Category Archives: Technology

I Avoid Facebook

I’ve mentioned this before, but perhaps not in this detail.

I avoid Facebook. I have an account left over from years ago when I opened it to keep tabs what my kids were posting.

When I get friend requests, I’m sure many people feel I’m ignoring them. I’m not ignoring them. I’m ignoring Facebook.

Facebook allows anything anybody anywhere posts regardless of how much needless damage will be caused. Facebook is not responsible for erroneous, fake, or hateful posts by anonymous entities. I say entities because posters are not necessarily people–entities may be foreign agencies, spambots, or other human impersonators.

Why?

There is a law often referred to as Section 230. As I understand it, it says that internet interactive computer services, like Facebook, are not responsible for what gets posted. This law says that internet services are communications services, just like the telephone companies. Since no one controls what someone says on the telephone, Facebook and similar providers are not responsible for content. This is unlike newspapers, magazines, television, or radio.

So, the business model for Facebook is:

“Facebook has the right to collect massive amounts of monies from its advertisers without any limits. In exchange, Facebook has the obligation to collect massive amounts of monies from its advertisers without any limits.”

Don Vito Corleone would be green with envy.

Create meme "the godfather , vito corleone , Corleone ...

 

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.

Hleath Caer

I spent many years in healthcare, as a technologist, as a manager, and even worked for a major medical equipment company, managing the techs who would demonstrate and teach radiologic technologists how to use the latest, greatest equipment.

I’m glad those days are over–especially my time in management. It was awful enough when hospitals established their own collection agencies–complete with a stable of lawyers, of course. Now, as clinicians try to help patients in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, hospital administrations do not help. Instead, they throw up roadblocks.

In some hospitals, health care workers have been forbidden from wearing masks as protection in the hallways.

In at least one hospital, personal protective gear was at a premium, so nurses put up a GoFundMe site and purchased masks, surgical shoe coverings, etc. Rather than appreciating the lengths that the nurses would go to help their patients, one nurse was suspended for distributing the unauthorized products.

We could blame it on the stable of lawyers, but they don’t actually decide. They advise, lean heavily against the possibility of a mega-million dollar hospital experiencing a couple thousand dollar judgement. They do add to administrators’ hesitance about making decisions.

As a former Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives with all kinds of letters after my name, here’s my suggestion.

  • If it helps the patients, do it. Combat doctors and medics save many lives doing what needs to be done, not what the book says.
  • If you are not actively involved in patient care, your job is to grease the skids for those who are.
  • If you, or the person most important to you–parent, spouse, child–were the patient, would you want care delayed or withheld because of such stupid reasons?

Oh, and maybe have the administrators, lawyers, etc. assist by having actual contact with patients. They may not be qualified to provide patient care, but they can transport patients, clean and stock rooms, etc. Every other healthcare worker has and probably is doing such tasks today. If administrator and their staff feel it is beneath them, then they are in the wrong business.

C’mon people.

 

 

Conspiracy!

Photo CNN

In England, vandals have set cellular towers on fire because they believe, thanks to internet, that the new 5G cellular system causes coronavirus. I can–but won’t–speculate on how they came up with this.

I suggest that everyone who has clicked on such links be banned from the internet and required to write a ten page essay, complete with footnotes and bibliography, proving the cause and effect relationship between 5G and coronavirus. Manifestos and anecdotes would not be allowed.

Alternately, each could be required to repeat sixth grade science class–in a real sixth grade class with genuine sixth-graders, complete with sixth-grade size desks.

I also suggest that internet sites that allow such blatantly false information to be posted would forfeit gross revenue for the length of time that the postings were hosted. The forfeited money could be used to improve public education.

Random Thoughts

There’s no specific theme or topic–just goofy stuff that has gone through my head as I self-isolate.

1. There’s no understanding the lengths people will go through to take advantage of others. A museum near Amsterdam closed because of the COVID-19 emergency. Someone–or several someones–broke in and stole a Vincent van Gogh painting, The Parsonage Garden at Neunen.  As near as I can tell, except for artwork that the Nazis looted, there are less than a dozen masterpieces that have been stolen and not recovered.

Imagine if the thieves had put their time and talent to work doing something worthwhile. Then again, maybe they think that they look good in fluorescent orange jumpsuits.

2. The hospital ships USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy supporting New York and Los Angeles are amazing. They started out as commercial supertankers, and if memory serves correctly, were cut in half to make them longer. USNS indicates that the ship is owned by the US Navy, but is not a commissioned vessel. The crew is a combination of military and civilian mariners under the direction of the Military Sealift Command.

The 1000 bed medical facility is under the command of a captain from the Navy Medical Corps or Navy Nurse Corps. Each has a complement of diagnostic and treatment facilities including radiology, CT Scan, 12 operating rooms, and a burn care unit.

Years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the USNS Mercy and she’s an awesome ship. Both have helicopter landing pas for patients being medevaced. The trauma receiving area–similar to an emergency room–has its deck painted red, an old tradition so blood isn’t as obvious. After all, these were built to support combat casualties.

 

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?

Sometimes the Old Ways Are Best

“(CNN)NASA may have a multi-billion dollar budget and some of the most advanced technology in the world, but when the Mars InSight lander got into a spot of bother, scientists came up with a charmingly rudimentary fix for its space technology: Hit it with a shovel.”

The apocryphally named “GM’s Law” says, “Don’t force it! Get a bigger hammer!”

Sometimes the old ways are, in fact, the best. Occam’s Razor rules.

Rules of Acquisition

The Ferengi appeared as aliens in several Star Trek iterations. They were the ultimate business people who frequently quoted from their 286 rules of acquisition. I’ve heard they were originally planned as the villains for Star Trek: The Next Generation, but came across as more silly than intimidating.

In my favorite interaction, one Frengi asks, “What if this becomes a war?” The other replies, “Rule 34.”

The first responds “Ahhh, war is good for business. But, but, what if it doesn’t lead to war?” The response is “Rule 35.”

“Ahhh, peace is good for business.”

Today there are real Ferengi; not as exotic looking, but every bit as greedy:

  • People pretending to be employees with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are knocking on doors, wearing white lab coats, telling residents that they’re testing for COVID-19. Then they rob them.
  • A former White House advisor asked if people staying home to avoid the virus is worth the economic consequences.
  • Senators dumped stocks after being briefed on the coronavirus, but before that information was released to the general population.
  • All kinds of scammers are selling phony medications or religious talismans.

Oh, wait. Rule 14.  “Anything stolen is pure profit.”

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.

Sorry, I Don’t Believe in Reality

Well, actually I do, but there are apparently many others who do not. The coronavirus COVID 19 is the current pressing example. People are dying–why wouldn’t you believe in it?

Easy.

If someone has a radio talk show or a podcast that makes money for them, there’s more money in denying reality than accepting it.

KACHING!

As a human being, I am embarrassed. It may not be as profitable, but it is more human to help one another instead of leeching off others’ misfortune.

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.

Bring on the NANOBOTS!

See the source image

I love nanobots.

Nanobots are microscopic robots that can do anything from curing disease to treating injuries or providing energy to weapons. There’s just one minor problem with nanobots . . . .

They don’t exist in the real world.

But they are a staple in science fiction. Have an insurmountable problem? Write how nanaobots resolved it—it’s the best Deus ex machina* tool ever. For example:

Powerful, evil dudes attack good people, who are powerless to resist.
Nanobots are released that change the mental and emotional state of the bad guys. Soon, everybody sings Kumbaya.

However, there may be technology on the horizon that provides the benefits of nanobots using existing materials. The first, albeit tiny, steps are being taken in utilizing a virus to edit genes in a patient by using the CRISPR technique. It’s not as sexy as the nanobots in a John Scalzi novel, but this is real world technology, which is rarely sexy.

Will it work, or like so many other ideas, fail to execute as imagined.

Stay tuned!

 

 

* Deus ex machina (/ˌdeɪəs ɛks ˈmækɪnə, – ˈmɑːk-/ DAY-əs ex-MA(H)K-in-ə,[1] Latin[ˈdɛ.ʊs ɛks ˈmaːkʰɪnaː]; plural: dei ex machina; English ‘god from the machine’) is a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem in a story is suddenly and abruptly resolved by an unexpected and unlikely occurrence.[2][3] Its function can be to resolve an otherwise irresolvable plot situation, to surprise the audience, to bring the tale to a happy ending, or act as a comedic device.

Corona Virus Side Effects

There is a lot of angst regarding the corona virus (COVID-19). Oddly, most news coverage focuses on its impact on the stock market.

The news media, critically important for a democratic society, focuses on stories that sell newspapers, encourage internet clicks, or result in more pharmaceutical advertising during the evening news.

However, it’s best to put things in perspective.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there are now 459 COVID-19 [link] cases in the United States. There was a death  today, which although is regrettable, makes a total of one.

On the other hand, influenza (the flu) has sickened at least 19 million across the U.S. and led to 10,000 deaths and 180,000 hospitalizations. This does not seem as significant because we encounter influenza every year. The Spanish flu in 1918 killed between 50 and 100 million people around the world.

The disease that infects millions and kills thousands is no big deal because we see it every year. A new disease, because it is novel, scares us to (near) death.

I’m not minimizing the potential of the virus. However, COVID-19 has been sensationalized, so the threat and probability of encountering it are more prominent in our mind, regardless of likelihood. Each of is, at least at this point, far more likely to be seriously affected by or to die from influenza, yet we focus on COVID-19.

I wish each of you good health–and a speedy recovery for your equity holdings.

 

Newspapers

I am one of those Luddites who still enjoys reading via pigment on cellulose (i.e., ink and paper). Several times in the past, I subscribed to more than one newspaper–usually a local paper, then another from the main city of the metropolitan area. I wanted the local news, but also the regional news.

How did I choose the newspaper? The local paper was geographic while the metropolitan newspaper was based on the funnies.

van halen

Why? Because if a newspaper treats the funnies as important, they will treat everything else they print as important. It’s kind of like Van Halen (and I RARELY get to compare myself to Van Halen in any way, shape or form). Van Halen specified in their contracts with their performance venues that there would be M&Ms in the dressing room, but all the brown M&Ms would be removed.

While it initially sounds like a 20th century ridiculous prima donna demand, there was a method to their madness. If, when they got to the site, the M&M requirement was met, they felt that they could safely assume that the other requirements were met. If there were brown M&Ms, they knew that there was sloppiness on other issues, like how safe and sturdy the stage was, security, and other real world issues. The M&Ms were like the canary in the mine shaft–an early warning system.

But I digress.

My local paper, The Virginian-Pilot (now owned by Tribune Publishing*) has continued to shrink over the past few years. The newspaper has gotten thinner, the lower quality newsprint pis allowed more space today than a year ago? The obituaries. You’d think that they would not want to feature how their readers are dying off, but since they’re all paid obituaries . . . .

Why do I like real newspapers? First, I’ll take a newspaper into situations such as rain, a bath tub, etc. where I would never take my computer or tablet. Second, it just feels more reliable. How many times, when reading online, do you see updates every few minutes. They don’t have to be accurate because they can always correct errers errors. Newspapers should (and I hope–I HOPE) do more fact checking before they publish because they can’t do updates.

I’ll have more to say, the next time I can sit down and write this blog.

 

 

 

*Tribune Publishing Company (formerly Tronc, Inc.) is an American newspaper print and online media publishing company based in Chicago, Illinois. The company’s portfolio includes the Chicago Tribune, the New York Daily News, The Baltimore Sun, the Orlando Sentinel, South Florida’s Sun-Sentinel, the Hartford Courant, additional titles in Pennsylvania and Virginia, syndication operations, and websites.

 

Facebook–Say What?

Among many others

Moderators for YouTube must now sign a document acknowledging that they might suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder by reviewing YouTube posts.

Excuse me?

When a website creates stress similar to a combat experience, it’s time to just stop and ask ourselves what the hell we’re doing. We expected Facebook, YouTube, and other social media sites to be an opportunity to share ideas. Now, at best, they share thousands of pictures people take of themselves or pictures of their latest meal. At worst–they post images so disturbing that they can cause PTSD. Something is wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong.

I have a better idea. Make it a policy that postings are hateful, disgusting, or otherwise inappropriate for polite society, the social media site will respect their First Amendment rights, so long as they include their (verified) name, address,cell phone number, photo, and e-mail.

Decent people have no use for a coward.

Bait and Switch

Once upon a time, the Internet was lauded as a forum for intelligent discussion, but like most things, it soon became primarily focused on enriching a few people. I have nothing against commerce, but it seems that many websites will stoop at nothing to get you to click on one of their links. To whit:

The Fed dropped mortgage rates? No. They adjust the prime rate, which may affect mortgage rates. but they don’t directly control mortgage rates.

 

Let’s stop in mid -sentence to see if viewers will click. After all, Trump and the Washington Post are usually totally simpatic0.

 

It seems that there’s shock and surprise about where every movie / television / music performer lives–or that they don’t look like they did 30 years ago. Oh, and  what’s Lawyers Blvd got to do with Meg Ryan?

 

Do you think that maybe, possibly there might have been just a tiny bit of Photoshopping involved? Not much, just a smidge?

Then there’s this poor girl. When I travel, I see her being arrested in every city I visit. She must be innocent, or they wouldn’t let her out to be arrested again and again.

So much for intelligent exchange of ideas.

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”.

Love and Hate

I have a love-hate relationship with engineers

While it may not be politically correct to talk about this anymore, in the past, it was projected that 80 percent of engineers had Asperger’s Syndrome. Asperger’s Syndrome is now considered to be on the autism spectrum, so it may be considered a disability. Its symptoms are extreme focus and the inability to reconcile others’ ideas with one’s own; in other words, I’m right and you’re wrong.

On one hand, if I’m driving across a bridge that is both long and a good distance from the water, I want it to have been designed by somebody who put 100 percent of their focus on designing that bridge. I want that person to be so focused that everyone else’s opinion was not a distraction. Their focus—regardless of its source—is a wonderful attribute.

On the other hand, interacting with engineers, either at work or socially can be less satisfying. They are apt to say factually correct, but awkward (for the listener) statements like:
“You sure have aged.”
“How much weight have you gained?

Ya gotta lovem.

And hatem, too.