We'll get to that in a bit. First: Did people have the flu in ancient Rome? Doesn’t seem so. Smithsonian:

The first flu pandemic is thought to have begun in the summer of 1510 and to have affected people in Africa and Europe before moving east through the Baltic States. This first flu didn't inflict a particularly high mortality rate, but fifty years later, the outbreak of 1557 was significantly more deadly. This round, the flu caused pleurisy and pneumonia-like symptoms in people from China to Europe; it's believed to have persisted for more than two years.

Seven other major pandemics—plus a rash of smaller epidemics confined to single cities, regions or countries—are thought to have occured prior to 1918, too. The peak of one pandemic that began in 1781 saw two-thirds of Rome’s population falling ill and over 30,000 new cases each day in St. Petersburg.

Thirty-thousand? Did everyone immediate stick their fingers up their noses after touching doorknobs or shaking hands?

NEW POTATOES Science marches on, crafting the perfect spud. NPR:

On the face of it, the new potato varieties called "Innate" seem attractive. If you peel the brown skin off their white flesh, you won't find many unsightly black spots. And when you fry them, you'll probably get a much smaller dose of a potentially harmful chemical.

But here's the catch: Some of the biggest potato buyers in the country, such as Frito-Lay and McDonald's, seem afraid to touch these potatoes. Others don't even want to talk about them because they are genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

That has nothing to do with the safety of the taters, you suspect, but everything to do with marketing, since many people do not want their organisms in modified form.

In related news, I read a piece the other day about kale, and how it was invented by manipulating the mustard plant. Turns out that broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower were all artificially derived from mustard. Can’t stand any of them, but I love mustard, so I can’t blame it.

GTD Following up on yesterday’s piece about the confusing terminology of Getting Things Done strategies, here’s another one from FastCompany about finding the right app to assist with organization. We pick the story up after several apps have failed to simplify the author’s life. 

I was back at square one, feeling like I was wasting loads of time and energy. Far from the organized Real Simple working mother of my dreams, I was exhausted, irritable, and mad at myself for not being able to find the right system or app to make it all easier (or better yet: go away.) Maybe I needed to try InstaCart.

Don’t get your hopes up, Minnesotans:

Back to the article:

Even for people who are already organized, that idea that there is something better out there can cause anxiety. "I've tried a ton of things: apps for meal planning, apps for family organization, paper planners, online planners, and white boards," says Lauren Exnicios, a Seattle attorney and mother of two, who has been frustrated by the amount time it often takes to invest in these "time-saving" systems. "I found things like Gathered Table and Cozi are both great ideas, but the buy-in is too high. I don't have time to upload all my recipes or standard meals. Right now, writing it on the back of an envelope 10 minutes before I run to the store works.”

Yes. Sorry, forgot it was the internet. Meant to say THIS. I do all the grocery shopping and food prep, so I know what I need, and don’t want to bother entering it into an app. Say you’re low on peanut butter, and you tell the app to put Jif on the list. It hears you correctly but enters “gif,” because it thinks that’s how the word is pronounced. It’s not. I don’t care what the inventors of the thing say, it’s a hard G because it stands for a word that begins with a hard G.

Which reminds me: the apps are bad for people who are easily distracted. From the comments, a dissent:

I love the app "myShopi" categorizes everything, I can use at any store and even gives you turn by turn directions inside the store!

Turn by turn directions in the store. Because it’s hard to find where the produce is. And the milk? Forget about it. I took a look at myShopi, and was amused by the rating: 12+ for “Infrequent/Mild Alcohol, Tobacco, or Drug Use or References.” Because it has a category for wine and cold medicine. I was tempted, so I downloaded it. At first: meh. Pictures of items like “bananas.” Tap and add to your list. But there’s a barcode reader, and I tested it on several products. It correctly identified Market Pantry 2% milk, so if it recognizes Target house brands it’s got a good database. If I scan things when they’re empty and thrown away - sorry, sorry, recycled - then I’ll always know what I need the next time I go, and won’t forget to replentish the stocks.

Not that I’ve ever forgotten to get milk or bread. Or anything else. But it could happen.

On the other hand, it’s one more thing to look at, keep updated, check before I leave on errands, and fuss over. Never mind. Will delete.

Suddenly life just got simpler.