April 2009

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Swine Flu FAQ

  • 12:48 PM

What is swine flu?

According to the Center for Disease Control, swine influenza A (H1N1) is a flu virus that normally infects pigs. Occasionally the virus mutates so that it can infect humans, and since the human immune system is not properly equipped to deal with the virus it can be quite a serious infection.

Is swine flu dangerous?

The exact danger is not known. On one hand, existing flu vaccinations are unlikely to protect against swine flu. On the other, so far it seems that swine flu can be treated with common retroviral medication. In the USA, the CDC has released a quarter of its stockpile of these drugs to treat the current outbreak.

What are the symptoms of swine flu?

At first the virus presents with normal flu symptoms: a cough, fever, sore throat, body aches, chills and fatigue. As the disease advances sufferers may experience diarrhea or vomiting. Once the disease reaches its final stages, sufferers will experience hair loss, gradual pinkening of the skin, facial swelling that causes the patient's nose to widen and flatten, and an intense urge to roll in mud.

Are there other variants of swine flu?

Most, if not all of the fatal cases related to swine flu have been in Mexico, but it is not yet known if these deaths were caused by a more dangerous strain of the flu, or just because of differences in available medical treatment. In addition, some cases of swine flu outside of the USA have been reported to be thicker and less crispy than the American counterparts. (This variant has been named “Canadian Swine Flu”).

How did H1N1 pass from pigs to humans?

The CDC are performing an in-depth study to attempt to trace the flu back to its original source. So far they have been unsuccessful, but they have come up with the following composite drawing of “Patient 0”. Anyone who knows someone who fits this description who may have recently visited Mexico should immediately contact the authorities.

(the results of an image search for bacon [sorry, this is a visual gag])

…is not like the other.


  • 5:25 PM

I never used Geocities, but I can't help agreeing that even if Yahoo! is going to discontinue the service, they shouldn't let all that content just drop into the bit bucket of history.

It’s cute and pithy to say “Well, good fucking riddance to Geocities”.… Many pages are amateurish. A lot have broken links, even internally. The content is tiny on a given page. And there are many sites which have been dead for over a decade. But please recall, if you will, that for hundreds of thousands of people, this was their first website. This was where you went to get the chance to publish your ideas to the largest audience you might ever have dreamed of having.… In a world where we get pissed because the little GIF throbber stays for 4 seconds instead of the usual 1, this is all quaint. But it’s history. It’s culture. It’s something I want to save for future generations. – Jason Scott

To recap.

First Ashton and Demi were like, OMG Twitter! and then Larry and Ashton were like, OMG, Twitter! and then Oprah was like, OMG Twitter and then Twitter was like, OMG Oprah!.

Or, to put it another way:

…dear Twitterers. If you actually give a shit that you were #herebeforeoprah, you're doing it wrong.

There are legitimate reasons to fear sudden popularity. A site where users collaborate on a shared resource, say a Wikipedia or a Reddit (not to mention Usenet) have good reason to fear an influx of new users who “don't understand” the site, and might change its character.

Twitter's not like that, though. It's like the web itself: a loosely connected accumulation of linked communities. You only ever have to see the people you want to see. So if Oprah brings all her viewers on to Twitter, you never have to see a single one of them if you don't want to. The community that you are a part of changes not one jot.

So the only real reason to care you were #herebeforeoprah would be the same reason you liked that indie band before they were featured in an iPod advertisement.

I hate to break it to you, but Twitter was never that cool.

(On the other hand, Twitter seems to be revisiting its old habits as far as uptime goes, but pretty much every popular Internet service has experienced those kind of growing pains. They either reach a point where the growth curve flattens out and settle down, or they collapse under their own weight and are replaced by something that can handle the load.)

A Problem

  • 9:54 AM

You know you have a problem when Twitter is down, so you try to tweet that Twitter is down, but you can’t tweet that Twitter is down because Twitter is down.

The DiggBar from the point of view of Digg:

From Digg's point of view, the DiggBar is part of the web browser, adding a new toolbar that adds some Digg-specific functions to links where that functionality might be relevant.

The DiggBar from the point of view of a website owner:

From the website owner's point of view, the DiggBar is hijacking their site by wrapping it in a frame.

(For background information, start with this Daring Fireball article, then if you're still vaguely interested the next two days of link archives, and possibly my article about how to many people, URLs are an opaque browser feature, and possibly my rant about how it's Google's job to map the web, it isn't the web's job to design itself around how Google happens to map it today.)