Category Archives: Future

Pandemic Update – 5 July 2020

As I watch the statistics–new COVID-19 cases and new COVID-19 deaths–there are other observations that present themselves. One is that every weekend the numbers fall in comparison to the weekdays. I attribute this to delays in reporting. Weekend staffing in hospitals and government agencies tend to be lower than during the week, so the cases and deaths get added after the weekend. Numbers tend to run higher early in the week, which I believe is to catch up for the weekend.

Although new cases are increasing in many areas, deaths continue to decline. Among those with the most new cases, Florida started to climb about 24 June, Arizona’s cases began increasing 16 June, with a similar trend in South Carolina. North Carolina, on the other hand, has been on a steady rise since March.

I thought there might be an increase after the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, and I used Minnesota, Washington state, and the District of Columbia as likely examples. I saw no dramatic increases. These demonstrations began 25 May, so we’ve been through two incubation cycles. On television, it appeared that many demonstrators maintained wore masks.

I have no idea where things are headed and I make no sweeping claims based on the statistics I’ve been tracking. However, I believe that facts are important and they are the first step toward solving any problem, including the pandemic.

 

Pandemic

As you may recall, I rely on data* for decision making whenever possible. For some decisions, there are little or no data, but for many others there are an abundance of data. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic provides significant data.

I don’t have the fancy models that the experts use, but once upon a time I seem to recall taking some statistics classes in college and other courses that included statistics. I’ve been tracking the number of new cases of COVIDS-19 and deaths from the disease using Worldometers. Under the principle of KISS–keep it simple, stupid–I use only a linear progression and a 5-day moving average.

Deaths, thank God, continue to decline. Apparently, the medical professionals have figured out how to reduce, if not eliminate, its harshest outcome.

New cases, on the other hand, not only continue to climb, but have recently accelerated. I don’t have sufficient data to guesstimate the reasons; I have my opinions, but there are too many opinion driven events already.

Here are my results:

* Data is plural for datum, although is is often used both as singular or plural.

It Will Never Be a Movie

If the Coronavirus COVID-19 were a movie treatment, it probably never would get made. Look at the plot elements:

  1. A deadly disease begins in a faraway city known for both selling live exotic animals for food and for having a secret government lab.
  2. The disease is viral. Viruses, unlike bacteria, do not respond to antibiotics. Since a virus is not actually alive, it cannot be killed, only neutralized.
  3. The disease preferentially attacks the poor, minorities, the aged, females, and people with pre-existing medical problems.
  4. Some who are infected by the disease show no symptoms, but are carriers of the disease and can transmit it to others.
  5. Some of those infected exhibit flu-like symptoms, are misdiagnosed. The defining symptom, death, follows soon thereafter.
  6. Some adult patients show no obvious symptoms, except upon examination, it is discovered that their oxygen levels are dangerously low, which can lead to death.
  7. Children, at first were believed to be asymptomatic, later many develop a whole host of symptoms that are completely different from those experienced by adults.
  8. Politicians, faith healers, scammers, etc. seize the opportunity to amass wealth and/or power.
  9. Much of the protective equipment, drugs, and medical supplies needed to handle the disease are produced in the country from which the disease originated. Many US companies had moved manufacturing offshore to save money; there is insufficient manufacturing capacity in the US.
  10. Scientific experts advice is ignored while the Internet and other sources promote a variety of alleged cures, treatments, and religious talismans–none of which seem successful.
  11. There is insufficient capacity to test all suspected cases, so the number of people affected are likely under reported. Some cases are only diagnosed after death, when an autopsy is performed.
  12. State and local governments discourage people from engaging in activities that spread the disease, encourage the use of masks to protect others, and maintaining a six foot buffer between people.
  13. With workers unable to do their jobs, the economy suffers. People are laid off or lose their jobs.
  14. The number of confirmed cases in the US approaches 1.5 million confirmed cases, with nearly 90,000 deaths. These numbers only include patients who were tested or otherwise diagnosed.
  15. Some claim the disease is caused by a new cellular telephone system; others call it a hoax; still others see it as a conspiracy to restrict constitutional rights.
  16. Armed dissidents, encouraged by a variety of sources, protest the social distancing, stay-at-home orders at the state capitals, clustering in large groups, usually without masks.
  17. In the meantime, the country from which the disease arose and several of its allies launch cyberattacks on the US to steal medical secrets relating to healing or preventing the disease–and anything else they come across, once they get inside a computer.
  18. As US cases seem to slow their rate of growth, state and local governments relax social separation. People immediately return to pre-pandemic behaviors and the dissidents declare victory.

The screenplay ends here. The audience is left in limbo, unsure whether the disease is indeed winding down, or preparing for a second wave. Unsure as to the future of the economy.

As I said at the beginning, no studio would ever consider wasting time on a script for this scenario.

COVID-19 and the Future

There is a computer program that gives a real-time update on the Coronavirus, COVID-19 [LINK]. Today, I watched it roll up several hundred new deaths over a matter of hours.

It’s tough for a small business to have to worry about surviving during the pandemic. It’s tougher for a family that lives paycheck-to-paycheck to try to figure out what they’re going to do. It’s disgusting to see large corporations with cash on hand and cash in the bank grab the federal aid intended for small businesses.

Every single number that program showed today was an actual person–someone whose family is now grieving. These aren’t statistics–these are people. Unfortunately, they are now dead people.

Pandemics throughout history have had long-lasting effects, which are often overlooked. When large numbers of people die, those at the top of the socioeconomic ladder had to compete for workers. Kings made edicts that their subjects must work for the same salary as before, which was generally ignored. Workers chose jobs that paid better and the divide between the rich and common folks narrowed.

I don’t know what is going to happen after we get things back to normal, nobody does, but the new normal is going to be different.

 

A Wise Investment

The Palm Beach Post reports that Publix Grocery announced this week that it will purchase fresh produce and milk to help farmers who have been hurt by the coronavirus pandemic. The supermarket chain will donate these products to Feeding America member food banks operating in the communities they serve.

The initiative will support Florida produce farmers, southeastern dairy farmers and the growing number of families looking to Feeding America for fresh fruit, vegetables and milk during the coronavirus pandemic. The initiative is expected to run for several weeks.

“As a food retailer, we have the unique opportunity to bridge the gap between the needs of families and farmers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic,” said Publix CEO Todd Jones.

While many businesses try to grab as much profit as possible in good times or in bad, Publix CEO Todd Jones makes wise investments.

Farmers who have to destroy food and dairy may lose enough money to force them out of business. Sending the food to food banks is right, just, and logical.

The farmers will likely see Publix as a partner rather than merely a customer. Likewise those who rely on the food Publix donates–many of whom have never had to do so before or again–will probably remember this in the future.

We’re stronger together than we are alone.

Heroes

When I was growing up, there were heroes I looked up to.

  • Chuck Yeager–the first person to break the sound barrier in level flight.
  • John Glenn–the first American to orbit the earth and later US Senator
  • Neil Armstrong–The first man on the moon
  • Gene Kranz–NASA Flight Director for Gemini and Apollo

Each of these people did something noteworthy–PLUS three of the four are from my home state of Ohio. Gene Kranz graduated from the same high school I did.

Women who did great things in the 1960s didn’t get the spotlight, or even worse, the credit went to a male instead of the female who actually did the work. VADM Grace Hopper, NASA’s Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and their colleagues would not be publicly acknowledged until decades after they had achieved great things..

The closest I came to considering a celebrity as a hero was Jimmy Stewart. I liked his laid back style, but I admired the fact that he enlisted in the Army as a private as soon as he could, became a pilot, and volunteered to fly B-24s over Europe. After the war, he remained in the Air Force Reserve, attaining the rank of brigadier general.

Who are today’s heroes? Who do our children and grandchildren look up to? Who inspires them?

Premeditated Twinkie Offenses

I have no inherent dislike or paranoia about guns. I served in a war zone and carried a weapon. I like to go to a range and plunk at targets.

However, there are those today who are purchasing guns to protect their “stuff” in the event of shortages. It’s disturbing to think that anyone would kill another person over a loaf of bread, a side of beef, or a twinkie.* Talk about premeditated murder.

Somewhere around 250-280 AD, there was a pandemic–probably smallpox. The Roman death rate was around 30 percent, but in areas with a Christian presence it dropped to 10 percent. Why? The Romans deserted their sick friends and relatives to avoid catching the disease. Christians, even knowing that they might catch the disease, cared for one another.

 

* These are probably the same people who physically fought their way through the crowd to grab 18 cases of toilet paper.

Medical Mayhem

One of the problems with medical issues is that scientists’ and physicians’ assessments must constantly be revised. As additional facts are uncovered, logical conclusions are changed. That is difficult for some people to accept.

For example, 1.2 + 1.2 when rounded is two. However, if additional research adds a mere .1 to the equation, the answer would be rounded up to three. This is how science works.

This is how reality works. This is how life works.

The view of the effects of coronavirus is changing as more data are available.  This is good. This is how the intellectual process works. This is a time for thought, not emotion.

Viruses are unaffected by opinions, polls, or politics. So too are suffering and death. It is by keeping an open mind, examining the facts, re-examining the facts, and focusing on facts that we can progress.

Numbers Never Lie?

Innumeracy (book) - Wikipedia

 

Innumeracy is like illiteracy, only with numbers. There’s a lot of it going around–hopefully it won’t reach pandemic proportions.

I’m not talking calculus, trigonometry, or even  quadratic equations. I’m talking simple, easy, yet important math concepts.

Let’s use round numbers and examine the stock market’s recent actions. Before the coronavirus spooked the market, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was at 29,000 points (rounded). After the virus scare, it dropped to about 25,000 points (also rounded), a loss of 4,000 points.* The loss of 4,000 points in this case is about 14 percent (1- [25000/29000]).

If the market, while at its low point, gains 14 percent  it seem like the market has recovered all its losses. Down 14 percent. Up 14 percent. (14-14=0)

However,  (25000*1.14) = 28,500, not 29,000. It’s still 500 points below its high mark, which is still a loss of 2 percent. It would take an increase of 16 percent to recover all its value.

Well, I found it interesting.

 

*Did you ever try to spend a point? Don’t!

 

Hide and Seek

Courtesy, the Punchbowl.net

Like most others, as I get older, I regularly suffer from CRS*. I’m not yet to the point where I can hide my own Easter Eggs, but I do find that I’ll walk into a room and wonder, “Why did I come here?”

I’ve decided that instead of complaining, I’ll make a game of it. For example, when I open the refrigerator door with the intent of getting a particular item, often I forget. I scan the shelves, hoping to remind myself what it was that I wanted.

It’s kind of like playing the childhood game of “I Spy,” only I get to play both the person who is looking for the item and the one who selected it.

It’s actually not that much fun, but sometimes ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

 

*Can’t Remember Shit Stuff”

Real-Life Rey

With the new Star Wars coming out in about a week, there is a lot of excitement. While there has always been excitement before each new episode, The Rise of Skywalker is expected to answer a lot of questions about Rey, the nobody from nowhere who became the main protagonist (i.e., “hero” without any gender issues) of a beloved story.

We are drawn to stories in which a reluctant and unlikely hero takes on an impossible challenge–it must be hard-coded into our psyche. We see this fascination in both history and legend—David in the Bible, Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Ring, and most recently, Rey. Wired Magazine commented that Rey is not only a role model hero for young women, but inspires young men as well. That’s not really surprising, given her courage and commitment.

What is common among all these (and similar) tales is that they feature a person who commits to something that they view as important—more important than themselves. Maybe we all wish that we would find some cause so compelling that we would commit ourselves totally .

There are about 8 billion people on earth; nearly 200 sovereign states; millions of corporations, businesses, churches and other organizations. Do they present us with the real-life Reys? Not so much.

However, thank God, we have at least one.

Greta Thunberg on Twitter: "“Now I Am Speaking to the ...

 

Life Support

Generally, I try to blog about things that are interesting and–as far as I can tell–either based on facts OR obviously fictitious for entertainment value. This does not mean that I attempt to remain ignorant about other issues such as race, sex, politics, etc. I just try to keep my nonfactual opinions on such issues to myself.

I read a great deal, although less than I would like due to time constraints. I enjoy some science fiction, which is really philosophy with space ships and aliens. I enjoy biographies of important historical people because it gives me hope when I see that great men and women were imperfect yet achieved great things.*

I read a lot of technical material because no one rises in righteous indignation to protest Ohms law. Electricity performs in a given way—change one of the variables and the result changes predictably. I like facts. Opinions and commentary, spin and gas-lighting are not facts, no matter how many times they are repeated.

Recently, I read a post by Erik Lind on Quora.com that posited, “The Internet is like life support for propaganda. . . ”

It made me think.

 

*Stan Lee used this model in 1962 when he wrote the story of nerdy, neurotic, unpopular Peter Parker being transformed into Spiderman. Peter’s first use of his new power was to attempt to make money, which inadvertently resulted in the death of his Uncle Ben.

Politically Expedient

If the Back to School Season starts in June, Halloween Season in August, and Christmas concurrent with Labor Day it only makes sense that election season would begin earlier as well. Politics is confusing—it’s difficult to truly understand the issues and vote accordingly. You need to know about a variety of issues and have at least a nodding familiarity with the constitution.

I looked around to see if there is a more efficient approach to politics, and believe it or not, I found it!

The trick is to limit your political preferences to no more than three issues; ideally you choose only a single issue. At election time you vote for the candidates that share your view on your topic.

Some people choose issues like guns, abortion, or immigration. It doesn’t matter if you’re pro or con, if a candidate aligns with your view, put an X in the box or pull the appropriate lever. It doesn’t matter if the candidate is Genghis Khan, Adolph Hitler, or Mother Theresa, just so long as they agree with your pet issue.

My pet issue? Pickles. I’d tell you my views on pickles, but I think the internet already knows too much about me.

Missed Us by That Much!

Hurricane Dorian headed out to sea without to much damage here. There was some flooding and the cities opened up some shelters, but only a few folks went to the shelters. Based on experience, they probably live in areas that routinely flood.

There are two main reasons for regular flooding:

  1. The sea level is rising while the land mass is sinking.
  2. Lots that were once considered unbuildable are now being developed as waterfront.

Unfortunately, this means that some newly constructed homes will not last as long as their mortgages. One house, in such an area, had a “No Wake” sign on the mailbox, which was only partially in jest.

 

 

A Different Coda

As we’re trying to downsize, I’m trying to cull the musical herd. My daughter gets to take the piano once she gets her own place. My son’s clarinet doesn’t take up to much space. However, my guitar collection and the drum set do. I hope to get down to my Taylor 6 string, Greenbriar by Peavey 12 string, Peavy Raptor electric, and of course, my Brian May guitar.

My current guitar amplifier is an oldie but a goodie, a Peavey 112 Bandit Sheffield Transtube, Silver Stripe. By the long name, you might expect it to be big. It is. It is also heavy and loud.

My new Peavey Vypyr VIP1 is smaller, lighter, and has all kinds of effects built in. It’s got a 32 bit floating point computer processor, which is a marketer’s way of saying, “You have to learn how to program it.”

The bottom line, I now have a guitar amp, cell phone, tablet, laptop, etc., ad nauseum ALL of which are smarter than I am.

I miss the days when my biggest challenge was to get the VCR to stop flashing “12:00”.

Commitment

Have you ever read the Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America? Most people don’t recognize that as the actual title of what we call the Declaration of Independence. Written in Philadelphia, approved on 2 July 1776, and published two days later on the fourth of July.

Those who signed the document risked much if they failed. If they were lucky, they would be hanged “until dead.” The practice of hanging, drawing, and quartering was the prescribed punishment for high treason. In this case, the condemned would be hanged, cut down while still (barely) alive, often disemboweled (again, while still alive), then beheaded and their body cut into pieces.

These founding fathers had to work hard to reach common ground since they had agreed that unanimous consent was required so as not to force brother against brother so many vehement arguments led to revisions that the authors vehemently opposed. The issue of slavery was particularly difficult, and striking a phrase prohibiting slavery did, in fact, lead to the war of brother against brother.

While most of the body of the declaration deals with the grievances against King George the third, I believe the most important part is at the end.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Who among us has that kind of commitment today?

 

The Play’s the Thing (Complete with Music!)

I’ve decided to write a play specifically designed for off-off-Broadway. I wanted a theme everybody could relate to–something familiar yet somewhat of a challenge. Then the muse hit me–I tried to duck, but she still caught me on the chin.

I realized that no matter what you do, a significant portion of your time will be spent in meetings. It may be called a class, a board, a tiger team, a training session, church, basic training, or whatever–it’s still a meeting. Fortunately, Office Space and The Office have already laid the groundwork. I want to take it one step further and write it as a musical. Imagine——

The stage curtains are closed. The house lights dim and the orchestra begins the overture. [For those of you not musically inclined, overtures are a melodic mashup of the music used throughout the production. Today, we call it recycling.]

SCENE 1: The curtains open to show a conference table with chairs all along the upstage side (a concession to the acoustics in off-off-Broadway facilities). A spotlight is focused on a door, stage right. A man in a suit [the Boss] enters with an armload of papers and breaks into the opening number. “It’s My Meeting So I’m in Control” He dances toward the head of the table, leaving a random portion of the papers in front of each chair, reaches the front empty handed, looks at the various stacks of paper, decides one is slightly taller, dances back to that spot, takes the extras from that stack, dances back to the front of the meeting room and crescendos with the final line, a redux of the first line of “I’m in control.” The spotlight disappears, leaving the stage dark.

SCENE 2: The spotlight, collimated very tightly fades up on a man [the Nerd] with a short sleeved white shirt, out-of-style skinny black necktie, pocket protector, and taped glasses immediately begins singing the second number, “Oh, What I’d Do for a Doughnut!” When he finishes, the stage briefly goes black.

SCENE 3: The lights come up illuminating the table but leaves it dark upstage (behind). The conference table now has people sitting in all but the last chair. The Nerd comes through the door, ignores the looks of derision, grabs a powdered sugar doughnut, leaving a trail of white on people’s clothing. When he sits, the white powder mounds like a snow bank in front of him [special effects, but inexpensive].

The Boss bows and with an exaggerated sweeping gesture points toward the unlit back of the stage. A stern women [Stern Woman] in a business suit emerges from the shadows. As she walks toward the head of the table, with a big smile she begins to sing, “Death by PowerPoint.” The last line, a Capella, is “And My Laser Pointer!”

I don’t have room for everything. Suffice to say, the rest of the play leads to the grand finale with the Stern Woman between the Boss and the Nerd performs a dance number on the conference table surrounded by the entire cast dancing together and singing “Meetings Are Better than Work!

Now, if I can just find a patron.

 

 

(Anti-)Social Media

I was able to get on the Internet in its earliest days. In Cleveland one of the universities had 80 or so phone lines dedicated to dial-in access. It was first come, first served, so busy signal was not uncommon.

There were chat groups for every interest, noble or profane, but people generally interacted with a “live and let live” attitude. Perhaps this was because most users were either certified geeks or geeks-at-heart.

Then the Internet evolved into the World Wide Web (for those who are too young, that’s what the “www” at the beginning of many web addresses means.

As they say, “There goes the neighborhood.”

Now it’s seen as a way to express hatred, to spread falsehoods or half-truths, and–if you’re a malevolent government–a place to promote division and create doubt.

It’s also the avenue for some people to post their suck-in-the-gut,  best-angle, cosmetically enhanced, and Photoshopped virtual reality picture that can cause normal people to despair. Comparing themselves to these phony perfect bodies and faces are believed to have contributed to an increase in suicide among young people.

I suspect that every supermodel, movie hunk, K-Pop Star, or whatever went though awkwardness acne, and/or hating their body during their teen years. The Internet has gotten so huge that we’ll never see an objective, scientific analysis of truth vs. falsehood.

If you have kids, make sure they understand that if it’s on the Internet, it’s not necessarily true.

The Internet was less harmful when only the Geeks knew about it.

 

 

Putting Things in Perspective

University of Virginia Men’s Basketball
2019 Champions

I’ve lived in Virginia for most my younger children’s lives. My older son and his family live in Virginian. My daughter-in-law’s family lives in Virginia. My younger children are fortunate enough to receive their college educations at prestigious Virginia Universities. I love Virginia History from Sir Walter Raleigh, the Powhatan people, Washington, Lee, Jefferson, and NASA mathematician, Kathrine Johnson.

I love that Jefferson attended the College of William and Mary but had his tombstone celebrate:

Author of the Declaration of American Independence
of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom
& Father of the University of Virginia

I consider myself a Virginian.

However, when TV sports experts announced that the recent UVA basketball championship “Will be remembered forever!” I saw a bit of exaggeration. With Americans, we’re talking about people who can’t tell you Virginia’s role in slave trading or why Washington, DC is half its planned size because they returned Virginia’s donation of land.

But they will remember the 2019 Basketball Championship?

 

Space – The Final Frontier

Gene Kranz–THE Flight Director

I grew up during the early days of the space program. At night, when Echo I–a satellite that was essentially a giant, shiny Mylar balloon–passed overhead, the whole family would go outside. A clear sky, the overflight time from the local newspaper, and we’d watch until we saw that tiny speck of light pass overhead.

The Mercury program gave us America’s first manned space flights when I was in grade school. For each launch, someone would bring a transistor radio–the latest thing–and the whole class would listen. Somewhere during the tail end of the Mercury program and the beginning of the Gemini program, the radio was replaced by a television. While most televisions were large and treated as a piece of furniture, some of my classmates had a smaller television that was (barely) light enough to transport to school. The picture was black and white, but then, most televisions were.

When Apollo 11 landed on the moon, I sat on the couch with my girlfriend and watched, transfixed. Apollo 12 didn’t generate as much interest, but when Apollo 13 suffered a near catastrophic explosion, everybody followed coverage until the astronauts were safely home.

Later, when I lived in Florida, along the Space Coast, I could watch launches–including the space shuttles–from my driveway. One time I drove up to Cape Canaveral to watch a shuttle launch up close. First there was the sight of the liftoff, which was followed by the sonic roar and a pressure wave against my chest that attested to the power of the engines.

But, what I remember most fondly, is the final stage of the countdown as the flight director polled each section to ensure that the mission could be successfully launched .
“Medical?” “Go!”
“Range?” “Go!”
“CapCom?” “Go!”
“Flight?” “Go!”

Each function had to make sure their area of responsibility was ready. Each wanted desperately to add their affirmation–to say yes and to agree to move forward.

Contrast that with today when so many people are so eager to say “No.”