Food for Thought During this Pandemic

This is a long post, but I thought that I would like to put a few things in perspective with regard to the disinformation that I keep seeing about the coronavirus pandemic. I had originally posted this information to Facebook, but I decided that it would be worthwhile to share it here. Please note that all of the statistics that I cite are only valid for today, April 13th, 2020. By tomorrow all of the data will have changed dramatically. Nevertheless, it is the concepts that are important here, not the specific numbers.

Overview

I see a lot of comparisons between the numbers of reported COVID-19 cases and deaths in the USA as compared to the numbers in Europe, or when compared to a single country in Europe. In addition, I often see map-based comparisons of reported cases and deaths by superimposing the geographic land masses of Europe and USA. The trouble is, those comparisons and maps are useless; the number of reported cases and deaths when distributed across population densities are a more accurate measure for comparison. With that in mind, here are some statistics to put things in perspective.

First of all, take a look at the following maps; those websites do a much better job of quantifying the available data.

ECDPC Worldwide Situation Update https://bit.ly/2y8BFCW
ECDPC European Situation Update https://bit.ly/2K4zx1P
Real-time COVID-19 Tracker https://www.bing.com/covid

Populations

Let's begin with a comparison of the overall populations of the USA and Europe:

Nation Population
USA 330 million
Europe 746 million

In other words, Europe has a population that is 2.3 times the population of the USA, even though their land masses are roughly comparable in geographic size (depending on the map that you're using). There are, of course, some 50 or countries that make up Europe, and it would be unproductive to list them all here, but nevertheless - here is an excerpt that contains the population numbers for several of the largest populations in Europe (ordered by size):

Country Population
Germany 83 million
Turkey 83 million
United Kingdom 68 million
France 67 million
Italy 60 million
Spain 47 million

Reported COVID-19 Cases (04/13/2020)

Using the data from the websites that I listed earlier, here is a comparison of reported COVID-19 cases as of 04/13/2020:

Nation Reported Cases Percent of the Population
USA 582K cases 0.2%
Europe 782K cases 0.1%

In other words, Europe has 1.3 times the number of reported cases when compared directly with the USA. However, those numbers do not portray an accurate picture of what's going on from a proportional point of view. Europe has a larger population, so a larger number would be expected, but those numbers are slightly disproportionate; the USA has a slightly higher number of reported cases when distributed across its population than Europe does. Of course, the USA has only 0.2% reported cases across its population as compared to Europe's 0.1%, but still - if all things were equal, you would expect the numbers to be aligned proportionally. Once again, for the sake of completeness, here is a list of the reported cases for several of the largest populations in Europe (in order of reported cases):

Country Reported Cases Percent of the Population
Spain 170K cases 0.4%
Italy 160K cases 0.3%
France 137K cases 0.2%
Germany 129K cases 0.2%
United Kingdom 89K cases 0.1%
Turkey 61K cases 0.007%

Reported COVID-19 Deaths (04/13/2020)

Here is a comparison of reported COVID-19 deaths as of 04/13/2020:

Nation Reported Deaths Percent of the Population
USA 22K deaths 0.0006%
Europe 76K deaths 0.001%

In other words, Europe has 3.4 times the number of reported deaths when compared directly with the USA. However, when those numbers are distributed across entire populations, Europe has a slightly higher number of reported deaths than the USA. (Of course, that's only 0.0004% higher.) Once again, just for the sake of completeness, here is a list of the reported deaths for several of the largest populations in Europe (in order of reported deaths):

Country Reported Deaths Percent of the Population
Italy 20K deaths 0.003%
Spain 17K deaths 0.004%
France 15K deaths 0.002%
United Kingdom 11K deaths 0.002%
Germany 3K deaths 0.0004%
Turkey 1K deaths 0.0001%

Reported Cases versus Deaths

The last comparison that we should examine is a percentage that gets tossed around a lot - the number of reported cases when compared to the number of reported deaths:

Nation Ratio Fatality Rate
USA 22K deaths to 582K cases 3.6%
Europe 76K deaths to 782K cases 9.7%

Those numbers are both staggering and profound, and I am only presenting the numbers themselves; I am not editorializing on them. There are people who will attempt to bend and twist those numbers into all sorts of unintended meanings, such as quality of healthcare in the USA versus Europe, tirades against socialized medicine, etc. However, that is not my intent. That being said, I know that for some countries - such as Italy - the age of those who were infected was a contributor for the disproportionately higher numbers of reported deaths that were seen in Europe.

Summary

With that in mind, anyone who compares the total numbers of reported cases and deaths in the USA directly against Europe or any of its countries, without taking into account the population densities for each region, does not understand basic math. When the numbers of reported cases and deaths are represented as a percentage of the total populations for each region, the comparisons are considerably closer to parity. Of course, this disease has not run its path, so those numbers will continue to change over the coming months.

For another perspective, I have shared the animation at https://bit.ly/34syL8h in a few discussions. If you take a look at that animation, it should put things in a better perspective. By way of explanation, that video shows the number of deaths in the USA per day as compared to several of the common causes of death (e.g heart disease, cancer, etc.) The dates in the lower right hand of the screen show the day that is being measured, and watch what happens around 3/20/20.

In closing, I feel that the following tidbit is worth mentioning: Russia has only 18K reported cases, despite having a population of 147 million. This means that the pandemic has affected only 0.001% of the Russian population, which is far better than either the USA or Europe. While I may not be a fan of our current commander in chief, there was a time not long ago when our President was receiving a never-ending stream of partisan harassment and venomous vitriol from everywhere in the country about being a hateful racist for trying to restrict air travel from countries that were afflicted with higher infection rates. While at the same time, Russia slammed its borders closed. Now that this pandemic has wreaked havoc across the globe, number 45's actions do not look all that unreasonable. Our President may have many faults - but attempting to restrict travel when the pandemic was taking hold was a good idea. However, in our revisionist history society, I am willing to bet that during the political quagmire of the ensuing election season, those who hate our President will attempt to nail him to the cross of having failed to lock down the country sooner or tighter. Of course, the President took action against the WHO's advice, and the WHO has since been outed as having pandered to China when COVID-19 first entered the world stage, but that's another story for another day.


Postscript

On a side note, I would like to take a moment or two to editorialize on a subject that I have not seen in the press: I am convinced that a primary factor in Italy's quick ascension as an early epicenter for COVID-19 cases was "Fashion Week," which took place in Milan from February 18th to the 24th this year. Thousands of fashionistas from around the globe descended on northern Italy, and spent several days in close quarters throughout the city as they watched models display the latest designer offerings that no normal person would ever wear.

It is no coincidence that Italy quickly suffered a major surge of coronavirus cases. The myriad of fashion shows were the direct cause of Milan's outbreak, which quickly spread to Venice, then the rest of Italy, and then the rest of the world as the attendees headed home. "Fashion Week" should have been cancelled, but "fashion" is a multi-billion-dollar industry, so the show's organizers pressed ahead, and the rest of the world paid the price. Keep that in mind the next time you see photos from a fashion show somewhere; the organizers of "Fashion Week" were the true villains in this story, because they would rather turn a blind eye to public safety in order to lay their sacrifices on the altar of unnecessary profits. I may be a card-carrying capitalist at heart, but still - there are limits to capitalism, and common sense should have prevailed.

By the way, I was in Milan early this year, from January 25th to the 31st. Thankfully I was long gone before the debacle of "Fashion Week" had descended on the city.

Food for Thought During this Pandemic - Part II

In the wake of yesterday's post about the COVID-19 pandemic, several believers of various conspiracy theories crawled out of the woodwork, and they have proposed all sorts of silly ideas about why this pandemic is happening. As I have mentioned in other blogs, I love a good conspiracy theory. I don't believe any of the conspiracies that I read, but I am ceaselessly amazed to learn what others are willing to believe.

One of the hallmarks of a great conspiracy theory is the way that it harkens back to the days of the Gnostic Cults, where people believed that there was a dark mystery that was hiding behind everything. And if you searched hard enough in obscure places, you would eventually discover "The Truth." Today's conspiracy theorists are no different; they scour the Internet looking for tidbits of information that they can cobble together in the name of "truth." Of course, the "truth" varies widely depending on which conspiracy theorist you're speaking to. Nevertheless, they believe that "Knowledge Is Power," and that somehow, if they read enough blogs and ignore everything that is said by academics, scientists, and subject matter experts, they will finally discover that dark mystery that is hiding behind everything.

With that in mind, I grew tired of the utter ridiculousness of some of the theories that I was reading, so I wrote the following response.

Knowledge Is Power

The conspiracy theorists are correct - knowledge is power. However, there is a great deal of misinformation circulating around the Internet these days, which is what led to yesterday's post. As you might have noticed, I only used CDC data for what I reported, and I did my best to avoid any editorializing on what the data represented; I simply expressed the numbers as they exist.

And the conspiracy theorists are also correct that official "news" outlets have unfortunately proven themselves as unreliable sources of information, which is - once again - why I only used data from the CDC. Not all of the reporting from mainstream news sources is unreliable, of course - you just have to be careful what you read. For example, I get a lot of my news from the Associated Press (AP) these days; they tend to be a little more accurate and less sensational. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) is often a good source, too.

The trouble with most people's "investigations" is that they are not in search of the "truth," they are in search of information that supports an existing opinion. For example, if hospitals are misreporting their numbers, there are a couple of possible causes:

  • Option #1: As some people have alluded to, hospitals might be over-reporting or under-reporting the numbers of COVID-19 deaths because these hospitals have COVID-19 patients who die because of complications due to pre-existing conditions like heart disease, COPD, cancer, etc. With that in mind, it is a judgment call as to whether that is counted as a COVID-19 death. For example: perhaps a COPD patient might not have died had it not been for their COVID-19 infection, so is the cause of death COVID-19 or COPD?
  • Option #2: Hospitals are lining their pockets with cash from greedy corporate cabals and evil pharmaceutical companies who are demanding fatality numbers to support their cash cow cures.

Of those two options, I whole-heartedly believe the first option, while the second option is a paranoid delusion that is easily refuted by facts, common sense, and very little research. However, there are a great number of people who believe the second option, which warrants a brief discussion of why you should not be one of them.

Misinformation and Echo Chambers

Mark Twain once said, "If you don't read the newspaper, you're uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you're misinformed." That holds true for today as well. If you ignore all of the mainstream news sources and only believe what you find from unreliable and/or unconfirmed sources, then as I said earlier - you are only reinforcing your existing position. If you want to believe in conspiracies, there are plenty of them to be found.

I recently posted a blog that was titled Secret Origins of the COVID-19 Coronavirus. Here's the spoiler - I proposed a plausible theory that was backed up by actual facts, but I made up everything that existed beyond the facts that I presented. The point of my blog was that people want so much to believe that there is something underhanded, heinous, and evil going on, so they're willing to find pieces of information that support their point of view, while ignoring everything else, and that is dangerous. Especially in times such as these.

Here is a perfect example: many people have been posting videos of Dr. V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai as he "exposes the truth" behind what is going on in the world. But as I have said elsewhere, Shiva is an opportunistic fraud with delusions of grandeur, with a long history of deceit going back several years. Shiva's intellectual dishonesty is so pervasive that I am surprised his credentials have not been revoked. I have been familiar with this imposter for many years, and Shiva recently found himself on the wrong side of academia when he claimed that he could cure COVID-19 with a hair dryer and other ridiculous proposals, all of which have also been debunked as complete nonsense. (I'm surprised that MIT didn't rescind his credentials after that debacle alone.) To show you an additional example of his depravity, Shiva has fraudulently claimed to have invented email when he was in High School - a claim which has been debunked time and again. (The military and a host of other academics created email years before he came along.)

All of that being said, Shiva is a complete fraud who is out for profit by deceiving as many people as he can. And despite the fact that his ridiculous theories are likely to get a lot of people killed, he has become the darling of conspiracy theorists who continue to debate vaccines and big phrama and the deep state and pandemic profiteering. However, I highly recommend that you should not be one of the sheep that follows this false shepherd into the slaughterhouse.

Conspiracies and Common Sense

Circling back to my opening statements, yes - knowledge is power. But so is common sense. Most of the conspiracy theories that are circulating are simply not plausible. We live in a society where there is too much information, which is both a blessing and a curse.

  • Our connected society is a blessing because if any of the conspiracies had any truth to them, then there would be thousands of places to find legitimate pieces of information to condemn the perpetrators.
  • However, our connected society is a curse because there are also thousands of places to find unreliable pieces of information that have no basis in reality.

Here is a case in point: I recently saw that someone had posted a picture of tanks being shipped on railroad cars through Tucson. This photo was immediately pounced on by conspiracy theorists who believe that our government is evil and is going to use the military to take over all of our lives. I found all of the paranoid drivel by these conspiracy theorists endlessly amusing, but at the end of the day, a little common sense would dispel these rumors. For example:

  • First of all, why were the tanks on that train?

    The tanks were being shipped by railroad car because: tanks eat up the highways, tanks don't travel fast enough on an Interstate to keep up with traffic, and it costs a fortune to drive tanks cross country.

  • Second, where were the tanks going?

    I don't know for sure, but if I had to guess, I would say Fort Irwin, California. There is a military base there where the military trains personnel for desert warfare, and here's the way the process worked when I was in the Army: each month a unit is sent to Fort Irwin for training, and they bring all of their equipment with them. They train for a month, and then they go home. So tanks will be on rail cars getting there, and will be on rail cars going home. (PS - I spent a month training in Fort Irwin, and I hated it. But that's another story.)

  • Third, do you want to know why the military is NOT going to take over the country?

    BECAUSE. THEY'RE. AMERICANS.

    I served in the US Army for 8 years, and if the orders came down that we were going to take over the country, NO ONE WOULD HAVE OBEYED THOSE ORDERS. We do not live in Communist China, nor do we live in the former Soviet Union. Our military is staffed by 100% volunteers, who have wives, husbands, kids, parents, siblings, cousins, friends, acquaintances, etc., scattered all over the country. No one in the military would want to bring harm to anyone in America because - as I said earlier - our military is made up of Americans. Who love other Americans. And America itself. Our military undoubtedly loves our country more than anyone else on the planet.

So the whole idea that the military is going to take over the country is ludicrous, and yet there are tens of thousands of people who likely believe that the military is evil and cannot be trusted. You may not fall into that category, but take this general message to heart: people will tend to believe what they want to believe, despite an abundance of information to the contrary.

Summary

In closing, you need to be aware that misinformation is happening all around you, so you need to be objective when you are considering your sources. If something seems too good to be true, it probably isn't. If something seems too sensational, it's probably false. And just because something seems to support what you already believe, that doesn't make it true, either.

Optimism and Hope

Someone I know recently posted a question about the correlation between optimism and hope, which is a subject that I have spent a great deal of time thinking about. Between my years in the military and in corporate America, I have endured both good times and bad times, periods of prosperity and adversity, and seasons of rejoicing and mourning. All of these experiences have given me pause to reflect on what I cling to by way of personal philosophy. I posted a fairly lengthy response to the original question, which I would like to paraphrase here.

I firmly believe that there are differences between optimism and hope, although they are intertwined. For example, I believe that hope is often the source of optimism. At the risk of too much information (TMI), I realize that much of the following discussion will be semantics, but to expand on the original question a little bit, here is my take on several related concepts: optimism, pessimism, hope, faith, joy, depression, happiness, and unhappiness.

For me, optimism is the "glass is half full" approach to an immediate situation, whereas hope is the over-arching belief that everything in general will work out for the best; both in your immediate situation and for the future. Sometimes your immediate situation is terrible, and hope is what enables you to look forward with anticipation that things will improve. As I said earlier, I believe therefore that hope often leads to an optimistic viewpoint. In a like manner, optimism may produce happiness, but there have been plenty of times where I have been unhappy and yet still had an optimistic viewpoint; and this was usually caused by having hope.

On a related note, pessimism is often found when all hope is lost, but that is not always the case. I have known pessimists who have a miserable outlook in a given circumstance, and yet they are able to have hope for something better eventually. In a like manner, I have seen some people who are happy, yet still have a pessimistic viewpoint. (e.g. "Life is pretty good in general, but my current situation sucks.") I think a loss of hope can lead to both unhappiness and pessimism.

In my interpretation, faith and joy are somewhat interchangeable and both are related to hope; they are based on a worldview that there is a greater purpose for everything, or that God is in control, etc. So faith and joy are the underlying certainties that produce hope, which can lead to optimism. Conversely, a lack of faith or joy can cause you to lose hope, which may lead to pessimism.

I am generally a pretty optimistic guy; and at times my sense of optimism has been much to the chagrin of those around me when we are collectively suffering through a miserable situation. I possess a strong faith, and usually have both hope and joy to spare, which leads to both a sense of optimism and happiness. However, as I mentioned before, I have occasionally had what might seem to be mutually exclusive attitudes: I have been unhappy yet optimistic, or I have been pessimistic yet happy, etc. Once again, having a strong foundation of faith, hope, and joy are what enables me to keep a greater perspective during some pretty heinous circumstances.

All of this leads to a discussion of depression, which is not the same thing as unhappiness. However, there are scores of people - especially optimists - who believe that depression and unhappiness are the same thing, so they say encouraging things to people who are depressed like, "Why so glum? Buck up! Tomorrow's another day! Greet the day with a smile!" etc., etc., etc., blah, blah, blah. Those statements are pouring salt on a wound. That advice may work for someone who is unhappy, but depression is very different.

On the one hand, depression can be caused by clinical conditions. For example, I am a workaholic with really, really bad work/life boundaries. (Working from home for years has made that worse, for understandable reasons.) I have on more than one occasion overworked myself right into burnout, which can cause chemical imbalances. As a doctor explained to me after a recent struggle, I had burned the candle at both ends for so long that I was running day to day on pure adrenaline, which changes the brain chemistry in some weird ways, and eventually that can lead to clinical depression. This situation may need to be fixed by prescription medicine and a forced schedule to restore body and the brain to their correct chemical balances. (I've had to go through that on more than one occasion. Which reminds me - I've averaged about two hours of sleep per day for the past week. You'd think that I'd learned my lesson by now, but apparently I'm a slow learner.)

On the other hand, another type of depression hearkens back to several of the subjects I was discussing earlier: I have been depressed when I felt abandoned by God. In those situations, I may have been experiencing any mixture of happiness or unhappiness or optimism or pessimism at any given moment, but my overarching feeling was an emotionless state of numbness. I had no faith, no hope, no joy - therefore I had no foundation upon which to base my outlook of the world. Once again, no amount of "positivity" was going to fix that situation; I simply drifted from day to day in that continued state of numbness until my faith was restored, after which I was able to slowly rebuild the rest of my life.

In summary, all of this was a far greater answer than the original question had sought. And to be clear, everything that I have said here is just my opinion, which is based on my personal observations and experiences.

Kierkegaard on Freedom of Speech

As I watch divisive malcontents spew copious volumes of unproductive and odious drivel during these trying times, I am often reminded of the following quote...

Søren Kierkegaard - People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.

Secret Origins of the COVID19 Coronavirus

In case you were not aware, the Coronavirus was manufactured to destroy the United States. It's a sordid story, but please read through all of these details with an open mind:

  • George Soros hates America, and he was secretly channeling money through Jeffrey Epstein's financial empire to Charles Lieber, the Harvard Professor who was building the lab in Wuhan, China, where they created the COVID19 Coronavirus.
  • Charles Lieber was eventually arrested on espionage charges, (see https://bit.ly/3acJDsU), and - of course - Jeffrey Epstein was 'suicided' before his involvement could be discovered (see https://cnn.it/2U8XpqW). Epstein's and Lieber's respective demises have given George Soros plausible deniability about the origins of the Coronavirus.
  • But the story doesn't end there, because Charles Lieber's black box 'research project' for Harvard goes back several years to the Obama administration. Obama is a Communist with strong ties to the Chinese Communist Party, and he was backed by George Soros. Obama willingly participated in the conspiracy to create the Coronavirus and destroy the United States in exchange for millions of dollars from Soros, thereby making Obama one of the wealthiest men in America (see https://bit.ly/2xehV0e).
  • All of George Soros' financial dealings with Charles Lieber were communicated through Hillary Clinton's secret email server while she was Secretary of State for Obama, which is - of course - why she couldn't use official communication channels, and why she had to destroy all evidence when her email server and cell phones were subpoenaed (see https://bit.ly/2xjyiIM and https://cnn.it/2UrF5Z4).
  • The mainstream media is, of course, aware of these facts, but they are part of George Soros' plan to destroy the United States. The primary news outlets are continuously using their positions to promote news stories about the Coronavirus in order to create a general panic, destroy the US economy, force Donald Trump from office, and allow the Democratic Party (which is really just a front for Communism) to take over the government, seize everyone's guns, and cram Socialism down everyone's throats while imposing martial law in order to resolve the ongoing health 'crisis' (which they helped create).

Before I go any further, let me be very clear - I MADE ALL THAT UP.

One of the points that I have made in several blogs in the past has been that people are generally willing to accept anything that aligns with a narrative that they already believe. With that in mind, some people will think that the so-called facts I concocted sound convincing. What is worse, however, is that even when confronted with overwhelming truth to the contrary, many people will consciously choose to believe fabrications like those that I just listed, and they will consciously choose to perpetuate false narratives despite contradictory knowledge.

That being said, all rumors need to start somewhere. So if you must, feel free to use the story I just shared. But when you do, make sure that someone else's name is attached to it - because I don't want to wind up like Jeffrey Epstein.

Winking smile


UPDATE:

I should point out that a willingness to believe false narratives goes both ways. While there are many Conservatives who might think that the fabrication that listed in my original post sounds plausible, there are many Liberals who are so blinded by their hatred for Donald Trump that they will pounce on every news story and every opportunity that will make Trump look evil. ("Orange Man Bad!!! Not My President!!!") The fact that people are politicizing this time of crisis as heinously as possible is contemptible (see https://bit.ly/2wu1i0w).

This should be a time of unity; we will have plenty of time to dissect the actions of this administration after this crisis has passed. In fact, the hindsight that follows a crisis is the only real test of what worked and what didn't. For example, Obama's 'hands off' approach during the race riots that followed the shootings of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin during his Presidency was not the right way to handle those situations. In that time of crisis, Obama should have intervened and brought peace to a hurting population; but he did nothing, which is why he actually failed his test as a leader.

However, as I have also pointed out in other blogs, there are a great number of people who were so blinded by their hatred for Barack Obama that they would pounce on every news story and every opportunity that would make Obama look evil. For example, the rumors that persisted throughout Obama's tenure in office that his administration had ordered guillotines to be used for executions is completely preposterous, yet the rumors kept circulating.

Which brings me back to my original point: people tend to believe and promote something that aligns with their beliefs, even after they learn facts to the contrary. With that in mind, I will leave you with this thought from Harlan Ellison: "You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant."

Facebook Community Standards Suck

Wow - that was... interesting. The kind and warmhearted people at Facebook just pulled down a joke that I posted earlier today for violating their "Community Standards" (see the image below to see if you agree). Then they forced me to go through a full security check before they would let me log in again, and then they threatened to ban my account from Facebook if I posted another joke.

No More Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

And yet, when I reported a truly objectionable page to the kind and warmhearted people at Facebook that showed graphic photos of police officers being killed at point blank range, and photos of police officers lying dead in puddles of their own blood, these same kind and warmhearted people at Facebook said that graphic photos of dead police officers were not a violation of their "Community Standards" (see the following image).

Facebook Hates Police Officers

With all of that in mind, I have to admit: I really do not understand Facebook's "Community Standards." When a harmless joke at the expense of an 80s-era heavy metal song can get me banned, while domestic terrorists who advocate the public executions of police officers are acceptable, it appears that I may disappear from Facebook one of these days. If and when that occurs, it will probably happen because I said the weather was nice today, which somehow violated Facebook's "Community Standards."

Angry smile

 

It looks like I may need one of these in the near future…

Get Out of Facebook Jail Free

 


FYI - here's a screenshot of what Facebook actually said about the image I posted:

Facebook Thinks I Post Spam

I am sure that my post was flagged by some sort of Facebook "Artificial Intelligence Bot," which reminds me of a question that I heard a few years ago: "Why are we spending vast quantities of time and money researching Artificial Intelligence, when Artificial Stupidity would be far cheaper and far more realistic?"

Facebook Terminator

My COVID19 Public Service Announcement

Please, please, please... do not repost links to blogs about disease, regardless of how good you think those blogs might be, because they are NOT authoritative sources of information.

Instead of blogs, please post links to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website; for example:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/

CDC Logo

Or post links to the World Health Information (WHO) website; for example:

https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

WHO Logo

In most cases, blogs are just opinions or hearsay. However well-intended they might be, personal blogs often perpetuate misinformation. Any discussion about symptoms or treatments should be coming from experts in their respective fields.


PS - And yes, I do see the irony that I am posting this in a blog.

Winking smile

Happy Pi Day 2020!!!

A couple years ago I created a piece of music for "Pi Day" from the first 256 digits of Pi. I won't bother to go into the details for that experiment, save to say that I simply took the numbers from Pi and added those to a root note of a major scale and let the notes fall where they may. This was a pretty simple exercise, and I'd been kicking around an idea for a much better exercise ever since.

With that in mind, given the proximity to St. Patrick's day, I decided to create a new piece with an Irish feel.

Here's what I did for this experiment:

I chose to use a 5-note pentatonic scale instead of a 7-note major scale, and I did so because there are 10 numbers in our base 10 numbering system, and 2 x 5 = 10. With that in mind, in my first draft of this experiment, all of the notes in the piece were derived by using a pentatonic scale with a 2-octave range, and mapping the numbers 0 to 9 from the first 252 places of Pi to the 10 notes of the 2-octave scale. (I'll explain why I used 252 places of Pi later.) This first draft placed the piece within the range of an Irish Tin Whistle, and I chose the key of D Major since that's the predominant key for that instrument.

However, while I was entering the notes and listening to the playback, many of the notes were often too far apart from their surrounding notes, with very strange octave jumps, which made the whole piece sound random. With that in mind, I decided to use modulus division to cut the range in half, thereby forcing all of the notes into a 1-octave pentatonic scale. In other words, if a number from Pi was over 5, then I subtracted 5.

This change for my second draft of this experiment resulted in a much smaller scale of "D E F# A B" to work with, and the 1-octave scale fell within range of the bagpipes, so I added drones for "D A D" beneath the melody to add to the illusion of a piper playing. However, during playback with a bagpipe sample, something sounded weird: every time there were two notes of the same pitch next to each other, it sounded odd. I quickly realized that was because an Irish musician won't hold a note for two beats - they'll use ornamentation to separate the identical pitches so it doesn't sound like one continuous note.

My good friends Randy Clepper (www.randyclepper.com) and Mark Wade (www.markalanwade.com) have taught a lot of classes about Irish ornamentation. I leveraged some of the things that I learned from them, and I added "cuts" to each of the sections where there were two notes that needed to be separated. By way of explanation, a "cut" is when you play a quick grace note above the note that is in the melody line. So if you have a A followed by an A in the melody, you would play the first A of the melody, then jump up quickly and play a B before returning to the second A of the melody, making sure to land the second A of the melody on the beat where it belongs. (Depending on the instrument that you are playing, you would play a cut by playing the first A of the melody, then hit a grace note A before jumping to the grace note B, and returning to the second A of the melody. It's like a really fast triplet.) Once I added the Irish ornamentation throughout the piece, it contributed significantly to the Celtic feel.

The drum beat was another exercise in self-indulgence that was fun to do. Because this entire experiment is about math, I chose to create a "Slip Jig," because they're in a 9/8 time signature. Hardly anyone uses that time signature, but it added a lot of possibilities. The accents that I chose were based on the steps that Irish dancers would use for a Slip Jig, which are beats 1 3 4 6 7, which creates a | X - X X - X X - - | beat. Since I play bodhran, I added rolls where I might use them if I were playing in a session.

Lest I forget, the 9/8 time signature is the reason for using the first 252 places of Pi. In my previous Pi Day experiment, I used the first 256 places of Pi, because 256 is one of those golden geek numbers. Since I already had those numbers lying around, I divided 256 by the 9 from the time signature, which resulted in 28.4. I rounded that down to 28, which gave me the number of measures that I would create. So 28 measures of 9 notes each meant that I only needed 252 places for this experiment. (See? It's all so simple, isn't it?)

And last but not least, the 157 bpm tempo that I chose to use was derived from taking 314 (e.g. "3.14") and dividing by 2. ('Cause, you know - more math.)

The Coronavirus Crisis, Conmen, and the Combover Crusader

Someone that I know just posted the following opinion piece from CNN, while simultaneously peddling this article as 'truth:'

In coronavirus crisis, Tom Hanks is more of a role model than Donald Trump

Wow. Just... wow.

I have seen some opportunistic articles try to spin and twist political gain from what is essentially a random act of nature, but this article?

Wow, again.

That has got to be the stupidest article that I have seen thus far. Seriously. CNN has apparently decided to absolve themselves completely from any vestige of responsible journalism and integrity.

If you've read my blogs before, you will see that I am no fan of our current President. In fact, I often refer to him by John Oliver's pet name of the "Drumpf." (I thought that nickname seemed fitting for Trump, even if it's a grade-school insult that was coined by someone who might otherwise have been mistaken for a grown adult.)

Nevertheless, I would agree with an ever-increasing number of people who feel that the Drumpf is a narcissistic twit. But if people at CNN (and their readers) are going to start pointing fingers, then let's look at some actual numbers from the CDC for COVID19 and the 2009 N1H1 outbreak:

  • As of today, the total number of COVID19 cases in the USA are 1,215, with 36 deaths. (CDC: https://bit.ly/2U4uRxg)
  • In comparison, a single year of the 2009 N1H1 outbreak yielded 60.8 million cases, with 12,469 deaths. (CDC: https://bit.ly/2U5Fb8k)

Where was the panic in 2009? Where was the righteous indignation about our then-President's inability to get out in front of that pandemic in a timely manner?

Our current President - despite being a narcissistic twit - has effectively shut down a great deal of the country in order to slow the spread of a disease that has affected only 0.002% of the population that was affected by H1N1. And yet people are crying for his head on a platter.

This 'crisis' is wholly manufactured by the press, for which I am sure they have an ulterior motive - though I do not know what possible purpose crashing the stock market and terrorizing the population will achieve. (Apart from receiving millions of dollars from advertising revenue that is generated from increased traffic to news websites as panicked lemmings search in vain for information during a time of misinformation.)

Nevertheless, articles like the one my friend posted are perfect evidence of modern media's nefarious intent. I'm generally not one for conspiracy theories, but the following meme is starting to look a little more like reality each day...

Coronavirus-Hype

Momentarily disregarding people's hatred for the Drumpf - who is THEIR PRESIDENT whether they accept it or not - many opportunistic lowlifes are attempting to sow division at a time when people should be unifying. They are wholly dismissive of the facts regarding how bad this disease is (or isn't), and how this administration is handling the situation. While at the same time they are giving their beloved President-of-Choice (the Drumpf's unprincipled predecessor) a free pass for his years of dishonesty and ineptitude during his tenure in office.

Regardless of how people feel about the facts that I have just shared - they're still the FACTS. And facts don't care about their feelings. Facts don't care about their hatred. Facts don't care about their bias. And THAT is the ACTUAL 'truth.'

Squirrels are Better than Birds

True story - when I lived in Seattle, I had a bird feeder hanging from a tree branch just outside my office window. But birds seldom used it, because squirrels kept raiding it. After a while, I decided that the squirrels were far more interesting than the birds, but I had to make it a challenge for them (and fun for me).

First I added one of the plastic semi-circular baffles to the feeder, which prevented the squirrels from climbing down from above. The squirrels learned to jump up from below the feeder using objects in my yard, so I moved the bird feeder a little higher, and then I watched with great amusement as the squirrels would continue to jump from the ground, but miss by a good distance. Then they would climb back up on the objects in my yard, and just stare at the feeder - as if to say, "Huh. That worked yesterday."

Then they learned that they could jump from the trunk of the tree and grab on with just one claw before crashing to the ground, but that was enough, and they resumed their raids. So I moved the feeder a little further out on the branch, and watched with great amusement as the squirrels would now fall far too short and hit the wall of my house with a dull thud. People would come in the office to talk to me and hear, "Clunk. ... Clunk. ... Clunk." They'd look at me quizzically, and I'd say, "Meh. It's just my squirrels."

After a while the squirrels learned that it wasn't going to work, so they'd climb the tree and just stare at the feeder, and I could tell that they were weighing every option available to them. Mind you, I kept refilling the feeder with store-bought squirrel food this entire time. Even though I was making life difficult for them, I was still trying to keep them well fed.

squirrel-stare-down

Eventually I noticed that the birds had returned, but by then I could not have cared less about them. Seeing birds on my feeder meant that my squirrels had been defeated, and my heart went out to them. After all, the squirrels had worked so hard for so long.

I decided to cut the squirrels a break, and I moved my feeder so that it was back in long distance jumping range for them. I never saw the birds again, but that didn't bother me at all - because almost every day from then on I saw a squirrel hanging on the feeder upside down by one claw. We'd make eye contact for a moment, and I knew they were grateful. Or annoyed. One can never be too sure with a squirrel.