To sleep, perchance to dream…

I have never had a time in my life where I lived with a schedule that resulted in a traditional, eight hours of sleep. For starters, I am what most people would call a "Night Person." I love staying up late working on this project or that. Adding insult to injury, I am also a workaholic; I have no concept of what a decent work/life balance should look like. (I never have; even when I served in the military I overdid everything.)

However, once I finish my career-oriented tasks for the day, that's when I work on my hobbies. Late nights are my "Me Time," and I love getting involved in something that might take me days or weeks to complete. That being said, I also have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), so I rarely finish most of the hobby projects that I begin. (But that's another story for another day.)

Anyway, as someone who has spent their entire life routinely abusing themselves where sleep is concerned, I thought that my life could serve as a warning to others of what they might have in store for their futures if they follow my example of habitual late night activities and poor work/life decisions.

Insomnia

This might seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes I work so much that I am too exhausted to sleep. I drag my sorry self around the house and eventually collapse into bed, but sleep never comes. I am genuinely tired, but I cannot bring myself to fall asleep. After an hour or so, I give up and drag myself back to my desk to continue working.

Another type of insomnia that I battle is caused by a combination of stress, workaholism, and ADD. When these three factors intersect each other in my life, they create a perfect storm of sleepless days and nights. I might lie down now and again, but my brain is constantly racing - I'm thinking of this detail or that, or this deadline or that… I think of a thousand things that I should be doing, and I cannot force my brain to rest.

I once participated in a sleep study (at the request of my doctor). The testing facility had several rooms, and I am convinced that everyone else in the facility was asleep by 10pm at the latest. In my room, however, 2am rolled around and I was still working on my laptop, reading reports from work, and watching a series of documentaries on the TV in my room. I was still wide awake and easily could have been up for a few more hours. The technicians from the sleep study eventually had to come to my room and inform me that if I didn't go to sleep, my entire test would be voided. I regretfully packed up all my things and climbed under the covers, but I still didn't fall asleep until 4am or so.

Sleep Paralysis

This is one of the most-terrifying experiences that you can imagine: you wake up, but you cannot breathe, you cannot speak, and none of your muscles will work. This scenario has happened to me on more occasions than I can remember, and based on what I have read about it, this condition is caused by a combination of stress and sleep deprivation. (Both of which are constant fixtures in my life.) What causes this condition is that our human bodies are paralyzed when we sleep, and this happens in order to prevent us from physically acting out during our dreams. (e.g. Sleepwalking, etc.) However, if you constantly impede your body's attempts to sleep naturally, you can run into a situation where the paralysis does not go away as you awaken, which quickly leads to panic.

As I mentioned earlier, I have lived through this experience more times than I can recall, and my method of breaking out of the situation feels like it takes a great deal of effort - both mentally and physically. When I wake up paralyzed and unbreathing, I immediately feel as though I am suffocating, and I panic. However, I cannot call for help, nor can I move any of my limbs. I have to force myself to think through the panic and concentrate on moving just one finger, and when I am able to do that, I work on a second finger, then a hand, then an arm, and eventually the paralysis begins to fade. All of this takes place in a matter of seconds, but it is a horribly agonizing period of time that seems like several minutes of intense suffering.

Thankfully, my sleep paralysis is not accompanied by hallucinations, but that appears to be a common problem. (See 15 People On Their Experience With The Sleep Paralysis Demon.)

Nightmares/Night Terrors

A direct result of terrible sleep patterns and living with constant stress is that your brain will inevitably take out its frustrations on your sleep time. Sometimes this will simply result in less sleep or poor quality sleep, while at other times you will be tortured by nightmares or night terrors. People with PTSD tend to experience these same sleep disorders, and in my experience - living with constant stress and constantly changing sleep patterns eventually leads to a form of low-scale PTSD.

I used to be plagued with nightmares of falling, or drowning, or being the victim of a heinous crime, or being attacked my monsters. Thankfully, I learned to master Lucid Dreaming, wherein a person who is dreaming becomes aware that they are in a dream, and then learns how to control their dreams. It might sound like make-believe or a hokey fantasy, but Lucid Dreaming has helped me put an end to all of my nightmares. I can now fly in my dreams, I can breathe underwater, and I can pick and choose what gets to stay and what has to leave when I'm dreaming. (I wish I could teach others how to dream lucidly, but the truth is - I'm not sure how I learned to do it myself; all I know is that Lucid Dreaming forever changed my life for the better.)

Narcoleptic Behavior

I do not have actual narcolepsy, and I genuinely feel sorry for those who suffer from that disorder. However, I have - on occasion - experienced some of its symptoms.

For example, I was working on a project a few years ago, wherein someone had promised someone else far too much work for me to complete in far too short a time period. As a result, I was working around the clock for a whole week. I would work for hours until I would suddenly lose consciousness, then I would sleep uncomfortably for a few minutes wherever I was located and in whichever position I collapsed. When I awoke, I would continue to work for several hours until I lost consciousness again, and then I would repeat the whole process. When the project was over, it took me weeks to recover from the abuse, and I had to drop out of a Master's Degree program that I was attending outside of work. (As of today, I have yet to return to that degree program.)

Trust me - that was a horrible way to live.

Inverted Circadian Rhythms

After several intense work projects that have required me to put in a lot of long hours, I have eventually realized that my body clock was completely upside down. I wanted to head off to sleep around 6am, wake up around noon, and work until 6am the next day. Believe it or not, I can thrive and be extremely productive with that work schedule. The trouble with this scenario is that people keep scheduling meetings at 9am (or earlier), so even if I head off to bed around 6am, I'm still getting up in a couple hours to go back to work.

Sleep-Deprived Hallucinations

Thankfully I have not experienced this situation recently, but when I stay up for three days or more, I begin to hallucinate.

A story that I occasionally tell dates back to a time in the military when I was required to be awake for more than four days. After I had been up for around 90-100 hours, I was driving a HMMWV down the German autobahn with a friend in the passenger seat. As I looked at the road in front of me, I asked my friend, "Do you see dogs all over the road?" He replied, "No… maybe you should let me drive." We pulled over and changed seats, then we got back on the road. When we arrived at our destination, I managed to get two hours of sleep, then I went back to work.

There have been a few other times that I have suffered from sleep-deprived hallucinations, but that story was the worst.

All Of The Above

When working on a few intense projects, I have sometimes experienced all of the conditions that I listed earlier at the same time. Needless to say, this is awful when it happens. I quickly feel out of control, and utterly helpless to rectify the situation. On occasion I have gone to see my doctor, who prescribes something that will knock me out at night and force my body back onto a 'normal' sleep schedule, but I hate it. I feel as though I am losing half my life unless I can stay up until 2am or 4am. When I fall asleep at 10pm, I have no time for hobbies; I lose my precious "Me Time," and I sink into depression. So even though I can be forced through medication into a traditional sleep pattern, I will quickly fall back into a "Night Owl" schedule as soon as I am done with my medication.

In Closing

It's after 4am. I should probably head off to bed soon.

Winking smile


ADDITIONAL THOUGHT: I have written in other blogs that I suffer with a disorder called Essential Tremor, which is exacerbated by both stress and a lack of sleep. In other words, my chosen lifestyle contributes to my unwelcome tremors. However, one question has recently occurred to me: my lifestyle currently contributes to my condition, but did my lifestyle originally cause my condition? I may never know the answer to that question, but it's something to think about.

Just Shut Up and Wear the Darn Mask

I've been trying to refute a great deal of bogus information that I've been seeing in social media about wearing masks in public, and I'd like to consolidate some of my responses from a few different posts into a single, standalone narrative.

I see a lot of people complaining about having to wear a mask, which is actually a pretty easy thing for people to do. But the point of wearing a mask these days has less to do with preventing people from catching the disease if they don't wear a mask; it's more about preventing people who are asymptomatic from spreading diseases to others. Quite often people with COVID-19 do not show any symptoms until long after they have acquired the disease, but they are still highly contagious. With that in mind, wearing a mask demonstrates your concern for other people's health, rather than a concern for your personal health. (And conversely, failing to wear a mask demonstrates your lack of concern for other people's health, rather than a lack of concern for your personal health.)

Think of it this way: when surgeons put on masks before entering an operating room, it's not because they're afraid of catching something from the patient - it's because they're afraid of of passing something to the patient. It's the same thing when you wear a mask; you may not be protecting yourself, but you're protecting everyone around you. Since most people do not show symptoms for over a week, you could infect an untold number of people before you even realize that you're the problem. So, out of courtesy for your fellow humans, you should wear a mask when you're around other people.

If you don't want to take my word for it, here's the CDC's latest verbiage from their website at https://bit.ly/3fAp0Jo:

"CDC continues to study the spread and effects of the novel coronavirus across the United States. We now know from recent studies that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms ('asymptomatic') and that even those who eventually develop symptoms ('pre-symptomatic') can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms. This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity - for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing - even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms. In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission."

And one more thing: people tend to post images they find that reinforce their personal opinions without checking for accuracy. But don't be so quick to believe an image that fits a narrative that you want to hear; you should treat everything with skepticism and always check for accuracy before posting. For example, one of the following images was posted to social media, and all it took was five minutes in Photoshop to completely alter the meaning and create the counterfeit image.

FAUX-MASK-WARNING

It's not perfect, of course, but the results would convince most people. If I bothered to spend another ten minutes editing, I could have made the alterations fool-proof. So don't believe something you see just because you want it to be true, because it's far too easy to create a false 'reality' these days.

Yeah, well, that’s just like your opinion, man

I have mentioned in several previous blogs that I love conspiracy theories; and as I have said before, I do not believe any of them. But still - it is a never-ending source of amusement for me to see what others are gullible enough to believe.

However, I should explain how I typically respond to conspiracy-related information that I know is bogus when it is posted to public forums:

  • If I see that someone has posted something inaccurate that is based on their mistaken beliefs and is clearly harmless to anyone, I usually have a quick laugh and move on.
  • If I see that someone has posted something inaccurate that is an urban legend or a hoax, I often point them to a fact-checking website like www.factcheck.org in order to stop the spread of false information.
  • If I see that someone is posting information that is deliberately misleading and harmful to society, I will also point them to a fact-checking website like www.factcheck.org, but I will also ask them to stop posting information that will harm others.

I freely admit that I am not the "Internet Police." It is not my job to point out every instance where someone has posted bogus information. And - to be honest - that job would take far too much time. However, people's reactions to correction vary widely; some people are thankful to discover that they were posting something that wasn't true, while others are deeply offended that anyone would question their judgment. This latter group of people has recently become very, very dangerous. The world is struggling with the mounting death toll of a global pandemic, and the last thing that we need is people posting bogus information about it.

I have made it abundantly clear in previous blogs how I feel about anti-vaxxers. Several of the anti-vaxxers that I know are well-meaning people, even though they mistakenly believe something that is fundamentally wrong. What many of these anti-vaxxers believe has been refuted time and again, but they ignore all of the evidence to the contrary, and they cling to their inaccuracies with a passion that resembles radical religious zealotry. I continuously see incorrect information strewn about by these anti-vaxxers, which stirs up a great deal of unnecessary fear of science. As a direct result of that fear, other people have been avoiding medical treatment that will save lives. (Even though people in developing nations are crying out to receive that same medical treatment.)

As I have pointed out in the past, our nation - the United States - has been blessed with amazing health care. Decades of successful vaccination programs have eradicated some diseases, and rendered others nearly moot - at least within our shores. This has resulted in domestic complacency with regard to immunology, while countries around the world are still grappling with infectious diseases and clamoring for treatments that we take for granted.

All of this discussion leads me to a conversation that I had earlier today with an anti-vaxxer who was claiming that the USA's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was a corrupt company that was only in the business of selling vaccinations for profit. If you'll refer to my second point above, you'll see how I initially reacted. I pointed out the errors that the ill-informed anti-vaxxer was posting, (for example the fact that the CDC is actually a government agency that is funded by tax dollars), and I referred this anti-vaxxer to the www.factcheck.org website to correct the other misleading information that was posted.

As you might imagine, this did not sit well with the anti-vaxxer. As I mentioned earlier, this person was deeply offended that anyone would question their judgment. And in reply to the facts that were presented to refute the inaccuracies that this anti-vaxxer had posted, I was told something to the effect that I was entitled to my own opinion.

yeah-well-thats-just-like-your-opinion-man

The problem with that argument is that people are entitled to their 'opinions' when they are discussing something trivial, like whether the Pittsburgh Steelers are more important in the history of football than the Patriots. (Hint: they are.) But when it comes to actual science, opinions do not matter - facts matter. And facts do not care about your opinions.

When this anti-vaxxer continued to push the issue and post messages that were ultimately going to lead people astray, I shifted from the second point in my list of responses to conspiracy theorists to the third point. At our current stage in world history, the fear of life-saving immunology that anti-vaxxers continue to promote is intolerable; it is anti-science, anti-reason, and anti-facts.

As far as the CDC is concerned, a basic study of its duties and responsibilities show that its collection of scientists are fully-employed in trying to investigate and find treatments for thousands of diseases; such as HIV/AIDS, Cancer, Tuberculosis, Alzheimer's, Hepatitis, Diabetes, etc. They are also responsible for researching and preventing a host of occupational and public health issues. Their workforce of more than 15,000 employees has over 50% with advanced degrees; many of them doctors who are specialists in their respective fields of virology, pathology, microbiology, immunology, epidemiology, etc. These specialists will often have at least a decade of formal education in their fields, then another 10 to 30 years of experience within their chosen specialty.

With all of that in mind, it takes a special kind of hubris for an anti-vaxxer to assume that they know more than these thousands of well-educated and brilliant minds because he or she read a blog that agreed with their pre-existing opinion, even though their pre-existing opinion is baseless and easily-refutable nonsense.

The following video sums this up nicely.

In the end, of course, nothing that I said could convince this anti-vaxxer that he or she was wrong. This person continued to cling to the mistaken opinion that vaccines are the evil by-products of a world-wide plot involving the CDC, the WHO, and a host of other organizations and individuals. I realized that there was nothing that I could do, so I left this anti-vaxxer to his or her delusions, although I wished that neither this pandemic nor the next would claim the life of someone in his or her family.

But, you know, that's just like my opinion, man.


UPDATE: I had originally meant to add the following video from PBS to this post. It's from a few years ago, yet it explains some of what is happening in today's world quite well.

It's all about Perspective - Part II

Several people that I know have been posting and reposting images like the following, which cite the fatality current numbers from www.worldometers.info. More often than not, people are posting these images in an effort to downplay the fatality rate of COVID-19 by comparing it to other causes of death.

Worldwide-Deaths

First of all, I think it's foolish to compare diseases in this manner. I'm not sure why so many people are intentionally trying to deny that COVID-19 is a highly contagious disease that has a pretty decent chance of killing people.

Let me be clear, I fully admit that many people have overestimated the spread of this pandemic, and it seems that both the academic and scientific worlds are making up the numbers for their projections based on some sort of randomization algorithm. In addition, the press seems to have nothing better to do than to drag the country through thousands of hours of reporting, wherein the common denominator seems to be, "We have no idea what we're saying, but please listen to us anyway - because we desperately need the ratings."

However, there is another problem that I often see throughout the Western Hemisphere, which bothers me more than these numbers: we see everything from the perspective of what impacts us, so we tend to ignore things that affect the rest of the world. If you were to step outside the safety bubble of the Western Hemisphere, you would see that diseases like Measles, Polio, and Tuberculosis still run rampant.

In North America, we don't care about any of those diseases, because we haven't had to deal with them for several decades. As I have pointed out in other blogs, this has led to the unscientific Antivaxxer movement, and a completely illogical public distrust of our medical establishment, which is best health care available in the history of humanity.

With all of that in mind, I would say that the following lists illustrates what a lot of the people in this country are thinking when they see lists like those in the images:

COVID-19 "OMG!!! WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!" -or- "IT'S JUST A HOAX!!! WAKE UP, SHEEPLE!!!"
Seasonal Flu "Meh, those pro-vaxxer idiots get their flu shots, so I have herd immunity."
Malaria "Meh, not in America. We have screen doors and fly swatters."
Suicide "Meh, those people were unhappy. They just needed to cheer up."
Traffic Fatalities "Meh, those are acceptable losses. I gotta have my wheels, dude."
HIV/AIDS "Hey! That's a privacy issue! You can't ask me about that! So leave me alone! Or leave them alone! Or, whatever...!"
Alcohol "Meh, Prohibition was sooooooo bad for the country. Besides, I'm not an alcoholic. I can quit drinking anytime."
Cancer "Meh, not gonna happen to me. Got any cigarettes?"
Hunger "Meh, there's like a McDonald's or Starbucks on every corner. So what's the deal?"
Abortion "MY BODY!!! MY CHOICE!!!"

More often than not, people in the Western Hemisphere or North America ignore the lists in those images for two reasons: complacency and denial.

  • The cause of the complacency is: decades of successful vaccination programs and our excellent health care system, both of which are still the best medical services that the world has ever seen.
  • The cause of the denial is: selfishness. People want what they want, and they don't want anyone telling them that they can't have what they want, whether that is harmful to themselves or others or the environment. (We live in a free society, and one of the downsides to freedom is: it teaches people to be irresponsible.)

In short, many people living in the Western Hemisphere believe that they have the right to selectively care only about what they feel might impact them adversely, and to ignore everything else; whether that means the suffering of others, or their poor lifestyle choices.

Annoyed

It's all about Perspective

One of my former colleagues recently posted a link to the following blog, which I thought does a great job of putting a lot of our current situation into a better perspective:

However, that blogger cites the source as unknown, so he wasn't the original author. With that in mind, I think it's fair to reprint the contents here:

For a small amount of perspective at this moment, imagine you were born in 1900. When you are 14, World War I starts and ends on your 18th birthday with 22 million people killed. Later in the year, a Spanish Flu epidemic hits the planet and runs until you are 20. Fifty million people die from it in those two years. Yes, 50 million.

When you're 29, the Great Depression begins. Unemployment hits 25%, global GDP drops 27%. That runs until you are 33. The country nearly collapses along with the world economy.

When you turn 39, World War II starts. You aren't even over the hill yet. When you're 41, the United States is fully pulled into WWII. Between your 39th and 45th birthday, 75 million people perish in the war and the Holocaust kills six million.

At 50, the Korean War starts, and five million perish.

At 55 the Vietnam War begins, and it doesn't end for 20 years. Four million people die in that conflict. Approaching your 62nd birthday you have the Cuban Missile Crisis, a tipping point in the Cold War. Life on our planet, as we know it, could well have ended. Great leaders prevented that from happening. As you turn 75, the Vietnam War finally ends.

Think of everyone on the planet born in 1900.

How do you survive all of that?

A kid in 1985 didn't think their 85-year-old grandparent understood how hard school was. Yet those grandparents (and now great grandparents) survived through everything listed above. Perspective is an amazing art. Let's try and keep things in perspective. Let's be smart, help each other out, and we will get through all of this.

That article, in summary, lists all the ways that the 20th century would have tried to kill you if you had been born in the year 1900. Between world wars and devastating diseases, the previous century was a terrible time to live.

And yet, I cannot help but think that the fatality numbers in that blog mostly reflect only the situations where the Western Hemisphere was somehow involved; they fail to address other mass repressions and genocides like:

  • The Stalinist Purges in Russia (approximately 30 million deaths)
  • The Chinese Cultural Revolution (approximately 30 million deaths)
  • The Cambodian Genocide (approximately 2 million deaths)
  • The Khmer Rouge repressions (approximately 2 million deaths)
  • The Armenian Genocide (approximately 1.5 million deaths)
  • The Rape of Nanking (approximately 500 thousand deaths)
  • And I have no accurate sources to estimate the number of deaths in South America and Africa due to famines, diseases, genocides, and civil wars

In other words, if you had been born in the 1900, but you had lived somewhere other than North America during the 20th century, your chances of meeting with a violent death would have increased even more dramatically than the original article would suggest. I mention that because I met several people when I was stationed overseas who had survived many of those devastations; I knew Germans and Britons who had survived World Wars, depressions, repressions, famines, diseases, etc., yet today's over-privileged youths act like the world is ending if their Internet is too slow. As the writer of that blog suggested, it's all about perspective.

Anyway, it's food for thought.

Thinking smile

Antivaxxers versus Bill Gates

Several years ago, Bill Gates delivered a great TED talk that he called "The next outbreak? We’re not ready." In his presentation, Gates described how the world would not be prepared for the next global pandemic, and you can watch the video his full, 8-minute talk below.

Of course, our planet is now gripped by a global pandemic, and we can now see how few people bothered to pay attention to what Gates was saying. As of today, more than 3 million people have been infected world wide, with around a quarter of a million deaths. (See https://www.bing.com/covid/ for details.)

Because of the relevance of Gates' TED talk to today's situation, there are many people who believe that Gates has the power to see the future. That is, of course, ludicrous; as Gates said in his presentation, a global pandemic was a statistical certain certainty. Then there are a lot of people who ignore Gates, because they believe that he is not an expert in the field; those people have no idea what they're talking about. Gates has spent the past couple decades spending billions of dollars of his personal wealth on a quest to rid the world of disease, and he has actually evolved into something of an expert the field. (Which I will discuss later.)

However, there have also been a great number of conspiracy theorists who believe that Gates is somehow behind all of this, and he is using this situation to either get richer, or to have everyone implanted with microchips. (e.g. People seem to think that Gates is the antichrist.) Even though such rumors have been debunked several times, there are people who still cling to the false belief that Bill Gates is evil and should be killed.

After another round of what seemed to be an endless stream of fools spewing hatred against Gates on various social media platforms, I grew tired of all the paranoia and stupidity, and I posted the following message:

Smallpox used to be one of the most devastating threats to humanity, taking the lives of untold millions of people over several millennia (see https://bit.ly/2SNANeD). Yet when a vaccine was invented that would prevent the spread of the disease, (thereby saving millions of lives), the uneducated and ignorant masses fought it for decades, until widespread adoption of vaccinations finally brought an end to that infestation in the 1980s.

Now we have Bill Gates, whom many people love to hate simply because his business acumen allowed him to amass a personal fortune. Rather than sitting back and keeping his money to himself (like Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs), Gates and his wife have poured billions of dollars into trying to rid the world of several devastating diseases: polio, measles, malaria, tuberculosis, etc. (see https://bit.ly/2VXIFMs).

I would have loved to think that our society had moved beyond the superstitious naysayers who preferred death by smallpox over its cure, but it seems that I was far too optimistic in my expectations. Every day I seem to see a never-ending stream of vitriol emanating from the uneducated and ignorant who seem to think that ridding the world of infectious disease has some sort of nefarious motivation.

Let me be blunt - if you hate Bill Gates because you think that Windows 8 was a clunker of an operating system, then so be it. If you hate Bill Gates because you hate rich people, then you're probably just jealous that your life never amounted to anything, and it's easier to blame others than to accept the fact that your current situation is the sum total of all your life's bad decisions. However, if you hate ANYONE who is giving away billions of dollars of their personal wealth to fight disease, promote education, and provide clean water for developing nations, etc., then I'm afraid that you're little more than a small-minded, superstitious Luddite.

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.

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.

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

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 being exaggerated 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.'


UPDATE: When this blog was first posted, I had written, "This 'crisis' is wholly manufactured by the press…," which was not what I actually meant. What I meant to convey was that the press was spending far too much time on the issue and winding the populace into a general panic, thereby creating a great deal of pubic panic that could have been avoided. I have amended this post to reflect that I meant that the press was exaggerating the crisis, not manufacturing it.