March was a long month. April feels like it has been longer. The Covid-19 pandemic has more or less taken over our lives, dominating the news, damaging the economy, and keeping people inside. I joked about the coronavirus in a previous update, but things seem less funny now.

If you are feeling down about our current crisis, the best thing you can do is channel that energy into something productive, something that can help in the fight. If you are wondering how you can help, but aren’t sure how, visit our Coronavirus Charities and Donation page, for a list of international, national, and local organizations you can donate to. But even if you can’t help with a donation, remember that by staying home, practicing social distancing, and washing your hands, you are doing your part to help flatten the curve. We will get through this together.

All that said, I hope we can find some levity, along with some uplifting news for this April’s update. Life is not all doom and gloom, in fact, Spring is in the air, even if we can’t really go out to smell it. Let’s see what April has to offer us.

Distilleries Producing Hand Sanitizer

Across the world and here in the US, distilleries and breweries have retooled to produce hand sanitizer in order to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Iconic companies like Bacardi have been producing hand sanitizer that matches the World Health Organization’s standards for over a month now. But it isn’t just large companies making the shift. Smaller distilleries have also begun switching production to meet the high demand for the product. While washing your hands is still the best preventative measure against COVID-19, hand sanitizer is indispensable for healthcare workers and others without immediate access to hand washing. Show your local distillery or brewery a little love when all this is over.

 

Cookie Monster Greeting Time

Not on the top of the list, but still impacted by the current pandemic, are young kids and their parents. Being stuck inside with a toddler can drive anyone stir-crazy after a few hours, let alone weeks and months. I have been helping to take care of my four-year old nephew during the crisis and as a result, have rediscovered the meaning of “patience” at least 7 times.

To help those parents and caretakers on the end of their rope, Sesame Street has launched a Caring For Each Other Initiative that brings educational and entertaining topics to children.

One of the most popular shows is “Cookie Monster Tuesday,” when the Cookie Monster himself shows up on YouTube to entertain and educate kids on the importance of hand washing, eating right, and, naturally, how best to consume cookies. It’s a solid chunk of time that will keep both your young ones from pulling out their hair, and you too.

 

 

Consumers Turn To Processed Foods

You know how in Zombieland, the 2009 post-apocalyptic comedy starring Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, and Abigail Breslin, Harrelson’s character is obsessed with finding a Twinkie? Like the whole world has come crumbling down, and whatever vestige of it is left, his character has invested into that golden log of cream and chemicals? Turns out that isn’t so far from the truth. People across the nation are returning to processed food classics as they attempt to deal with the Covid-19 crisis.

I myself am partial to Van De Kamp chocolate frosted donuts. I like that they have no nutritional value. I like that they are far from the best donut in town. There is just something undeniable about a snack or meal that you have no intention of eating for anything other than the comfort of it. Solely comfort. Quick and easy (and probably cheesy).

So go easy on yourself. Not everyone has the time, means, ingredients, or patience to make homemade macaroni. Break open the box of Kraft and pair it with the best damn wine you have. Extraordinary circumstances require extraordinary actions.

 

Goodbye Corked Wine

Amorim, the world’s largest natural cork maker, has developed a new system for checking cork that reveals whether or not the chemical compound that causes wines to become “corked” is present, before the corks are used. The compound 2,4,6-trichloroanisole, more commonly referred to as TCA, breaks down the cork during a wine’s bottling and ageing process, creating a wet-dog, moldy taste in the wine.

In recent years, winemakers have turned more and more to screw-cap tops and alternative corks to prevent their wines from becoming tainted. The new system of checking promises to reduce the presence of corks with TCA in them down to almost zero.

While the overall number of corked wines represents a small number of the total bottles produced, it is still a common enough problem that any advancement is warmly received. There is still a ritualistic attachment to natural corks that is hard to replicate in a screw top or alternative cork.

Still, the compound TCA can form after the wine has been bottled, so the system of checking is not one-hundred percent foolproof. At the very least, consumers can be a little more assured that their naturally corked wines are going to hold up before drinking.

 

The Essence of Zoom

As a college student, I have had prior experience with Zoom, before it became the go-to method for office meetings, class, or happy-hour during this pandemic. I have used Zoom to have remote meetings with teachers when office hours couldn’t be met, and even in my early twenties, when Skype was still a thing, I would video-call my friends across the country, those attending new colleges, living in different places. I am used to the idea of video communication.

Still, the new Zoom experience has been interesting to say the least. I can only relate to it as a student, where most of my classmates leave their mics on mute (as is customary when not speaking) and their video turned off, so that when you move to their screen only their login name is present. Johndoe@csu.student.edu is diligently taking notes, I am sure.

And of course there is always at least one technologically impaired person, teacher or student, someone who forgets to turn their mic on or off, or who can’t seem to move with all the grace of a virtual ballerina between Zoom screens, email, twitter tabs and YouTube videos. It takes a seasoned pro, an Internet wiz, to really maximize the Zoom potential.

It’s easy to get distracted. Stay focused and the whole thing can almost feel like class. You get sucked into the lecture. Start hanging on every word. But then the internet connection breaks up, slows down the words to a pixelated monotone. Removed from the lesson for one second and it might dawn on you that you are just in front of a computer, somewhere in your home or office, the physical world around you much closer than whatever is happening on the screen. God forbid you have a window open to hear the cars go by, a bird chirp, a passing conversation, anything remind you that hard as we try, we can really only be where our bodies take us. No wonder we constantly adjust our video screen squares, trying to see if it’s better bigger or smaller, trying to get the formula for attention right. You could open up a new tab. You could paint your toenails. No one would notice. You are still in your own world.

It’s in those moments where I feel the separation most keenly, like a glass door sliding across my vision. The technology fails us. We aren’t really in class. We aren’t really at work. We are at home, most likely. And those things that once used to govern our day-to-day lives, classes, meetings, well they are as easy to ignore as closing your Zoom window, or turning off your mic, or blanking the video screen. It’s yet another reminder that despite our advancements, our belief in human progress, everything can be ground to a halt. Our technology limits as much as it progresses. Maybe that’s the biggest lesson from all this. We are still desperate to connect with each other. We are still at the mercy of the world. The essence of Zoom is that it connects us, but still leaves us feeling unconnected.

This won’t last forever. We will likely become stronger because of it. More adaptable. Heck, we might even keep a few cars off the freeways once this is all over thanks to Zoom. Until then we make do, rushing around to make sure our little square screens are as professional and clean as possible, despite the chaos going on around us. Until then we connect across the internet, waiting for a day when we can resume our boredom, our feigned interest, our undivided attention, in the confines of one another again.


By Aldo Moreno