It’s all about meme

Since a large percentage of my readers aren’t terribly internet savvy (Hi Linda!),* I need to first explain what a meme is (and pretend I didn’t have to look it up myself just now). Coined by Richard Dawkins in 1976,** a meme is a nugget of cultural information that passes from mind to mind in a manner analogous to the passage of genetic material in biology. Except biological transmission of genes involves, typically, sex, and meme transmission is when the guy next to you in the elevator is humming the latest McDonald’s jingle and you find yourself humming it for the rest of the day and you don’t even like McDonald’s and you don’t know all the words and by 5 p.m. you are fantasizing elevator guy’s bloody death (which involves a Big Mac, Mayor McCheese, and a spork).

In blogdom, memes are most often internet quizzes (Which Color are You? Which Fruit or Vegetable are You? Which Lord of the Rings Non-speaking-Role Orc Character are You?), and when a bloggy friend sends a meme to your blog, you have been “tagged” and you are to answer the quiz and post your results and send the meme on, kind of like a chain letter but without (usually) the promises of poverty, baldness, or annihilation if you break the chain. I have seldom been tagged, possibly due to my crappy attitude regarding bloggy cuteness that doesn’t involve a pic of one of my own precious pets, and I’ve never answered or passed on the few tags I have received.

Until today.

My friend Susan over at Rickety Contrivances of Doing Good tagged me this morning. Susan taught me much of what I know about fiction writing, religious courage, and beetles and I would do almost anything for her, up to and including acts that might result in 3 to 5 years in a low to medium security penetentiary. And what silly quiz or other wackiness was the subject of her meme? PANDEMIC FLU PREPAREDNESS! Oh Boy!

Everything I know about pandemic disease comes from the short stories and novels of Connie Willis and is pretty much this: in addition to drastic reduction of Earth’s population, pandemic disease will also kill off almost all dogs and other canid species except, I believe, jackels (“Last of the Winnebagos”), OR kill off all cats (To Say Nothing of the Dog), and will be followed by the invention/discovery of time travel, which will be used by the history dons of Oxford to explore one of the great plagues (Doomsday Book), the blitz of London (Firewatch),*** and the Victorian world as portrayed by Jerome K. Jerome (To Say Nothing of the Dog). So if the prospect of mass disease and suffering in our human population doesn’t upset you, think of the dogs; think of the cats; think of academics mucking around in our past!

Here’s the meme as Susan reports it (in orange text):

Become a pandemic flu preparedness blogger for a day.


Write a
post about pandemic flu preparedness, add the banner gif to your
website, supply at least a couple of links to pandemic flu preparation
websites, and tag five or more bloggers.

Here’s the gif, which I am much too dim to get to operate properly:


Here are the links (in addition to the vital Connie Willis info above):

Flu Stories: HHS Flu Summit Looks At Tool Kits

HHS Pandemic Flu Leadership Blog

Trust For America’s Health

Minus Susan, I’m not sure I even know 5 other bloggers, but I’ll do my best.

Add two items to your next grocery shopping list to begin to stockpile essentials:

ideas for starters include jars of peanut butter, cans of beans, cans
of tuna, salmon and other fish, cans of fruit, jars of applesauce,
prepared pasta that doesn’t need refrigeration, cooking or rehydration,
cans of vegetables, crackers, jars of tomato sauce/spaghetti sauce,
cans of stew and hash, boxes of powdered milk, and bottled water and

Um, this is pretty much how I cook and eat in everyday, non-flu-preparedness life. Evidently in the event of a worldwide pandemic, evolution will favor the non-Betty Crockers among us. And the folks who suffered Europe’s medival plagues didn’t even know what peanut butter was because it’s a New World plant. Those poor bastards didn’t have a chance.

Also, in case Connie Willis is wrong, I think we should add dry dog food/dry cat food to this list, shouldn’t we?

On the medication side, have unexpired bottles of aspirin,
acetominophen, naproxen sodium or ibuprofen, triple antibiotic cream,
sterile gauze, pepto-bismol, and have bleach and a quaternary
disinfectant on hand.

The pain killers and first aid supplies are a good idea, although once my prescription anti-depressants run out, things will get grim pretty quickly; better add Peanut Butter M&Ms to the previous list to compensate. Pepto-bismol’s always in stock at my house (you’ve seen how I eat). I have absolutely no idea what a quaternary disinfectant is; the Quaternary Period is the end of the Pliocene until now, which doesn’t help in the disinfectant question but shows you that I’m pretty deadly at Trivial Pursuit.****

There — I’ve successfully memed. And seriously, the specter of a pandemic is almost too scary to think about and may keep some people from educating themselves or preparing. But we’ve seen with Hurricane Katrina just how quickly the infrastructure we take for granted can fall apart, so it is something we have to deal with.

Oh, I do know one other thing about flu pandemics. My mother was born in 1922 on the heels of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. I never knew why at the time, but when I was a child, she was hyper-sensitive about the dirtiness of birds — if I picked up a pretty feather, she’d make me throw it away and wash my hands. Evidence shows that, like the current Avian flu, the 1918 flu passed directly from birds to humans. Still, this is no reason to fear our birdy friends (and every reason to clean up the world’s cruel and filthy chicken and egg industries). Here’s Zeke Quaker to remind us not to be hating the birds; and how can you hate a little green chicken wearing Captain Underpants’ BVD’s and standing on the beach?*****

Zekebeach_2(click to embiggen)

*That one reader is a large percentage gives you an idea of my total readership

**Long before reality tv, but he must have seen it coming

***This link allows you to read the entire novella online. It’s quite good.

****But not Scrabble.

*****Yes, I have way too much time on my hands

4 responses »

  1. HEy, I blog, and I’ve had most of those items in a backpack in the closet for years now. Add chocolate to the list and also sunblock, a windable flashlight and a windable radio. I clean it out every year or so and repack it.

  2. So–a gif is what? A sort of incomplete gift, maybe. Like when someone hands you a present, but it’s not wrapped up with a bow, it’s just in a brown paper bag with the top curled down and crunched? And you say, “A gif? for me?”

  3. So–a gif is what? A sort of incomplete gift, maybe. Like when someone hands you a present, but it’s not wrapped up with a bow, it’s just in a brown paper bag with the top curled down and crunched? And you say, “A gif? for me?”

  4. Or, perhaps even ‘A gif? 4 me?’
    I’ve gotten plenty of those gifs in my day and I must say the ribbon is sorely missed.

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