Misc. and mystery

Raven between the lines.

“Lee” I said, “why are you here again?”

The Major sat on the counter and grinned his evil grin. “My purpose in life is to make your life miserable” he said.

“Well you’re doing a damn good job” I admitted, “so you should be promoted. To Glory, by preference.”

Now that we’ve got that out of the way …

Sun over moon.

You know what’s not fun? Getting home from shopping on Friday to discover that now there’s a package waiting at the post office. It will have to continue to wait until Tuesday.

You know what else isn’t fun? Having a COVID-19 outbreak not only at the nearby reservation (where the infection rate is 25% and climbing) but also at the hospital in the ‘big city’. Our “isolated” community is now a contaminated one, and there’s no vaccine in sight. As such I have adopted some of my wife’s pandemic paranoia for my very own.

When the snakes go marching in.

Another thing that isn’t fun is finally getting a lens that was ordered back before Christmas, and finding it is a C/Y mount (Contax/Yashica) not a PK mount (Pentax K bayonet) as was advertised. This means either a long-distance, cross-country exchange or buying an adapter to make the lens usable on the Canon (or the Olympus, which I’ve found also can take it). Because I need the hassle of that? No, I don’t.

Also it isn’t fun when the temperature drops to -12 every night as the weather gears up for that being the daily high. I must split more wood before it does. That means more pain, and I’ve got too much of that already. I keep waiting for remission but get increased symptoms instead.

Marley the Model Dog.

So while I’m bored I troll Ebay for no good reason, and worse. You do see interesting things though, and some laughable practices. Anyway I look at cameras. Despite insisting I do not collect them anymore. I do like to look, however.

Now, if I were to collect them again … well there are a few I’d add to the arsenal ‘just because’. In alphabetical order, then:

Canon; in addition to the Canon cameras that would add to my repertoire there are some that might be nice to have. The 40D for example, because it would be a second EOS body but in the 10MP size which is my preference for “low” resolution. Conversely something like a 90D would be nice for exactly the opposite reason: it is definitely “high” resolution at 33MP and I’d like to try that for myself just to see what observations I’d have about it. I could compromise on a T7, which is 1/3 more MP than my T100, but they’re all too much money – even the 40D – for cameras that I know would not get much use after the initial experiments. I’d also like to try the PowerShot Elph 135 to see how its CCD sensor compares to others.

Fujifilm; any X model. Really this is a range of truly nifty cameras with great styling (especially the retro-look pseudo rangefinder models) and excellent image quality. Not a one of which could I afford and none would add anything to my shooting. Owning one of these is a purely aesthetic pipe dream. The Fuji I have, an F80 EXR, is an amazing performer that’s just the right size for my shirt pocket to go along everywhere in case I need to take a picture. I’ll stick with that one.

Kodak; none. Sorry, George, but even though I’ve had excellent use of three different digital Kodak cameras over the years there is nothing in the now-defunct company line-up that has anything ‘special’ about it. Even the few with exceptional specifications are plagued by a reputation for premature failure.

Nikon; does “D” stand for “Dull” or “Don’t bother”? I’ve tried out a Nikon D80 that was my Dad’s and it didn’t ‘connect’ with me. On the plus side the retention of the film camera lens mount would be great, especially if I’d been able to keep even some of the dozens of Nikon lenses. But I couldn’t so … mute point. I chose the Canon digital system because it is better at adapting old lenses of many brands, it having a very large ‘throat’ compared to the Nikon or Pentax. If I were going to pick up a Nikon digital it probably would be a D80 or a D200. But have you ever noticed how many broken ones are offered? Partly this is due to high sales in the first place, although you also have to wonder about the quality. There seems to be a disproportionate number of failures compared to other brands. Anyway there are no ‘special’ aspects to them, they are just competent cameras. But they all cost too much, even broken.

This camera doesn’t shoot in B&W.

Olympus; well yes I’d still like an E-300 or other CCD version of the E-410 I have. It would be silly to buy one, though. In fact a PEN E-PL1 (or later version) would be better as it has the micro 4/3 lens mount which is more adaptable of classic lenses. But it would have to have the optional EVF as using just an LCD is a right pain in bright light. Besides, the T100 already does the job of adapting old glass. I wish I’d saved some more of that old glass. *sigh* If wishes were Porsches beggars would drive*. As for the OM-D models … well the touch screens put me off. Also the prices.

Pentax; a K10D for me, please. Old enough to have a CCD sensor but new enough to have 10MP and sensor-shift stabilization. The K10D is probably the pinnacle classic Pentax DSLR. It’s also one of the priciest. The other Pentax model I’d love to try out is the medium-format 645D/Z. I could make an argument that it would add to my photography, but what it would take away from my bank account would be scary.

Sony; well, something. I should have some model from this brand. I have looked at Sony bridge cameras and not bought any for various reasons. After that you’re into the a6000 or a7 series models and that means the kind of money that could buy a good used car. I doubt even the best of Sony’s offerings would help my photography in any way; my art doesn’t call for such levels of perfection. It’s just that I’d like to try it out to see what all the pros, and amateurs with too much money to spend, are talking about. The downside here is that I might like it.

I’ve skipped some brands. I’ve skipped many models. I’m just dreaming out loud here. I haven’t even given a hint (or have I?) about the Mystery Camera, which is what made the images for today.

More later, unless WordPress pulls the plug on the Classic Editor or I fill up the allotted storage space.

Uh, yeah.

*Original version: “If wishes were horses beggars would ride.”

Plus ça change …

Continuing …

“… plus c’est la même chose.” – Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr

I begin this post with that quote because at the start of a “new” year it seems most appropriate. Our artificial designation of the calendar change (New Year used to be in March, never mind the change between Julian and Gregorian, adjustments thereto, or the other types of calendars still in use) and our societies’ assumptions of imposing further changes, or at least the hopes and illusions of them, on us … well it’s all really quite ridiculous.

For example; I have now lived in eight different decades.

Yeah, I’ve been around a while.

If I were to write an autobiography it might be called “From Warsaw to 100 Mile House” or something. I wouldn’t because I can’t remember not only fine details of but indeed great huge segments of my life. When I try to make sense of it, it just doesn’t. It’s been weird and at the same time not very interesting, even to me.

The point is, if we may get back on track here (it’s not called Wandering Words for nothing), that things don’t magically change on a particular date because of that date. You are not born on your birthday; rather you are born and that day becomes your birthday. But people are born, they live, and they die. We are acutely aware of the fact and have a psychological need to define the rest of reality in the same terms. That matter and energy can neither be created or destroyed we know, but we can’t come to terms with this because it is contrary to our own personal existence. So we fool ourselves into thinking time is a thing with a beginning and an end that can be quantified and measured and perhaps even traveled through in a direction other than always forward.

We may as well play the game. The consensus of opinion is that 2020 was pretty bad. Some argue from personal experience that it wasn’t, and the media has gone so far as to dredge up some experts to explain that there have been worse years. This is true: there have been worse years, and I’ve lived through several of them so I ought to know. I don’t expect anyone to listen to me (they generally don’t), but gee kids; I am a walking history book. There’s got to be some advantage to being this old, hasn’t there?

Perhaps not.

On a personal level 2020 wasn’t so bad for me. I am perhaps unique in my adaptability to endure a pandemic lock-down situation. I am by nature non-social (as opposed to anti-social, which is quite different) and the one good part of living off retirement income is you don’t get fired from it. In fact I got a lot of work done on the cabin. The worst bits were endless arguments (usually on-line) about the disease and how it was being handled with the hopelessly stupid people who made the situation worse and the empathetic feeling for all those who really did suffer. Very much like the wildfire disaster of 2017. In truth, for me 2019, 2018, and 2017 were all personally much worse than 2020. But if I look at it objectively and holistically with professional detachment as it were, 2020 was indeed a terrible year in general. A true nadir of existence.

It was made worse by a world-wide assortment of inept leaders whose utter lack of useful knowledge of any sort only served to amplify the raving ignorance and wanton stupidity of a population full of morons. Some demonstrations:

Metaphorical; Australian sees wastebasket on fire, grabs extinguisher, puts it out. Canadian waits until house is burning then starts checking the ads to see if there are any extinguishers on sale. American goes out and buys some gasoline to drown the fire with ’cause it’s wet so it ought to work like water, right?

Timing is everything; Virus first rears its ugly head in December 2019. Prime Minister flies planeloads of “trapped”, and potentially infected, citizens home as soon as possible. One year later he thinks about stopping people from getting on planes unless they test negative for the virus which has already become an uncontrolled pandemic.

When you don’t know, lie; Great Orange Leader says it will all be over by Easter, because admitting there is a problem would make him “look bad”. Eight months later his country has the highest infection rate in the world by a factor of 6 as well as 20% of the deaths from the disease despite having only 5% of the world population. His supporters claim he “warned everyone about how dangerous it is” when in fact he did exactly the opposite. The same supporters deny it exists at all, or say that it is no worse than flu. Until they contract it, that is.

Be prepared; Hey, we bought twice as many vaccine doses as needed for the entire population of the country! Uh, they won’t send them to us though. Seems they don’t really exist. Um, anybody got any vaccine for sale?

Financial forecasting; The Economy will be destroyed if we shut things down! Oh never mind: the rich people managed to get even richer after all, and no one else counts.

Progress in millimeters; Canada is pleased to announce they’ve almost vaccinated less than 0.02% of the population. Somewhat shy of the 12 million inoculations needed to break the transmission spread. Maybe some more lock-downs will help?

I did in fact predict quite a lot of this, as well as suggesting plans to re-order society to make things better and prevent future such occurrences. I won’t reiterate or even link to the relevant posts because no one listens anyway.

I guess the one good thing about being old is knowing you won’t be around long enough to see the final collapse of civilization.

In the short form

How bad can it get?

Let’s just say I finished off the week by slipping on the ice Friday.

That bad.

I didn’t break any bones, despite carrying an armload of wood at the time, but I’ve got the bruises and sore muscles from trying to defy gravity. Yes I’m too old for this. Every time something like this occurs it’s a reminder that lifestyle changes are inevitable. And possibly may be forced upon us at any time.

No photos this week. There hasn’t been a day worth considering a single frame in.

In other photo news I see the Ebay scammers are at it again. Same camera listings, same pricing trickery. In fact some repeats appeared yesterday (with ‘different’ sellers) and were gone today – taken down by the web site, I assume, as they were obvious cons.

COVID rages through our country still, with the numbers climbing. This is largely due to stupid people who fail to accept reality. Some of them are in charge. At least we’re not the USA, which has managed to exceed the world’s infection rate by a factor of 5 now.

Anyway I’m working on another dull, picture-less entry that’s a lot of words and probably not of much interest. I think it only fair to warn readers in advance of something like that. It goes somewhere eventually, but requires patience to see through to the end.

I see Chuck the Writer linked to my last dull entry, bless him. There weren’t even any good images in it. What the hell; he’s a good lad for more reasons than that.

This endless calendar of “just get through today” days has become tedious. I doubt 2021 will be better despite much promise, but at least it won’t be 2020. Ah, be careful what you wish for; you might get it.

Once again they said it would be sunny today. Once again it is not.

C’est la vie. C’est la guerre.

Lessons we should have learned

There has been much revealed by the pandemic. All of it having to do with human behaviour and what’s wrong with that. Here, in no particular order, are some of the things we should take note of.

1). Never let your country become dependent on another for vital goods like food, clothing, housing, energy, or medical supplies.

2). Viruses happen. This was not the first outbreak nor will it be the last. It is possible to have plans of action at the ready to prevent the level of severity we’ve seen with this one, and a few basic precautions would reduce the effects of all sorts of diseases we normally put up with as a matter of course.

4). Even though only about 25% of people are staying home (over and above the number who normally do), pollution levels have dropped drastically around the world. HINT, HINT.

5). When it comes right down to it, essential workers don’t include CEOs.

6). A lot of what we think is necessary in our lives (and indeed in our society) really isn’t. Most of what we’re doing without is superfluous to our existence anyway.

7). The economy exists to serve people, not the other way around.

8). Hoarding is just another sign of selfishness, ignorance, and stupidity. It doesn’t matter if it’s toilet paper or money that is hoarded.

9). There are no rights other than those granted by the society in which we live. Society has the obligation to make rules it deems necessary for the continuance of the society, and it’s not totalitarianism to require people to refrain from behaviour that is damaging to themselves or others. In fact all law is based on that principal.

10). Putting morons and/or egomaniacs in charge of your country is a really, really bad idea. To further democracy, some form of intelligence test should be required for office holders and voters.

11). People who take advantage of others during times of crisis are the lowest form of humanity and should be permanently eliminated from society upon discovery.

12). The average citizen is really bad at managing an inventory of their own household. No wonder countries have difficulty keeping emergency supplies on hand.

13). If you think there’s things more important than being alive, you should take your own … advice.

14). There are entire industries we do not need at all; they serve only as detriments to society despite their appearance as having a positive effect.

15). Cities are a bad idea. The worst hit places during this pandemic are those with the highest population density. This is a microcosm of the world problem in general.

16). People are slobs. Things like single-use plastics are not a problem in and of themselves; only the improper disposal of them after use is. If it’s just tossed on the ground it doesn’t matter what kind of trash it is, it will do damage.

17). The concept of “economic growth” is a myth which has contributed greatly to the current over-all crisis, including facilitating the spread of the disease. Earth’s resources are finite, and only a few can be recovered once used. That recovery requires input of more energy, most of which comes in the form of fossil fuels which are also ultimately finite.

18). An economy based on the sale of new consumer items is idiotic and doomed to failure. Nothing is more damaging to the world than “throw-away” consumerism.

19). Everything has two ecological costs: the ‘capital’ and the ‘operating’. It is wrong to assume they are interchangeable or easily equitable. Encouraging people to buy new cars, for example, by offering bonuses to trade in “clunkers” falsely assumes the operating ecological cost improvement offsets the capital one.

20). Manufacturing of products that are out of sync with social goals is majorly detrimental to the world: e.g. “supercars”, which have no practical real-world application and therefor should not be in production.

We have a unique opportunity right now to recognize our failings and massively re-align society into something more sustainable. Inevitably we won’t do it as it will be far easier to fall back into the same sad habits that caused the crisis in the first place.

DSCN2243
This is why we can’t have a nice world

Addendum:

About a week and a half after Easter our new cases numbers here suddenly spiked. We went from having less than 30 new cases every day for four days to 71 in one day. This coincides with the predictions of results based on the number of people who decided to ignore the distancing rules and go play on the holiday. We are expecting continued high numbers from now on. Thank you, idiots, for not following the rules. The next holiday in May is likely to produce a similar upsurge, and will no doubt bring it into our area here. At that point it will be extremely difficult for me to avoid it, and I’ve only got a couple of N95 fire masks left.

It’s been fun. Ciao.

 

On a personal note

There are some amazing similarities between dealing with a viral pandemic and dealing with wildfires.

We’ve already had our first wildfire here this year. It was started by slash burning getting out of control. Burning which shouldn’t have been done because there’s already a ban on such fires. That’s right: someone broke the law, and endangered a lot of other people.

Over Easter weekend the firefighters were busy extinguishing a dozen campfires left by law-breakers who shouldn’t have been out camping, much less lighting fires, on account of the fact no one is supposed to go anywhere. But they are more important than anyone else and the rules don’t apply to them so they can do what they want. In normal years they are the ones defying the orders to stay out of the backwoods and not run ATVs and chainsaws and such. These morons think they know more than people who actually deal with fires (or viruses) and understand how easily they start and spread – and how hard it is to put them out.

That’s in a normal year. This is not a normal year. When the fires start we won’t be donning the N95 masks like we usually do because there’s a shortage of them thanks to the viral outbreak. There are even significant issues with trying to fight a fire and maintain social distancing. The short form is, it’s not going to happen. What is going to happen? We don’t know, but it is likely to be bad.

Already we’ve had people violating the fire ban, the travel ban, and the gathering ban. The year is just getting started. There’s another holiday weekend coming up in May, by which time the weather promises to be warm and dry and inviting to outdoor activity. If idiots are willing to go out and break the law for their own selfish amusement when it’s cold and the ground is covered in snow, what do you think will happen when it’s nice outside?

Stupid, selfish people. They are the problem. The “me, me, me” bunch who have no regard or consideration for the rest of society. Guess what kind of leaders they elect. Ours has had to do a turn around on his basic narcissism, but the egomaniac to the south is the embodiment of everything wrong in the world today.

These are not only the ones who break the law for their own fun, but also scam the innocent and rob the beleaguered for personal gain. They aren’t the “I stole because I was hungry” lot, they are the “I stole because I could” lot. We’ve already had break-ins not only at shuttered businesses but also at closed remote cottages and homes. In normal times they are the ones speeding down the highway or texting on their phones while driving. As far as they are concerned the universe exists to accommodate them, and absolutely no one else matters. Does that sound like anyone you know?

Personally I’m good with executing every single one of them. Really. They aren’t part of society, they are parasites living off it. They are the ones crying their liberties are infringed whenever they are told that for their own good they can’t do something just because they want to. Anyone who has ever had a child has experienced this, from about the age of two until they actually mature. Some never do of course, and yet they still manage to get into positions of authority. Possibly even president of a country.

And they come out en force when things get worse for the rest of us, because hard times make it easier for them to prey on us.

They already don’t believe the restrictions to reduce viral transmission are legitimate or even worthwhile. I’ve seen too many accounts of them declaring it only kills old people and so why bother because in their minds old people don’t matter. Thank you very much. I hope the ones with that attitude actually contract the disease and see what it feels like first-hand.

And so this Summer we have the prospect of continued trouble from the virus soon to be made worse by the looming threat of wildfires. With any luck the supply of N95 masks will magically increase, but don’t bet on it. I see nothing good ahead, and I’m pretty good at predicting these things.

IMG_2379
Free Ravens

Clueless in Canada

After listening to our illustrious leaders tell us all about it, one has to wonder if they have any idea what they are talking about. I’m going to have to say “no, they don’t”.

One specific area of interest now is: when will things get back to normal? Our Prime Moron said “that information will be coming soon” which is monkey code for “I haven’t any idea”. I can’t really blame him for this as I doubt anyone has any idea. It’s easy to know that while the disease continues to spread and claim more lives we have to hunker down and try to slow its progress. But at what point does a change in numbers indicate it’s safe to open up the stores again?

Never mind the pendants who argue the numbers are skewed or false: they have no understanding of statistics anyway. In order to be as “accurate” as they demand you’d have to test our over 7 billion people every day. There really is no practical way to get more in-depth information than the imperfect methods we are using. This isn’t about perfection; it’s about having some sort of guideline, arbitrary or not, to give us something to go by. Just as there is no absolute definition of temperature, so we have to make up some sort of scale for case results. Sometimes the methodology will change as we try to refine that scale and get a more accurate picture of the situation, but we should never be foolish enough to believe it is perfect or ever could be.

Thus we take our imperfect understanding of far-from-ideal data and muddle along. One day the numbers will stop going up, and a downward trend will begin. We can then pretend this means we are getting the upper hand with the disease and decide it’s okay to ease the restrictions. But at what point? When it just starts trending downwards? When it’s fallen by 50%? 100%? When there have been no new cases for a year? It is a difficult question, and one made worse by knowing that when the restrictions are eased there inevitably will be a rebound; a resurgence of cases directly related to the newly increased human interactions made possible by the easing of restrictions.

Even if it doesn’t go up immediately, we know it will come back. People will panic and scream and blame everyone. As long as there is no vaccine to truly break the cycle and prevent a resurgence we are living in a precarious situation, disease-wise.

And should we trust our leaders even when they sound the all-clear? Will we? Inevitably the answer to both questions is “no”. After all it was their disregard for the seriousness of the situation and their slow-to-act attitude that made it so bad to begin with. You can start anywhere you like with that too, as the Chinese tried to silence it the minute the problem arose and our own heads of state did no better. You could even blame them for allowing people to continue to promote anti-vaccine nonsense and endangering people with ‘alternative medicine’ rubbish, making society more distrustful of science.

Only science works, people. Only science.

To that end I note there are things which could have been implemented years ago to reduce transmission of many kinds of disease which have still not been put in place despite the pandemic. I despair to see waiting rooms at medical facilities which still haven’t got so much as HEPA filtration in place, never mind the specific UVC lights that can kill viruses without harming humans. Really this sort of thing should be standard practice wherever people gather, especially if they are likely to be ill when gathering there.

But science has been ignored and denied for years because it costs too much. Right. The USA just enacted a bill for $2.2 trillion to make up for the effects of a single virus just in their country, and that won’t be the end of it. As I write this we’ve just hit 1 million reported cases of COVID-19, and the US alone is expecting a quarter of a million dead before it’s over.

Yes, science is too expensive and we’ll just go back to the old ways as soon as we can. Who needs clear skies and clean water anyway?

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COVID could be good

The COVID-19 virus outbreak is having the right effect on the world.

Unfortunately it is doing so for all the wrong reasons, and the effect is only temporary. Once the ’emergency’ is over everyone will forget the lessons they should be learning and it will all go back to business as usual. Which is wrong.

So what is good about it?

Let’s start with improved hygiene. Face it, much of the ‘ordinary’ viral illness spread every year could be prevented if people followed the basic procedures they are observing now. Not the ridiculous extremes some people are touting, but the simple acts of cleanliness like washing your hands. It’s somewhat appalling to realize they haven’t been doing this all along anyway. Rhinovirus that causes common colds by the score can be greatly reduced by washing, covering coughs and sneezes, and wiping off dirty surfaces. Never mind the reduction in bacterial transmission. And if you don’t know the difference between bacteria and viruses please learn as it is important. For example that hand sanitizer that is currently selling for $200 an ounce has no effect on a virus, but will kill off bacteria. It’s still just glorified rubbing alcohol, though. Likewise antibiotics will not cure a viral infection, but are sometimes given to stave off a likely secondary bacterial one. In the short form, nothing is really efficacious against a virus save your own immune system, and a few things that would be have a damaging effect on you as well as the germ.

Another benefit has been a great reduction in travel, even locally. What’s so good about that? Less fuel consumption and resulting lower pollution. No, really. The social shutdown is actually showing up already on views of emissions and climate change. Amazingly positive effect in a really short period of time. It really gives you hope for the future of life kind (only we know … it hasn’t got one).

The third major benefit is probably not so obvious, because it looks like an unmitigated disaster: the stock market decline. What’s good about that? Well in the first place no real wealth is affected because real wealth is fixed at the resources available to a given society and that doesn’t change just because of some arbitrary numerical evaluation. No, it doesn’t. What does change is that basically the rich people are eating each other alive financially, and they deserve it. The only reason they are so rich is because of the poverty they’ve inflicted on others. This isn’t some sort of socialist-communist rant, is a factual observation of economics that only con artists try to deny: no one gets rich in a closed resource system (which is any and all of them) without someone else getting poor. Wealth is not “created” (except in terms of falsified statements to convince banks to loan you money by proving you don’t need it), it is redistributed. The billionaires are reverse Robin Hoods, robbing the poor to give to the rich – themselves – like Dennis Moore. (There is a weird paradox that goes along with this wherein the richer they become and the poorer they make others the still richer they must become to be “as rich” because the uneven distribution stifles the economy and drives inflation, making the value of their money go down as the quantity of it goes up.)

There is a fourth part as well, and it starts with this Wall Street Syndrome. The fact is that the stock market and its various forms are no longer a means of investing but instead have become the biggest casino on Earth. It’s gambling, not investing. If the profits from the company this quarter aren’t as large as expected (instead of merely present), the stock value goes down. People even wager on that and ‘borrow’ stock they haven’t got to sell at top prices as they expect to cover those sales once the value drops. Almost 2/3 of “investing” these days is really speculation, and not based on any solid financial standing of any given company. The whole system needs a drastic overhaul, with much of the current accepted practices outlawed. This would stabilize the economy as nothing else could, and begin to change the economic mindset from constant demand of ever greater quarterly payouts to long-term consistency and planning.

From there we go to spreading that idea across the whole of society. Not just economically, but holistically. We should realize that the first industries hardest hit by the irrational social effects of this truly insignificant viral outbreak are the ones that need to be re-examined for their sustainability or indeed actual need. (See my earlier piece on a Sustainable Society).

None of this will happen, of course, as the virus is no place near as bad as the hyperbole makes it out to be. So far the world-wide infection rate has been less than 1/100,000 of the population and the unlucky few who have contracted it have a 98% chance of survival. By contrast, influenza which can largely be avoided by vaccine still manages to kill about 300,000 people per year. In more localized statistics, places like Italy and Iran are much worse off and you have to then consider what underlying differences there are to make their infection and death rates so much higher than the ‘norm’.

Once coronavirus is out of the news by dint of its lackluster staying power or is pushed aside by the start of World War III or something everyone will go back to business as usual and we’ll still have the same major problems we had before this insignificant one came along and got promoted as the new Black Death by an ignorant, nay stupid populace. COVID-19 is no place near as dangerous as the idiotic behaviour it has triggered.

Addendum: the amount of utter nonsense I’ve been reading about this and other viruses of late makes me wish it was going to wipe out half the population. Preferably the stupid half. Even when you explain the reality of it, people steadfastly refuse to believe the truth no matter how well-documented the facts or what qualifications the conveyor has. It’s like they have a built-in need to be wrong, or to be scared by something. It’s like with a zombie invasion; you can’t convince them that is impossible either. It is for that reason that I am not uttering one word about my own legitimacy in presenting this essay as factual, because no one would accept any. I can be just as trustworthy as anyone else spewing nonsense on the Internet.

Except in this instance it’s not nonsense.

What’s that phrase they always use? Oh yes: “do your research!” *LOL*

Or to paraphrase Pogo (Walt Kelly): We have met the enemy, and it is us.

 

Still waiting

This, then, is how the world ends: not with a bang but with a virus.

I said I would write something about viruses in general. Well, why not? Everyone else is doing it. And in keeping with the infinite monkey theory I have just as much chance of getting it right. Or having it read. Actually a pretty good chance of the former, but not so much the latter.

As little background as possible: viruses are a weird “pseudo-lifeform” that don’t fit the rules. They propagate in host cells, mutate easily, and are really difficult to kill. While active they cause the host to initiate an immune response to get rid of them producing all those unpleasant symptoms we call illness.

The bad news: that would be the “difficult to kill” bit. Immune systems eventually manage it, usually. But if you’re already in trouble physically … well this is where most of the deaths from COVID-19 have been occurring, and it’s no surprise.

The good news: this new one isn’t really any worse than others, it just looks like it. The media hyperbole and misinformation makes it sound like the new Black Death, but that wiped out half of Europe. Really the death rate of infected individuals now is staying around 3%, which is what we’d expect under the circumstances. Of course if you know one of them or are one of them there is zero comfort in that fact.

The bad news: it’s not easy to prevent the spread. Literally inhaling the same air as an infected person means you have been exposed and could develop the disease. The longer you are exposed or the more intense the exposure (an infected person’s cough will have a higher density of the virus than regular exhaling) the greater the risk.

The good news: just because you’re exposed doesn’t mean you’re going to get it, or even that it will be any worse for you than ordinary flu.

The bad news: it hangs around on surfaces and wiping them down with disinfectant/alcohol won’t kill it.

The good news: wiping the surfaces (and washing your hands) can physically remove the virus. So yes wash your hands, but don’t obsess about needing sanitizer, okay?

Now to get into the more complex aspects of virology, what you need to know is that the damn things can go dormant but remain viable and survive some really severe conditions like the frigid cold and vacuum of space. A certain celebrity moron has stated that once the weather warms up to 80° Fahrenheit COVID-19 will no longer be a problem. This is not so. If the weather warmed up to 800° Fahrenheit we wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore, but it would be small compensation for the buildings burning and cars melting and everything else being dead as well. Viruses do not kill off easily.

On the other hand it is true that weather changes affect viral transmission, and the reasons why are somewhat paradoxical (meaning scientists still argue about it). For example the germs like warm, moist air but not cold, dry air – but the majority of viral infections occur when the weather is cold and dry. Hmm. Why is this? It’s mainly because that inhospitable ambient state is an irritant to our respiratory tract which makes it more susceptible to infection. There is also some claim that the social conditions of Winter – more people huddled together in relatively closed locations – increases the likelihood of spread. A further fact is that viruses have a life cycle like anything else, and generally flourish at certain times of year but remain latent at others – sort of like plants blooming in the Spring. But no one knows yet exactly how COVID-19 will respond to these changes.

Will masks help? Only if they are worn by infected people; they aren’t very effective at stopping you breathing the germs in, only at exhaling them. I guess most people don’t understand that the main reason for “hospital garb” is not to stop the staff from catching diseases from the patients, but to stop the patients from catching diseases from the staff. It is easier to isolate a known infected individual than to apply prophylactic measures to everyone who might catch the virus. Amazingly this novel coronavirus seems to be pretty hard to catch; we’d really expect the infection rates to be much higher with the known proximity factors. I guess it doesn’t ‘travel well’.

There have been a lot of ill-informed commentaries on the COVID-19 virus, ranging from the absurdity of it being “created on purpose” or “weaponized” (it’s a lousy one if they did) to blaming it on the Chinese just because it originated there (hey, notice how it doesn’t care about ethnicity or religion or geographical borders?) to the outrageous and immoral scamming going on with fake ‘cures’ and ‘preventatives’ (or claims of being health authorities) and on to the ridiculous and yet harmful human reactions of hoarding things that won’t really do any good for having them in mass quantity.

Even investors have fallen for this farce, dumping stocks due to fears of global economic collapse despite the fact it is A). not really doing that much damage (except by proxy) and B). inevitably a short-term event. The ironic thing here is that the world will go back to doing business as usual once this episode has passed, not having learned a single lesson from it. This despite the fact we’ve had similar outbreaks in the not-too-distant past which should have prepared us, but we failed to learn the lessons then as well.

People are acting as though this is some air-born pathogen sweeping across the world and devastating the population. This is not the case in any respect, especially not the deadly results part. Remember there are over 7 billion people on this planet now, and we’re going crazy over what is a statistically insignificant infection rate, never mind the fatality rate. Also understand that world travel is rampant and fast these days, so in fact the spread has been amazingly small. The so-called Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 killed off 50 million people in a world of about 2 billion, and there was no air travel in those days as planes had only just been invented. To relate, COVID-19 would have to kill off 175 million people to be the equivalent, and that is unlikely given the improvements in medical care since the early 20th century.

The pattern of the disease’s progress is exactly what we’d expect to see, with the initial outbreak in China being the most deadly. This is followed by individual travelers taking it to other destinations such as Iran, Italy, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and yes Canada. Once there we see another ‘blossoming’ of it spreading out from a central location. It is at this point we expect to see a decrease in fatalities, but ultimately this in influenced by quality of care factors in the affected locales.

In opposition, there are people saying that the quarantine procedures being used are “unethical and ineffective”, which shows they know nothing about which they speak. Limiting contact between known or suspected infectious people and others is a sure-fire way of reducing the risk of spread, and from that point alone is therefor ethical. As Dickens said: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.” Eventually a vaccine will be produced, although who should get it will remain debatable for some time. I imagine initially it will be one of those “travelers’ vaccines” rather than a common inoculation.

If there is any great risk imperiling us it is not the disease itself, but our society’s inability to cope with the circumstances. I have been waiting days to find out if I really am infected or not, and the symptoms have all but vanished meaning when (or if, knowing the efficacy of our system here) the results come back they will be of moot value. Meanwhile as the cases do mount up (so far no deaths in our country, and less than 50 infections) our government is just getting around to coming up with a committee to deal with it. That’s not how you manage an emergency. The quicker you take action on a potential threat like this the greater the chances of success against it. Controlling the panic in the populace, reassuring them that everything will be alright, would be a lot easier if they had a handle on the situation from the beginning instead of rushing about making contradictory claims and generally presenting an image of utter confusion and idiocy among those who are in charge of handling said situation.

Our provincial government announced one day that there was little risk of it infecting here, and two days later reported the first case. This in a place that regularly has lots of travel to and from China, where the outbreak was first detected. Since then the in-province cases have risen to 27 (really not many for a population of 4.6 million) and the government is just now trying to organize to combat it? If this really were a significant health threat such as some form of biological warfare we’d all be as good as dead by now.

As I said, ultimately this will be our undoing – not the disease itself.