Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Entertaining During Self Isolation - a Brigid Hijacked Post

I know I haven't posted on here, with your good graces, in a long time, but I couldn't resist this.  Home Entertainment During Self Isolation. - Cheers, Brigid.

Double damn

I had mentioned that my Son-In-Law is on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, where there had been an outbreak of the Kung Flu.  It looks like things are spicy:
Theodore Roosevelt captain makes urgent plea for individual quarantine sites as COVID-19 cases multiply

The commanding officer of aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt is urging the Navy to step up its response to COVID-19 and secure individualized isolation for the ship’s crew as COVID-19 cases aboard the ship continue to multiply, according to a new report. 
“Sailors do not need to die,” Crozier wrote in the letter. “If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors.”

Crozier said the situation would be different in a time of conflict, because “in combat we are willing to take certain risks that are not acceptable in peacetime.” 
Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas said that the Navy “doesn’t disagree” with Crozier, and noted that the Navy has been working to remove sailors from the Roosevelt for days. But limited space in Guam is created some challenges, he said. 
“The problem is that Guam doesn’t have enough beds right now, so we’re having to talk to the government there to see if we can get some hotel space, create some tent-type facilities there,” Modly said in an interview with CNN Tuesday.
SECNAV getting involved does not suggest that this is no big deal.  I'd think that a Navy ship at sea is a pretty good petri dish for the Red Chinese Virus.

Hat tip to The Queen Of The World, who has pretty sharp eyes for family stuff.

Free videoconferencing service available

Cisco's WebEx videoconferencing service is probably the market leading service for big companies to have videoconference meetings.  They've made it available to anyone for free.  This stuff is the real deal (I work from home and use this every day).

If you work with a group that could use this - or if you can use it by yourself with friends or family - go get you some.  All you need is a browser.

Full Disclosure: I work for Cisco, but get no sales commission on these $0 orders.

So what happens when you shut down a country's economy?

Interesting things:
The ‘conservative’ Spanish newspaper/site abc.es. has a report about the food situation in Italy (in Spanish) which indicates the following, something our media seems to ignore, per my translation:  
‘Increasing woe in Italy due to the coronavirus: almost 3,000,000 people need food aid’ 
There’s a 10% uplift there, as the report gives a breakdown with more details. 
In Campania more than 530,000 people need food, almost 9% of the region’s population. More than 364,000 in Sicily, almost 283,000 in Calabria. Even Lazio has more than 263,000 people in need. One analysis says around 2,700,000 people need food aid. 
There is much discussion of raids on pharmacies and supermarkets, with police guarding them. 
And this is interesting:
And how long here before our food supply chains might disintegrate, when people have to laboriously shop 2 meters apart, queueing to get in, queueing to pay, as the capacity of the shops to serve customers is throttled, whether or not the products are limited or in short supply. Is there any modelling of how long this can go on, never mind if it should at all?
Here in Maryland there is a State-wide shelter in place order.  You can't go out except for urgent business, or you face a year in jail.  Can't wait until you need a reservation to shop at the supermarket.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Joe Diffie, Rest In Peace

Dead at 61 from Coronavirus.  I posted about him in the early days of this blog, on the topic of shuffling off the mortal coil.  I didn't expect to dust it off so soon, for someone taken from us far to young.  His music sure made me smile, and I hope that you've gone to Glory singing this.

Rest in peace, Joe, and thanks for all the great music.

(Originally posted 4 April 2009)

Joe Diffie - Prop Me Up Beside The Jukebox

Matt G has a serious post about what he wants done after dies. The comments are serious as well, and well worth a read - the whole subject is one that a true adult should address
square on, without flinching.

Until JayG arrived:
I've got one word and one word only for after I shuffle off this mortal coil:

Both of my reader's will be shocked to discover that I have more than a little of this sort of sense of humor myself. Which leads us to today's Saturday Redneck.

Joe Diffie was something of a Country music sensation during the 1990s, with 2 platinum and 2 gold albums, with 5 songs reaching #1 on the US Country charts and 17 in the top 10. His specialty was songs with a sense of humor - sometimes called "novelty" songs - like his 1994 song Third Rock From The Sun.

But today we're interested in his album from the previous year, with a song that hit #5. Prop Me Up Beside The Jukebox (If I Die). I love this video, because it captures the 1990s so well - mullets, big hair, and Larry The Cable Guy style ("wife beater") shirts. It's also completely slapstick comedy.

Matt G, there's a serious discussion on the serious topic of passing on from this vale of tears. Unfortunately, it ain't here.

Prop Me Up Beside The Jukebox (sognwriters: Howard Perdew, Rick Blaylock, Kerry Kurt Phillips)
Well I ain't afraid of dyin', it's the thought of being dead
I wanna go on being me once my eulogy's been read
Don't spread my ashes out to sea, don't lay me down to rest
You can put my mind at ease if you fulfill my last request

Prop me up beside the jukebox if I die
Lord, I wanna go to heaven but I don't wanna go tonight
Fill my boots up with sand, put a stiff drink in my hand
Prop me up beside the jukebox if I die

Just let my headstone be a neon sign
Let it burn in mem'ry of all of my good times
Fix me up with a manequin, just remember I like blondes
I'll be the life of the party even when I'm dead and gone

Prop me up beside the jukebox if I die
Lord, I wanna go to heaven but I don't wanna go tonight
Fill my boots up with sand, put a stiff drink in my hand
Prop me up beside the jukebox if I die

Just make your next selection and while your still in line
You can pay you last respects one quarter at a time

Prop me up beside the jukebox if I die
Lord, I wanna go to heaven but I don't wanna go tonight
Fill my boots up with sand, put a stiff drink in my hand
Prop me up beside the jukebox if I die

Oh, prop me up beside the jukebox if I die

What the media is not reporting about the virus

38 year old Michigan Man says drug combo recommended by Donald Trump saved his life:
Santilli said he became seriously ill March 18 “with severe cardiac and respiratory issues” and was admitted to Henry Ford Macomb Hospital in metro Detroit.

According to Gruber, “Santilli said the biggest problem was waiting for test results that took four days to come back. In the meantime his condition worsened by the hour, and he thought he was going to die.”

“Santilli says he was slowly drowning and was convinced he ‘would not live until midnight.’ That’s when doctors made a decision he says changed everything,” Gruber said.

The survivor said the drug combination began to work “within a few hours.”

Santilli credited Trump for his survival.

“Donald Trump recommending that medication combination saved my life and a lot of other people’s lives,” he told Gruber.

Santilli criticized Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) for her recent threat against doctors and pharmacists, and believed it is a “terrible decision,” adding, “She is sentencing people to death.”
Confirmation today from a larger study in France, too.  If I get this damn thing (assuming I haven't already) then I don't care if the combo isn't "proven" - I'd want it.

Oh, and the Michigan Governor is a twit.  If this combo actually shows that it saves a lot of lives, I don't see how she gets re-elected.  Dumbass.

Oh, and it sure would be nice if the media would actually cover stories like this.  Eventually they will have to, if the drug combo turns out to be effective.  But this is why way more people trust Trump about the virus than trust the media.

The Basilica of the Hagia Sophia as a musical instrument

The Hagia Sophia was for a thousand years the most famous church in Christendom.  Built by the Roman Emperor Justinian I in Constantinople, the church is unlike anything that came before, or since. When the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453 and finally put an end to the Roman Empire, the Hagia Sophia became a mosque for a while.  Ataturk turned it into a museum in the 1920s.  You can visit it if you find yourself in Istanbul.

But there is to this day a ban on any musical performance there.  Since the Eastern Orthodox liturgy is sung, there has been no way to know what it sounded like back in Justinian's day.  Except now the science of acoustics and digital signal processing has brought this sound back to life after more than 500 years.

This is a very unusual edition of my Sunday Classical posts - the focus is less on the music than on the building.  The experience of the divine was captured in a unique way in the church, one that could not be experienced in the same way anywhere else in the world.  The architecture merged with and changed the sound in a way that was entirely sui generis; the rising (or setting) sun lit the interior in a way that was described as liquid gold.  While we cannot experience that today, we can get a feel for what it must have been like with the musical recreations of the group Cappella Romana, electronically enhanced to match the acoustics of the Hagia Sophia.

This is a very different experience from western church music, which we have seen here many times.  There is an outstanding (and long) discussion of this experience and how they recreated it at the podcast Byzantium and Friends.  It covers different aspects of the religious experience in that church - the sound, the decoration, the lighting, and how they all came together as much more than the sum of the parts.  I expect that Peter Grant, Lone Star Parson, Rev. Paul, and maybe Tim Wolter might want to listen to it despite the length (over 60 minutes).  Other people might want to click through that link which will lead them to a documentary about how the sound was recreated, which is included on the DVD of Cappella Romana's performance of Lost Voices Of The Hagia Sophia.  I expect that the DVD experience will far surpass MP3, because of the surround sound effect.

Hat tip to Peter Grant, who posted about this a couple weeks back; I ran across the podcast which adds a ton of depth to what he wrote about.  If you, like me, are a history nerd, then this is a great way to spend some time while you are isolating at home.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Friday, March 27, 2020

The Queen Of The World explains things

TQOTW posted this on Facebook, and I thought I'd reproduce it here in full:
Warning - rant ahead!
One of the most isolated places people can be right now is jail, especially if no visitors are allowed in. So why are jails and prisons releasing prisoners due to the virus??? It’s happening all over.
Cities are refusing to arrest criminals due to the virus.
Suddenly places notorious for supporting more gun control laws are seeing gun and ammo sales go thru the roof.
Blaming it all on the virus that the media has blown out of proportion.
In the beginning the democrats wouldn’t listen to Trump. Later they blamed him.
It’s time to wake up!!!
Yes the virus is real, yes people die. But it is still no where near the numbers seen every year related to regular flu virus.
So why would the media and the liberals want to blow this up?
Think about it - the economy was going better than it has for many, many years. Jobs were brought back to America. Unemployment was way down. Women, blacks, and Latin Americans were supporting Trump. Crime is going down. There was no Russian collusion. There was no improper phone call with the Ukraine. Illegal immigration was waning.
And now we’re seeing democrats trying to take advantage of emergency aide efforts by tacking on all kinds of bills to support their everyday causes and thereby holding up whats needed now. Blackmail! Give us what we want or screw all the people that need help right now! Instead, if they have their way, people will need to first become desperate and then HAVE to rely on the causes they’re trying to tack on now. (Example: Unemployed, homeless, and hungry - I need planned parenthood because I can’t care for a baby now)
They tried scandals, they tried collusion, they tried Impeachment, they fought allowing illegals in, they pushed gun control. This is the only means left to reverse the economic growth, reverse the unemployment, reverse support for the president.
And it’s a misuse of power, a lack of concern for the people of this country, and a purely evil political agenda!
Think beyond the daily headlines, ask why there is so much conflicting data, have you heard of any prison deaths due to the virus, why wouldn’t every politician put aside their political agendas and differences and do all they can to help people and the issues related to this virus now, how and why can anyone blame the president for this - how can you blame AMYONE for this? They didn’t blame Obama and didn’t go this overboard - why?
Why hasn’t the CDC been held more responsible for their enormous blunders?
So many questions to be asked and they come to you if you think it thru instead of taking whatever the media throws out there as gospel.
Releasing criminals is where this rant started. Just one more attempt at reversing the winning we’ve been enjoying over the past 3 years.

I wonder if I have had - and recovered from - the Kung Flu

I had respiratory trouble - graduating to bronchitis and then pneumonia - last month.  It's actually been a long slow recovery over the last two months.  Given the reports that Kung Flu cases are underreported by a factor of ten, I am really wondering if I caught it and (mostly) recovered.

I guess the only way to tell is a test for the presence of antibodies and nobody is going to do that as I (mostly) feel better and am (mostly) asymptomatic.  This is a good example of what I've been talking about - the data are notoriously incomplete.

Thursday, March 26, 2020


My Son-In-Law, a Chief on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, is in quarantine.  One of the men on his crew tested positive for the Kung Flu, and so now he's in (sort of) isolation.  He feels fine, but I guess we'll know more in 7-14 days.  I hope it turns out like this:

Wonder what's happening in the People's Liberation Army Navy?

There are no good solutions

pessimal/pes im l/adj.[Latin-based antonym for optimal] Maximally bad. “This is a pessimal situation.” Also pessimize vt. To make as bad as possible. These words are the obvious Latin-based antonyms for optimal and optimize, but for some reason they do not appear in most English dictionaries, although ‘pessimize’ is listed in the OED.
Aesop writes about how everything seems to be going wrong about the response to the Kung Flu:
Pandemic suppression may indeed fail.

Probably because too little, too late, and kabuki theater screening at airports, when we should have shunted everyone into mandatory quarantine for 30 days before entry was allowed, starting in early- or mid-January.

If only the CDC hadn’t pooch-screwed the test kits so hard that the dog will never walk right again.
You're going to need a bigger blog post to list everything that the Fed.Gov, State(s).Gov, and Local.Gov are doing wrong, not to mention the Solons who run the Hospitals (and who are threatening to fire nurses who wear masks).

I would add to his list:
  • Failure to designate a single hospital in a city/region as the Kung Flu Medical Center, and isolating all patients (and a significant portion of the PPE) there.  At the very least this will slow the spread of the virus among medical workers and protect capacity for non-virus emergency care.
  • No centralized procurement of cloth masks (of course these are not as effective in preventing infection as disposable ones, but given the massive mask shortage a million cloth masks that can be washed in bleach daily isn't nothing.  Probably more important for general population and first responders, but not nothing.
  • No non-crappy models of Kung Flu disease spread.  Granted, all computer models are always wrong to a greater or lesser extent, but what we have right now makes the climate models look like Nostradamus.  Add in the terrible data being fed into the models and you are better off simply ignoring all model output.
  • The entire western world is being driven into a depression.  Millions are out of work, with more on the way.
  • The pain is falling disproportionately on the working poor.  Since a lot of these live in proximity to the Gimmedat community, their suffering will inflame anger in the group most likely to loot and riot.  I think we're two weeks away from the first big one, probably less than that.
  • The Fed.Gov is ramming through a $2T, 2000 page "bailout" law that is guaranteed to be larded with goodies for everyone other than the people who are most hurt by the shutdowns.  If 50% of this money does anything other than line the pockets of well-connected special interests it will be a miracle.  This by itself will do further damage to the economy, putting more people out of work or raising inflation (hurting the working poor).  Or both at the same time.
Quite frankly, I can't imagine how things could be worse.  Aesop's worst case scenario of a melt down in the medical community seems to be happening, and every government response I see looks like another toe gets shot off the Body Politick.


It may be that there just is no solution.  I wish I could be more optimistic, but I don't see anyone doing anything remotely sensible.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Is the Italian medical system infected?

The data out of Italy are really interesting.  The pattern of deaths there suggest that very old, very sick people catch the virus in the hospital.  In other words, the virus is simply the coup de grace for very sick elderly patients.  If this is the case, there are very strong implications for the US:
We have to, must, keep the virus out the medical system. 
  • We need to seriously quarantine the sufferers away from other sick people.
  • We need to set up testing facilities at all medical centers and test the medical personnel daily.
  • In areas with a number of COVID-19 infections, we need to set up separate field hospitals. There are a number of commercial versions of these that are expandable by adding modules, and are pathogen-tight, with airlocks at the doors, HEPA exhaust filters and negative air pressure maintained throughout. We know how to do this stuff, we’ve just got to do it.
  • We need to test in-hospital patients at the time of their arrival and continue to test them at intervals during their stay.
  • We’ll have to be very careful with visitors to patients in the hospitals
It’s a big job, and we absolutely have to do it.
Note that we should be doing all of this anyway, but The Powers That Be seem too busy threatening to fire nurses that wear N95 masks.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

So Nancy Pelosi waved the white flag

Ooooooh kaaaaaaaay:
House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Panderville) just announced she has dropped procedural blockage and will allow a vote on the Senate’s version of the COVID bill instead of holding the nation hostage by demanding what some commentators called “racial and gender pay equity provisions, diversity on corporate boards, increased use of minority-owned banks by federal offices, and a grab-bag of other diversity-themed requirements.”
So Congress was was working on a deal which presumably contained pork out the wazoo, and Nancy came in at the last minute saying "you have to eliminate the letter 'Q' from the alphabet or we won't pass EMERGENCY ZOMGVIRUSOMYGODWE'REGOINGTODIE!!!!!11!!!eleventy!!!!"

It looks like the GOP cunningly  agreed to her plan.  Oooooooh kaaaaaaay.

so now that the Senate has passed it, can we see what's in it?  Asking for a friend.
Senate (n)
A body of elderly gentlemen charged with high duties and misdemeanors.
- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

Coronavirus flotsam and jetsam

Here is a bunch of stuff that doesn't really play together, but I've tossed into a sack for you.

Italy has had extremely high influenza deaths for a long time.  This study is of the 2013-2014 and 2016-2017 flu seasons in Italy.  They had a much higher mortality rate than in the US - fully 50% of our total deaths from a population about 20% as large.  Not precisely Coronavirus, but it sure seems related.  (Hat tip: Aaron)

The virus may have been here weeks - or maybe months - before it was identified as Coronavirus:
So to recap: The current coronavirus “curve” cannot be accurate since it does not include suspected cases of the illness before late February. (It’s unclear why scientists have not yet produced any models that attempt to calculate the virus’ presence here until testing was available.) A big increase in symptoms very similar to coronavirus occurred a few weeks after the first case was recorded, a timeline in accordance with the estimated trajectory of the illness’ spread. And roughly 70 percent of those expressing flu-like symptoms did not have the flu. So what was it?

It’s not unreasonable, in fact, it’s necessary and responsible, to consider that COVID-19 has been in the states since the first of the year; that people suffering similar symptoms to the flu actually had COVID-19; and that the peak of the outbreak occurred last month. The number of people now testing positive for the virus does not mean that the outbreak is accelerating because the data is incomplete.
I've been talking about the gaps in our data for a while now.  This certainly seems plausible; if so, then it might be good news for both speed of infection and lethality.  Or not.  I guess we'll see.

A lot of the reaction is making things worse.  Case in point: shutting down Universities:
In particular, it is clear that the mortality rates for people aged 18-25 from COVID-19 are trivial -- and would be even more trivial except that we don't measure most of the COVID-19 cases in this age group because they are so mild (this from the South Korean experience where they had more measurement and they found many asymptomatic cases in this age range). When in university, these students are gathered together in a pocket of other people in their same age range and also with minimal mortality risk.

By sending these kids home, you have created a massive diaspora of folks from one of the US viral hotspots (Boston) all over the country. Students that would have been living with other low-risk people are now living with parents and grandparents who are very much at risk. Add to this the anecdotal evidence I see on the news and social media of young folks of college age flaunting quarantine and social isolation rules, and I believe that Harvard and other institutions have increased risk rather than decreased it.
There's a whole lot of bureaucratic ass-covering on display here, most of it from people who consider themselves to be out "betters" (cf: Harvard and Yale).

Congress is an assembly of idiots (I think that the formal term for a gathering of morons is a "Congress of idiots".  Well, it should be.):
Sen. McConnell unveiled a roughly $1 trillion stimulus package on Thursday to help “mitigate the economic pain that tens of millions of Americans are already feeling”.

That trillion dollars won’t put the wheels back on. It won’t get us rolling again. It just pays us for the losses already suffered.

Do you ever think how many ventilators and hospitals and test kits and testing personnel we could buy for A TRILLION DOLLARS OF YOUR AND MY GAD FARKING TAX MONEY!!

Typical ventilator cost US$25,000, in normal times. Say you have to pay double in scarce times. Say we want a half million of them, big number, more than we’ll ever need, but why not? How much of our trillion pinche dollars of tax money remains?

Ninety-seven percent. We’ve bought a half million ventilators and have hardly dented the pile.
BTW, there's a daily update of Coronavirus statistics at that page.  Check back for the latest on what we know, which is starting to get better.  This is interesting:

Iceland has tested all 300,000 Icelanders, so they have the best (most complete) data, and they're only up to 0.2% of the population.  I expect the USA percentage to be much higher than shown (see first link at the top of this post), but there's still more that we don't know than we do.  The Surgeon General is warning us that this week will be ugly; liquor stores are classified as critical services so maybe he knows something that we don't ...

Monday, March 23, 2020

Questions that The Powers That Be should be asking

TPTB have not exactly covered themselves in glory in the lead up to and in the early stages of this pandemic.  Here are some questions they should be asking their minions.

How do we get an additional hundred million masks in the next 30 days?

As I understand it, most masks come from China, and China is not cooperating.  OK, what's Plan B?  For example, there are a bunch of people in this country that know how to sew.  If 1% of the population can do this and each person can sew 50 masks, you're just about to 100M masks.  What kind of fabric is best?  How do you get patterns and material to those who are willing to do this?  We have people who could figure this out.

How do we get mask factories on-line in 90 days?

A new toilet paper factory near my home town came online last month, which is great timing for them.  But they started work last summer (or even before).  What regulations and permits can be waived to cut this time in half, and then in half again?  Someone can figure this out, just by asking the owner of the damned factory.  He sure as heck knows what slowed him down.

TheFed.Gov is working on getting more ventilators.  It takes a nurse to run these, and nursing school takes years.  How can we train "Emergency Ventilator Technicians" to step into the gap?

We train soldiers in 6 weeks of Basic Training, there has to be something we can do here.  Yes, these would be one-trick ponies, but we're told that this is a crisis where the health care system may collapse. If we're going to spend a couple trillion bucks on this, it seems that we can have a crash course in how to run one of these things.  And we can change the regs to allow these people to be utilized.

There are certain to be clever ideas developed by health care people in the front lines?  How do we collect and disseminate these?

We live in a world of Wikis and crowd sourcing.  The CDC and FDA would have a lot stronger position saying "Well, how do you know these aren't boneheaded ideas?" if they hadn't screwed the pooch on this problem over and over.  For crying out loud, Dr. Fauci is still badmouthing the use of quinine tablets "because they haven't been through trials".  Shut up, get out of the way, and get Best Practice distributed to the masses.

There are certainly more of this sort of thing.  If you have any ideas, leave them in the comments.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

George Washington's Cure

About ten o'clk he made several attempts to speak to me before he could effect it, at length he said, -- "I am just going. Have me decently buried; and do not let my body be put into the Vault in less than three days after I am dead." I bowed assent, for I could not speak. He then looked at me again and said, "Do you understand me? I replied "Yes." "Tis well" said he. 
About ten minutes before he expired (which was between ten & eleven o 'clk) his breathing became easier; he lay quietly; -- he withdrew his hand from mine, and felt his own pulse. I saw his countenance change. I spoke to Dr. Craik who sat by the fire; -- he came to the bed side. The General's hand fell from his wrist -- I took it in mine and put it into my bosom. Dr. Craik put his hands over his eyes and he expired without a struggle or a sigh! 
- Tobias Lear, Washington's Private Secretary
George Washington was in astonishingly good health in 1799.  67 years old was very old in those days, but the former President was very active and was energetic enough to help push a carriage out of a snowbank a couple days before his death.  But he came down with what doctors today think might be acute bacterial epiglottitis; unfortunately for the President, doctors were summoned:
The bleedings inflicted by Washington's doctors hastened his end. Some 80 ounces of blood were removed in 12 hours (this is .63 gallons, or about 35% of all the blood in his body).

A British physician of the era, John Reid, estimated that up to 90 ounces had been removed, and sarcastically remarked that the "current of blood" drained from Washington reflected the mighty currents of American rivers! Reid also criticized the heavy dosing of calomel plus the administration of emetics, vinegar vapors, and blistering to a man in his late 60s.
The "cure" is what did in the patient.  They didn't understand the consequences of their actions.  Well, some of them did:
One of the three doctors atteding Washington, Elisha Cullen Dick, objected to continued bleeding, arguing instead for tracheotomy. Tracheotomy is a surgical procedure recognized today as potentially life-saving in epiglottitis, but was then almost unworkable. Dick was overruled by the senior physician, James Craik. "Undoubtedly, the specter of failure with a grisly, painful (in the absence of anesthesia), and untried surgical experiment on the former president weighed heavily in Craik's decision to veto this radical suggestion".
The optics were bad, so they bled him some more.

It's sure good that we'd never do anything as boneheaded as that ... /SARC

There are three very interesting Coronavirus narratives emerging in just the last day or two:

  1. The virus looks to be less bad - and perhaps much less bad - than we had feared.  As we learn more, we learn that the worst case scenario that had been put forward is much less likely.
  2. Government actions have been a factor in making the outbreak or response worse or of using the outbreak to cover up their failures.
  3. The government response is strangling the economy.  By their own admission (i.e. bills being discussed in Congress), there is at least a Trillion dollars of damage so far.
So look at this situation: things are not as bad as we feared, governments are to some extent demonstrably incompetent and untrustworthy, and the draconian crackdown/overreaction is destroying businesses, jobs, and people's lives.

My prediction is that we're going see more of this narrative over the coming week.  And that will be a good thing, hopefully making idiot grandstanding politicians think twice before bleeding the patient yet once more.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Coronavirus stories that seem contradictory, but aren't

First up, the US infection statistics are exploding:
Coronavirus cases in the United States are doubling faster than in any other country and Americans need to reduce contact by 90% to stop the pandemic, a new report by a local nonprofit says. 
“The rate of increase in domestic cases is now estimated to be in the range of 25 to 40% per day near to or eclipsing the alarming rates of case growth occurring in France and Italy,” the report titled “Stopping COVID-19: Short-Term Actions for Long-Term Impact” reads. 
The report was written by the infectious disease analytics team from MITRE, a Bedford-based nonprofit.
Next, the death rate is dropping like a rock:
While coronavirus cases have increased in the past two weeks, the mortality rate has declined, pointed out veteran Fox News analyst Brit Hume.

He retweeted a day-by-day list of the number of cases reported compared to the number of deaths. It showed a drop in the mortality rate from 4.06% on March 8 to 1.84% on March 15.
You could rewrite both stories to say "Early statistics on Coronovirus infection and death rates in the US are crap.  They're still crap, but at least 25% less crappy.  In a couple more weeks we expect the crappiness to have been reduced by 75% from its peak."

As to infection rate, we've only been testing for a week or two at most.  Of course the infection rate is going up, because instead of asking "Have y'all been to China" we're actually, you know, testing people now.  Duh.

And I covered the death rate in some depth here, but this is the key bit:
  • Reported death rates vary from a high of 3-4% to 1% to a low of 0.1%.  Sure, we know the death count with some level of reliability, but since we don't have any idea about how many people contracted the virus, there's no good way to predict how bad (or less bad) things might be.
The good news is that the data is getting better.  It will keep getting better for a couple of weeks.  At that point we can start extrapolating the data and making some predictions that won't be complete garbage.  Until then, keep in mind that we really don't know what's going on right now.

Kenny Rogers and The First Edition - Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)

When people think of Kenny Rogers they picture a silver-haired crooner singing The Gambler.  That's reasonable - after all, he won a Grammy for that.  But his talents covered a lot of different types of music from Country, to Country/Rock, to R&B, to Jazz, and even to Psychedelic Rock.  He was a founding member of The First Edition, and this 1968 single was his first top 10 hit.  It sure wouldn't be the last.

So here's Kenny, back before his hair turned white.  Rest in peace, and thanks for all the great music.

Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) (Songwriter: Mickey Newbury)
I woke up this morning with the sundown shining in
I found my mind in a brown paper bag within
I tripped on a cloud and fell-a eight miles high
I tore my mind on a jagged sky
I just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in

Yeah, yeah, oh-yeah, what condition my condition was in

I pushed my soul in a deep dark hole and then I followed it in
I watched myself crawling out as I was a-crawling in
I got up so tight I couldn't unwind
I saw so much I broke my mind
I just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in

Yeah, yeah, oh-yeah, what condition my condition was in

Someone painted April Fool in big black letters on a Dead End sign
I had my foot on the gas as I left the road and blew out my mind
Eight miles outta Memphis and I got no spare
Eight miles straight up downtown somewhere
I just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in

I said I just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in

Friday, March 20, 2020

Internet security and Coronavirus

The jerks who create malware are using the virus panic to spread their junk:
An advanced persistent threat (APT) group is leveraging the coronavirus pandemic to infect victims with a previously unknown malware, in a recently discovered campaign that researchers call “Vicious Panda.”
Researchers identified two suspicious Rich Text Format files (RTF — a text file format used by Microsoft products) targeting the Mongolian public sector. Once opened, a custom and unique remote-access trojan (RAT) is executed that takes screenshots of the device, develops a list of files and directories, downloads files and more.
Remember Borepatch's First Law of Security: "Free Download" is Internet-speak for "Open your mouth and close your eyes."

Android app to track virus is actually ransomware:
The recently discovered ransomware performs a screen-lock attack by forcing a change in the password required to unlock a phone, according to DNS threat intelligence company DomainTools in a blog postauthored last week by Tarik Saleh, senior security engineer and malware researcher. For Android Nougat devices and later versions, the attack only works if the user never bothers to set a password in the first place.
Security researchers have recovered a password to unlock the device and remove the malware.  But look at the last sentence: you won't get infected if you have a password on the device.  Make sure you have a password on your phone, people.

SANS has work-from-home kit to help organizations implement this securely:
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, organizations worldwide are implementing work-from-home policies. Yet for many businesses, managing an entirely remote workforce is completely new, which means they may lack the processes, policies and technologies that enable employees to work from home safely and securely. In addition, many employees may be unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the idea of working from home. 
At SANS Security Awareness, we want to do whatever we can to ensure companies can train and secure their remote workforce. These resources and training materials are a combination of both our public resources and paid training materials which we are releasing for free. We understand that this is a unique situation and we want to do everything we can to help.
I like SANS - they have a clue and have been around for a long, long time.  If you're in IT and work-from-home is new to your org, check this out.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

The lighter side of plague

Sometimes in a crisis, you just need to laugh.  Here are some that kicked over my giggle box.

Chris Lynch found this:

Gorges Smyth found this:

LL found this:

Reddit has a whole thread on this subject:

Lastly, be glad you don't live in France.  You need to get a permit from the government to walk your dog there.

How to pick a strong password

I posted this ten years ago, but it's still useful.  The only thing that I would add is that your password should be at least ten characters long, and preferably longer.  But you'll see that this doesn't make it hard to remember.

Originally posted 19 March 2010.

How to pick a strong password

There's a snarky saying among IT professionals, that users are an infinitely renewable source of security risk.

There's certainly a difference in motivations between users and IT security folks, which generates a lot of frustration in the latter group. IT needs to manage risk; users are supposed to get their jobs done (in other words, make money for the company). It's a truism that we say that security is everyone's job; users say security is IT's job. I mean, look who gets paid for it.

There's a quite interesting research paper out from Microsoft's Principle Security Researcher, that argues that this attitude on the part of users is rational:
We argue that users’ rejection of the security advice they receive is entirely rational from an economic perspective. The advice offers to shield them from the direct costs of attacks, but burdens them with far greater indirect costs in the form of effort. Looking at various examples of security advice we find that the advice is complex and growing, but the benefit is largely speculative or moot.
I work pretty hard to filter out irrelevant security news and advice here, because I think that there's something to that. The people who get jazzed about a daily dose of triple propeller head security news probably aren't regular readers here. The security industry in general does a poor job of filtering out the noise, which leads to the "boy who cried wolf" syndrome:
He offers the following as reasons why: 
  • Users understand, there is no assurance that heeding advice will protect them from attacks.
  • Users also know that each additional security measure adds cost.
  • Users perceive attacks to be rare. Not so with security advice; it’s a constant burden, thus costs more than an actual attack.
I (mostly) agree with the perception, although I think that attacks via passive downloaded malware (say, from advertisements that exploit vulnerable browsers) shouldn't be considered "rare".

IT also offers complicated advice. For example, this is typical for how to pick a secure password:
Password rules place the entire burden on the user. So, they understand the cost from having to abide by the following rules:
  • Length
  • Composition (e.g. digits, special characters)
  • Non-dictionary words (in any language).
  • Don’t write it down
  • Don’t share it with anyone
  • Change it often
  • Don’t re-use passwords across sites
As a public service, here's how to pick a very strong password that is easy for you to remember. Think of a sentence or a phrase that describes something about you that you will remember. For example:
I used to live on Pond St. when I was 6.
Now take the first letter from each word, preserving capitalization and punctuation:
That's one heck of a password right there, and is something that is easy to remember for you, and very hard to guess for an attacker. And it takes care of the first 5 bullet points listed above. Well done, you! And this is hard to argue with:
We have argued that the cost-benefit trade off for most security advice is simply unfavorable: users are offered too little benefit for too much cost. 
Better advice might produce a different outcome. This is better than the alternative hypothesis that users are irrational. This suggests that security advice that has compelling cost-benefit trade off has real chance of user adoption. However, the costs and benefits have to be those the user cares about, not those we think the user ought to care about. 
Anyone in IT really needs to read this. Anyone interested in security should take a read, too.

UPDATE 19 March 2010 13:44: Dr. Boli offers some (ahem) excellent security advice.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Essie Jenkins - The 1919 Influenza Blues

Will people sing about the Coronavirus a century from now?

Quote of the Day: Don't Try This At Home, Kids edition

The Silicon Valley Redneck wins the All Quiet On The Western Front Memorial Snark Award, as well as Quote of the Day:
Here is one [disinfectant] specially recommended by the Board of Irresponsible People:
Hey, kids!  Know what's really good at killing the WuFlu virus on surfaces?  A mixture of bleach and ammonia, that's what!
Probably works, too.  There's just the slight side effect of the user and bystanders coming down with N2H4 pneumonia.  (Yes, that's a thing, though technically it's pulmonary edema.  Seriously, this is a Bad Idea.  But you know someone will push it sooner or later, sans disclaimer.)
That's funny, right there.  I guess I have to add this:

DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME, KIDS!  Mixing bleach and ammonia will create chlorine gas, which will kill you graveyard dead.  Seriously, the only way you could do a more realistic simulation of the Western Front would be to dig a trench next to the street and string barbed wire.

Still funny snark, though.

Reasons for optimism about Coronavirus?

Amidst the global panic that is shutting down the economy, there are some reasons for guarded optimism:

1. After a long delay, we are finally starting to get some actual data on mortality.  The data do not seem to support panic. The Silicon Graybeard elaborates on my post yesterday about the plague ship Diamond Princess and makes a plausible case that the mortality rate for the virus is around 0.2% of those exposed.

2. We are starting to see a lot of action on possible treatments - and by "action" I mean medical studies under way or even completed.  So far we've been treating patients with ventilators; now there look to be medicines coming.  Interestingly, some of the treatments are very old ones created to fight other diseases (for example, it looks like Chloroquinine tablets that were used against malaria Back In The Day may be effective against Chronavirus).  The medical research community hasn't been standing around twiddling its thumbs.

3. The worse mortality (in Italy) has been almost entirely concentrated in the population 80 years old or older.  This has quite useful implications about prevention techniques - isolate senior living centers, for example.  There is a possibility of a more targeted approach than "close al the bars and restaurants".

Sure, there's still a lot that we don't know, but it sure looks like the more data we get the less bad this looks.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

At last - some actual Coronavirus data

I've been saying that what we don't know about the Coronavirus outweighs what we know.  This makes it really hard to estimate how bad things will get.  Now there's an analysis of the Plague Ship Diamond Princess.  It's really, really interesting for a couple of reasons:

  • It was a "worst case" scenario, as people were confined for weeks with other infected people in very close quarters.  While this protected the general public from the infection, it likely maximized the spread of the virus on board the ship.
  • It was a "worst case" scenario as the population on board skewed dramatically to older - and thus, more vulnerable - people.

And so to the data, which is (cautiously) reassuring:

  • 83% of the passengers never caught the virus at all.
  • Very elderly (80+) were infected at only a very slightly higher infection rate (75% never caught the virus)
  • Almost half the passengers who did get the virus showed no symptoms at all
  • The young (under 20) and old (over 50) disproportionally showed no symptoms after being infected
  • Overall death rate was 1.2% (7 cases total)

Remember, this was a worst case scenario.  As I said, this is (cautiously) reassuring.  A detailed analysis is available here.

"The Gods do not answer fan mail."

Tom Brady is leaving the New England Patriots.  It strikes me as his Ted Williams moment.

Williams, for those who don't pay much attention to baseball, is perhaps the greatest hitter of all time.  A perennial question for baseball cognoscenti is just how many home runs would he have hit if he hadn't given up two seasons at the height of his career to join the Marine Corps in World War II, and then give up two more to fly as John Glenn's wingman in Korea.

Williams was a legend in Boston by the end of his career, and ended his playing days with a Hallmark moment, hitting a home run in his last at-bat.  Always touchy with the fans, he refused to come out of the dugout to tip his hat to the standing ovation - despite pleas from his teammates, the other team's players, and even the umpires.  John Updike penned some of the most memorable words written about baseball for this moment: The Gods do not answer fan mail.

I'm frankly very surprised that Brady is leaving the Pats.  He's played his entire career there, a career that has made him a wealthy man.*  I'm flabbergasted that he isn't playing out his last season where he has had so much success for so many years.  Then again, Williams wouldn't tip his cap to the crowd.

* As it turns out, Mrs. Tom Brady - better known as supermodel Giselle Bundschen - is worth twice what Brady is, so whatever extra cash Brady will get from his next team will be rounding error for his fortune.

Turlough O'Carolan - various Irish classical tunes

[UPDATE: Chris Lynch has an excellent collection of more recent Paddy's Day music.  Recommended. /UPDATE]

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  This is my traditional Paddy's Day post.

What is the "Classical Music" of Ireland? It's not (Italian) Opera, or (German) symphonies, or even an (English) homage to Ralph Vaughan Williams (who studied under an Irish music professor) "countryside music" in the concert hall. Instead, we find something ancient
We find something that easily might not have been.  Turlough O'Carolan (1670 – 25 March 1738) was the son of a blacksmith.  His father took a job for the MacDermot Roe family; Mrs. MacDermot Roe gave the young lad some basic schooling and saw in him a talent for poetry; when a few years later the 18 year old Turlough went blind after a bout of smallpox, she had him apprenticed to a harpist.  He soon was travelling the land, composing and singing.

This tradition was already ancient by the early 1700s.  it was undeniably Celtic, dating back through the Middle Ages, through the Dark Ages, through Roman times to a barbarous Gaul.  There bards travelled the lands playing for their supper on the harp.

This was O'Carolan's stock in trade.  He rapidly became the most famous singer in the Emerald Isle.  It is said that weddings and funerals were delayed until he was in the vicinity.  One of his most famous compositions - if you have spent any time at all listening to Irish music, you know this tune - was considered too "new fangled" by the other harpists of his day.  Fortunately, he didn't listen to their criticisms.

He married very late, at 50, and had many children.  But his first love was Brigid, daughter of the Schoolmaster at a school for the blind.  He always seemed to have carried a torch for her.

So why is this post in the normal slot reserved for Classical Music?  Listen to this composition of his, and you see the bridge from the archaic Celts to Baroque harpsichord.

And keep in mind how this brilliance might never have blazed, had Mrs. MacDermot Roe not seen the talent in a blind Irish boy and set him upon a path trod by many equally unexpected geniuses, all the way back to St. Patrick.  It is truly said that we never know what our own path will be until we set our foot down on it.

But his was an ancient path and he inherited much from those who trod it before him.  His "Farewell to Music" is said to be more in the traditional mold, and might have been appreciated at a feast held by Vercingetorix before the battle of Alesia.

This music is a bridge between modern and the ancient that disappears into the mists of legend.  Perhaps more importantly, it is a music that is still alive today, after a run of perhaps two and a half millenia.  You don't get more classical than that.

And it is a music where you still hear the yearning of a young blind man for his muse, Brigid.  That is a vitality that should not be exiled to a single day of celebration, even if it is for as illustrious a Saint as Patrick.  On this Feast Day, remember just how deep the roots of our civilization run.

(Originally posted March 16, 2014)

Monday, March 16, 2020

The Death of Hollywood

It's been going on for a long time, and I've been posting about it for a long time.  Ten years, in this case.  The only thing really left to add is the crooked accounting that Hollywood loves to use, which is an outstanding way to hide losses (and an even more outstanding way to hide profits).

Originally posted 16 March 2010.

Hollywood goes out of business, episode MCMXLIII

Via Bob at The Drawn Cutlass, we find that Hollywood thinks that there's no market for war films.
If Matt Damon can't sell an Iraq war film, perhaps this is a lost cause for Hollywood.

"We're disappointed," says Nikki Rocco, Universal's head of distribution. "And to tell you the truth, I'm puzzled. You've got the same great director and actor, in same style of film they did in the Bourne movies, just in a different place."
But that place has been merciless on Hollywood, which continues to try to make a hit out of the Mideast conflict. Other Iraq war films, including The Kingdom ($48 million), Body of Lies ($39 million) and Brothers ($29 million) featured big stars and little box-office returns.
"It didn't help that the big kahuna (Alice) was zapping business from everyone," Rocco says. "But maybe (war) is something that's in our face so much every day, people aren't wanting more of it in their movies."
People just don't want war stuff, at least enough to invest their time and their entertainment dollar? Is there a way that we could empirically test this? If only someone could come up with a measure of how valuable the market thinks something is.

Oh, wait - we call that "money". OK, so can we have an example of an entertainment franchise based on a war situation? How about Call Of Duty?

So what has the franchise grossed?
The Call Of Duty series has surpassed 55 million unit sales to date worldwide, taking a whopping $3 billion in retail sales in the process.
Is there a Hollywood movie franchise that we can compare, to see how much more (or less) the game has made? There is indeed:

Here's the lifetime gross of the six Star Wars films:
  • Star Wars, $460,998,007
  • The Empire Strikes Back, $290,475,067
  • Return of the Jedi, $309,306,177
  • Episode I - The Phantom Menace, $431,088,301
  • Episode II - Attack of the Clones, $310,676,740
  • Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, $380,270,577
Add 'em up, and you get a bit over $2.1B. The Star Wars franchise is about two thirds as lucrative as one of the first person shooter War simulations.

"Alice" was in theaters? "You've got the same great director and actor, in same style of film they did in the Bourne movies, just in a different place."

Yeah, but you have a blame America, blame the troops downer of a film that has all the nuance of a shovel hitting you in the back of the head. Those other films are also just like this. You think your audience are a bunch of idiots, who need you to lead them to Enlightenment (but can't make it too hard, or they won't Get It).

And you wonder why nobody goes to see your lousy film?

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Corona virus and the illusion of science

We're seeing this graph in the media:

Vox is a journalist "explainer" site, and this is a great example of journalists explaining things to the general public.  The overall idea is sound, that prohibiting large public gatherings will slow the spread of the virus; a slower spread will lower the peak number of cases; a lower peak will (hopefully) preclude a situation where the medical system gets overloaded.

So far, so good.

But look at that horizontal dashed line.  It sure looks all numerical and accurate and sciency, right?  And the heights of the two curves are all numerical and accurate and sciency, too.

Slow down, cowpoke:
The snake oil salesmen spreading the meme (and it has appeared in NPR, Wired, and tons of other far left outlets) make several statements such as 
A) we will run out of hospital beds if we don't cancel NHL+NBA
B) we will not run out of hospital beds if we do cancel NHL+NBA 
Now, there is no evidence supporting A and there is no evidence supporting B.
Maybe it's correct, but maybe it isn't.  We don't know a lot, and in fact don't know almost anything important about these curves.  How fast was the virus spreading before large gatherings were banned?  We don't really know because testing hasn't been available except in very limited capacity.  How fast is the virus spreading after large gatherings were banned?  Same answer.  What's the capacity of ER rooms?  We don't know what this will be once the virus is circulating - medical personnel very well may become infected, and it's not the number of ER beds that's key, it's the number of ER beds that medical personnel can provide care for.  What's that number?  Well, it depends on how many ER staff get infected.  How many is that?  We don't - and can't - know until it happens.
The situation in which the NBA+NHL really changes the qualitative behavior is equivalent to a fine-tuning in the sense of particle physics, and is therefore "unnatural" and unlikely. A small effect is very unlikely to change the answer to a big qualitative question from Yes to No or vice versa. 
The same implausible demagogic claims have been made in the case of the climate hysteria, of course. That hoax was a rehearsal for this more heated hysteria that people are undergoing today. In the climate case, you were told something like 
A: all polar bears will go extinct if you drive your SUV
B: polar bears will be saved if you stop using your SUV 

The correlation between "using your SUV" and "seeing polar bears extinct by 2100" is of course basically zero for absolutely all practical purposes and most of the impractical purposes, too. 
But here we go again. Some demagogues are just inventing pure šit and millions of people are so stupid that they are consuming this šit while smacking their lips. In fact, these millions of incredibly gullible and stupid people seem to be vigorously helping the demagogues to shove the šit down their own throats! 
So the NBA+NHL almost certainly won't impact qualitative questions such as "whether the U.S. will run out of the some quality hospital beds". The total number of cases at one moment may peak at hundreds of millions in the truly worst-case scenario but it may also peak at a number comparable to a few thousand. There is some five orders of magnitude in between. For someone to claim that he "knows" that it must be some number that is much higher than the current one means for him to become a 100% dishonest seller of the totally irrational hysteria.
FYI, the linked post is from an actual scientist, who knows math and statistics and stuff.  He warns to take what politicians and talking heads say with a big grain of salt:
For example, some complete aßhole in Ohio, a governor or similar crap, has asserted that there are about 100,000 Covid-19 positive in Ohio. It's ludicrous nonsense, of course. The fatality rate isn't much below 0.1% (look at the cruise ship, for example) so there would already be at least hundreds of deaths in Ohio if the claim about 100,000 were right (there are none or almost none). It's implausible that 100,000 people were infected at almost the same moment so many people would already be in big trouble by now. How stupid do you have to be not to figure out that this is just pure fake news by a complete moron who should be arrested for many more years than the people who scream "fire" in a full movie theater?
I strongly encourage everyone to click through and read his post which, while acerbic, is full of sensible analysis about what public policies plausibly make sense.

Vox's graph is the kind that the post World War II managerial elite loves.  It's a plausible idea with no real data backing it up, but is all dressed up in its scientific-go-to-meeting-suit.  It's like the Drake Equation:
The Drake Equation is designed to estimate the number (N) of planets in the galaxy that have intelligence life.
N = R^{\ast} \times f_p \times n_e \times f_{\ell} \times f_i \times f_c \times L \!
Looks like math, right? Science!

Um, not so much. You see, we have quite poor information about what the value should be for most of these variables. The Wikipedia article covers this in some depth, but it's summed up with, well, what I said:
Criticism of the Drake equation follows mostly from the observation that several terms in the equation are largely or entirely based on conjecture.
So the graph is really nothing more than people saying "Stay home, wash your hands, and stop touching your face," only trying to sounds smarter than they really are.

Maurice Jarre - The music for Dr. Zhivago

Dr. Zhivago is a fascinating film on a whole number of levels.  It was written in the Soviet Union, and banned as anti-Soviet propaganda.  Everyone who was anyone there refused to read it: I did not read Pasternak but I condemn him.  Boris Pasternak's novel won the Nobel Prize for Literature but he was not allowed to accept the money.  Bill Maulden (of "Willie and Joe" fame) won a Pullitzer Prize for this cartoon about Pasternak's plight:

I won the Nobel Prize for Literature,  What was your crime?
And so to the film.  It is very long - over 3 hours.  Despite this, it sold a quarter billion movie theater tickets, in the 1960s when populations were much less.  Adjusted for inflation in ticket prices, it is #8 of the list of top grossing films of all time.  This despite historians' panning the film for misrepresenting the history of the period.

The recently deceased Max von Sydow turned down the lead role, as did Peter O'Toole and Paul Newman.  Omar Sharif gave the performance of his career as Zhivago.

But things get stranger.  It was released in 1965, the same year as The Sound Of Music.  Unexpectedly, The Sound Of Music won the Best Picture Oscar.  Also unexpectedly, Dr. Zhivago won the best musical score Oscar.  That's maybe not much of a surprise since it was written by Maurice Jarre, who won that Oscar 3 times and was nominated another 6.

The music, obviously, is sublime.  Enjoy.