Sunday, January 23, 2022

Blogaround

Scientific diagram showing a black fetus. (from link #2)
1. Prayer and healing: A medical and scientific perspective on randomized controlled trials (2009) Wow this is AMAZING. It's a scientific paper which summarizes the results of several studies of prayer's effectiveness to treat medical problems. And at the end, it asks a whole bunch of VERY GOOD questions that nobody ever asks in church, but would be real questions that matter, if it is true that prayer "works."

If I had to pick a favorite, I would say: "As atheists, in general, form a minority in most populations, in any randomized controlled trial of intercessory prayer, there is likely to be a number of persons (friends, relatives and the patients themselves) praying for members of both experimental and control groups, unknown to the researchers. If prayer works, this unmeasured source of healing could diminish intergroup differences in outcomes."

2. The creator of the viral Black fetus image will have his illustrations published in a book (posted January 13) "A 2014 study by researchers at the University of Wollongong in Australia examined gender bias in anatomy textbooks and found that of more than 6,000 images with an identifiable sex published between 2008 and 2013 in 17 textbooks, the vast majority were White and just over a third were female."

3. The United States could lose all flights to China ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics (posted January 14) Yep.

4. Consummation Laws and You (posted 2021) "You don’t have to live in fear of the Marriage Police stopping you on the street to make sure you had sex at least one (1) time." This is an asexual blogger writing in response to asexuals making the claim that marriage consummation laws are harmful to asexuals. Basically, no, it is NOT true that consummation laws mean the legal system will say an asexual's marriage is invalid, please stop worrying about this.

5. The Case of the Heternormative Healthcare (posted 2020) "But even after they’ve added notes about queerness to my chart, they don’t ask questions: No one asks if I use protection or mentions gloves or dental dams or asks if I engage primarily in oral, finger-fucking, strap-ons, or other sex toys." 

Wow, man... I am straight and asexual and I have had similar experiences with gynecologists. Before I figured out I was asexual, there were several doctors I asked for help- I told them "sex is painful" and they didn't ask me for any more information. (Except one, who asked "is the pain on the outside or deep inside?" which assumes I am familiar enough with my own genitals to know specifically where the pain is, which, I was not, I was a very pure girl who followed the rules and made sure never to investigate my own genitals...)

I guess doctors are too squeamish to talk about sex? Like, it turns out I had vaginismus, I had it pretty bad, and no doctor ever noticed? 

Really glad I found the asexual community though, which encouraged me to know myself, know my own desires, know my own body, be honest with myself about what I want or don't want, and set my own goals about what kind of sex life I want (if any). That wherever I am now is fine, that it is fine and normal to be confused about sex, it is fine if sex "doesn't work." IDing as asexual helped me with my sex problems far more than any gynecologist ever did.

6. S.H.E [ Super Star ] Official MV (posted 2011) Okay not sure if any of my readers will be interested this, since it's at this weird intersection of "ex-evangelical" and "Chinese as a second language"- but every time I hear this Chinese pop song, it makes me think of worship. I've said before that I'll never worship again, but if I was going to worship a god, maybe I would use this song to do it.

7. Da Vinci Code: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (Web Exclusive) (posted January 10) [NSFW language] "I just genuinely think that it is very weird that in 2003, this stupid, stupid book took the planet by storm, and I just think that enough time has passed that we can talk about it now."

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Donating to Charity

A jar of coins labelled "Charity." Image source.

Hi everyone, the holiday season is over and it's a new year, so I thought now would be a good time to think about my budget and things, and how much money I'm giving to charity. I want to write about it because this is a good thing to do, and if you're financially able, you should donate money to other people who need it.

Here's basically what I do: I think about what societal issues are important to me, and find a charity that is doing effective work in those areas, and set up a recurring donation for $10/month. Do this for a bunch of charities in different areas. My hope is that every year when I kind of look at my income and how much I can afford to give, I'll be able to add more charities to my list.

I think recurring donations are a super good idea! Sometimes life is busy, and I like how my responsibility to donate money to help society will keep reliably happening even if I don't have time to think about it.

Sooooooooo, yeah that's it. Not a very long or exciting blog post, but it's a good thing to do, if you're in a financial situation where $10/month is no big deal. Set up the recurring donation so it happens automatically.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Wow, the Anti-China Bias in Western News Media

In Xi'an, China, people wait in line to be covid-tested. Image source.

Throughout the whole pandemic, I have been shocked by the anti-China bias I keep seeing in news articles from western media. A lot of articles criticizing China's "zero covid" strategy, talking about it like it's just absurd, when in reality it has saved hundreds of thousands of lives. A lot of articles talking about covid outbreaks in China- I see that the articles report the correct numbers (any small number of cases in a city of millions counts as an "outbreak" in China- so we have outbreaks of like 3 or 10 or whatever) but the tone these articles use makes it sound like the situation is just as bad as in the US.

It's made me political in ways I never was before. Yeah, I've lived in China for 8 years, yeah, I'm American and I was always taught that the Chinese government was evil... I moved to China and found the reality is it's mostly a huge bureaucracy, but beyond that, I hadn't really formed much of an opinion about the Chinese government. Until now. Like wow, China has successfully controlled the pandemic, and all CNN wants to talk about is how "harsh" our lockdowns are or whatever.

(I mention CNN specifically just because that's the site I usually read. Seems that other western media also has the same kind of bias though.)

CNN always reads [to me] like "you guys, get a load of this, China is trying to not let ANYONE get covid. How weird! What a harsh dictatorship! Everyone hates it, surely China will soon get with the program and stop this 'zero covid' silliness." Some links: here, here, here, and here. The facts are right, but the overall tone is so biased against China. Instead, they should be pointing out, "you guys, when China says 'outbreak', like, 1 covid case counts as an 'outbreak'. This is not like in the US. This is completely different from the pandemic in the US." But the articles use language like "scrambling to contain"- which is true, China is "scrambling to contain" covid outbreaks- but to readers in western countries, that makes it sound like things are just as out-of-control here in China as they are elsewhere. China is "scrambling to contain" because China takes any 1 single covid case seriously, because China understands what exponential growth means and how it would lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths. And because China is "scrambling to contain", we have NOT had exponential growth, or hundreds of thousands of deaths.

Anyway, here's a recent example. The same story, reported by CNN and by Sixth Tone, a Chinese media group:

CNN: Xi'an lockdown brings heartbreak and dysfunction as political pressure to contain outbreak grows

Sixth Tone: After Tragedies, Xi’an Promises Better Health Care Amid Lockdown

(A little bit of background about Sixth Tone: It's a Chinese media group that writes articles in English from a feminist perspective- and that's why I like reading their articles. They don't really do the same style of "breaking news" that CNN does, it's more like, in-depth investigations of how minority groups are affected by society-wide trends, that sort of thing. Wikipedia tells us that Sixth Tone is owned by Shanghai United Media Group, which is owned by the Chinese Communist Party- but this is very much NOT an "everything the government does is awesome" propaganda machine or anything like that. They publish articles about how the legal system in China fails to protect women's rights in cases of divorce or domestic violence, how parents are unable to buy medicine for their kid who has a rare disease that China doesn't care enough to approve treatments for, even though other countries have treatments, also a lot of articles about queer people and the challenges they face in China... Yeah, many articles critical of "the system" and its real-world effects on people's lives.)

Both CNN and Sixth Tone reported about this: In Xi'an, which is currently under lockdown because it has the biggest COVID-19 outbreak that China has had since the initial Wuhan outbreak in early 2020, there have been people who needed emergency medical treatment but were not allowed to enter the hospital because of the pandemic rules. (ie, they didn't have a negative covid test, or didn't have the right health code on their phone.) There was a man who had a heart attack, and later died because he couldn't get treatment, and a pregnant woman who had a miscarriage (Sixth Tone mentions this happened to 2 pregnant women in Xi'an).

It's fascinating to me to see the same story reported by 2 different sources, and how it's spun so different. CNN reads like "this shows that 'zero covid' is BAD, everyone hates it, China should stop." Sixth Tone reads like "nobody is questioning the 'zero covid' strategy. But we all agree that Xi'an is doing a terrible job of it."

[And here's another little complication to throw in: When I first read that article on CNN, I thought, "I am not gonna see this reported in Chinese news, I'm sure they'll censor it." Then later I saw it reported by Sixth Tone and I thought, "Oh, interesting, I guess since it already went viral on Weibo, they are not trying to censor it." Yeah, we know news get censored here. We know we don't truly have free speech- though with social media, sometimes something goes viral before the Powers That Be have a chance to silence it...]

Both articles report that the people responsible (at the hospitals and/or in the Xi'an government) have lost their jobs. And I have also seen articles in Chinese news media about other cities where local officials have lost their jobs for failing to control the pandemic. So a lot of it comes down to how the local government of each city sets rules to carry out the "zero covid" policy. A lot of pressure on the local government, and blame if they screw it up.

It leads to lots of rules, which may or may not make sense, and low-level security guards are tasked with enforcing the rules. And, I suspect, these security guards know the rules don't always make sense, but if, somehow, the security guard fails to check everyone's health code and then a covid-positive person somehow enters the location, the security guard will be blamed for it. What incentive do they have for saying "the rule doesn't make sense, I will let you in anyway"?

An example that happened to me: A few months ago, my son had a cough and fever, and we took him to the fever clinic section of a hospital. (In China, because of the pandemic, fever patients are not allowed to go to just any hospital, they can only go to a designated fever clinic.) The doctor said my son would have to use a nebulizer to inhale medicine for his lungs, twice a day. The doctor asked us, "Do you live near here? If there's another hospital closer to where you live, you can do the nebulizer there, no need to come all the way here." 

So that night, we went to a different hospital with a fever clinic, closer to our home. When we got there, of course the first thing the security guard asked was "has he had a fever in the past 48 hours?" (48? Maybe 72? I don't remember the exact number.) Since he had had a fever, he would have to go to the fever clinic section of the hospital- and a patient is only allowed 1 visitor, so my husband went with him while I waited at the main entrance.

When my husband got to the fever clinic area, they said that my son would have to be covid-tested, and they would need to stay in the fever clinic for several hours while they waited for the covid test result. My husband said, "We already went to another fever clinic today and he was covid-tested, here is the result, it's negative." They said, they don't accept that, they want to do their own covid test, and you have to sit here and wait for it. 

(At this point, it's about 9 pm, nobody wants to sit around and wait for a covid test result which is definitely negative because Shanghai has had, what, like 50 locally-transmitted covid cases over the past 2 years? Uh I can't find a stat for this- total for Shanghai is around 3400, but the vast majority of those are people who arrived on an international flight and went straight to quarantine, no danger of spreading. Yeah basically nobody here has covid.)

So there was some back-and-forth- my husband said "This is a covid test result from a hospital that has been officially designated as a fever clinic by the government of Shanghai. It's not like, some random guy in a parking lot." [Okay I wasn't there so those were probably not his exact words, lol.] Eventually a doctor said it's okay, you can go. The doctor agreed to take responsibility for it if somehow my son turns out to have covid and they let us go. She made a phone call to the front desk of the hospital to say it's okay, let us in when we come in the main entrance. 

So my husband and son left the fever clinic area and came in the main entrance to the hospital, and we saw a doctor (not the same one- the doctor mentioned above was just working in the fever clinic area).

(Also, I'll mention that the first hospital we went to that day does NOT have the rule "you have to wait for your covid test result before you can leave." Some fever clinics have that rule, some don't.)

Rules. They might not make sense when applied to a specific individual situation, and the security guard surely recognizes that, but why should they take the risk? If somehow you are covid-positive, it's a logistical nightmare disinfecting everything and testing everyone who happened to be there at the same time, and the security guard would be blamed and lose their job.

So this is the kind of environment we have here- and I'm sure it's even more extreme in Xi'an, which is having an actual covid outbreak. I am totally not surprised that a hospital refused to let people in who needed life-saving medical treatment. Actually, I am sure this isn't the first time it's happened in China during the pandemic. Surely there must be other people who died because of the lockdowns and because of the pandemic rules.

They want to just blame it on the local government of Xi'an, but my opinion is, when you have a "zero-covid" strategy, and you have a population of 1.4 billion, there will inevitably be some places where the local government does a really bad job of handling lockdowns and all that, and people die, not from covid but from problems caused by the lockdowns. That's inevitable (but that doesn't make it okay), and the national government has some responsibility for that... but what's the alternative?

There have also been news articles from Xi'an about people stuck in their homes unable to get food. If you have a lockdown, you have to set up a system to make sure everyone gets food delivered to them. This is obvious, right? Also this is the reason the lockdowns could never really work in the US- imagine a big government big enough to quickly set up a food-delivery system that guaranteed every household had food. Instead, what happened in the US was that restaurants and grocery stores saw a demand and started offering delivery services- that's how the free market works. But when it's the free market, nobody is making sure that everyone has access to the food deliveries and everyone can feasibly stay in their homes to do a proper lockdown. And to control the pandemic, it really has to be everyone, not just the people with enough money and privilege to make it work.

But anyway, apparently Xi'an has also done a bad job with the grocery deliveries.

Let's compare this with the US, though. (I am talking about the US because I'm American.) 800,000 people have died of covid in the US. I keep seeing so much news about the US health care system being overwhelmed because there are too many covid patients, and also nurses can't work because they're also getting covid or just getting burned out. I keep seeing news about schools trying to open and then closing again because suddenly a bunch of students and staff tested positive for covid. I see news about long covid. And the US does not yet have a vaccine for children less than 5 years old. (In China, there are vaccines for ages 3 and up.) My son is too little to be vaccinated.

So... if you want to talk about governments doing things wrong in handling the pandemic... Would you rather be killed by bureaucracy in China or by the free market in the US? (Raw numbers say the free market has killed way more...)

Yes, let's expose the failures of the Xi'an government, because these things absolutely shouldn't happen. (Just because it's "not as bad as the US" doesn't make it okay- like wow, set the bar a little higher than that.) But then claiming that it means "zero covid" is wrong, and China should just let everyone get sick- come on, all the other countries are doing it!- like, what on earth?

I'm in Shanghai- maybe I would be saying something different if I was elsewhere in China. Maybe I would have more criticisms of the Chinese government. I found an article on CNN which has this to say about how the government of Shanghai runs things way more efficiently than other cities in China:

In a way, Xi'an's dysfunction is not an exception. Complaints of disproportionately harsh measures abound during previous prolonged lockdowns in other comparatively smaller areas, from cities in the western region of Xinjiang to the southern border town of Ruili. But in Xi'an, such problems took place in a much more extreme form, on a much larger scale, and garnered much wider attention.

"People like to use Shanghai as a sort of reference point," Huang said, referring to the Chinese financial center widely praised for its cool-headed and targeted Covid response. "But they forgot that Shanghai is actually a rare case due to its relatively strong bureaucratic capacity."

"When the capacity is low, government officials are more likely to turn to heavy-handed, indiscriminate and even excessive measures that significantly raise the cost of implementing this (zero-Covid) strategy," he said, citing Xi'an as an example.

Yeah, I guess I shouldn't be ignorant of my own bias, because I am in Shanghai and I have benefitted a lot from China's "zero covid" strategy. I get to just live my life normally, except that I have to wear a mask in public and traveling is very restricted.

But I see western news media talking about China as if they don't know what they're doing, as if it's just completely absurd to try and stop covid from spreading, like, oh surely soon China will recognize how ridiculous this is, and give up their "zero covid" strategy... "they can't do this forever" and such... I mean, why? Why can't China do this forever? Who is going to stop them? Just because news organizations in other countries (like the US) have gotten used to covid and thousands of people dying every day and seem to think it's fine... No, here in China we STILL KNOW that's not fine. That's not okay, having thousands of people die of covid. That's not something we want. Just because it's "normal" to people looking in from other countries doesn't make it okay.

Take the plank out of your own eye. There are problems here, but the alternative is so much worse.

---

Wow, just days after publishing this post, I see this on CNN: Beijing locks down office building with workers still inside after single Omicron case detected. Wow, the bias here, the horrified tone... unbelievable. The headline "locks down office building with workers still inside", written with the same wording you would write something actually bad like "set it on fire with workers still inside"... Umm, it's a lockdown, the point is to contain the virus, keeping people from leaving is THE ENTIRE POINT, not some kind of horrifying side-effect... Also "single Omicron case"- yeah see the thing is, it's probably NOT a "single Omicron case", there are probably more, so we have to find them before it spreads. Yeah it sucks if you have to sleep at work for a couple days, but you know what would suck more? If your grandma died of covid.

I mean, let's definitely keep an eye on the Chinese government in case they start claiming that controlling people's lives in other shady ways is necessary to save lives. But this, during the pandemic? This actually IS necessary. This is what you do if you actually want to defeat covid.

---

Related: 

I Don't Know Anyone in China Who Has Had Covid 

"I'm Thankful That We Live In A Country..."

Well *now* I'm glad I stayed in China

Monday, January 10, 2022

Blogaround

1. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, South African anti-apartheid leader, dies at 90 (posted December 26)

2. A couple of the replies on this Twitter thread- yes, this is so real. 

Personally I didn't experience this specific fear because fortunately I was way way out of evangelicalism by the time my baby was born. I wrote about it here: I'm SO HAPPY I Won't Be Praying During Childbirth.

3. And somewhat related: The Strange Sad Story of Olive Heiligenthal (posted 2020) [content note: child death] This happened 2 years ago, and I don't think I blogged about it back then, because it's just so sad. I have nothing but sympathy for the parents. If it was my child, I'd do anything, of course I would do anything, I would sell myself to any god or devil- even the kind of devil who judges your worthiness for miracles by how many people get emotionally worked-up at a big worship event and how far and wide your grief gets spread on the internet to be mocked.

4. Covid Diary: The world envies us (posted December 31) Here's a blogger in Australia talking about what the pandemic has been like there.

5. I'm a church pastor and here's the truth about my late-term abortion (posted 2016) "In those moments, Trump, who has never been pregnant and presumably has navigated this far in his life without undertaking any difficult, gut-wrenching, gray-area decisions, used my own pain — deep, deep pain — to advance his political agenda."

6. NASA’s Webb Telescope Reaches Major Milestone as Mirror Unfolds (posted January 9)

7. Grieving Extinct Species on All Saints Day (posted November 2) "A congregation could specifically lift up the names of the species that have gone extinct in their state and/or country. They could display pictures of them, light candles, and toll the bell to remember their passing." I really love this idea. I believe in a God who cares about animal species going extinct, and I believe that is something worth mourning. But also I can't imagine how any kind of remembrance for extinct species could actually happen in an actual church service- every time I try to picture it, I picture the congregation laughing, like it's a joke, like "can you believe they're having us talk about extinct animals in church? what a bunch of hippy nonsense LOLLLLL"... I would be really interested in going to a church where this kind of service could really happen without everyone laughing at it.

8. Bambi: cute, lovable, vulnerable ... or a dark parable of antisemitic terror? (posted December 25) "There is a sense at the end that Bambi and all the other wild animals in the forest are merely 'born to be killed'. They know they will be hunted – and they know they will die. 'The major theme throughout is: you don’t have a choice.'"

9. Also a lot of people have COVID. Seth Myers. Whoopi Goldberg. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Stay safe everyone, get your vaccines and boosters, and also let's work on building a society that protects those who are most at-risk from COVID.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

I Don't Know Anyone in China Who Has Had Covid


A graph showing active covid cases in China. It goes up to a peak of 60K in February 2020, then comes down sharply, and from March or April 2020 it basically hovers around 0, continuing to stay basically at 0 all the way through the end of the graph (Dec 2021). Screenshot from worldometer, taken December 26, 2021.

I'm in Shanghai, China. I've been living in China since 2013, and I've been literally stuck here not leaving the country since the start of the pandemic

I read the news, and I talk to relatives in the US, and things related to the pandemic are just so completely different here than in other countries. Like people ask me "are you guys back to work yet?" and like, I was back to work in the office in February 2020.

I guess the best way to sum it up is this: I don't know anyone in China who has had COVID-19. Nope, not a one. None of my friends, none of my husband's family members (my husband is Chinese), none of my coworkers. In the many WeChat groups I am in, with hundreds of members (mostly mom groups for international women living in China), not a single person has mentioned they had covid or their kids had covid or anything. (WeChat is a social media app that everyone in China uses for texting and group chats.)

Ah, wait, with 1 exception: In January 2020, I saw someone in a big WeChat group share a screenshot of a text conversation- it said "there is a SARS outbreak in Wuhan." Yes, back then we didn't have the word COVID-19; we didn't even have the words "novel coronavirus"- they called it SARS, because Chinese people remember SARS from 2003. And this person in the WeChat group said she has a friend in Wuhan who had 2 relatives die, and they are not allowed to talk about it. The moderator of the WeChat group said "thank you for the warning. We cannot discuss this any more in this group though, because some group chats have been shut down for 'spreading rumors'." This was back when the government of Wuhan was still trying to cover it up, which was obviously a really bad way to handle it. Within a few weeks, the national government of China stepped in and turned things around with strategies that actually work, such as mass testing, quarantines, and tracking people's travel histories.

So yeah, other than that, I have never heard anyone in China talking about "oh my friend so-and-so has covid" or anything along those lines. No, I don't know anyone in China who has had covid. All of us have been affected by the pandemic-control restrictions, but no, no one actually had covid.

I know people who were in home quarantine for weeks at the beginning of the pandemic, because of their travel history. I have a colleague who is from Hubei province, and she was going home for Chinese New Year 2020, and actually passed through the Wuhan train station just days before the whole city was closed. When she came back to Shanghai, she worked from home for 3 weeks, I think- because everyone who had returned from "high-risk" areas was required to stay home for at least 14 days. (She did 3 weeks just to be sure.) Later, her father came to live with her, and when he arrived, she had to do another 14 days of quarantine at her home with him.

I know moms from the WeChat groups, who live in northern China in cities near Beijing, and they complain about being in lockdown again. Seems like those areas have had several "outbreaks"- but in China, an "outbreak" is like, a dozen cases, and then wide-ranging lockdowns and testing.

I know someone who lives in a city that had an outbreak, and then the city required every single person living there to get covid-tested. Millions of people. She actually had to get tested 3 or 4 times over the course of several weeks. (I don't know if the entire city got tested 3 or 4 times, or if the later tests were more focused on smaller areas.)

I know someone who works at Shanghai Disneyland, who was there on October 31, the night that every single person in Disneyland and Disneytown had to get covid-tested because it was discovered that a traveler who had been in Disneyland on October 30 tested positive for covid. (All tests came back negative.) I saw videos shared on WeChat, the pandemic staff covered head-to-toe in their white hazmat suits, sitting at tables administering covid tests to one person after another after another, and the Disney fireworks show in the background.

I know people who have entered China, who were required to do the 14-day quarantine. Everyone who enters mainland China is required to get covid-tested AND ALSO to quarantine. We had neighbors who came back to China, and the management of our apartment complex put a sticker across their apartment door so that it would be obvious if anyone opened it, and set up a security camera facing the door. For this quarantine, you CANNOT OPEN THE DOOR. After 14 days, they got out of quarantine and the camera was removed. I also know people who had to do the quarantine at a quarantine hotel instead of at home. One of my friends was required to stay in the quarantine hotel for 21 days. He was allowed to open his door to get food that was dropped off by the quarantine staff, and also to get covid-tested. Had to get covid-tested several times over the course of the 21 days. (All were negative.) He said the food wasn't very good, and the internet connection was awful because 300 people were all trying to use it at the same time.

And there have been international families that got stuck outside of China for months or even a year- I have heard of lots of people in this situation. In March 2020, China banned all foreigners from entering the country- and that ban was in place for about 6 months I think. (And now they let foreigners in, but there are lots of rules about exactly what paperwork you need, and there are very few flights available. And no, they are not giving out tourist visas.) I personally know a married couple, and the husband stayed in Shanghai while the wife went back to her home country, and then she couldn't get back into China for about 8 months. Finally she did get back, and they are together again. I also know someone who decided to leave in February 2020 and planned to just stay in another Asian country for "a few months until all of this is done" and then got stuck outside of China and eventually gave up on getting back.

My son has had fevers many times, and the pandemic policy says we aren't allowed to go to any hospital we wanted; we could only go to those that had been designated as fever clinics. When you get there, every patient who has a fever is required to get covid-tested. I submitted the receipts to my health insurance company (an international company based outside of China), and they said they will only reimburse the covid test if we have a doctor's referral for it. I emailed them back to say, at this hospital (and probably for all of China?) the policy is that everyone who has a fever must be covid-tested. (And then they reimbursed it.) Some family members in the US asked me about the result from my son's covid test, and I said "well I haven't gotten on the app to check it yet, but since there haven't been any government workers banging on our door, it must be negative." (Yep, negative every time. And we knew it would be- we don't know anybody at all in China who has had covid.)

Recently for our project at work, we had to send some people on a business trip. Shanghai had just reported something like 3 locally-transmitted covid cases, so other cities were very cautious about letting us travel there. (Yes, 3. That's not a typo.) They said that they would not allow anyone who lives in Pudong- a huge district in Shanghai, population is around 5 million. Now, as far as the city of Shanghai is concerned, the apartment complexes where these 3 covid-infected people live were classified as "medium-risk" areas, and as long as you haven't gone there, you can go wherever you want. That's what the city of Shanghai says, but other cities have their own rules, and view the entire district of Pudong as a problem. So we picked 2 people from our project team who don't live in Pudong (even though other people on the project live in Pudong, and we are all at the office together unmasked every day...) and sent them on the trip. They were required to get covid-tested 3 times: once before getting on the plane in Shanghai, once when they landed in another city, and again when they drove from there to a third city- because each city doesn't accept the others' test results. (And of course the results came back negative every time.)

I remember one time when we heard that there was 1 locally-transmitted covid case in Shanghai, and someone at work was telling me "it's not safe to take the subway" because of that. And I was like, "but... you're vaccinated..." A lot of people are way way cautious whenever they hear news about 1 single covid case in a city.

I saw a post shared on WeChat- a friend of a friend said that the quarantine staff came in the middle of the night and woke up everyone in their apartment building and covid-tested them all, because 1 person in the building is a close contact of a confirmed case. (A close contact, not even a confirmed positive case.) They were all sent back to their homes to wait for the test results. The quarantine staff said if all the results come back negative, they will be allowed to leave their homes, and if any are positive, they will all have to stay there (yes, even the negative ones), and the quarantine staff will bring them lunch.

At work, HR sent out an email that said "we have heard about situations where an entire office building gets quarantined- so just in case, we recommend bringing some supplies like warm clothes, so you have them if we are all stuck here."

Yeah, there have been a handful of times that Shanghai had a locally-transmitted covid case. Each time, I first heard of it through unreliable rumors going around in WeChat groups, and then by the end of the day, the city of Shanghai makes an official announcement about it. And the next day, you always see the city of Shanghai publishing an article on their WeChat along the lines of "30,000 people have been tested in relation to the covid case reported yesterday, so far all results have come back negative." (Or occasionally there might be 1 positive. And yes, I believe those numbers. Yes, I believe China's numbers. I'm here; I don't know anyone with covid; we live our lives normally except we have to wear masks. I believe China's numbers.)

And I've heard people in the WeChat groups talking about "my friend lives in Beijing, her husband was traveling and had a transfer in Shanghai, and now Beijing won't allow him to enter for the next 2 weeks, because he was in Shanghai for just a few hours." It seems like the city of Beijing in particular is extremely strict because they want everything to be perfect for the Olympics.

So I know people who have experienced all of these things. All the restrictions and rules we have in China now because of the pandemic. This is our experience with covid. But no one actually *has* covid. Statistically: there have been something like 100,000 or 130,000 covid cases in China- cumulative. And something like 4000 to 5000 deaths. (According to this site and this site.) China has a population of 1.4 billion. So this means about 1 in 10,000 people in China have had covid. That's 0.01%. That's one-hundredth of one percent. (And actually, something like 75,000 of those were just in the initial outbreak in Hubei province in early 2020. Outside of Hubei province, the rate is way way less than 1 in 10,000.)

Compare this to the US: 50 million cases, in a population of 330 million. That's 15%. That's 1500 times the rate we have in China.

It must be unbelievable, to just look at the statistics. People must be thinking, "China is claiming they only have 100,000 covid cases CUMULATIVE? There have been times when the US reported 100,000 new cases just in ONE SINGLE DAY! And only 4000 deaths? This is ridiculous, obviously this data is fake, they're not fooling anyone." But it's real, I'm telling you that it's real, and I'm telling you how it's possible- it's because of all these rules, which are extremely restrictive for travelers and anyone who happens to live kinda-sorta near anyone who tested positive for covid.

These rules which have saved millions of lives in China.

There really is a place in this world where we can just go about our lives mostly like normal. Have to wear a mask in public, and traveling is hugely complicated and sometimes impossible, but other than that, my life has been "back to normal" for a long time now. I worked from home for maybe 2 weeks in February 2020, then I was back in the office. I still worried about covid until May 2020, but since then, no, I haven't. I'm not worried I'm going to get covid. I'm not worried when my son has a fever- I know it's not covid, because nobody here gets covid (okay maybe occasionally like 2 people in a city of 26 million, and then there are lockdowns and testing and everyone is talking about it).

I mean, it's not all good news- for me, all these covid rules are just kind of an inconvenience, but I have read articles about cities near the border that have had to have lockdowns over and over and over because they keep having covid cases, because China isn't able to control everyone who's crossing the land borders. For those cities, it's been devastating to their economy. 

China has done a good job handling the pandemic, and I'm fortunate to be here and be able to live a normal life- well except that we have to wear masks in public, and traveling to other cities requires jumping through a lot of hoops and running the risk that you'll get stuck in a quarantine for 14 days. Yes, other than those rules, I am fine. I don't need to fear covid, because essentially nobody has it. Even 1 case in a city of millions is big news. So no, I don't know anyone in China who has had covid. I know lots of people who have been inconvenienced by all these pandemic rules. But nobody has covid.

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Related:

Well *now* I'm glad I stayed in China

"I'm Thankful That We Live In A Country..."

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Blogaround

1. ‘Bless Every Home:’ Personal Evangelism Done Super-Creepy (posted December 5) HOLY CRAP this is CREEPY. But really it does follow logically from the belief that Christians know the right answers for everyone else's lives.

2. I just found out that a bunch of blogs from the Patheos Nonreligious channel are moving to a new site- here is Friendly Atheist's post about it.

3. Christian "Financial Guru" Dave Ramsey Sued For Religious Discrimination (posted December 14) "In contrast, Plaintiff's religious beliefs required him to heed the advice of science to protect his family from a deadly disease."

4. bell hooks, Pathbreaking Black Feminist, Dies at 69 (posted December 15) 

5. Microsoft’s Bing told by China to suspend auto-suggest search feature for 30 days (posted December 17) Uh, what this article doesn't mention is that on Friday (December 17), for a lot of people in China (including me) the Bing website just would not load at all. Checking it again on December 18, it does load and works normally. So that's good.

I guess the Powers That Be weren't trying to block the entire Bing site in China (though I was 0% surprised when I thought that was what was going on- in China it's normal for something on the internet to suddenly be gone if the government decides it's a problem). I guess they were just disabling 1 feature of it, but somehow blocked the entire thing, but then it was fixed a day later.

I really need Bing! Google is blocked here, and Baidu's search engine is not that good (in my opinion).

6. China riveted by public row between pop star and former wife (posted December 20) I was a fan of Wang Leehom- at our wedding, our first dance was one of his songs. Sad to find out he didn't treat his wife and kids right.

7. Christopher Yuan, Stop Lying about the Participants in the Documentary Pray Away (posted July 16) "Christopher Yuan claims he knew me before my 'deconversion.' This is a complete falsehood. I left the ex-gay movement in 1979. I don't know him and have never met him."

8. Dragons, Jackals, and Bible Translators (posted October 25) "Yet repeatedly, translators read this as referring to a serpent or, commonly, a dragon, who has no business in those deserts and wastelands."

9. Perfectly preserved baby dinosaur discovered curled up inside its egg (posted December 21) "We were surprised to see this embryo beautifully preserved inside a dinosaur egg, lying in a bird-like posture. This posture had not been recognized in non-avian dinosaurs before."

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Being Asexual in Pregnancy World

A 3rd-trimester pregnant woman. Image source.

[content note: talking about my sex life]

Since the topic for this month's Carnival of Aces is "Children and Childhood", I want to talk a bit about when I was pregnant, and how my experiences related to sex and pregnancy were totally different than what I read in the pregnancy books. 

So I read some books about pregnancy and about how having a baby changes your relationship with your partner. Good information, but wow these books were so extremely heteronormative and cisnormative. And the parts about sex... as an asexual, I was just baffled, reading what these books had to say about sex.

They talked as if everyone's sex life was fine before getting pregnant. Like everything is easy and makes sense. And pregnancy/ having a newborn is what throws a wrench into it and makes sex suddenly confusing and difficult. They gave some advice about how you will now need to learn to communicate with your partner about sex.

And I'm just like... what? How...? So, I know that in general, people get pregnant after being in a long-term sexual relationship. How are people having a long-term sexual relationship without doing the work of figuring out what they want from sex and how to communicate that to their partner? How on earth is that something that wouldn't have already happened? Like it's a new thing prompted by the pregnancy-related changes. How?

Like how are you able to have sex enough to get pregnant, without having those kinds of "communicating about sex" skills? I don't think I could have. I think if I hadn't done that work, I would have had to just quit having sex, because it was so unworkable at the beginning. 

Here's the way it happened for me: The very first time I had sex, it made no sense. And over the course of several years, I did the hard work of learning about my body and how my body works, and built up habits of communicating clearly to my partner (Hendrix, who is now my husband) about what we want or don't want.

It got better, gradually, because I did the work to make it better. I approached it like a science project and I did the research. I had goals. I had all that.

And now here I am reading this book that's like "ah sex is a lot more difficult now because you have to know your body and communicate with your partner" and I'm like, what? Why would you not already be doing that? Those are the things I had to learn at the very beginning of my sex life. Are people really getting pregnant by having sex that doesn't include having extensive discussions about sex beforehand? It doesn't make sense!

Actually, when I was pregnant, my approach to sex got better. I no longer felt that I had an obligation to have sex with my husband, and so when we had sex, it was because I actually wanted to. Before this, I constantly felt the weight of years of religious teaching about "the wife has a duty to have sex with her husband, otherwise he'll be so unhappy and maybe even cheat- like OF COURSE he shouldn't cheat, OF COURSE that is his responsibility and we are not blaming the wife, but COME ON what did you expect." (They also told me that feminism was about hating men- but actually, it was feminists who told me that men are capable of being better than that, of being decent human beings even if you're not having sex with them.)

So back then, one of my main motivations for having sex was to get rid of the guilt which said "I'm not a good enough wife because I'm not having sex with him enough." But when I was pregnant, I felt like I didn't have to do that any more. I felt so sick all the time, and it was for the purpose of making our baby, and so I felt like no one could claim that I wasn't doing enough. Like, finally I had a "good enough reason" to say no to sex and not feel guilty about it. (To clarify: My husband had never tried to tell me I wasn't allowed to say no to sex; it was all those Christian marriage books I read growing up. I am glad my husband is not a Christian.)

And another interesting thing: So I wanted to know if it was okay to have sex during pregnancy, or does it pose any risk to the baby. I googled it, and basically the answer is that in some cases where you have a high-risk pregnancy, you shouldn't have sex, but in a normal pregnancy you totally can.

So there was my answer- but suddenly I realized, wait... When people ask the question, "Is it okay to have sex while pregnant?" what do they mean by "sex"? Do they mean the vaginal penetration part, or the orgasm part? (When someone with a uterus has an orgasm, the uterus contracts.) Both of those seem like they could maybe be a risk to the baby- but in my mind, when I asked the question, I was only referring to vaginal penetration. In my mind, me having an orgasm is not part of the definition of "sex". Yes I do use a sex toy to get an orgasm at the same time that my husband and I are having sex... I do that every time, actually... but I still seem to be conceptualizing it as a different thing. Like "sex" is "penis-in-vagina until the man has an orgasm", and anything else you do is sort of an add-on. Is that a little messed-up?

(This is a whole nother topic, but: This [not viewing female orgasm as a key part of the definition of sex] is one example of why I don't like when people say "sex can be anything you want! There's no 'should'" and don't give any guidelines for what's normal/reasonable/fair. They say you don't have to follow society's standards or other people's opinions- all that matters is that you and your partner agree on it, and it's all good. Yes, I understand why people give this advice, and how it can be very good and healthy for someone who is confident and knows their body and knows what they want. But for a naive little girl like I was... the idea that the only tool I have is my own consent and my own ability to negotiate for what I want, and I don't have any societal expectations backing me up... you end up consenting to things without realizing that there are better options. That you deserve better and that you can and should demand better.)

Anyway, I googled all these things, and basically if it's a low-risk pregnancy, it's fine to do vaginal penetration, fine to have orgasms, fine to do anal sex, etc, pretty much everything is okay, EXCEPT if it's painful, that's a sign you should stop because maybe it means something is wrong, and that might be a risk to the baby.

Yeah, all that "Christian marriage teaching" about how "men need sex" and "if it's painful, TOO BAD, that's not a good enough excuse"... Now for the first time I was considering the idea that my pain mattered, that it's an important signal to pay attention to, rather than something to just endure through because I have to do my "wifely duty."

Basically, it was really good and healthy for me to have a period of time where I wasn't living under the burden of "I need to have sex even if I don't want to, because men need it." Where I could say no and that would be that. (My husband has never pressured me when I said no, but before I was pregnant, I always felt really guilty whenever I said no. But then when I was pregnant, I could say no without guilt.) Where I began to contemplate the idea that painful sex was just unacceptable- I had the right to just completely not accept it. Wow.

And then after my baby was born, there was nothing difficult about sex at all any more. I gave birth vaginally, and now I no longer have any trouble with vaginal penetration. The difference is so big, in fact, that I have concluded that I actually really had vaginismus before, and giving birth vaginally cured it. Now our sex life is so much better.

So I read these books, about pregnancy and babies and how that affects your sex life, and my experience is totally the opposite. Apparently for most people, sex gets more difficult? Like, yes, a big factor in that is that you have a baby who is always there and always needs something, so there's no time for sex, which is also a problem for us. But overall, it's so much easier now. I did the hard work way way back then- learning about my body and learning how to communicate- which apparently some people run into only after they've had a baby??? And then when I was pregnant I no longer had the societal pressure of being "required" to have sex with my husband, and then when I gave birth it cured my vaginismus... so yeah, wow. Much better now.

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Related:

Conservative Christians Teach That Wives Are REQUIRED To Have Sex Even When They Don't Want To. Here Are The Receipts.

He Just Loves Me (a post about Sex, Pregnancy, and My "Wifely Duty")

How Pregnancy and Childbirth Changed My Asexuality (or, actually, A Post About Vaginismus)

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This post is part of the December 2021 Carnival of Aces. The topic for this month is "Children and Childhood."

Friday, December 10, 2021

Blogaround

1. Tom Holland Is In the Center of the Web (posted November 17) These pictures caused me to stumble.

2. Sex Ed For Self-Advocates. This is a sex-ed resource for autistic people. And WOW it's extremely good.

3. A Piece of Ace History that Deserves to Not Be Forgotten (posted 2020) "For the unaware: Shortland Street is a long-running soap opera from New Zealand (although it does air in the evenings) about Shortland Street hospital and its surrounding community in the fictional town of Ferndale, which from 2007-2010 (and a special anniversary storyline in 2012) had the first out asexual character on TV."

4. Shang-Chi: What’s Katy Doing in This Movie? (posted November 20) "First, yes, I do think it was fantastic representation to feature a cross-gender friendship in a prominent role and not turn it into a romance that would have detracted from the plot."

5. May the circles be unbroken (posted November 28) "The administration is expected to unveil a new plan that would allow any group of at least five private citizens to come together as a 'sponsor circle' and help Afghan refugees resettle in US cities across the country, as reported by CBS News and CNN."

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Blogaround

1. Dollar Tree bumps up prices to $1.25 for most items (posted November 24)

2. Living together in two separate worlds (posted November 12) "A 'progressive Christian' is someone that evangelicals believe is outloving God. 'Progressive Christianity' holds that it’s impossible to do that."

3. Writers Like James Baldwin Led Me to a Black Jesus (posted November) "If the white people I worshiped with and went to school with and had dinner with had the imagination to see C.S. Lewis’s Aslan the lion in “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” as Jesus, then I knew there should have been no problem when Black people said Jesus was Black and Jesus loved Black people and Jesus wanted to see Black people free. But I found out that many could see the symbol of divine goodness and love in an animal before they could ever see the symbol of divine goodness and love in Blackness."

4. How to Live for Free in Beijing: An Artist’s Guide (posted December 1) "Zou coined a term to describe this phenomenon: 'excessive goods.' An 'excessive good' could be anything that is given to the wealthy for free, but is inaccessible to the non-wealthy. A complimentary snack at a swanky bar. A free gift at a luxury store. A bottle of wine at an invitation-only dinner."

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Blogaround

1. Roundup of Submissions | October 2021 Carnival of Aces | Attraction (#2) (posted November 2) Lots of good posts here, about the topic "attraction", from an asexual perspective. Several posts question why attraction is emphasized so much in the asexual community- yeah, definitely worth reading.

2. Kids these days with their unholy justice (posted October 28) "The very same rejection of unjust 'holiness' our friend condemns as 'modern moral interpretation' can be found in the Bronze Age sermons of the prophets and in the first-century Gospels, Acts, and epistles, in which this supposedly 'modern morality' is attributed, at various points, to every member of the Trinity."

3. UN to Elon Musk: Here's that $6 billion plan to fight world hunger (posted November 18) "The back-and-forth between Musk and Beasley kicked off with a CNN interview last month in which Beasley asked billionaires to 'step up now, on a one-time basis' to help combat world hunger, specifically citing the world's two richest men: Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos." 

This is SO FASCINATING to me because I've always heard those stats about "it would cost $X million to solve this huge global crisis, if only Y rich person donated 1% of their wealth/ if only Americans spent 1% less on non-essential item Z" ... but I've always thought it's more complicated than that. It's not like you gather a billion dollars in cash and then walk in to the "end world hunger" store and problem solved. It takes time, hiring people, planning meetings, big diplomatic discussions, etc etc etc. (I blogged about this a little last year- If We Literally Stopped Spending Billions on Christmas... Well Basically That's What COVID Lockdowns Are.) 

I am really interested to see how this turns out. I hope that there really is an effective plan that will help hungry people, and I hope Musk really donates, and I hope it really works and makes a difference.

4. The Vaginismus Network. I just discovered this useful site about vaginismus. Definitely worth reading if you have experienced problems getting your vagina to open, like I have.

5. Jesus and Hagar: the Form of a Slave (posted 2020) [content note: slavery, rape] "Celia was raped repeatedly by the man who claimed ownership of body, ultimately, bearing him children. Hagar was given by the woman who claimed ownership of her body to a man who would forcibly impregnate her and, she gave birth to his child."

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