Coping with the Wuhan Virus: Laughter is the Best Medicine (Plus a Couple of Real Tips for Dealing with the Situation)

What do you do with a problem like Mar-Ryan?

I’m a weird person. (But then, if you’ve been following this blog at all, we’ve already established that fact pretty firmly.) Throughout my life, I have had a somewhat lamentable tendency to go off on weird tangents.

And, back around 2006, my tangent was bird flu. I became obsessed with following and discussing the latest information about the H5N1 avian flu virus with other flu preppers (a.k.a. “flubies”), which for a time looked as though it would develop into a global pandemic. (I just checked, and I still remember my username and password from the FluTrackers.com discussion forum!)

Me and my fellow flubies were constantly worrying, analyzing, and obsessing over the latest case data and news reports. So, in an effort to inject some levity into what was a grave and potentially life-threatening situation, I began using my rudimentary Photoshop skills to create funny pictures to share with my fellow flubies.

And so, Cora-Anne Tine, my public-service pandemic advice columnist diva/drag persona was born! (Say “Cora-Anne Tine” five times really, really fast and you will “get” my drag name. Yes, I did public-service drag 😉 …I told you I was weird!)

My column was called Cora-Anne Tine, Advice to the Flu-Lorn and Your Guide to a Stylish Pandemic. These pictures used to illustrate that tongue-in-cheek “advice” column all date back to between 2005 and 2006 (ahh, the memories!):

Caption: Pandemic Advice Diva Cora-Anne Tine does a little light reading…
Caption: Kate Moss Cocaine Chic is SO yesterday! Cora-Anne models the latest look: Pippi Plague!!! Sultry! Sexy! SASSY! The look whispers “Come a little bit closer”, yet screams “STAY THE F**K AWAY FROM ME!” Note the little touches that pull the look together: the yellow Caution tape hair bows, the duct tape accents on the N95 face mask, that look of panic in the eyes! Watch for this look on a runwa… erm, in a quarantine shelter near you this fall!
Caption: CORA-ANNE TINE NAMED U.S. BIRD FLU CZARINA
(WASHINGTON, D.C., November 1st, 2005) Absolutely, completely unretouched photo from President George Bush’s press conference announcing the appointment.
George Bush answers a reporter’s question while Cora-Anne Tine holds aloft a dead bird in a typical “Evita Peron – People of Argentina!” gesture. Note the Barbara Bush pearls 🙂 In a brief speech to reporters, Ms. Tine said that her highest priority would be the implementation of the Families Under Complete Quarantine for an Extended Duration program: “I’m here to make sure that every single American family gets F.U.C.Q.E.D. according to the Bush administration’s pandemic flu preparedness brochure, er, plan.” In related news, Vice-President Dick Cheney had a Cora-nary.
Every family can be a F.U.C.Q.E.D. family!
Elton John and Cora-Anne Tine, caught canoodling by the paparazzi!
Yes, you can learn how to make my fabulous bling-bling goggles!
See Cora-Anne’s latest F.U.C.Q.E.D. Program Arts ‘n’ Crafts posting!!
Crafts with Cora-Anne: Bling-Bling Goggles Step 1
Crafts with Cora-Anne: Bling-Bling Goggles Step 2
Dear Readers: Yes, after some high-level diplomatic talks, Yours Truly is back on the ground in China! Here, I am instructing the Chinese bird-flu eradication teams, showing them how to use their fumigators to dispense Glade Plug-Ins Lilac Spring scent. Remember, a lilac-scented farm is a CLEAN farm!!

Yes, you could say that I had fun with it. But I always made sure to include links to good, credible sources of information about a possible pandemic and how to prepare for it. There was method to my madness.

So, stay tuned! Here is what the situation looks like in China today:

Source: BBC

So, it looks like we are going to be facing a rapidly-evolving, global health emergency situation. Expect an explosion of cases, first in China, and then globally. Unfortunately, government-imposed quarantines will not be effective against a virus that appears to have a 14-day incubation period (for example, an estimated tens of thousands of Wuhan citizens left the city before the Chinese government restricted travel). Hospitals will quickly become overwhelmed, as can be seen from this footage shared on Twitter which was linked to from today’s BBC article.

So, what can you do?

Well, based on my past experiences as a bird flu prepper, here is some real advice (all joking aside, you do need to pay attention to this situation as it develops):

  • Don’t panic; prepare. NOW is the time to do some common-sense preparation for the potential societal disruption that a pandemic virus can cause. Plan for a period of time when you will be stuck at home and unable to get supplies. Go grocery shopping and stock up on non-perishable food. Get your prescriptions refilled to last you, so you don’t run out of your medications if you can’t get to the pharmacy. And if you want to buy things like face masks to protect yourself and your family, the time to do it is BEFORE everybody else wants to get their hands on them! (As you can see from my pictures, I already have a stock of face masks and eye goggles!)
  • Stay informed. Read widely, but be a discriminating information consumer. Good sources of up-to-date information on the Wuhan coronavirus are the World Health Organization and the Wikipedia page, which is constantly being kept current by an army of volunteer editors. Dedicated discussion forums like FluTrackers.com can often be an invaluable source of information that you might not (yet) find in the mainstream news media, with people posting translations of breaking Chinese news bulletins. There is a new China_Flu subReddit community that is sharing links to resources—but again, be careful! Gossip, rumours, misinformation, and disinformation can spread rapidly via social media.

As I come across other good sources of information about the Wuhan virus, I will share them here. Stay healthy!

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High Fidelity Has Effectively Shut Down, But Dr. Fran’s Weekly Salon Will Continue

Well, High Fidelity has effectively shut down as of January 15th, 2020, and you will no longer be able to create any new accounts, but since the platform is distributed, anybody who already has a HiFi account can still visit High Fidelity and participate in events.

Dr. Fran has hosted a weekly salon in High Fidelity for quite some time, where avatars gather to discuss a given topic.

Today’s salon topic is sadly relevant in light of recent events:

Dr. Fran’s original domain, DocSalon, has already been shut down, as the domain name she bought from High Fidelity has now expired. But Thoys has come to the rescue, with a new domain. Here’s the new address for today’s discussion, happening at 2:00 p.m. Pacific Time (that link should automatically open your HiFi client software).

High Fidelity will no longer be updating their client software (in fact, they have already shut down their website), but the good news is that at least three different forks of the open-source software are in the works.

11th Augmented Human International Conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Most of the time, I have to travel to another city to attend a conference. In this case (for a change), the conference is actually coming to me!

And believe me, at my age, not having to fit my cranky, fat ass into the ever-shrinking economy-class seating in an airplane for 2 to 4 hours in order to get somewhere is a major deal. Winnipeg is a relatively isolated northern city (check it out on a map or globe, it’s a full day’s drive north of Minneapolis and two day’s drive to the nearest Canadian cities of Edmonton, Calgary, or Toronto). And I do not travel well, which is one of the reasons I find social VR so appealing in the first place.

The Augmented Human International Conference is coming to Canada for the first time in May 2020. My university, the University of Manitoba, is hosting the 11th Augmented Human conference from May 27th to 29th, 2020, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Selected areas and topics of interest include but are not limited to:

Brain-Computer Interfaces and Artificial Intelligence
– Hardware and Sensors
– IoT [Internet of Things] and Ubiquitous Computing
– Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality
– Alternative or Novel Feedback Modalities
– Muscle Interfaces and Implanted Interfaces

Smart Home and Smart Cities
– Ambient sensors, Wearables, Smart Objects
– Smart Textiles, Augmented Fashion, Art and Tourism

Medicine, Rehabilitation and Sports  
– Tele-rehabilitation
– Tele-Assistance
– Smart Assistive Devices
– Bionics and Biomechanics
– Biomimicry and Exoskeletons
– Sensory Substitution and Fusion
– Interfaces, Services and Applications
– Holograms, HMDs and Smart Glasses
– Serious Games and Augmented Sports

Political and Social Sciences
– Ethics, Trust, Privacy
– Human-Factors, Safety, and Security Aspects of Augmented Humans

If you wish to submit a paper to this conference, here is the form. The deadline for paper receipt is January 29th, 2020. All submitted papers will be peer-reviewed by three independent referees from the International Editorial Board. Accepted papers will be published in the ACM’s International Conference Proceedings Series (ICPS) and are eligible for publication in the Augmented Human Research Journal.

Here is the conference registration page. If you are coming, and you want to meet up face-to-face somewhere in Winnipeg, I would be delighted!

I Will Be a Presenter at the Educators in VR 2020 International Summit

I am happy to announce that my application to speak at the Educators in VR 2020 International Summit has been accepted! This six-day conference will be held entirely on various social VR platforms such as AltspaceVR, ENGAGE, and Rumii, instead of in a real-world physical location. (No need to book airline tickets or hotel rooms!)

I will be speaking on the topic of applications of commercial social VR platforms to libraries (specifically, academic libraries, although much of what I will say equally applies to special/corporate libraries and public libraries). This will be the first time I am speaking from my dual perspective as an academic librarian and as a social VR blogger!

I will most likely be giving my presentation from the ENGAGE educational social VR platform, where they already have a virtual recreation of the famous Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford that I could use! You can see it in this short video clip below:

I’d like to thank the organizers, Lorelle VanFossen and Daniel Dyboski-Bryant, for inviting me to come speak! They are also on the lookout for volunteers to help run the Summit:

This event will not happen without volunteers helping to moderate, film and record, and help with logistics. If you would like to volunteer in addition to speaking, or have students, co-workers, or others familiar with social and educational VR platforms willing to help, please use our Volunteer Form to let us know how you may help. 

https://forms.gle/XhmNDn4tm3HuiK4z6

So please consider becoming a volunteer. Thanks!