Coloring Historical Photographs - May 16th Edition

I found another interesting photo in an aviation forum, and I thought that I'd take a quick pass at colorizing it. It's a WWII Navy pilot standing on the wing of a Grumman Hellcat F6F, and despite some trying - I couldn't find out who he is.

WWII-Navy-Pilot-Before-and-After

The colorization isn't perfect, of course, but I think it adds a bit of depth to the story. There is something obvious that I got wrong, though: the undercarriage of the Hellcat should have been colored gray.

Of course, I could go back and fix that now, but... meh. Not today.

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 of his full, 8-minute talk below.

Of course, our planet is currently 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 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 cynics 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 naysayers 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.

Learning the Local Language

Growing up in Tucson, Arizona, I never bothered to lean Spanish. I had plenty of opportunities, though. Spanish was offered in all the schools, and I ventured south of the border on a handful of occasions through border towns like Nogales. But the main reason why I never bothered to learn more than a few words in Spanish was because I resented the fact that so many people were coming across the southern border and insisting that I learn Spanish to speak with them, instead of learning English to speak with me in my own country.

It frustrated me to no end that everything in Tucson was required to be printed in both languages; I thought that this was laziness on "their" part. Meanwhile, I studied German in High School, because I was certain that German was going to be a useful language in a state where the two spoken languages were English and Spanish. (Hint: Sarcasm.)

But then a weird thing happened: I joined the Army to become a Russian Linguist in the mid-1980s, and I was sent to the the Defense Language Institute (DLI) to learn the Russian language. After I graduated from two years of military training, I was sent to Germany for the next several years. (As it turns out, my years of studying German had actually paid off. Who would have thought?)

However, while I was stationed in Germany, I noticed an odd thing happening: a lot of the American GIs who were stationed there never picked up the German language, and many of the Germans appeared to have no knowledge of English. But here's the odd part about that: I discovered later that most of those Germans actually spoke English. I got to know some German friends while I was stationed there, and they told me that they resented the fact that Americans were "too lazy to learn the local language," so they pretended like they didn't know English. But by the late 1980s, all students were required to study English in the local German schools, so it is no stretch of the imagination to say that pretty much everyone spoke a modicum of English.

It reminds me of the following video:

That being said, I could speak the German language on a passable level, and most Germans were very forgiving of my frequent mistakes because they could see that I was making an effort. I remember botching my order at a restaurant, and my waitress coldly retorted in condescending English, "I can speak English!" To which I replied in fluent German, "Yes, but we're in Germany, and I want to speak German in Germany." This caught her off guard, and her attitude improved greatly; for the rest of the evening we spoke nothing but the local language. And that was largely my experience while stationed in Germany; most Germans spoke a bit of English, and yet most Germans respected my efforts when I attempted to interact with them in their native tongue.

Although I have to say, there was one woman that I knew in passing when I was stationed in Germany who NEVER learned any English.

Here's her story:

My wife and I lived off post in a tiny German village, and there was an older woman who took her evening walks around the time that I arrived home from work each day. And by "older," I mean that she was in her 80s, and I was stationed in Germany during the late 1980s. In other words, she was in her 40s when WWII ended in 1945, which means that I represented an "occupying force" in her eyes. I was a visible, constant reminder of everything she hated.

I already knew a bit of German when I arrived, of course, but I continued to learn German while I was stationed there, and I would always greet the old woman by at least waving and saying, "Hi." By the end of my first year, I received nothing from her but the evil eye treatment. For the second year, her apparent loathing of me was reduced to a passing, disapproving glance. By the third year, she had met my wife and young daughters several times as they went through the village on their own walks; the old woman LIKED them, so eventually I would receive a smileless shrug in exchange for my more elegant greetings.

When my wife and I finally left Germany sometime during our fourth year, the old woman still wouldn't talk to me, but she would at least make an effort to stop and wave in return. There was still no smile, of course, but I think she viewed me less and less as a potential enemy... even if I kind of was the enemy. I would like to think that in the end, the efforts my wife and I made to assimilate ourselves into the local culture yielded a grudging respect from her.

Nevertheless, when my wife and I returned home from Germany, we returned to Arizona, and my former resentment over the local language was long gone. By that time I had interacted with and experienced multiple cultures, and I had learned the value of making an effort where language is concerned. Oh sure, I meet the occasional person who has lived here for more than a decade and still insists that they haven't learned any English. I'm willing to bet that they're not being entirely truthful, but I learned during my tenure as a linguist that not all languages are equal, and as it turns out - English is a terrible language to learn if you weren't born here. On the other hand, Spanish is considerably easier to learn, for just about anyone.

So in the end, these days I make a conscious effort to speak Spanish when I have the chance, and I appreciate it when visitors who travel across the southern border make a conscious effort to speak a little English from time to time.


POSTSCRIPT:

As my wife and I have continued to travel the globe, I have always made an effort to pick up something of the local language wherever we go. Of course, the depth of my learning is usually just enough to greet people, to understand basic directions, to purchase something, and to order food. I learned enough French to get by in France, enough Italian to get around in Italy, and even a basic understanding of some common Tahitian phrases when I was in French Polynesia. I would never say that my language skills were anything more than the most basic of levels in any of those languages, but still - I made an effort, and it was always appreciated.

An Ode to SOS

I belong to a few different Veteran's forums, and recently someone mentioned that they had completed their tour of service without ever having tried the military's infamous SOS, which is an "affectionate" name for creamed ground beef over biscuits. The name is an acronym for (ahem) "Stuff on a Shingle," (although in Army parlance it's a different four-letter word instead of "stuff.")

SOS

Nevertheless, I thought that it might be fun to write a few words as an homage to one of the most-hated and yet most-loved dishes in the military cookbook. SOS may have tasted awful, but it was better than starving, and it taught me to be truly thankful for what I had.

I do not mean to sound so rude
By poking fun at Army food
But I have had their SOS
And can attest it's not the best
I've also had green eggs and ham
And a dozen types of mangled spam
I did not think those things existed
Until such time as I enlisted

My stomach now is ironclad
And can withstand when food is bad
If I sit back and reminisce
Those tasteless morsels I dismiss
Time, it seems, has helped to heal
My memories of horrid meals
Of MREs and old C-RATs
Which tasted more like stale, dried cat

The Army cooks, they tried their best
To create something we could digest
Suffice to say, we still survived
The food was bad, but we're alive
To bring my story to a close
I'd like to say before I go
That SOS may taste like crap
But it's better than a long, dirt nap

Smile

The Shrimp of my Father

Spanish is more or less the fourth language that I've learned, and recent experience has reminded me that I'm a little out of practice.

I was trying to tell my middlest daughter about Linda Ronstadt's "Canciones de mi Padre" album, but what I said was "Camarones de mi Padre."

Caramones-de-mi-Padre

While that may be amusing, it just isn't the same...

Open-mouthed smile

Secret Origins of the COVID19 Coronavirus - Part II

Fast on the heels of my recent Secret Origins of the COVID19 Coronavirus post, it's time for Part II of this series. (Which wasn't meant to be a series, but I couldn't resist.)

I'm so thankful that in these trying times, Communist governments that spent months lying to the world about the existence of a possible pandemic-level outbreak can still find a way to use social media personalities to blame their negligence on - well, it's better if you see it yourself. Watch the following video and get ready for a truly mind altering twist on everything that you thought you knew.

Yes, those same wonderful Communists who imprisoned (or killed) their own doctors for trying to warn the world that something awful was coming, those same wonderful Communists who enforced "isolation" by using their military to round up ordinary citizens at gunpoint and haul them off to military gulags, have managed to find a new scapegoat on the world's stage. (Spoiler alert - it's the United States.) With that in mind, I'd like to remind everyone who didn't think that it was racist to label a viral outbreak from China as a "Chinese Virus" just how silly they look. This is obviously an "American Virus," and you're nothing but sheeple.


POSTSCRIPT:

All sarcasm aside, it's pretty scary when Bill Maher stops sounding like an idiot and starts to make sense in NSFW videos like the following.

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.