In Sync: Is Sharing Your Online Calendar A Relationship Milestone?

Get the full story on NPR.

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People in love have always savored their relationship milestones: the first date, the first I-love-you’s, meeting each other’s families.

Modern relationships come with their own special milestones, like swapping Wi-Fi passwords, becoming Facebook official, taking down your online dating profiles, and increasingly often, choosing to share your online calendar.

These days, more couples are discussing whether to make their online calendarsvisible to each other. It was even a plot point in the pilot episode of Jane the Virgin. The upside to being calendar connected: You can avoid pesky scheduling conflicts. The downside: It can feel kind of intrusive and kind of unromantic.

How Many People Are Calendar Connected?

A 2014 Pew Research Center study found that 11 percent of couples share an online calendar. That’s not an accurate measure of what we’re calling calendar connectivity. The difference in the language is small, but significant. Making your online calendar visible to your partner is not the same thing as having one online calendar that both of you share

The study also found that 27 percent of committed couples share an email address. “Older adults and those who have been in their relationship for longer than ten years are especially likely to share an email account,” Pew said.

Among younger couples, anecdotally it seems to be much more common to sync your separate online calendars than to share the same email address. If you’re under 40 and have the same email address as your partner, you’re a freak. You know that.

To get a better idea of how many couples are calendar connected, I tapped into my own social networks to do an informal survey. It was anecdotal, completely unscientific and highly informative.

So far, around half of all couples surveyed (about 30 people answered, all under 40) said they share their online calendars with each other. Fifteen percent of the respondents said they aren’t currently calendar connected, but wouldn’t mind if their partner asked. A quarter of the people I asked think sharing your online calendar with your partner is really weird.

Conflict Resolver Or Romance Killer?

From a technical standpoint, it’s very easy to make your calendar visible to your loved ones. But psychologically speaking, figuring out whether you want to share that much information can be a complex decision.

A Pew survey found that 11 percent of couples share an online calendar and more than one out of four couples share an email address.

Brenda Salinas for NPR

Do you really want to know where your partner is at all times? Do you want them knowing where you are?

In the informal survey, some respondents said that being calendar-connected helps keep the peace. “It worked for me and my fiancé,” Krystina Martinez of Denton, Texas, replied. “When we began dating, our schedules were all over the place, so it helped us find the time to see each other.”

New York city resident Aurora Almendral and her partner have even managed to find a little romance in syncing their calendars. “The calendar is another layer of connection we have during the day. We often put flirtatious ‘appointments’ there for the other to find,” Almendral says.

But for a lot of couples, sharing calendars feels a little strange. “I find that a little too stalker-ish for my tastes,” Allyson Michele of Santa Fe, N.M., says. “I get it if there’s an important appointment or event you both need to go to, but I don’t understand why anyone would need to link calendars at all times.”

Sara Paul of Austin, Texas, says “it can definitely lead to snooping if one or both of the partners in the relationship are the jealous type.”

A few passionate respondents were firmly against calendar connectivity. “Adults should be able to function without knowing where the other one is every second of the day,” says Paige Suffel of Houston. “If he wants to know what I’m doing, he can ask.”

A Warning From An Expert

Syndicated advice columnist Dan Savage is in the camp strongly against calendar connectivity. “Maintaining some distance — maintaining some degree of mystery and autonomy — is key to sustaining a romantic and sexual attraction over the long haul,” he says. Syncing up your online calendars is counterproductive to that goal, he says, “unless you’re not interested in long hauling the person you’re currently seeing, in which case, merge those calendars.”

For some couples, a shared calendar is just a jumping-off point. There are dozens of mobile apps designed to keep couples organized. The apps have different features centered around a shared calendar but also include to-do lists, grocery lists, digital scrapbooks, conflict resolution tips and GPS trackers. And for couples that are no longer couples, there are calendar apps to help sort out custody agreements.

A New Milestone

Is syncing calendars the new Facebook official? A quarter of the respondents to the informal survey said they consider sharing their calendar a relationship milestone.

“I think it’s a great idea, but only for couples who have been together for a substantial amount of time (whatever they consider that to be),” Katherine Briggs of Los Angeles says. “My partner and I have been going on for seven years, we both have hectic schedules, and we’re happily (almost) living/breathing extensions of each other.”

Michael Spitzer-Rubenstein started sharing his calendar with his girlfriend after she forgot that his parents were coming into town one weekend. Even though the Brooklyn resident sees being calendar connected “mainly as an utilitarian thing,” there is the occasional head-scratcher. “There are sometimes events on the calendar where I don’t know what it refers to because I’m not the only one adding events to my calendar,” he says.

Spitzer-Rubenstein says in 2016, being calendar-connected is a milestone. “In my relationship, it came after we were already engaged and it just made things easier.”

Is There Room For Another Fitness Tracker? Texas Firm Is Counting On It

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I did two versions of this story, one for NPR and one for the Slack Podcast.

Here is the NPR version that aired on Black Friday:

For startups the first holiday shopping season may help to make a business. Texas entrepreneur Peter Li has much at stake on Black Friday as he tries to gain a foothold in the wearable fitness market.

And here is the Slack version, it’s much more focused on the entrepreneur.

For startups the first holiday shopping season may help to make a business. Texas entrepreneur Peter Li has much at stake on Black Friday as he tries to gain a foothold in the wearable fitness market.

 

https://soundcloud.com/slacksingleservings/the-high-stakes-of-black-friday

 

It’s been a great learning experience to do versions of the same story for different outlets. It’s really helped me understand that there isn’t some ideal way to do a story – it’s all dependent on the editor and what they want. Being able to adapt to different editors is a great skill for any reporter.

An Ebola Vaccine May Come From An Austin Lab

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I’m so proud to be a part of KERA’s one-hour news special “Surviving Ebola“.  Get the full story on KERA.

 

 

An Austin biotech company made headlines when it took blood from Dallas nurse Amber Vinson to develop an Ebola vaccine. It sounded simple, but XBiotech learned that creating a vaccine for a mysterious disease isn’t easy.

XBiotech specializes in isolating natural antibodies, which are blood proteins that fight foreign substances in the body. So when company president John Simard learned about the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, he had to do something.

Simard went there, but he ran into a major roadblock.

“I realized it was very difficult for us to operate there,” he says. “There’s not much infrastructure. In fact, I was very surprised at how little infrastructure there was. And I didn’t see that we actually as a company could work there.”

Simard says he came back defeated. But then there was an opportunity: Ebola was in Dallas.

“So now we had access to the blood potentially in our own neighborhood,” he says. “We had even greater urgency to bring the therapy out because it was in our own community.”

John Simard visited West Africa when he heard about the Ebola epidemic there. However, he soon realized there wasn’t enough infrastructure for his company, XBiotech, to operate there. Photo/XBiotech

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A KEY INGREDIENT

One of the patients who gave blood to XBiotech was Amber Vinson, one of two nurses who contracted Ebola at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.

Early on, Vinson was vilified on social media for getting on a plane with an elevated temperature. It turned out that federal officials had approved her travel. She decided giving blood was a way to show her real character.

“All I do is care, all I want to do is help.”

Amber Vinson, quoted in a tearful People magazine interview

XBiotech drew some of her blood and isolated her antibodies in a 46,000 square-foot lab. A team of 40 scientists were able to quickly create a vaccine of Vinson’s antibodies. Then they handed their research over to the military. It’s now being tested.

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DEVELOPING A VACCINE

There are several vaccines in development that have been shown to prevent Ebola in animals. Now they have to be declared safe and effective for humans, which could take years.

Steve Bellan, a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin, designs clinical trials. He says it’s hard to conduct trials in the middle of the epidemic. West Africa’s infrastructure makes it hard for researchers to follow up with subjects.

There are also ethical concerns. In clinical trials, there are usually two or more groups. In this instance, one group might get the vaccine and the other may not.

A team of scientists isolated Amber Vinson’s antibodies from her blood. They used those antibodies to create a vaccine, which is now being tested. Photo/XBiotech

“Should we really be using a design where some people don’t get vaccinated when they’re at an extremely high risk of getting Ebola?” Bellan says.

Now that the spread of the disease has been mostly contained in West Africa, XBiotech is moving on. John Simard says the outbreak in Texas was an opportunity.

“It was an exercise for us to see if we can we turn this around, identify these infectious disease agents quickly and be prepared to make therapies,” he says. “It’s a little bit of a glimpse into our future of infectious disease.”

Simard says his lab passed the test, and that speedy response is a good sign for the next time an infectious disease comes down the road.

Farmers Turn To Drones For Field Operations

Drones Agriculture

Get the full story on Here & Now

 

The Federal Aviation Administration recently came out with regulations about drones — aircrafts that can fly without a pilot on board.

The FAA says drones must be five miles away from an airport at all times and fly no higher than 400 feet. Those regulations are lenient enough that farmers and ranchers are starting to find ways to integrate this new technology into their work.