15 May 2020

Don't Be a 💩🏊‍♂️!

I’ve been brooding about how this will likely be the first summer in decades I won’t be able to go out and swim a couple of miles every week. I’m not Masters level fast, mind you. But I love swimming. It's a full-body, cardio-vascular workout with no impact. My free-style recreational mile is usually just under 40 minutes—no toys or floaties or fins. And I do try to swim year round though my gym has been closed since February.

This put me in mind of what it was like when my kids were young and we would take them swimming. We wanted them to develop a love of the water at a young age. And we were gratified they all grew up to be on their swim teams, train to become lifeguards, and take up scuba diving—one of my great loves.

Every once in awhile we would get to the pool just as some kid had pooped 💩 in the shallow end. The lifeguards would have to clear everyone out for 24 hours while they shocked the pool with chlorine and ran a full filtration cycle.

This pandemic is actually a lot like that. This country has a big poop 💩 problem. The coronavirus is the poop in the social pool, and the stay-at-home, isolation, quarantining, and social distancing regimes are the 24-hour reboot.

The only problem now is that some people—some wealthy, some armed, some governors, and some presidents—want to reopen the pool before they’ve cleaned out all the poop 💩. And plenty of the loudest mouths are happy to let YOU be the poop 💩 swimmers 🏊‍♂️ so their stock portfolios or poll numbers won’t tank.

So, all I’m saying is don’t be a poop swimmer 💩🏊‍♂️! It's too early to re-open the economy without proper planning and precautions. The folks urging us to go in too early are not lifeguards; our health and safety is not their first concern.

Let’s let the filtration cycle run its full course and get the place cleaned out. This may take months. We may risk a second and third wave of COVID-19 which could be devastating. We all want to get back in the pool as soon as possible, but it’s not worth a mouthful of virus—or poop 💩 for that matter.

09 May 2020

More Plague Thoughts — More Political This Time

I posted the following thread on Twitter a couple of days ago.

Ok. Hold onto your collective hats. It’s time for some (conspiracy) game theory. In a very memorable phrase, Trump’s campaign manager Parscale recently declared that his ‘Death Star’ campaign was about to launch on all platforms. 1/10

The next day, a massive disinformation conspiracy theory video appears on Facebook filled with a mixture of misinformation, disinformation, and partial or slanted truth-or truthiness. Pl@ndemic. Millions of instantaneous views & shares. 2/10

This is a rather obvious piece of propaganda intended to confuse people, poison the dialogue, and create and play on people’s fear and doubt about the authority of using a scientific approach to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. 3/10

It was shocking how fast it “went viral.” And of course there was further PR complaining about how the media is attempting to squelch the truth. Which only propagated it more. But that’s not all. 4/10

Today it was announced that Trump’s valet tested positive for coronavirus, and in a memorable phrase Trump was lava level angry. It was this phrasing that jumped out at me. It sounds contrived. What does it matter what Trump is feeling? 5/10

Shouldn’t we be concerned about what he’s NOT been doing to protect the country? This feels like another distraction tactic to take the heat off of him for his negligence and reckless indifference and utter incompetence in dealing with this problem. 6/10

Now the speculation: Let’s say it’s not true, or only partially true—the valet has a common cold. But what if the campaign sequesters Trump for a couple weeks or so (a la Kim Jong-Un)? 7/10

Rumors spread that Trump has the virus. Everybody wants to know. Does he have it? Is he going to die? Nobody says anything. Then all of a sudden, he reappears (again like Kim). And the whisper campaign begins about how he beat the invisible enemy. 8/10

He’s a superman. He’s a God. It’s a miracle. God wants him to rule four more years, otherwise a lesser man would have succumbed. It’s campaign gold, I tell ya. 9/10

So, is this another move in the Death Star campaign. I wouldn’t put it past them. Watch this space! 10/10

PS. Yes, I’ m cynical, but not half as cyncical as this Trump campaign. Also a reminder: I craft narratives (create fiction) daily.

20 March 2020

Random Plague Thoughts (Mostly Non-Political)

  • COVID-19, the Novel Coronavirus is NOT the Zombie Apocalypse.
  • But it's like nothing any of us alive have ever experienced.
    • The Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 is our only global model precedent.
      • Though we have the experiences of China, S. Korea, and Italy to go by.
      • And these are so recent, their findings are hard to digest.
    • That flu was more deadly but not nearly as contagious.
  • One of the truly pernicious features of COVID-19 is the way it's spread:
    • If someone sneezes on me at the grocery story on a normal Tuesday...
      • I know I will come down with cold symptoms by the weekend.
    • With this virus, I might not show any symptoms for up to TWO WEEKS!
    • And all that time, I am infectious to everyone I come into contact with.
      • Unbeknownst to me or them!
  • The economic consequences of this current pandemic are going to be dire:
    • Q1 earnings/unemployment will only tell part of the story: ~three weeks of devastation.
    • Q2 will be devastating globally because the economic stoppage will be for the entire period.
      • Depression. Economic Armageddon.
      • The death of Neo-liberalism and Global Capitalism.
      • The rise of Socialism.
      • The implementation of Nationalist Isolationism and Military Dictatorships.
      • The suspension of democratic elections and even Constitutions.
      • None of the above. All of the above.
      • Who knows?
        • I certainly don't. And neither do you.
        • And that's the point: we are all dealing in uncertainties and unknowns.
        • One question to ponder though: Are the stock markets pricing these potential risks in now? (We'll come back to that.)
      • Still, there are some things we can speculate about reasonably.
  • China, e.g., is already starting to see the first signs of economic recovery—even in Wuhan.
    • Due primarily to early efforts at containment and isolation.
      • Only with broad testing are we able to determine how widespread the contagion is.
        • Frankly, the U.S. has no idea how bad it is here because we have so little testing...
          • Even for our front-line medical personnel.
    • China's economy is, however, manufacturing based.
      • Ours is more a service economy.
      • China, thus, may not be a good model.
        • Because you can isolate people on a factory floor but not, say, in a restaurant or at a show.
  • There may be some validity to the notion that the virus will dwindle by summer.
    • Summer colds suck but are not nearly as prevalent as winter colds.
  • Social distancing, isolation, and quarantining are key factors in stopping the spread now.
    • And we should all be observing them assiduously.
      • Probably at least through May or June.
    • But these measures also bring certain risks:
      • Chief among the risks: Fewer people are exposed to the virus.
      • Thus fewer develop immunities to it and remain vulnerable to exposure and infection.
  • If—IF—we see a dwindling of the virus and hints of an economic recovery by summer...
    • Many feel the economy and global equity markets will start to recover.
    • And social distancing, etc. (sports, concerts, bars, restaurants, etc.) may dwindle as well.
      • Folks will likely relax their precautions.
    • But there will not be a vaccination ready by that time.
      • And this is the problem.
  • Now, back to the Spanish Flu precedent (remember that?):
    • It, too, dwindled over the warmer months of 1918.
    • But came back with an even more virulent vengeance the next October.
      • And most of the deaths occurred over THAT winter stretching into 1919.
  • Yet, CDC is on the case.
    • People we know personally here in Atlanta who normally work on things like HIV/AIDS, cholera, ebola, flu, etc., have been reassigned.
      • It's all hands on deck for COVID-19.
        • This is a good thing. A very good thing.
  • But no matter how hard they work, a vaccine will not be ready for at least another year, if not longer.
    • This is a fact of life about vaccine trials: THEY TAKE TIME!
      • Both to check their effectiveness against the virus, and
      • Their dangers.
    • Next fall, if the Spanish Flu is any guide, could see a disastrous SECOND WAVE of the outbreak!
      • Unless, of course, some sort of therapy is developed.
    • There is some happy talk now from Trump about hydroxychloroquine, a malarial drug.
      • There is some evidence it can be repurposed to ease the effects of the coronavirus.
        • This evidence, however, is inconclusive...
        • And must likewise be investigated. Again, THIS TAKES TIME!
    • Again, CDC does not have any evidence at the present time that Chloroquine can mitigate the symptoms of COVID-19, say like Tamiflu does for the flu.
  • The point being: if we see a relaxing of the distancing precautions in the summer due to a belief that the virus is defeated, we may see a dramatic increase in cases next fall.
    • Remember, it is VERY contagious.
    • And, there being no vaccine, this could devastate the global economy even further.
      • And that includes the stock markets as well—IN A BIG WAY!
      • Meaning: a second major dip in the stock markets, another devastating hit to a recovering economy.
  • Bottom line: Don't sleep on this thing!
    • Don't get over-confident.
    • We are in this for the long haul.
      • At least until an effective vaccine is developed...
      • Or a proven therapy or even a cure is developed.
        • Then, and only then, will we have to deal with the idiot anti-vaxxers.
        • But at least they will have seen what a vaccine-less world looks like.

12 March 2020

11 March 2020

I Had a Day...

Arrived Thursday afternoon in Deer Valley, Utah—just up the hill from Park City, a short drive from Salt Lake City. Woke up at 4:15 am; out the door at 4:45. Drove 4+ hours to Moab. Entered Arches National Park at 9:00 am. Hiked until 1:30. Lunch at the Moab Brewery; coffee at Moab Roastery. Entered Canyonlands National Park at 3:30. Hiked until sunset, ~6:30. Drove back to Deer Valley, arriving 11:15 after all the skiers in the party had gone to bed. The day was nearly perfect: 60-65 degrees, mostly sunny. All told: 500+ miles driving; ~20,000 steps. These are some snapshots I took.

[Click pics to embiggen slideshow]

Gee, that's a GREAT looking LAKE! Wonder if it's SALT-y
Downtown Park City
Three Wisemen near the entrance to Arches NP
THREE WISEMEN up close and personal.
Contrails or Chemtrails? You decide! Tic Tac Toe above ARCHES NP.
You want to hike with me! The ledge trail on the way up to Delicate Arch.
Gee, that DELICATE ARCH seems kinda' tiny!
Delicate Arch: Astride the mountainside
Delicate Arch from underneath
Haha. Yes, I was there.
Such a poser.
Moar arches!
Vistas for days.
DOUBLE ARCHES. [Click pic to enlarge so you can see the tiny people]
Breath taken! CANYONLANDS NP
Canyons within Canyons within Canyons!
I may have mentioned: You want to hike with me! Scruffy Troll photobombing my picture. The path to GRAND VIEW POINT runs right along the canyon edge.
Like I said... 
Gasp! Sufficiently breathless.
For the ongoing series: Things growing on other things.
The path to Grand View Point.
Careful there, Jimbo!
View from the path.

20 February 2020

In Extremis

Key quotes from an article by Quassim Cassam in New Statesman entitled "Why Extremism Is a Question of Psychology, Not Politics" and Kevin Dorst at the Stranger Apologies blog.

Is 'extremism' a question of psychology and not politics? This is a question certainly worth asking. Cassam's talking about extremisms on both the right and the left here. His article raises the further question: If extremism is an attitudinal matter, how malleable (or manipulable) are the masses who find themselves emotionally pre-disposed to it? Propaganda, Confirmation bias, Overconfidence, the conjunction fallacy, group polarization, the Dunning-Kruger effect, the base-rate fallacy, cognitive dissonance, and so on all play into its cycles of toxic self-reinforcement.
"A key extremist preoccupation is victimisation – the perception of themselves as victims of persecution. ... 
"Another extremist preoccupation is purity. The purity that extremists are obsessed with can be ideological, religious, or ethnic. ... Extremism’s preoccupation with purity explains one of its key attitudes: its attitude to compromise. Extremists hate compromise because it detracts from purity. Being an extremist is as much a matter of how one believes as what one believes. Extremists see compromise as a form of betrayal, and while extremists may hate their opponents, this is usually milder than their hatred of people on their own side who have, as they see it, “sold out”. ... 
"Another key extremist attitude is indifference to any adverse consequences of one’s actions or policies.  To not be deterred by the practical or emotional damage incurred is the essence of fanaticism, so it follows that extremists are also fanatics. ... 
"Extremists are prone to both utopian and conspiracy thinking. They think in terms of a future utopia to which their policies will lead, and they see conspiracies everywhere. ... 
"...[E]xtremists are also uncommonly angry, and this points to the emotional components of the extremist mindset. Extremist anger is rooted in feelings of resentment about their lot. Another fundamental extremist emotion is self-pity. Anger, resentment, and self-pity are a potentially lethal emotional cocktail. ..." [Emphases mine] Cassam.
Dorst asserts "we are living in an age of rampant irrationalism" which feeds into political demonization, a key component in extremism.
"we are now swimming in irrationalist explanations of political disagreement.  It is not hard to see how these go. If people tend to reason their way to their preferred conclusions, to search for evidence that confirms their prior beliefs, to ignore opposing evidence, and so on, then there you have it: irrational political polarization falls out as a corollary of the informational choices granted by the modern information age.
We refuse to see ourselves and our own opinions as irrational, so we project that irrationalism on the other side. They are the irrational ones. Therefore they are wrong and, what's more, immoral. They are bad, evil, awful. "I hate them because I am _________ (fill in the blank: right, good, moral, rational, pure)." We've made a quick leap to demonization.
"If the problem is demonization—not mere polarization—then part of the solution is to restore political empathy. And if we lack political empathy in part because of rampant irrationalist narratives, then one way to restore it is to question those narratives."
I look forward to Durst's project here and have added his blog to my updating blog roll. You should too.

02 January 2020

Top Ten Top Ten Lists of the 2010s

Let's agree to get past the debate over when a decade (or century) actually ends: --19 (--99) or --20 (--00). [Personally, I'm persuaded that we normally count from one to ten and thus the decade truly ends next year around this time. But that's beside the point. YMMV.] The internet is rife now with lists and listicles of the "Best of" or "Top Ten ____" of the Twenty-Teens, 2010s, etc. Below are some of the more interesting ones I've stumbled upon. I'm not going to claim authoritatively they are the "Best of" or necessarily the "Top" because that's not my style. I've not exhaustively researched every single list across the entire Interverse© and quantitatively or qualitatively adjudged them by some agreed-upon (or even arbitrary) metric—despite the title hype. Nevertheless, for your enjoyment, I present (sans comment for the most part):

10. Magic Mic's Top Ten Magic Cards

9. Top 10 Food Trends

8. Top 10 Tiny Homes

7. Top 10 Memes

6. Listverse's Top 10 Popular Lists [Clickbait! As if this post isn't. Nevertheless, meta- enough for me.)

5. Top 10 Health Scares

4. Top 10 Stock Investments from ten years ago

3. Top 10 Ocean Songs

2. New Scientist's Top 10 Discoveries

1. National Weather Service's Top 10 Weather Events

And, because I love you and because there are so many sports related Top Ten lists, a bonus Top Ten link. You can do your own Movie or TV or Novel or Music lists. They, too, are ubiquitous, so I'll spare you mine.

Best wishes for the New Decade (that actually begins next year).