bit odd to celebrate trees in the midst of snowstorms. That said, I think it could be argued that there’s no time that trees seem more admirable — and just outright impressive — than in the thick of winter, when these ancient giants are standing their ground in the snow, hunkering down as they await the blooming flowers of spring.

Anyhow, if there was ever a time in history where humans really need to value trees, the planet, and the environment in general, it’s now. In light of those fires in the Amazon and Australia, to say nothing of the fact that Antarctica just hit 65 degrees the other day — the cold continent’s warmest recorded temp in history — environmental action needs to happen sooner, not later, for the sake of every form of life on Earth.

February Thoughts

February is a short month, but it’s an important one, which is used to draw attention to several significant causes. One of these is American Heart Month, honored since 1963. As I wrote for Join Us For Good, one in four U.S. deaths continues to be caused by heart disease, and the situation is even deadlier for women. One of the major factors in this, as often noted by famed cardiologist Dr. Paula Johnson, is that the “textbook” heart attack symptoms tend to be experienced by men, whereas women often display entirely different symptoms: as a result, the scary truth is that one in three American women die of heart disease. Bringing more awareness to this disparity, often dubbed the “heart attack gender gap,” should be an important goal for every February.

February is also, of course, Black History Month. This tradition, first started as a week-long celebration of Black American history, achievements, and pride, by the noted historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson in 1915, has become a hallmark of every February.

In honor of Black History Month, here are some notable quotes from Malcolm X, a man who always stood up for his beliefs, empowered others, and become one of the dominant cultural influencers of the 20th century:

“A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything.”

— Malcolm X

“I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those that do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation.”
— Malcolm X

Blood Donations

Finally, to close this out, I think we all know it’s been a crazy cold and flu season. Having a newborn is especially hard in winter, since the little one picks up every cold that brushes by.

That said, when the American Red Cross asks over and over again for blood donations, they’re doing it for a good reason. I’ve been giving blood since I was 16, and if there’s one thing I’ve heard over and over again, it’s that winter is the time that such donations matter most. It’s also the season where they have the hardest time roping people in.

Carve some space out of a day. You’ll save lives, feel good, and give another family a happy February.

Cheers, folks. Talk to you again soon!

Time for a Grunge Roundup

Greetings, everybody! As longtime readers know, one of my regular assignments is writing for Grunge.com, where I explore topics from the sociological to the bizarre and otherworldly, depending on the day.  It’s been a while since I’ve linked you all to some of my more recent pieces, so here are a few favorites:

 

Messed up things about elementary school you only notice as an adult

messed up elementary school kid trauma problems

We all remember our elementary school days, but those memories aren’t always so happy. In this article, I examine some of the most inane and problematic policies guiding elementary schools in the United States, including the emphasis on competition (spoiler alert: competition actually inhibits learning), forcing kids to ask for a bathroom pass (who came up with that nonsense?) and why taking away recess actually makes unruly kids more unruly. Read on!

 

 

The bizarre true story of Bigfoot, America’s missing ape

sasqets bigfoot sasquatch native american

Is there really a hairy, humanoid creature wandering through the woodlands of the United States? Probably not, but you never know, and the world would be a lot more fun if there was. Regardless, the legend of sasquatch goes back surprisingly far: various versions of a bigfoot-like figure played key roles in the spiritual belief systems of multiple North American indigenous peoples. Here’s the story!

 

Secrets of living in Antarctica

antartica john kerry research south pole ice snow

Ever wondered who lives in Antartica, how long they stay there, or what they do? Ever wondered what kind of job applications those Antarctic stations might be taking? Wonder no more, because here are (some) answers. Learn the ropes, seek out the iciest continent, and who knows: maybe one day soon, you’ll join the ranks of the 300 Club, the esteemed group who do naked races from a 200 °F  sauna out into a -100 °F Antarctic night. Yes, really.

Writing for Grunge.com

Good morning, everyone!

So, I’m happy to share that I’ve joined up with the writers of Grunge.com. For those who haven’t read Grunge before, it’s a quality site, dedicated to diving deep into pools of weird information, exploring unknown facts, and correcting common misconceptions. Since I’ve always had the sort of brain that’s hungry to explore any corner of knowledge I find myself in, I’m having a great time.

Here are a few of my pieces so far. Thanks for giving ’em a read!

Weird Things That Medical TV Shows Always Get Wrong

House MD nicholas conley

Strange Facts You Never Knew About Twins

twins nicholas conley

Clever Movies That Trick You With Double Plot Twists

arrival nicholas conley

Animals That Evolved to Defend Themselves Against Humans

animals evolved nicholas conley

Skydiving in Phoenix

You know what’s insane? Skydiving.

You know what’s more insane than that?

…well, not much. At least, I’ve never experienced anything that feels more insane while it’s happening. My mind never stops flashing back to that moment where the door flipped open, air rushed inside, and every instinct in my suddenly very-mortal body was screaming to me that this whole “Hey, I’m going to jump out of a plane!” idea was not conducive to survival. You’re going to die! People can’t fall this distance! Then, the surrealness of actually doing it. Putting my legs out of the plane.

It’s like crashing through the gates of reality. Doing what you think is impossible.

Somewhere around the point where my feet were over the edge, and the desert landscape was spread out below, all sense of reality that I’ve perceived up until that point in my life totally shattered. The next 40 seconds — less than a minute spent flying through the air like a superhero, with adrenaline pumping harder than it probably ever has before — felt like it lasted for months, or even a year, in all the right ways.

And it was absolutely amazing. For anyone who has this one on their to-do list, all I can say is: don’t miss out.

What about you guys?

Have you ever gone skydiving, or thought about doing it? Let’s hear it!