Previous “COVID-19” posts

Please Scream Inside Your Heart 

I usually do.

I don’t know why I didn’t write about the following story back when it first appeared. I was aware of it, and it seems a perfect fit for OFT, yet somehow it never made it onto the site. Today, I rectify that mistake.

In July of 2020, we were still near the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Worse, we didn’t yet have any vaccines to stem the spread of the virus. Unlike many businesses at that time, the Fuji-Q Highland amusement park in Japan was open, and they wanted to encourage safe practices when going on roller coasters.

“Please scream inside your heart,” and not out loud, the park is asking. The unusual ask is meant to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

“Please scream inside your heart”! It’s good advice for a pandemic, sure. But in our era of modern horrors, I find it can apply at almost any time.

The company also put together a video clip demonstrating the technique, featuring two well-dressed men in masks stoically riding an entire circuit of a roller coaster. From start to finish, it is a work of art:

Two men, in masks, riding a roller coaster with minimal emotion
Just out for a little ride

Almost three years later, I still think about this story. I think it’s timeless enough to be worth posting even now.

That Is Not a Large Hole 

No disrepect intended, Itoh.

In February 2021, a gibbon by the name of Momo gave birth, despite living alone in her enclosure in a Japanese zoo. Two years later, the mystery of her seemingly miraculous pregnancy has been solved. It seems her enclosure wasn’t quite as isolated as zookeepers thought.

According to Wikipedia, multiple health agencies suggested sex along these lines during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Good on these gibbons for listening to guidelines and practicing healthy sex.

An Awful Way to Profit 

Don’t invest in a dying industry.

During the height of COVID-19 in America, companies like Netflix, Zoom, and Peloton saw the values of their stocks soar. It was a bit grotesque for investors to reap profits resulting from a pandemic, but that was nothing compared to the increase recently seen in the stock price of China’s largest funeral services company.

Maybe They Offer a Lifetime Guarantee 

In 500 years, engravings will likely still be legible, while the QR codes will be meaningless.

When I first ran into QR codes in 2011, I had an amusingly miserable experience. In the decade-plus since, the technology has gotten a bit more usable, particularly after QR code scanning was built in to the camera app on smartphones. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many restaurants switched to online menus accessed via QR code, and many still haven’t switched back. I suppose people just weren’t poking at their phones in public enough already.

While QR codes are now pretty well established, they remain distinctly unappealing to me. They feel like a kludge, unwanted technology that’s been forced on us to solve a problem in a clunky way. As such, when I heard about a company placing QR codes on gravestones, my immediate thought was “Tacky!”.

A gravestone with a QR code on it.
Sorry, Danny Boy.

Beyond that, though, it just seems unlikely that this business will last very long in the grand scheme of things. The idea of preserving the stories of the deceased is a fine one, but using QR codes to link to a small company’s website just feels terribly fragile. In 20, or 50, or 100 years, when “The Story Of” ever stops paying for their servers, these gravestones are just going to be festooned with useless trash.

Still, it could be worse. From the picture above, it appears it won’t be to difficult to remove the codes in the future. At least they aren’t engraving QR codes directly onto the headstone.

COVID-19 Deaths Now Skew Political 

Sadly, I find that my reaction to a story like this can be summarized with one simple, blasé emoji: 🆗.

COVID-19 is still with us, and it’s still killing people. In 2021, however, the people it killed were not evenly distributed when it came to their political affiliation.

The study, titled Excess Death Rates for Republicans and Democrats During the COVID-19 Pandemic, used voter registration and death records to answer a question: is there a link between political affiliation and rates of COVID related death in the U.S.?

The short answer is yes…in the summer of 2021—after vaccines were widely available—the Republican excess death rate rose to nearly double that of Democrats, and this gap widened further in the winter of 2021.”

We have tools to greatly diminish the lethality of COVID-19, but one group of people has been much more reluctant to take common-sense precautions like getting vaccinated (and boosted) and wearing masks. Instead, they’ve fixated on a noxious belief that their “freedoms” are more important than the health of others. That group has been led astray by their political leaders and news outlets, and now it’s literally killing them. This loss of lives is horrible, but it’s difficult to feel sorrow for people who refuse to even care about themselves, let alone others.

We Don’t Need Robots for This 

I would be disinclined to yield to a delivery robot.

Delivery food is seldom particularly good, but it’s grown enormously popular in recent years, in no small part due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, pools of workers bustle around cities for companies like Grubhub and Uber Eats, delivering food from dozens of different restaurants. This army was already strange, but Los Angeles has one-upped it., with multiple companies using robots to carry out these deliveries:

Over the last two years, a handful of delivery robot companies have popped up in Los Angeles, which are essentially remotely piloted (or autonomous, in some cases) cooler-shaped chests on wheels. The issues associated with these robots vary: In Santa Monica, a company called Coco has basically turned food delivery into a video game. Delivery “drivers” pilot the robots remotely, using an Xbox controller and using a series of cameras to help guide them. Serve Robotics explains that its robots operate with “Level 4 autonomy,” meaning they are fully autonomous in certain areas.

The linked article is actually about one of these robots driving through an active crime scene, which is not great! But really, the idea of sidewalks crowded with delivery robots moving autonomously or piloted by unseen humans seems terrible all on its own.

Dogs Can Smell COVID 

Also fear. And probably fear of COVID.

Trained dogs can detect COVID as well or better than other tests. Maybe one day in the future, instead of having a swab jabbed up my nose to get tested, I’ll just be able to pet a cool dog.

I Didn’t Know They Could Do That 

I kind of wish I still didn't.

Right up front, I’m going to say that I’m sorry. Please note that for your benefit, I did not include any photographs of the following story.

Nevertheless, if I have to know that Malcolm MacDonald’s penis fell off as a result of a blood infection, and then he had a new one grown on his arm, then so do you. That’s just the way it works.

We’ve All Had This Happen to Us 

I don't know what that lawyer billed, but I'm guessing Ms. Young is pretty far in the red on this transaction.

Don’t you just hate it when you buy a marble portrait bust for $34.99 at Goodwill and it turns out to be a 2,000-year-old relic that was probably looted from Germany as a trophy at the end of World War II and then you’re stuck with it because of an inability to find any original owner to whom you can return it so you have to hire an attorney who specializes in international art law to help handle the matter and because of slowdowns caused by a global pandemic it all takes years to resolve? That’s just the worst.

Maybe Tack on Some Rose-Colored Glasses Too

If I never see anyone wearing one of these, I will be not at all shocked.

My pal Rich W. has long had a gripe with appliance maker Dyson, namely that they spend massive amounts of time and energy solving relatively inconsequential problems. Perhaps most famously, they perfected the vacuum cleaner, a device whose previous incarnations already did the job pretty well. They’ve also made an assortment of over-engineered hair care products, hand dryers, and other products.

Now, they’re introducing the “Dyson Zone”. It’s a “wearable purifier” that captures air pollution. It’s a set of headphones, too, one that cancels noise. It’s filtering so much! Oh, also, it looks absolutely ridiculous:

Headphones coupled with a mask-looking air purifier

So, what problems is Dyson trying to solve with this? From their announcement:

…the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 9 in 10 people globally breathe air that exceeds WHO guideline pollutant limits. Where NO2 pollution in cities decreased during the Covid-19 pandemic , levels have quickly returned to normal, or exceeded pre-pandemic levels across many global cities. It is estimated that more than 100 million people, around 20% of the European population, are exposed to long-term noise exposure above WHO guidance.

The world is afflicted with dirty air and too much noise. Those do seem like problems worth tackling. Perhaps we might curb pollution and work on cleaning the air at large. We might also invent quieter machinery and devices. Making the entire world a better place, that’s a noble goal.

On the other hand, that sounds like quite a lot of effort. Why not just have the wealthy go through the world wearing noise-cancelling headphones that also clean their air, but no one else’s. Hey, these weird-looking jerks had the hundreds of dollars1 necessary to buy this product. They deserve it!

Of course, they are still going to get sick from COVID-19. That’s because despite the fact that it looks like a mask, and hides your mouth like a mask, the Dyson Zone doesn’t actually function as a mask. That might seem a bit strange in the era of our global pandemic, but it’s the result of this project taking six years.

Rich might have a point.


  1. The actual retail price is unannounced, but it will surely be $200 or (much) more. ↩︎