Meditations on a Candidate

Given the debate to be held this evening, I would like to express a short but timely consideration of the candidate I will be opposing this year in the elections. He possesses the following inexcusable qualities:

  • He is very old, and has made numerous public statements that force me to question his mental competence.
  • His track record in office is one indicative of deep racism and disrespect for civil liberties.
  • His political career has included numerous actions that increased and extended our nation’s shameful overseas wars.
  • His running mate has a similar track record.
  • He has numerous accusations of sexual assault on record against him.
  • Even when he makes statements of policy that I might generally agree with, his use of weaselly language and history of saying one thing while doing another make me deeply suspicious of his sincerity.

I suspect, at this point, that you at least think you know who I will be voting against. If the number of people in that guess is less than two, however, you haven’t been paying attention…

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Application Service Engineering, In A Nutshell

You *are* an expert, aren’t you?

Imagine you are on the deck of an eighteenth century sailing ship. There are a number of large cannon on the deck with you. Each cannon is only secured with a single rope, each one tied to a different part of its cannon and location on the ship. Every few moments, the captain randomly commands his men to change where some of the ropes are tied off on the ship or to their cannon, then turns broadside into heavy seas, causing the deck to rock violently. Less regularly, the captain abruptly drops anchor or turns hard over, opens sails full, and runs downwind at breakneck pace.

You’ve just been given the job to build and permanently install gun-crew workstations and targeting devices around each of these cannon which will be available and effective 99.95% of the time. Also, the deadline was two weeks ago, and no one on the crew understands any of the technologies or tools you have to use.

Somehow, the current state of the project is your fault…

Posted in For Facebook, Industry, Personal, Whimsical | Leave a comment

Stop Trying So Hard To Be “Woke” and Wake the Fuck Up!

My news and social media feeds for the last two days are full of white friends posting comments and articles whose message amounts to “Oh, sure, you care about police brutality now, but where are you the rest of the time when there isn’t some immediately recent event to jump on?”
I would like to start by gently pointing out that the majority (not all) of these folks are people from whom I have never seen a post about police brutality, systemic racism, mass surveillance, government overreach, etc. except right after there is some immediately recent event to jump on.

I post about this stuff every damned day. I write literal letters. I give money to causes. I try desperately to get anyone at all to care that our nation has spun completely out of control, with everything we’ve done wrong for 150 years coming back with a vengeance and authorities and institutions acquiring ever more power over our most vulnerable citizens with no attempt to reform the systemic problems which they are amplifying with this power. Folks who see my posts, if they bother to respond at all, imply that I’m overreacting, or that my well researched posts are “fake news” because one of my sources has a headline that seems a bit exaggerated to them, so they won’t read it or any other source I’ve provided to them. This is not restricted to either end of the left-right political spectrum.

The other night, a friend commented “You must be having an aneurysm over this stuff”. After a moment of surprised introspection, my answer was that I’m about as angry as usual, but that honestly, it’s slightly less stressful for me on these rare occasions when people wake up for a moment and pay attention. Then I proceeded to feel guilty for the rest of the night at being relieved that something bad enough to make people take notice had happened.

I know it will be short lived. I know in three weeks we’ll be right back where we were, ignoring the actual problems from both the right and the left (each in their own special way, of course) by adding law after useless, criminally incompetent law to fix the problems caused by all the previous criminally incompetent laws and declaring the problem defeated without actually accomplishing anything. I hope, as I do every time, that this time will be different, but deep down, I know it won’t.

I won’t ask you to be an activist. I don’t want you to be a social justice warrior, or a “cop blocker”, or a radical libertarian. All I’m asking is that you try to understand that what is going on now is going on because the events that triggered it are ALWAYS going on, and things just happened to boil over now. It’s not just about racism, or systemic violence, or groups piggy-backing a movement for their own purposes (looking at you, “Antifa”, “Alt-Right”, “Boogaloo” racists, etc.). It’s about all those things, and the fact that at some level, they are all symptoms of the sickness infecting our nation.

If you are a “shoulda obeyed the curfew” person, remember that you were likely one of the people chafing at being ordered to stay in your home to protect people from a disease a few weeks ago. If you are an “imposing a curfew is stripping me of my right to free speech” person , remember that you were likely one of the people calling the quarantine protesters idiots a couple of weeks ago. Were you wrong then, or are you wrong now? Do you see any connection at all? Just think about it.

If you are a “this is systemic racism” person, remember that several studies have shown that your likelihood at being beaten or killed in police custody is just about equal across all ethnicities, once they have already been detained by police, so the systemic problem is MORE than just that the police tend to target black people and poor urban neighborhoods. If you are a “not all police” person, please try to count the number of police officers you have ever heard of who actually reported the bad behaviour of other officers who hadn’t already been caught on citizen video, and in those rare cases, what happened to the careers of those doing the reporting. Is a cop who ignores the bad behaviour of another cop really a good cop?

We have a government that has been handed the power to spy on *any* of its citizens, at any time and for practically any reason. We have an economy dominated by government-created monstrosities called “corporations” that have been granted personhood, and in fact have more rights and power than an actual human, but whose participants bear none of the personal liability of an actual person, divorcing profit from responsibility. We have a health-care market in which the dominant, rapacious corporations cannot even be challenged with disruption, because the government has handed them a virtual monopoly in the name of “insuring the uninsured”, and doctors and medical facilities are prevented from escaping this morass because a private corporation, the AMA, has been given complete control of their livelihoods and can render them paupers in an instant if they won’t play ball. We have systems of authority and law that were built by racists and often for racist reasons (drug war, gun control, etc.). We have unions that were created to protect workers, but have long since become corporations in their own right and which protect incompetence and bad acts out of procedure and fear, rather than any moral necessitude.

The systemic problem isn’t any one of these things, it’s what allows all of them to happen. I won’t even give you my personal opinion of what that root problem IS. Think about it for yourself. Keep your eyes open beyond the duration of whatever outrage the current media cycle or social media frenzy has decided you should care about. Stop tribalizing issues, and look at the actual facts. LISTEN. Stop defending your ideology long enough to actually think critically about it from time to time. Examine your motivations for caring or not caring about an issue.

Right now, you give a shit. GREAT! I love it. Act, yes. Speak out, yes. And then, in three weeks, when there’s no one marching in the streets and no constant reminder to sign a petition or immediate opportunity to virtue signal with a #ShockedShockedITellYou social media post on a video, KEEP GIVING A SHIT!

And while you’re at it, maybe you could stop using your public displays of outrage or support to service your own ego, rather than actually call for action?



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The Barmic Scale

This project seeks to define a new scale of measure to represent the strangeness of a year’s weather. Given that it needs to feel like an actual weather term, researchers have selected the descriptive yet unusual adjective “barmy” as the basis for this scale.

Further, it is proposed that the scale be constructed based upon “Atmospheric Barminess”, or the square root of the ratio of the number of days in a nominal Spring or “Spring Interval” (90 days) to a year’s “Clement Interval” (the number of days between a die-hard Dad deciding that home heating is no longer needed and the protestations of his family forcing him to turn on their air conditioning systems), or:

B = sqrt( S / C )

where

B = Atmospheric Barminess
S = Spring Interval = 90
C = Clement Interval = ADadHDad
ADad = Day of year air conditioning activated
HDad = Day of year heating deactivated

The sampling area for this scale should correspond to the upper Hudson Valley, as that seems to be an area of relative predictibility for the northern temperate zone.

On the Barmic Scale, an ideal value is defined as 1.0, where the clement interval equals a full three months. There is no upper or lower limit for the scale. Should the clement interval for a year exceed a standard spring interval, the barminess could move into fractional values approaching 0, and should the clement interval move into fractional, zero, or negative values, the barminess could reach infinite or even imaginary levels. This unbounded mathematical construct intentionally represents the complete insanity of needing heating systems adjacent to or even after activation of air conditioning.

Examples:

  • A 70 day clement interval scores an atmospheric barminess of 1.13 for the year, representing less than ideal, but not particularly erratic weather.
  • A 40 day clement interval scores an atmospheric barminess of 1.5 for the year, representing unusually erratic weather .
  • A 20 day clement interval scores an atmospheric barminess of 2.1 for the year, representing weirdly erratic weather. This is approximately the beginning of the “Screwy” range.
  • A 5 day clement interval scores an atmospheric barminess of 4.2 for the year, representing utterly deranged weather. This is approximately the beginning of the “Bizarre” range.
  • A 1 day clement interval scores an atmospheric barminess of 9.5 for the year, representing inconceivably daft weather. All weather beyond this level of barminess is referred to as the “Preposterous” range.
  • A 1 hour clement interval scores an atmospheric barminess of 46.2 for the year, representing preposterously psychotic weather. This defines the lower limit for the “ludicrous” range. Barminess scores should be calculated for clement intervals smaller than this with extreme care, as they can cause both computing and mental exceptions.

For comparison, 2018, the first year for which data are available, scored a barminess of 3.0. 2019 scored a barminess of 6.7. 2020, as of last Friday, scored a barminess of 4.2, but only because previous trends caused the studied die-hard Dad to resist calls for air conditioning two weeks before the last snow of the year. Had this feedback safety not been in place, the clement interval would have stood well into the negative range, producing an imaginary level of barminess. There is some debate as to weather this artificial manipulation of the data should be set aside, demonstrating a trend that took us from screwy weather all the way through bizarre and deep into ludicrous weather in a three year period…



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Face Masks: Learn ’em, Live ’em, Love ’em (And for pity’s sake, WEAR THEM!)

Most folks connected with me on social media have only seen the occasional comment or link from me about how the SARS-CoV-2 crisis is being handled in the U.S., but have no idea that I’ve spent the last three weeks working on practical and citizen-available ways to improve the survival rates of our medical personnel and our species (with the permission/support of my employer, General Electric, no less!).

Mask Selfie
Yes, I had to cut my own hair, shut up!

My wife Sabrina and I are among the founders of our local makerspace, the Tech Valley Center Of Gravity, and we are actively involved in numerous ongoing projects with members of that group to produce various types of readily constructed protective and medical equipment to address the lack of availability to medical personnel and people in general. The avenues are numerous, from 3D printed medical faceshields to ventilator parts to n95 mask sterilization chambers to effective cloth facemasks to my personal baby, a positive-pressure, filtered facemask with integrated faceshield (the prototype works, FYI, but I need to do some serious engineering review before trusting someone’s life to it!).

At any rate, unless you are a member of our makerspace’s Facebook group, the little you’ve seen from me on the “Coronavirus” topic has been incidental information I’ve run across as the result of the extensive research I’ve been engaged in pursuant to these projects, but it is by no means indicative of my level of knowledge on some parts of our current predicament. Everything I’ve said so far is a preface to explain that while I am not a doctor, I have accidentally become somewhat expert in a few small areas of the science of protecting individuals from the transmission of disease. With the assistance of my wife, who has, to a large extent, converted the things I have researched into practical prototypes for distribution to medical facilities and at-risk individuals, I am writing this article in the hopes of informing, preparing, and inspiring our friends, family, and the general public to buy or make facemasks and use them habitually until the end of the current crisis!

At the beginning of the CoVid-19 crisis, the CDC and NIH made a TERRIBLE mistake for a good reason. The good reason was that as soon as news of the epidemic was widespread, people started hoarding a particularly effective kind of respirator mask called an “N95” mask. These masks are so named by NIOSH because they are Not resistant to oils, and can remove 95% of particles of 0.3 micron diameter and above. This is important, because they are considered the gold standard for protecting medical personnel from infectious disease while treating patients. Therefore, to stem the hoarding of these masks (and surgical masks in general), these agencies fibbed to the American public, telling them that while commercial facemasks were vital and effective for medical personnel, facemasks of any kind did not protect the general public from disease.

The lie was twofold. First, it was false because regardless of the ability of a mask to protect its wearer, facemasks of any kind give significant protection to those in the vicinity of the wearer if they are infected, so widespread use would always have been an effective method of slowing transmission. Second, it was false because there is significant science to support the fact that not only are masks protective to the general public if properly worn, but that even homemade masks can be quite effective in protecting the wearer from infection, if proper procedures are followed.

This lie has resulted in a big chunk of the American public no longer trusting these agencies, because you don’t need a degree to have serious logical objections to the idea that something cannot protect you unless you have the magic of belonging to a particular profession. It also had the effect of making a different big chunk of the American public feel the need to shame people who wore respirator/surgical masks in public. That said, given that the CDC and NIH have officially changed their tune and now recommend that everyone wear masks in public, the main point of this article is not to analyse this failure, but rather to inform on the efficacy of masks in general and the procedures you should follow to use them effectively.

On the topic of commercial mask efficacy, and I hope somewhat heartening for medical professionals, a study from last fall found that there is no statistical difference in effectiveness at preventing viral infection between an N95 mask and a standard surgical facemask. Likewise, a dentist friend who is hooked into some research tells me that in the next (May) journal of the American Dental Association, there will be a research paper published that found that normal ASTM level 3 surgical masks, when fitted properly and used with eye-protection/faceshield, are 98% effective at preventing transmission of SARS-CoV-2 to the wearer in dentist-close quarters with an infected person. As far as I can tell, that is again approximately as good as the estimated transmission rate for an “N95” mask with faceshield. This is very good news overall, as surgical masks are *much* easier to find and cheaper to buy (although still challenging to obtain in the current situation), so medical personnel without access to N95 masks still have a fair chance of being protected with standard masks that are likely much more plentiful in their facilities. [Edit] This group claims they have found a simple way to give standard surgical masks an N95 grade seal and better performance (>= 95% filtration efficiency on 0.1 micron particles, as opposed to an N95’s 0.3 micron rating for that efficiency) using nothing but a handful of rubber-bands to construct a “mask brace”. If I were a medical professional right now, I would visit this site and invest in a box or six of rubber-bands!

On the topic of home-made/DIY mask efficacy, in 2008, a Dutch study found that found that a simple mask made from common dish-cloth stopped up to 60% of particles in the 0.2 micron range, i.e. the hardest virus-bearing droplet size to intercept, and much higher percentage of particles in larger ranges. Additionally, a study published last week by the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found that masks constructed of “two layers of high-quality, heavyweight quilter’s cotton with a thread count of 180 or more, and those with especially tight weave and thicker thread such as batiks” were able to filter up to 79% of 0.3 micron particles (compared to surgical masks, which only filter up to 65% of them). It also found that “A double-layer mask with a simple cotton outer layer and an inner layer of flannel also performed well.” This means that while it is not necessarily as good as a commercial mask, a homemade mask can offer significant protection. Weighing this with the previously referenced research showing that wearing masks significantly reduces the wearer’s ability to transmit virus, it is clear that every one of us should always be wearing the best available masks in public if we want to fight the spread of CoVid-19. My mask protects me and you!

Importantly, there is more to material selection than just filtration efficiency. The best filtering materials might make inferior masks because they are harder to breathe through, causing air to be sucked through the edges of a mask unfiltered rather than through the material, so this gets complicated. This article, based on a number of referenced studies, details relative performance and effectiveness at small particle filtration for a number of commonly available materials and recommends less overall effective filters in favor of lower breathing resistance materials. That said, remember that the resistance to air-flow is proportional to the surface area you are trying to breathe through, so increasing area can allow otherwise unsuitable choices to become more feasible.

Likewise, your mask becomes significantly more effective if you wear a faceshield with it. Faceshields won’t stop the really tiny particles from working their way around to your face, but they prevent most of the larger ones, especially those projected by coughing, sneezing, and other “splashy” events, from making contact. They also protect your eyes from those contacts, which is important because your eyes have mucus membranes just like your nose and throat, and so can be an avenue for infection. Note that solid safety glasses can be effective in protecting your eyes, but do not keep droplets from soaking into your mask, so are not as effective!

But here’s the thing. None of these things protect you at all if you don’t wear them correctly and follow proper procedures when wearing them!

Fitting

  • In general, a mask needs to be sealed to your face well enough that when you inhale, no air is drawn around any edges of the mask.
  • In particular, the curves between your nose and eyes tend to leave a gap between mask material and skin, breaking the seal of your mask. This can be overcome either by wearing a mask that covers the entire nose right up to the eyes so the mask material has a much flatter line to conform to (less effective), or by using a mask that has a bendable metal strip or wire where it passes over the nose that can be formed by the user to fit their particular face (more effective).
  • Faceshields must curve around the face far enough that there is no straight-line path from the air around you to either your eyes, nose or mouth to be effective. If a faceshield is attached directly to a headband, make sure that the headband seals to your forehead. If not, the shield must curve up over your forehead. Likewise, the shield must extend around your face out past the temples.
  • Like faceshields, safety glasses can only effectively protect your eyes if there are no straight-line paths between the air around you and your eyes. Make sure they fully contact your forehead, wrap around the sides of your head back to the temples, and don’t gap over your cheekbones.

Procedures

No matter how nominally effective a particular piece of protective gear is, if you fail to follow sterile procedures with it during and after use, IT WILL NOT PROTECT YOU AT ALL!

  • Before going out in public with any protective gear, triple check its comfort and fitting (per above). You may be in it for hours, so a) if it’s uncomfortable, you may subconsciously do something that renders it ineffective and b) it is a waste of time and effort to even wear it if it isn’t fitted properly.
  • Always assume any piece of protective gear is contaminated from the moment you put it on, and treat it accordingly.
  • Any piece of protective gear must be sterilized immediately upon removal, and cannot be used again without it.
  • Any facemask worn has to be worn continuously until you are ready to discard/launder it. You can’t pull them down for a moment to take a drink, smoke a cigarette, or “take a break”. (It is theoretically possible to do this if you follow extreme sterile procedures, but I wouldn’t try it if you aren’t an experienced medical professional!)
  • If you wear an N95 or surgical mask, and do not have access to specialized disinfection equipment (you can’t just wash them in soap or alcohol), throw them out immediately after use.
  • If you wear a cloth mask, it must be laundered between every use. You can’t wear it, then stick it in your pocket and wear it again later. That contaminates your hands, your pocket and its contents, and the sterile side of the mask you are about to put back on, at the very least. You’ve rendered it useless.
  • Do not adjust your facemask during use. Its seal against your face is the only thing protecting you, and if you break that seal at all, you have utterly eliminated any benefits it may have provided. Get any comfort or fit issues taken care of before you start!
  • Do not adjust or otherwise touch a piece of protective equipment once it is on unless you can immediately sterilize your hands, because you will transfer anything contaminating it to anything you subsequently touch.

Wear it anyway

Even assuming you completely fail at ALL of the above rules, YOU SHOULD STILL WEAR YOUR MASK. No matter how contaminated/infected you are, wearing a mask, even incorrectly, significantly reduces the likelihood that you will transmit infection to others. You are still helping the general public, even if you don’t care about your own exposure.

So yes, if you wear a mask, there are people who will mock you. If you wear a mask, there are people who will try to shame you because of the misinformation propagated by the government. If you wear a mask, it’s inconvenient, uncomfortable, and a lot of work to get the procedures right. Nevertheless, if you wear a mask, you are helping yourself and others, and if everyone wears a mask, this crisis will be over much sooner, with much less loss of life.

JUST WEAR IT!

Posted in Family, For Facebook, General, Personal, Political, Rational | Leave a comment
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