Wednesday, October 22, 2014


When the CDC announced that Thomas Duncan, a 42-year old Liberian national, had been diagnosed with the Ebola virus in Dallas, TX it ignited a wave of panic that only intensified when the disease spread to two nurses who had treated him. Confusion and disinformation abounded, spurned by Facebook posts and conspiracy theories. I personally witnessed a conversation between two highly educated people that occurred just a few weeks after Duncan’s diagnosis:

Person 1 – How was your trip?
Person 2 – Good, coming home we had a layover in Dallas but the flight was good.
Person 1- You were in Dallas!? I hope you didn’t touch anything while you were there.
Person 2 – I know. We were very careful.

What does that even mean? Did you torch your clothing when you left the terminal or did you simply use the paper towel to open the bathroom door? To my knowledge there has not been a single documented case of airport transmission and not even the people sitting with him on the plane caught it. Don’t get me wrong, even without Ebola in the equation I wouldn’t go around licking the Cinnabon counter at LAX, but Ebola is a little harder to catch than you might think.

I have heard the counter-arguments. The government told us that it could not come here, and then it did. They said it could not spread here, and then it did. While that is true, it is important to note that, so far, all of those cases have been healthcare workers in direct contact with the original case. Their job required them to treat Mr. Duncan while he was the most contagious and handle the very fluids necessary for transmission. Perhaps we should spend less time second guessing their decisions and more time admiring the courage necessary to risk your own life in order provide medical care to another human being.   

An example of the continuing misconception of the disease occurred on a recent episode of Fox News Sunday where Pulitzer-prize winning columnist George Will claimed “there are now doctors who are saying, we’re not so sure that it can’t be in some instances transmitted by airborne.” Rarely has a more ambiguously-qualified statement been uttered on national television. Let’s really break this down:
George Will
Who is saying it – “doctors”
Doctors of what? Which doctors? Are they epidemiologists? Did they get an honorary Ph.D in Forensic Graphic Design?

What they are saying – “we’re not so sure it can’t”
Double-negatives aside, that is the least actionable piece of information in medical science. In essence, they are telling you that possibilities do in fact exist and that they may be applicable to this situation.

When – “in some instances”
What instances? Hypothetical instances? Peruvian Independence Day instances?

Of course, all that most people took away from that broadcast was the juxtaposition of the words “doctors, Ebola, airborne” which is more than enough to feed a panic. Before you know it there are Facebook posts claiming that this Ebola outbreak actually began when President George W. Bush ordered the controlled demolition of the twin towers on September 11th.

I have always found it ironic that the people most likely to accept sweepingly complex Federal government conspiracies are also the ones who vehemently dismiss the Federal government as hopelessly inept. In other words, how do you believe that the same group of employees are perpetuating a highly-orchestrated nationwide ruse while simultaneously lacking the cognitive ability to perform the most rudimentary tasks in their job description? You cannot have it both ways. If the government is successfully running a clandestine operation with that many moving parts, they are not hopelessly incompetent. Conversely, if they are hopelessly incompetent they would be unable to successfully run a clandestine operation with that many moving parts.

Don’t get me wrong, Ebola is a terrifying disease and in this modern era of globalization an outbreak is everyone’s problem. I came dangerously close to soiling myself when I first read Richard Preston’s 1994 book The Hot Zone; but unless its method of transmission changes you needn’t stockpile the bunker yet. Of course, that could be exactly what the CDC wants you to think so that when it goes airborne there will be more canned beans for them.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Girl's Clothing

A few weeks ago my wife wanted to stop by Old Navy to look for some yoga attire. As the designated retail pack-mule, I found myself standing by the women’s athletic gear killing time while my spouse decided between identical pairs of black stretchy pants. Glancing over the display, I noticed an interesting trend in the athletic tops: cringe-worthy idioms.

Are there that many women who want to show up at the gym wearing a tank top that says “Get It Girl” or “Free Your Mind”? Some even implied impulsiveness and possible promiscuity by featuring “WILD” or “FREE SPIRIT” across the chest. One just featured the word “SWAGGER” printed vertically. Are these meant to inspire the wearer or the people they come in contact with at the gym? Is the idea that you put this on, look in the mirror and say to yourself, “I was going to binge-watch True Blood and eat fried chicken, but now I think I’ll dead-lift instead.”

Inspired by these items, I have created my own cringe-worthy screen-print series for Old Navy Women’s Athletics:

  • You Go (to the gym) Girl!
  • W.T.F.  (Why The Flab?)
  • Sugar-Baby in Training
  • Me – 1 / Excuses – 0
  • Don’t Cha? (need to avoid gluten)
  • Estrogen Warrior
  • I Physical Exertion

Another trend I noticed was that nearly every upper-torso mannequin modeling a top was posed with its hands behind its back. It was as if they wanted to show the consumer exactly how the blouse would look were they to be handcuffed wearing it. I realize that a woman puts much more thought into attire than a man, but are such scenarios really taken into account? I would love to have passed by a woman telling her friend, “The green top looks great when my arms are in a comfortable position, but what if I get caught with 2 kilos on St. Patrick’s Day?”

The clothing problems for girls apparently can begin in utero. My wife was explaining that she had pre-ordered an outfit so that we could get it on its day that it is released. Please allow that to sink in. Things have gotten so bad that children’s clothing now has a street date. I wonder if there are people standing outside a Gymboree the night before discussing rumors.

“My cousin heard that the new pastel rompers will feature an offset accent bow.”
“No way! I just saw a Facebook rumor that the fall line will reflect their corporate de-emphasis on ruching!”

I can only hope that this release date business has created a thriving black market scene. Hordes of desperate middle-class parents ducking into alleys and avoiding eye contact as they whisper, “Anybody got the 2015 smocked kitten pattern in a 2T?” as nonchalantly as possible. Their inquiries undoubtedly met with suspicion until some guy in a trench coat presented a hypothetical situation where he might know a guy who did time with the dock manager at Zulily. But just before the conversation can continue, a lookout shouts “five-0!” and the minivans scatter just as quickly and mysteriously as they appeared.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Pregnancy Nose

Pregnancy has endowed my wife with a superpower and as much as I would like to pretend it is the ability to weaponize biokinetic energy particles, the truth is that she can smell things. I do not mean in the routine I-think-someone-hit-a-skunk way or the do-I-detect-the-aroma-of-chamomile-tea way. This woman is one errant gamma-ray away from being able to smell fear.
Each time she walks into the house, I feel like a drug dealer that just had the misfortune of being stopped by a K9 unit. More often than not, her brow will furrow and she will rhetorically ask, “Do you smell that?” The answer, of course, is always no. It has to be no, otherwise I am admitting to consciously allowing our home to marinate in whatever offensive odor she detected upon entry. This is usually followed by an exchange similar to this:

Her- “You seriously don’t smell that!?”
Me – “Smell what?”
Her – “That tangy sweet & sour primate smell.”
Me – “I don’t even know what that means.”
Her – “We have to find it. It is definitely stronger by the couch….”
Me – “Are you just saying that because I am on the couch?”

I will then spend the next 20 minutes on an olfactory scavenger hunt that involves me presenting her with prospective sources of nasal offense and her rendering a verdict. To her credit, we will occasionally locate an errant sippy cup or a few contraband goldfish crackers; but more often than not she will simply become distracted by another odor.

I once spent an hour tearing apart my son’s closet because she insisted that there must be an animal cadaver located therein. I never found anything. Maybe the smell abated on its own. Maybe there never was a smell at all. Maybe someone farted in their car as they drove by. I simply sprayed some Febreeze and we moved on with our lives.

The real victim in all of this has been the dog. Each time she re-enters the house after going outside to relieve herself we have to wipe her down with a dryer sheet. This serves to eliminate any “canine smell” while preventing static cling. It is costing us a fortune in dryer sheets, but it is easy to know when she is around because it feels like I am getting a creepin’ put on me by Snuggles the Bear.

Conveniently, this hyper-smell also makes it difficult for her to assist with dirty diapers when I am home. There have been many occasions where she has had to excuse herself to dry heave because she was overwhelmed by the odor. Not that I blame her, my son believes that any job worth doing is worth doing right.

Curiously enough, her other senses continue to operate at or below their normal levels. I have never heard someone claim their visual or audible acuity increased due to pregnancy so I am not sure if there is a biological reason for this or not. There is also the possibility that I am simply not talking to the right people and somewhere there is a woman at a maternity store telling the clerk, “I thought I needed Lasik and a hearing aid until I got pregnant with our first, but since then I’ve had perfect pitch and the Air Force won’t stop calling me!”