Good and bad news…
The pig flu has hit Utah with the force of a… May shower. As of two days ago, a terrifying 0.002% of Utahns had been diagnosed (although that was over double the amount from earlier in the week). We’re still waiting for any reports of Utah deaths.
Is that good or bad news? Well, of our 63 known cases last Sunday (at that rate of spread, there are probably over a hundred by now), we can assume many or most are in Salt Lake, which is bad; and we can also assume that many or most began among our Mexican population, which is good. I do have contact with a number of Hispanics while out of the house, which is bad; but only a few of my Hispanic kids at work are Mexican, which is good. But by now it would have made the jump to us whites anyway, which is bad.
Now, only a fraction of the actual cases would have been reported and confirmed, which is bad; although the unreported cases would tend to be less severe, which is good. This flu apparently has up to a one-third chance of infection, slightly higher than the regular flu, which is bad. And then, some of the buses I ride are, without exaggeration, mobile hospitals. Buses here are still the refuge of the poor and mentally unwell, and the poor and mental are still the less-educated, and the less-educated have worse hygiene and don’t know enough about diseases to try to avoid coughing their guts out all over the bus, and smearing their saliva and what-have-you on every possible handhold. All of this news is bad for Steve, a bus-rider.
But… the swine flu doesn’t actually DO anything, so that’s kind of the best news of all…
But worst of all, China went and hounded down some 300 people who’d flown with a Chengdu-bound Chinese kid who’d caught the do-nothing virus at his American school. (China had already quarantined a hotel or something in Hong Kong… which apparently is not really considered part of China, since the health minister said the later Chengdu case was the "first" one in China. Too bad the first case wasn’t in Tibet…) This is bad news because they might start messing with my flights, and possibly costing me money that I’m not prepared to spend; or worse, cancelling the whole itinerary, for which I doubt I would be compensated. I have a week and a half till I leave; I’m racing against the clock — first, to either avoid or pass through any symptomatic illness before leaving, and second, to get through China all right. I’m not sure if the Chinese (or Mongolian, for that matter) response will loosen up as they become aware of the impotence of the "pandemic", or get tighter as the number of infected grows. Maybe once Chinese start catching it, they won’t even bother with foreigners any more.
Em, in other (good) news, "researchers" (as if that label means anything) have found what Steve has whined about for several years already, and what any intelligent person can figure out: that anti-depressant drugs owe a large part of their impact to a "placebo effect" — that is, that "clinically depressed" people are, after all, able to think themselves better (an idea some psychiatrists have valiantly opposed to protect their craft, as much as saying depressed people are "born that way"). This, of course, reconfirms (as all people will have already demonstrated in their own life experience) that natural brain function is already chemically based, meaning that our thoughts and feelings themselves have a chemical component, and therefore, since we can induce our own emotions, to harness one’s thoughts is to administer to oneself a natural (and safe) anti-depressant — while to let negative thoughts run rampant, similarly, is to "drug" ourselves with rage, anguish, lust, love, and so on. So thoughts and feelings are addictive, and they are controllable, in both natural and artificial ways (the one being safer than the other).
Furthermore, with biochemistry, the emotional discipline advocated by religious teaching is rationally supportable even by our own godless modern worldview.
In that case, if God tells us a secret as a young race, and many centuries later he helps our "researchers" begin to understand why it is so, I suppose we’ve only taken a collective step toward godliness (not to forget that "understanding" and "doing" can be very distant points). Someday, we will surely have studies proving all parts of the gospel… if we don’t already…
…And disproving all parts, too, probably, since "research" must be conducted, filtered, and interpreted with the preconceptions of the "researchers". Even research showing the same facts can be stretched and molded to support two opposite policies. But more commonly — and certainly not always intentionally — research (much like news articles) obscures some facts as much as it reveals other ones. Few researchers are qualified enough to produce truly comprehensive, reliable research, and perhaps nobody would be totally qualified to interpret it anyway, unless they were a god. We’re still a very primitive race that acts on pragmatism rather than comprehension.
Hunan Garden called yesterday. They wanted more help this month on weekends; so that’s good news, although it would’ve been a lot better news if they had needed help in April… I told them I would be here for this Friday and Saturday only…
A BYU representative answered my e-mail this morning, telling me that I would probably have to study one of the 3 given languages (Korean, Japanese, or the Mandarin dialect of Chinese) in order to complete the Asian Studies degree. I had asked if it would be possible to use my Cantonese credits. Studying all three of those languages is what I had hoped to be able to do anyway, so I guess being forced to study at least one would be "good news". Alternatively, if I study Linguistics (which may or may not include an Asian Studies minor) I think I wouldn’t have to study any other language… So it would be faster, but…
Anyway, I signed up to go get some academic counselling on Thursday night to try to decide what to study, and I probably will e-mail some more BYU people this afternoon.