What I Did On My Coronavirus Vacation

Today’s word from Kerry is an apology for being so late in posting my song about the coronavirus, “The Quarantine Scene.” I’m sorry. Self-isolation was a novel thing when I wrote it on March 19 and imagined it rocketing around the world as the viral hit of the pandemic. Now that the first wave of business reopenings have started, it’s a bit long in the tooth. My cultural antennae tell me no one is craving a nostalgic look back at the self-quarantine of March and April. 

One qualification for my apology: I did manage a timely performance of the song when my band did three live streams in April. Our six band members each performed solo from our homes, including our drummer, Marty York, who played a memorable drum solo on his washing machine on that first night, April 13, when I debuted “The Quarantine Scene.”

But I knew I needed a more fully arranged version for this thing to go viral. And I wanted to produce it in true quarantine style, from the home studios of people who never played the song together in person, so it would not only be about the quarantine, but of the quarantine. And it felt right to restrict performers to family members, because you quarantine with your family. It didn’t hurt that several of my brothers and nephews could fill out the arrangement nicely. 

We had challenges. Our best bass player (Forrest) wasn’t available because his brother (Kieran) had bailed out of Brooklyn to stay with him in his suddenly cramped Tipperary Hill (Syracuse) apartment. An even bigger issue: none of the three who signed on had experience running a home digital recording studio. But this would be a chance to learn! Wasn’t that what the quarantine was all about, learning Zoom and other digital technologies that provide virtual socialization? Besides, my brother Phil (drums) and I were already dabblers, and we had talked about trying remote recording projects before the pandemic. My nephew Zac (violin) hadn’t recorded digitally in years, but he enthusiastically bought the equipment he needed. And we were off.

Some things came easily. Others took time and patience—a lot of YouTube tutorials, a few redos and a consultation or two with outside experts—until we eventually had something we all felt good about. 

Now as the self-quarantine is slowly lifting, I realize that this was my one project that ran through the entirety of our “pure” self-isolation period from mid-March to mid-May. It led me to learn at least some of the intricacies of Garageband software and how to turn a Zoom meeting into a YouTube live stream to broadcast our band’s performances and the song’s debut. It rallied me to open a SoundCloud account, where this recording is my first post. And it led me to engage with family members in other cities, and imagine a slew of projects we can do together during—and after—the pandemic.

Don’t get me wrong. I also took it easy during self-isolation. I had few deadlines. I went on long dog walks. I re-initiated long-ignored projects around the house. I phoned some people I hadn’t connected with in a while, with many more I should call. I watched movies with my wife almost every night. And Tiger King. 

Those are some of the reasons it took me longer than I thought it would to get this song out. But no worries. Not being too hard on yourself is part of what the quarantine scene was all about. 

The NFL Will Be Back This Fall

The National Football League will play its schedule this fall. Even it baseball never throws its first pitch. Even if a second wave of COVID-19 kicks in. Even if some states ban gatherings of 1,000-plus. And while post-coronavirus football will make adjustments, none will change the essentials of the game. 

This week’s NFL draft will not be in vain. 

Yes, training camps will start later than usual. But come on. The starters hardly play in the pre-season games anyway. They’ll be ready on opening day. 

Coaches, who tend to be older and therefore at greater risk of COVID complications, will now wear full personal protective equipment (PPE) on the sidelines. No big deal though—most of them already look pretty nerdy. 

More devastating: fans may not be allowed in the stadiums, protecting the larger population but making the NFL a TV-only league. But here’s a news flash: people like watching football on TV! We’ll miss the tailgating and the 12thman heroics, but we’ll adjust.

Then there’s the players. They’ll have to contend with a new threat: COVID-19. But let’s be real. NFL locker rooms aren’t exactly nursing homes (though Tampa Bay’s room may get reclassified as an assisted living facility since Tom Brady’s signing). 

Still, the risk of hospital stays or even death for COVID-19-inflicted NFL players isn’t zero. A handful of players have diabetes, some have asthma, and as many as 14 percent have high blood pressure(and 90 percent of linemen), according to American Medical Association-published studies—factors that increase the risk for COVID-19 complications. 

So let’s cut to the chase: how many COVID deaths can we expect in the 2020 season? One? Two? Three or four at the most? Well guess what? Four active players have diedin three different seasons: 2007, 1964 and 1963, and three have died in six campaigns, most recently in 2012. Yes, those are high numbers. Yes, each death is tragic. Yes, it’s sad. But experiencing three or four deaths of active NFL players in a season is not unheard of. 

And let’s face it. Health implications are far worse for retired players than for active ones. More than half of NFL playershave body mass indexes that put them at risk of diabetes. The high blood pressure increases the likelihood of future heart disease. Then there’s chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the neurodegenerative brain disease caused by repeated brain trauma, resulting in symptoms like memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, aggression, depression, anxiety, impulse control issues and suicidal behavior.  A studypublished in the Journal of the American Medical Associationin 2017 found CTE in 110 of the 111 brains of former NFL players they studied. To sum up: nearly every NFL player gets it. 

Indeed CTE has introduced a new brand of danger to the NFL—and the coronavirus can slot right into that same lane. If players inhale each other’s potentially coronavirus-laden droplets in the trenches or when they’re putting a big hit on that running back or when they’re doing those homo-erotic end-zone celebrations, well, it’s all part of the game. It’s their destiny. It’s American’s destiny. Let’s embrace it!

Let’s savor Tom Brady’s new quest to lead a non-Bill Belichick team to the Super Bowl, which is scheduled to take place in Brady’s new home stadium in Tampa Bay this year, by the way. Let’s rejoice when the nation’s betting capital finally gets its own team as the erstwhile Oakland Raiders open their first season in Las Vegas. And most importantly, let’s take note that the Buffalo Bills are No. 11 in the pre-season power rankings of both ESPN and Sports Illustrated. After more than two decades of frustration and entering the fourth season of a Brandon Beane / Sean McDermott-led rebuild, the Bills are ready to return to form. 

We can’t let that just slip away.

The photo at the top of the page by chaddavis.photography is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license: cc-by-sa-2.0.

The Public Sink of the Future

Of course!

That was my reaction when I first saw a sink that grouped the three hand washing enablers inches apart in proper deployment order: soap dispenser, faucet and hand drier. A one-stop washing experience made especially convenient by motion-activators. Soap dispensed with a swipe of the hand. Water ready when you are. Then the coup de grace: the hand drier. No more hands dripping walks to nearest paper towel dispenser—or worse, waiting in line for one. It’s like the automated car wash for hands. What more could you ask for?

Well, actually, the coronavirus gives us a glimpse of a new frontier. 

Proper washing requires 20 seconds of scrubbing, healthcare professionals remind us as we attempt to stop the spread of the virus. So how do you time it? With a timepiece? Your watch is on your wrist, which is involved in hand washing, so it’s not ideal. Your phone probably has a stopwatch, but then you are pressing and swiping, which isn’t convenient, and you’re doing it in a watery environment, which may damage your phone. Timing it in your head isn’t reliable. Some suggest singing a 20-second song like “Happy Birthday,” but that gets old after say, your 10,654th washing.

Then there’s the boredom factor. Twenty seconds is a long time to invest in a repetitive act that offers no distractions from TV or social media. 

What to do? In the future, I believe we’ll have sinks with voice-activated timers that play 20-second songs to signal the proper length of a hand-washing session, thereby addressing both the timing and the boredom factors. Sink users could select a song they know or ask “Siri de Bain” to select one for them. 

Standard selections might remind washers why it’s important to give their hands the full 20-second treatment. See “20 Seconds” and “Let’s Talk About Your Hands.”

20 Seconds
Let’s Talk About Your Hands

No doubt some will offer tongue-in-cheek observations, as in “I’m Washing My Hands.”

I’m Washing My Hands.

And some experimental artists will forgo hand washing altogether to provide more of a 20-second experience. Give a listen to “No Time For Fooling Around.” 

No Time For Fooling Around

With multiple sinks in the public restroom, this could result in cacophony, so the enabling technology will need to provide a methodology for precisely controlling sound waves to be audible within tightly prescribed areas. Something like the Get Smart TV series’ “Cone of Silence,” but invisible. 

So there’s the vision. Technologists: make it a reality.