Coronavirus Diary (58): Yet More on the Jersey Surge

I often find myself disagreeing with academics, and particularly academic philosophers, about the value of journalism. Many of the philosophers I know look down on journalism; ordinary reportage seems philosophically jejune to them, and the arguments one finds in editorial writing tend to be weak on precision and rigor. There’s something to that, but I think it could with equal validity be said that academics lack the robust sense of reality and common sense that some of the best journalists tend to have. Sent out into the field, the average philosopher (or data-oriented social scientist) would, I think, quickly fall prey to some version of Meno’s paradox: not knowing what to look for at the outset of the inquiry, and not grasping the significance of what one encountered along the way. By contrast, journalists solve that apparent paradox every day–just without any sense that it is one. Continue reading

Video Killed the Classroom Star

Here’s a half-hour interview with me on Radio Felician University, on the pros and cons of online learning during the coronavirus crisis. I’m interviewed by two of my applied ethics students at Felician, Kiera Benson and Nicole Cacciatore (“Nicole Catch”). The interview aired  in late April.

I find it ironic that after about a decade of industry-wide hype about the imperative to switch all of our classes to a fully online format, now that we are fully online, people are crying crocodile tears about the pedagogical inadequacies of online learning. In other words, online teaching was a panacea before the pandemic; now that there’s a pandemic raging, the imperative is to return to the physical classroom. Continue reading

Sabahat Zakariya: BBC Urdu in New Jersey

Back in 2016, I mentioned the work of my talented cousin, Sabahat Zakariya, at the time a graduate student in journalism and Near East Studies at NYU. Since then, she’s gotten her degree, and moved–of all places–to New Jersey. In fact, she now lives a mere half hour away from me, which would be rather convenient for both of us if we weren’t currently in the middle of a pandemic.

In any case, I’m happy to mention that Sabahat is now reporting on and from New Jersey for BBC Urdu.  Obviously, she reports for them in Urdu–or the mixture of English and Urdu that passes for Urdu nowadays–but you might be able to follow at least some of what she’s saying even if you don’t know the language. Give it a try, anyway.

She’s reporting from Middlesex County, around Edison, New Jersey, a well-known South Asian enclave. Her commentary on life in Jersey is perhaps a little more diplomatic and civilized than my blogging on some of the same subjects--straight factual reporting without editoralization or profanity-laced ranting. But give it time. To quote Prospero in The Tempest, “’tis new to thee.”

Coronavirus Diary (57): Valley-Mt. Sinai Platelet Donations (Update)

Back on April 12th, I posted a call for platelet donations issued by Valley Health and Mt. Sinai Hospitals. I know of a handful of people who’ve donated blood or platelets, including my Felician colleague Amy Dombach and (I believe) PoT’s own Michael Young, but I know of only one person who did so specifically in response to my post. Loyal but low-key PoT reader Chris Paglinco tells me (if I understand correctly) that he donated blood to the Valley/Mt. Sinai program after being presumptively COVID-positive, and getting the idea for a platelet donation by reading about it here. In his words: “They took samples of my blood for antibody testing. If I have had COVID-19, and have the requisite level of antibodies, I will go back and make the actual plasma donation.”* Continue reading

Coronavirus Diary (56): Parks and Privilege in New Jersey

About two weeks ago, we had a discussion here about New Jersey’s decision (Executive Order 118) to close its state and county parks, leaving municipalities the discretion to keep their parks open. The rationale for the order was that given the option to use the parks, some people will, but many people will not, observe physical distancing norms. Continue reading

Coronavirus Diary (55): The Labor Economics of La-La Land

The business and political leaders featured in this NJTV News segment sound delusional to me. They’re talking here as though things will be fine “down the Shore” by June 1, and that there’s a good chance that we’ll have a normal shore season. You don’t need a crystal ball or some sophisticated econometric model to see that that’s ridiculous. Continue reading

COVID-19 Narratives (5): Coronavirus, Chronic Pain, and College Life

Coronavirus, Chronic Pain, and College Life: A Student’s Perspective
Kiara A. Almendarez

The coronavirus pandemic is striking fear in people across the entire world, but how is this invisible enemy able to do this so effectively? As a student, I would say that the main reason is the anxiety produced by the uncertainty it’s produced. Personally, I’ve found the “lockdown” challenging to deal with as a college student. Once my university announced the transition to online classes, classes got increasingly difficult for me. Given the new circumstances, some professors were apt to give more assignments on the assumption that we now had more leisure time to spend on them, but this overlooks the fact that many students faced other severe challenges at home–including, most obviously, illness from the virus itself. On April 8, 2020, my younger cousin informed me that my maternal uncle and aunt had passed away. I had to restrain my emotions in order to finish an assignment that was due before midnight that night. It was extraordinarily difficult to do, but I had no choice. Continue reading

COVID-19 Narratives (4): Life and Death During the North Jersey Surge

[An anonymous submission from a college student in north Jersey.]

Life and Death in North Jersey: An Extended Family Battles the Surge

Looking back to when talk of COVID-19 began, it’s almost unfathomable that things have gotten to where they currently are. I can clearly remember COVID-19’s being a side discussion in my classes, one that we’d toy with, playfully, before we began class. Now, of course, it’s the one and only topic of conversation, having stripped us of everything else. I now send emails and texts to friends, checking in and seeing how they’re doing, knowing that there’s a very real possibility that they’ll tell me that they’re ill or that someone they love is dying. This is the nightmare we now live in. Everyone is dealing with their own battle, just trying to make it to light at the end of the tunnel. This is the story of my personal war, and my journey to try exit this damn tunnel. Continue reading

Two Necessities

A square tablecloth spread on a rectangular table will hang from the table edges same as before if the cloth is rotated ninety degrees lying on the table. A rectangular cloth not square—a cloth made longer in one length, shorter in the other—will require two rotations of ninety degrees to hang from the table edges same as before. We can open our geometry books and find that such facts are aspects of the rotational isometries of quadrilaterals.

Facts of pure geometry can have explanatory value to us for some facts about table cloths. I should distinguish two sorts of necessities in pure geometries. One sort is the plain necessity of geometric facts, such as one-hundred-eighty degrees being the sum of the angles in any triangle in the Euclidean plane or such as any square’s diagonal being not of any integer-ratio to the length of its sides. The other sort is the necessity between if and then in the inferences one makes in proving such results. Continue reading

Coronavirus Diary (54): William Dale on “Physical Distancing” Redux

I’ve posted here twice before on my friend William Dale’s work in geriatric oncology, once on March 26th, and then again on April 3rd. In the second post, I took issue with William’s insistence on using the phrase “physical distancing” rather than “social distancing.” It’s not that I disagreed with him on the superiority of “physical distancing” over “social distancing”; “physical distancing” is obviously the superior term. But I worried that at that relatively early stage of the game, the change of terminology might dilute efforts at inducing people to engage in distancing. Better to have a single term and really hammer it home than change semantic horses in mid-stream. Continue reading