With Head Held High: March 31st is International Transgender Day of Visibility

It’s difficult to celebrate International Transgender Day of Visibility today, on a day when fascists in Idaho pass laws legalizing hate and discrimination, when news of another murdered Black Transgender Person appears, when bigots use current events to incite hatred and blame LGBTQIA people for COVID-19 (how, exactly?), when TERF trash continue to incite hate under the false pretense of “stopping predators”(Don’t flatter yourselves, TERFs.  Transgender heterosexual women will never be interested, and even Transgender women who are bi, pan or lesbian won’t either.  Not with your personalities.)

That said, as time passes and still there are no “predators in toilets”, no “rapes by traps”, no “denial of rights to the gender hypocritical”, the public see that Transgender people are no more a “problem” than cisgender gays or cisgender lesbians were.  They demonize and incite more violence because they know they can’t demonstrate and cite examples.

Being visible does not require people out themselves nor is it about forcing people to come out.  If you don’t feel safe about coming out, worried about losing your income, your home, family, friends, safety, etc., then don’t come out.

Visibility is about those who are willing to be seen, willing to pave the way for others to eventually be safe.  People like Caroline Cossey, Laverne Cox, Zinnia Jones and others paved the way for people like me to feel confident enough to come out.  I and others who benefitted from them are doing the same for more who still don’t feel safe: paving the way for you.  As more come out, you may eventually feel safe enough.  I know I didn’t until there were enough.

I have what I call the “one in a thousand” rule when it comes to marginalized people.

When you’re young and different than everyone else, after enough attacks, insults, harassment, and people claiming you’re “weird” or “wrong”, you start to wonder if they’re right.  If you don’t or can’t find support, the abuse may eventually wear you down and take your life.

But if you hear about others, learn that others like you exist, suddenly you realize you’re not the problem.  Suddenly you start to wonder just how many others there are.  Suddenly you start looking for them and they start appearing in far greater numbers than you ever expected.

When you think you’re one in a thousand, you feel like you’re nothing.  When you learn that you’re 7.7 million out of 7.7 billion not only are you not alone, but you are a collectively a force that is hard to silence, oppress and oppose.  If you feel isolated and alone, don’t assume you’re the only one.  Reach out and try to find others.  They’re there.

There’s really only one thing bothering me on this year’s International Transgender Day of Visibility: Cartoonist Sophie Labelle, author of “Assigned Male”, was going to visit Taipei around this time, but cancelled her world tour due to COVID-19.  I was looking forward to meeting her.


It Went Over Well: Quarantine-o-we’en is massively popular

I don’t believe in supernatural mumbo-jumbo one iota, but I love Hallowe’en.  I’m one of those 24/7/366 (this year) types who talks and lives Hallowe’en every day.  You wouldn’t believe how many Hallowe’en groups I’m in and the number of pages I follow.

Around March 20, one of the Hallowe’en lifers came up with the genius idea: create an event to alleviate boredom and let people have fun.  April 30th is Walpurgisnacht (aka Hexennacht, night of the witches).  That’s six months from Hallowe’en, but people desperately need a release right now.  I’ve seen people joking that they’ll be breaking out xmas decorations soon.

They called it Quarantine-o-we’en and set March 31st as the date.  People expected only Hallowe’en lifers to participate, but the regular public has joined in and now it’s taking on a life of it’s own, hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) joining in.  You stay home, but you decorate your house for Hallowe’en, wear costumes, and post pictures online.  A search of google, youtube, facebook (#quarantineoween) and many other sites turn up a plethora of results.

If you have nothing to do, join in!  There are pics of me below the fold.

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You Have To Laugh: Collected quarantine humour

None of these are mine, they’re others’ observations posted online and collected:


It’s like the exact opposite of that pokemon go summer.

Eighth day of isolation and it’s like Vegas in my house. We’re losing money by the minute, cocktails are acceptable at any hour, and nobody knows what time it is.

I’ve been waiting for the perfect time to change my netflix password so my ex can’t use it anymore. It really doesn’t get any better than a national lockdown.

Night 1 of no sports: My wife and I just had an hour long conversation. She’s really nice, and apparently she works in the medical field. Also, TVs are black when they are off.

Friend: How’s self isolation going?
Me: Pretty good, no human contact in a week.
Friend: Coronavirus is tough, right?
Me: Coronavirus?

Coronavirus: the biggest game of cooties I’ve ever seen in my life.

Someday our kids will have kids. Those kids will complain that they’re bored and have nowhere to go. So our kids will tell them about the time they couldn’t leave their house for a month because of a pandemic.

This is our kids’ “two mile walk uphill in a snowstorm” moment.

Day 4 of social distancing: Struck up a conversation with a spider. Seems nice. He’s a web designer.

Saw a neighbor scraping “My kid is a terrific student” off her car. I guess homeschooling isn’t going well.

It Depends: Does who’s talking make a difference?

Last week, I mentioned China Mobile’s drop in 7.25 million customers.  I never claimed that were how many died, thouugh I suspect some misread it as saying that.  Xi Limping (from one crisis to another) ordered migrant workers within the country to return home.  Many use a second phone when they are not in their home towns and probably got rid of their SIM cards.  But there was still the possiblity that some of those missing users were casualties of the infection.

When stories emerge, they often follow an order of appearance: word of mouth, blogs or fringe sites, less reputable media, (semi)credible mainstream media.  Rumours of higher death tolls out of Wuhan have circulated for weeks on blogs like Shanghaiist (a Gothamist blog), Radio Free Asia, or third-rate “news” like The Express UK.  But the corporate media can’t ignore pictures of thousands of burial urns.  Even media in China usually subject to censorship has stopped pretending it doesn’t exist.

Bloomberg: Stacks of Urns in Wuhan Prompt New Questions of Virus’s Toll

The long lines and stacks of ash urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan are spurring questions about the true scale of coronavirus casualties at the epicenter of the outbreak, renewing pressure on a Chinese government struggling to control its containment narrative.

The families of those who succumbed to the virus in the central Chinese city, where the disease first emerged in December, were allowed to pick up their cremated ashes at eight local funeral homes starting this week. As they did, photos circulated on Chinese social media of thousands of urns being ferried in.

Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500 urns on both Wednesday and Thursday, according to Chinese media outlet Caixin. Another picture published by Caixin showed 3,500 urns stacked on the ground inside. It’s unclear how many of the urns had been filled.

People who answered the phone at six of the eight funeral homes in Wuhan said they either did not have data on how many urns were waiting to be collected, or were not authorized to disclose the numbers. Calls were not answered at the other two.

Some families said they had been forced to wait for several hours to pick up the ashes.

Newsweek: Wuhan COVID-19 Death Toll May Be in Tens of Thousands, Data on Cremations and Shipments of Urns Suggest

A stack of urns at a funeral home in Wuhan, the city’s official cremation rates, and reports of an overwhelmed health care system have prompted speculation that Wuhan’s real COVID-19 death toll could be in the tens of thousands—despite the Chinese government reporting 2,535 deaths from just over 50,000 coronavirus infections.

We may never know the real death toll from Wuhan (the seven mortuaries running day and night for weeks) but it’s clear the “official” numbers are as worthless as the “official” numbers from Tiananmen Square.  Anywhere from 10,000 to 150,000 dead wouldn’t stretch credulity.

How much worse things can get remains to be seen.

Guess Work: 3Blue1Brown also looks at pandemics

3Blue1Brown is another math channel on youtube.  This video goes much further than Numberphile in covering multiple variables (and different rates) and their effects on the spread of disease, and finishes with the combinations.  It really brings home the importance of isolation, quarantine and all the other things the medical community have been stressing.

Both 3Blue1Brown and Numberphile reached the same peak of infection (roughly 75-80%) in a scenario where no measures are taken and the virus spreads unchecked, so they’re likely working from the same formulae.

If You Need Something To Do: It’s Quarantineowe’en!

If you haven’t heard, March 31 is Quarantineowe’en, a time to dress up in Hallowe’en costumes and post your pictures on whichever site or social media you use. I plan to participate and will post them here and elsewhere.

I was originally planning a Walpurgisnacht party this year (e.g. renting a venue, alcohol, etc.) for April 30th, but nearly all clubs and events are closed locally.  They will open up again soon, but not for a week or two and most will want to go to their regular venues.  Oh well.

Happy Quarantineowe’en to you all!

You Have To Laugh: A coping mechanism for COVID-19

On my facebook page are three posts of collected memes and humour about COVID-19, seen in (read: stolen from) the pages of various groups and friends.  They are sorted as:

Part 1: Welcome to the new normal.

Part 2: Social distancing.

Part 3: Toilet paper and others.

Sometimes, you have to laugh or you’ll break down and cry.

There are 33 pics plus the one below which would be too much of a strain for FtB.  The privacy setting is “world” so anyone can view them, even those not logged in to facebook.  Enjoy.

As for this picture, I’m told the graffiti reads:

“We can’t return to normal, because the normal that we had was precisely the problem.”

Two more, the first in response to Oceanoxia’s post on the people keeping society from breaking down:

And this one’s just too good not to add:

When It Happened Before: An NIH paper on historical epidemics

I ran across the paper quoted below about epidemics and pandemics of the past, published by the US’s National Institute of Health in 2013.  It makes for interesting reading.

The biggest difference between this pandemic and those before the late 20th century is politics.  Yes, the speed of travel makes the spread much faster, but the interaction between governments and what they can justify (read: get away with) has changed drastically.  Unprovoked war measures can no longer be justified against neighbors, not even by China.  It’s not 1945 anymore – during epidemics and pandemics from the 1968 flu until now, governments tread carefully.

During the Black Plague, groups and nations would isolate themselves, sometimes enacting “shoot to kill” policies to outsiders and creating quarantine zones (oft times islands) to place all the infected and keep them away from the rest of society.  In modern politics, countries can’t afford to take a “first strike” attitude towards approaching foreigners.  They can ban airplanes from landing, but they dare not shoot one down as they might have shot people walking and on horseback hundreds of years ago.  We’re not talking about zombies.

Lessons from the History of Quarantine, from Plague to Influenza A


In the new millennium, the centuries-old strategy of quarantine is becoming a powerful component of the public health response to emerging and reemerging infectious diseases. During the 2003 pandemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome, the use of quarantine, border controls, contact tracing, and surveillance proved effective in containing the global threat in just over 3 months. For centuries, these practices have been the cornerstone of organized responses to infectious disease outbreaks. However, the use of quarantine and other measures for controlling epidemic diseases has always been controversial because such strategies raise political, ethical, and socioeconomic issues and require a careful balance between public interest and individual rights. In a globalized world that is becoming ever more vulnerable to communicable diseases, a historical perspective can help clarify the use and implications of a still-valid public health strategy.

There’s more quoted below the fold.

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Guess Work: Numberphile looks at the derivatives that matter

Unlike Cheetolini who only cares about Wall Street derivatives, Numberphile thinks in human terms and talks about the spread.  These are not predictions because they lack important variables (e.g. how quickly transmission occurs) but it shows the average viewer how predictions are made.

I’ve done simuations in college, but these equations are over my head.

Music Rules: The soundtrack for your quarantine period

On the lighter side of things. . . .

Below is a list of twenty songs I recommend for your fourteen months weeks days in quarantine to listen at your leisure.  Because you might have nothing else to do.

[ Update: There’s another song added to the end. ]

First up, a Statler Brothers hit recorded in March 1965, “Flowers On The Wall”:

“I keep hearing you’re concerned about my happiness

All that thought you’re giving me is conscience I guess

If I were walking in your shoes I wouldn’t worry none,

While you’re out there and thinking about me,

I’m having lots of fun

Counting flowers on the wall, that don’t bother me at all

Playing solitaire ’til dawn with a deck of 51

Smoking cigarettes and watching Captain Kangaroo

Now don’t tell me I’ve nothing to do”

I think you can guess where this is going. . . .

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Data That I Correlate: Is smoking a factor in COVID-19 deaths?

I know I harp on about smoking.  But when we’re talking about a pandemic that is literally choking people to death and damaging lungs, how can you ignore the possible connection?

Worldometers has become a commonly cited source on COVID-19 for number of infections, deaths and recoveries, providing daily updates. The site is run by a company a Chinese company Dadax, but the site’s “About” page shows where it’s referenced and recommended by other sites (e.g. American Library Association). The numbers of cases and deaths in the table below come from the Worldometers site (copied at time of writing).  The fatality rate is not given, but is easily calculated.  The percentage of smokers by country comes from World Population Review.  (Iraq’s rate of men who smoke is approximately 30%.)

Coronavirus Cases: 338,225    
Deaths: 14,457    
Recovered: 96,958    
Country,       Total     Total     Deaths    % of    
Other          Cases     Deaths    by %      Smokers
----------     ------    ------    ------    -------
China          81,054     3,261    4.02%     24.70%
Italy          59,138     5,476    9.26%     24.00%
USA            38,167       396    1.04%     17.25%
Spain          28,603     1,756    6.14%     29.20%
Germany        24,806        93    0.37%     30.35%
Iran           21,638     1,685    7.79%     11.10%
France         14,459       562    3.89%     27.70%
S. Korea        8,897       104    1.17%     27.00%
Switzerland     7,474        98    1.31%     23.30%
UK              5,683       281    4.94%     19.15%
Netherlands     4,204       179    4.26%     25.05%
Belgium         3,401        75    2.20%     23.25%
Austria         3,302        16    0.48%     35.15%
Norway          2,263         7    0.31%     22.25%
Sweden          1,931        21    1.09%     20.60%
Portugal        1,600        14    0.88%     22.60%
Canada          1,426        20    1.40%     14.95%
Denmark         1,395        13    0.93%     17.00%
Australia       1,353         7    0.52%     14.90%
Malaysia        1,306        10    0.77%     22.20%
Brazil          1,209        18    1.49%     15.30%
Czechia         1,120        NA              NA
Japan           1,086        36    3.31%     22.15%
Turkey            947        21    2.21%     25.95%
Israel            945         1    0.11%     30.25%
Ireland           906         4    0.44%     22.15%
Luxembourg        798         8    1.00%     23.60%
Ecuador           789        14    1.77%      8.65%
Pakistan          646         4    0.62%     22.45%
Chile             632         1    0.16%     38.00%
Poland            627         7    1.12%     28.05%
Finland           626         1    0.16%     20.85%
Greece            624        15    2.40%     42.65%
Thailand          599         1    0.17%     21.85%
Iceland           568         1    0.18%     16.05%
Indonesia         514        48    9.34%     39.90%
Saudi Arabia      511        NA              15.40%
Qatar             481        NA              NA
Singapore         455         2    0.44%     16.50%
Romania           433         2    0.46%     29.80%
Slovenia          414         2    0.48%     20.20%
India             396         7    1.77%     11.15%
Philippines       380        25    6.58%     25.75%
Russia            367         1    0.27%     40.90%
Peru              363         5              NA
Bahrain           332         2    0.60%     28.20%
Estonia           326        NA              33.05%
Hong Kong         317         4    1.26%     NA
Egypt             294        10    3.40%     25.10%
Croatia           254         1    0.39%     36.45%
Mexico            251         2    0.80%     13.70%
Lebanon           248         4    1.61%     38.20%
Panama            245         3    1.22%      6.60%
South Africa      240        NA              18.95%
Iraq              233        20    8.58%     NA

There is a noticeable trend. In most countries with high rates of smoking and at least 10 deaths, the mortality rate from COVID-19 is over 2%. (The world national average of smokers is 20%.)  The only countries with a mortality rate over 2% and a smoking rate below the world average of smokers are the UK (19.15%) and Iran (11.10%). They are not outliers since UK smoking rates were over 20% until 2010 and Iran and Italy are both part of China’s “belt and road initiative”, many people commuting between the countries.

China, Italy, Spain, France, UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Greece, Japan, Turkey, Indonesia, Philippines and Egypt all have smoking rates over 20% and over 2% of their infected have died.  Few countries buck that trend (many smokers but less than 2% fatality rate: South Korea, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Malaysia, Portugal).  Most have advanced medical care systems or were prepared when the first cases appeared.

Worldometers groups all people into two genders, and gives no information on Transgender and Non-Binary people.  There is a much higher fatality rate among “males” than “females” from COVID-19. The WHO claims 40% of men smoke worldwide, only 9% of women, so if smoking is involved, it follows the pattern.

Death Rate by sex:

          Confirmed      All
Sex       cases          cases
------    ---------      -----
Male      4.7%           2.8%
Female    2.8%           1.7%

If smoking is a factor in the mortality rate, then Indonesia is the country at greatest risk. Smoking rates among Indonesian men is 76%, and before COVID-19 appeared 600 smokers die daily in Indonesia from cancer, lung disease and heart disease (youtube video by Al Jazeera). The country has had an estimated 500,000 COVID-19 exposures. Most income earners are men and there is no government social welfare system.

I know, I know, correlation does not prove causation, and I’m not a medical professional. But COVID-19 is a disease that attacks and damages the lungs. I find it hard to believe that smokers and non-smokers will be infected and die at the same rate, even among younger smokers.

Governments Lie, Taxes Don’t: Your phone is dead

Either the phones are dead or the customers are.

Beijing claims to have COVID-19 as under control as the media and internet.  They maintain that the death toll was less than 3200, the number infected only 81,000 and have “no new infections”.

So how did China Mobile lose 7.25 million customers in two months?  Did they just cut off people’s phones to censor people and silence the sharing of information?  Is no one around to use those phones anymore?  Or a combination of the two?

Time will tell.

China Mobile Lost 73 Lakh Users Last Month, People Fear It Exposes A Dangerous Fact

China Mobile’s executive director and chairman Yang Jie said Coronavirus pandemic affected their overall business, with total number of mobile customers decreasing by 7.25 million last month while 4G users fell by 12 million, according to a report in The Standard, a Hong Kong-based newspaper.

This has led to some people to make some sensational claims about the real COVID-19 death toll in China, as opposed to current official numbers.


Number of new customers signing up for China Mobile also fell 60 percent for the first two months this year (January and February 2020) amid the Coronavirus outbreak, but what’s causing people to especially sit up and take notice is the number of 7.25 million or 72.5 lakh subscriber dip.

There can be plenty of legitimate reasons to explain the fall, but some online commentators and Reddit threads are taking the China Mobile’s 7.25 million sharp subscriber dip number indicative of Coronavirus pandemic’s real casualty number in China, even as official numbers indicate just over 81,000 total affected by COVID-19 leading to over 3,200 deaths.


It’s Already Happening: Intimate Partner Violence will get worse

[ Update: France has seen a 30% spike in IPV since quarantine began.  More below the original post. ]

Many people have predicted that isolation, claustrophobia and other things related to quarantine could lead to a rise in Intimate Partner Violence (IPV).

In northern Canada, Alaska and other regions with long winters, IPV is higher than in warmer climates.  Both during and after the wildfires in Australia, there was a spike reports of IPV.

Governments act blindly, if at all, to violence where the perpetrator is usually male and the victims women and children.  Victims need escape from IPV, not “counseling”, yet during a crisis of mass quarantine, governments are likely to make this a lower priority than they usually do.

Professionals have warned that IP will happen more often during quarantine.  I suspect that in some cases there will be no prior instances of IPV, making it hard to predict who will be the perpetrator.  Sadly, there are reports that it has already started.

Domestic violence calls increase as people shelter in place during COVID-19 outbreak

During this time, as family are sequestered inside their homes, there is a dark side. 

Domestic violence shelters are seeing a dramatic increase in calls for help as people shelter in place to avoid COVID-19 exposure.

Staying at home can be a horrible situation for domestic violence victims.


Some shelters have run out of room and are looking to put victims in hotel rooms and other places, because of social distancing rules.

“What has also happened is because some shelters don’t have private bedrooms, they are having to isolate people and spread them apart, which has reduced how many people they can take in,” said [Paige Flink, The Family Place CEO].

Flink says they are getting extremely violent calls that are COVID-19 related.

“People being locked in rooms, being shot through the doors, prevented from leaving, having to stay because he’s afraid she will go out and get it. Crazy stuff,” said Flink.

Governments need to be flexible and treat this as a serious issue.  People need to be able to take short walks and have time alone, even if it’s just outside the front door or walking the hallways of apartment buildings.  Confined prison spaces can be mentally wearing, and so can being trapped in your home – especially if there’s an abuser in it.

As mentioned above, IPV is running rampant in France.  Imagine what it’s like when you combine sudden unemployment, poverty and total abandonment by a government as in the US.  Many US governors are saying “abortion will be banned as non-essential surgery”.  No doubt there won’t be exceptions when males rape their partners.

Domestic violence cases jump 30% during lockdown in France

France’s interior minister says that reports of domestic violence across the country have jumped by more than 30% since the country went into lockdown on March 17th.

Christophe Castaner revealed on Thursday that in Paris alone, cases were up by 36%.

France’s anti-coronavirus lockdown has forced people to stay home for the last 11 days. The lockdown has now been extended until April 15.

Being confined at home with abusive partners is thought to have increased the risk to victims.

France already has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in Europe. Every year, an estimated 219,000 women, aged 18 to 75, face physical or sexual violence by current or former partners, but only 20% report it. According to official figures, one woman is killed by a partner or former partner every three days.

About Face: And quickly, at that

I mentioned yesterday that Taiwan’s government declared that foreigners without legal work visas would not be allowed to return once their visas expire, and no extension would be given.  It took only two days for the government to change their tune and offer leniency.

The government has enacted the Expanded Overstayers Voluntary Departure Program which will allow foreigners to overstay their visitor visas until June 20th, provided they turn themselves in during a certain time window and pay a fine.  Normally, foreigners who knowingly overstay would be subject to a ten year exclusion ban, but Taiwan will waive it due to the circumstances. The fine will be minimal (NT$2000 = US$66), not the usual NT$10000.

So much for a shortage of teachers and extra working hours for me. ^_^  From the official government website:

Expanded Overstayers Voluntary Departure Program Starts to Encourage Overstaying Foreign Citizens to Turn Themselves in

With the spread of coronavirus-19(COVID-19) worldwide and the discovery of case 32 confirmed COVID-19 patient to be an undocumented migrant worker, it has been a topic of wide discussion on whether overstaying population causes vulnerability to Taiwan’s disease control. “To cope with this issue, the National Immigration Agency(NIA) initiated the Expanded Overstayers Voluntary Departure Program, which starts from April 1st and ends on June 30th with a promotion period from March 20th to March 31st, 2020. Overstayers who turn themselves in during either period are entitled to receive penalty relieves including no detention, no entry ban and a minimum amount of fine. The purpose of this program is to encourage overstayers to turn themselves in so the Agency can help them return home safely” said General Director Chui, the head of the NIA. In order to follow the government’s policy of disease control, and attempt to reduce overstaying population in Taiwan, the NIA initiated the program from today to June 30th, while other authorities of law enforcement follow suit to the program when overstayers turn themselves in. To overstayers who turn themselves in during the designated period of this program, penalty relieves including no detention, no entry ban and a minimum fine of NTD 2,000 are entitled. After the designated period of the program, the NIA will push for an enhanced penalty amendment under the Immigration Act. On top of that, once the pandemic of COVID-19 eases, the Agency will strengthen enforcement and launch nation-wide sweeps against overstaying population.

This isn’t the first time the Taiwan government has shown common decency to foreigners without legal residency or work visas.

In 2017, a Taiwanese business owner held people from various countries as slaves working on a fishing vessel.  After the business was raided, the men were repatriated to their countries.  The Taiwan government seized US$123,000 from the boat owner, and gave it to the departing men as back wages.  Not the best way to leave, but at least they would feel they weren’t treated unfairly as they went home.

One thing I don’t like: Taiwan’s “marriage equality” law is a joke.  It says that for non-cishetero couples, the country of the foreign national must have marriage equality or Taiwan won’t recognize their marriage.  In other words, those from countries with marriage equality can marry Taiwanese people.  Those who come from oppressive countries with hateful and violent bigots cannot.  There is (for example) a foreign national from a Central American country who cannot marry his partner and will have to leave after June 20.