Believe you can’t fly

(A scheduled rant because who knows what Wednesday will be like.)

This is precipitated by a blog I read wherein the writer postulated that film cameras will still be going after digital cameras have quit. Initially it looked like a claim that we’d all go back to film, but the actual point was that digital cameras individually are doomed to die within a few years whereas there are film cameras that are still functioning after more than a century.

Boy don’t I know it! I have several examples myself, from the handful of digital cameras that have passed on to the recycling bin to the 100+ year-old Brownie that I’ve taken pictures with – including using a digital camera as ‘film’ for it.

Of course everyone who reads my drivel knows my prejudice against smart phones. Can we add to the standard complaints the fact they are designed to land in the bin before they’ve even stopped working due to Planned Obsolescence on Steroids?

Let’s just look at film versus digital for a moment. Again.

What are the main drawbacks of film? It costs a fortune to use as supplies dwindle and the chemistry involved becomes ever-more expensive and scarce. Whereas digital uses cheap, reusable technology. Also film has that ‘wait’ factor where you have to shoot the whole roll and process it before you see what you got. Digital is nearly instant. Film is fixed in its results, digital is variable at several stages from changing the ISO frame by frame to post processing with the click of a button.

What are the main advantages of film? A good film camera need not be dependent on batteries and is unlikely to fail as a result. Indeed it can be “always on” and at the ready, with no lag between spotting the shrike in the bush and grabbing the shot. Some digital cameras are really slow to start up, or even capture after pushing the button. I’ve got a lot of pictures of where birds were a fraction of a second before the camera actually fired. True it can happen with film, but it’s less likely. And as mentioned at the start the film camera may still be functioning long after the digital one has given up. Most film cameras, even many of the cheap ones, are built like tanks. On the other hand digital cameras are generally built to be replaced in a couple of years (that ol’ obsolescence thing again).

I’m not going to discuss film image quality versus digital image quality as that really is a moot point and one that’s purely aesthetics.

Can you get a digital camera that will last? Sure. Got a few thousand dollars to spend? And then we still need to define “last” because a 150,000 shutter count can go by faster than you think, even when you are paying a small fortune per frame.

Is there any point to this post? No, not really. Certainly no conclusions. Just observation. But yes I would still use film if it were at all practical because I really like the way some of the old film cameras work (I often set my digital ones to imitate the functions, although not to the “simulation recipe” extreme). But I would use it alongside digital because both have advantages when it comes to getting the results you want.

B&W in colour

It’s that time of year again

For longer than probably most of you have been alive I have been advocating against the perpetuation of that chronological absurdity known as Daylight Saving(s) Time. Over half a century I’ve repeatedly tried to explain to anyone who will listen why it doesn’t work and isn’t a good idea. It’s an affront to Sandford Fleming, for one thing. It only has any positive effect in a limited longitudinal range, and then for a short time. It does harm to people’s health, upsets farming schedules, wastes daylight, causes accidents, and negatively effects the economy.

Look: it’s just wrong in every way and that’s all there is to it. No, there are no supporting arguments that make any sense. “I want to play golf in the evening” is not a supporting argument; it’s just selfish and stupid.

So those of us with functioning brains who realize the Earth is round in both directions finally managed to make some headway last year, about a century late. At last a few of the dimwits in charge got the message that the clock shift was a wrong thing to do. Unfortunately they didn’t completely understand. Of course politicians are those who know (almost) nothing about anything, which is why they’re put in charge of everything. (And you thought Wonderland was topsy-turvy.)

What they came up with is perhaps even a worse abomination: the notion of permanent Daylight Saving(s) Time. That’s right; they want to shift the clocks to indicate the wrong hour all year ’round. Honest-to-Khan. Despite the fact that people who actually study human health and welfare as well as economics and … well damn near everything else, have said this is a really bad idea.

It’s like trying to explain nuclear physics to an ant, except the subject matter is no where near as complicated. But evidently the ‘students’ make up for this by having even lower intelligence than the average bug. Yeah, that’s why they’re in charge. Their argument ‘for’ PDST seems to be that we can’t do business with other areas on the same longitude if they are on a different time standard. Never mind that we manage to do business with areas on different longitudes and time zones, up to and including a full day off.

Honestly, I’m thinking of launching a multi-billion dollar class-action lawsuit – based on the economic value lost to the stupid process – because money is the only thing politicians pay attention to.

Why do we accept fraud?

This post is the result of a convergence of four things. The first being the two hours I spent during Friday and Saturday reporting fraudulent Ebay listings. The second being a post by fellow blogger Chuck Miller mentioning how a satirical piece by someone else about a politician ended up getting that person’s post pulled (which sounds a lot like a free speech violation to me). Third was fellow blogger Jim Grey’s mentioning a similar on-line ‘debate’ over the issue of what is free speech or not in respect to a now infamous social media platform. And fourth would be my own recent suspension by Farcebook over their AI’s inability to comprehend context and thus thinking my statement of fact that the punishment for sedition is death is the same as threatening to kill someone. Good ol’ AI: lots of Artificial, not much Intelligence. Considering that people are infinitely smarter than computers and yet still not up to managing these tasks it’s more than a little stupid to put the machines in control, eh? Oh we can toss in fellow blogger Dan James’s accidental foray into the area of vision, perception, and psychology for added spice (although he didn’t mean to do this I’m sure).

Let’s start with the Ebay fraud. It was rather annoying, because the criminal involved dumped dozens of new listings of a certain camera I am interested in onto the site all at once. Having to wade through a sea of schlock to try and find any legitimate offers was not fun. How do I know they were fraudulent? Because no one suddenly has dozens of high-end cameras available which they are willing to offer at very low starting prices on short-term auctions. This is entirely outside the realm of probability. Plus I recognized some of the photos from earlier fraud listings. Oh and the idiot reused images, including between the three fake ‘seller’ names he was using. We’re talking Canon 5D, 6D, and 1D as well as full-frame Nikons and yes the Pentax 645 cameras were back again. So obvious it’s painful. I can’t imagine anyone falling for it, yet they must else why continue to perpetrate the scam? Like being threatened with arrest via pre-recorded telephone message (you must have gotten that call, haven’t you?)

Now how does this fraud work? I’m not sure. One way would be to drag the legitimate bidders up in price using sock-puppet accounts (all-too-common on Ebay) and then once the maximum has been determined and gone beyond simply offer the item “second chance” for the last legitimate bid price to all who participated and see who bites. I was recently subjected to this version and ignored it. But this presupposes the merchandise is real, and I doubt anyone has a hundred top-end digital cameras sitting around waiting to be sold cheaply.

More likely the bid is brought up and up and a sale is made. The seller collects the money, and buggers off. Fake accounts and all just disappear until they decide to risk discovery again and repeat the scam. This is one of the undoings of many scammers; they don’t know when to take the money and run, converting their ill-gotten gains into legitimate investments and living the easy life like any other politician would.

Really to police this Ebay would need three moderators per user to stay on top of the scams. That’s sort of how it is on the Internet, no? And not just with sales sites either. Facebook and Twitter are loaded with fake accounts and the scams aren’t always about business. Let’s face it, we’ve just come off four years of having a two-bit con artist masquerading as president of the United States (if you believe Donald Trump you seriously need psychiatric help, I’m not joking). And when the lies are proven they deny it even harder. Well he’s gone now and it’s time to get rid of the rest of them.

“Don’t lie” we tell our children. Then we give them stories about fictional beings and make up elaborate ruses to pretend they are real. Maybe if we explained what Santa Claus truly represents instead of insisting he’s an actual entity our kids would not be grounded in the idea that lies are not only acceptable, but preferable to the truth. Why else do we have so many people insisting on “alternative facts”? As a scientist it absolutely boggles my mind that reality has become optional and fantasy is an acceptable alternative. That’s the definition of insanity, people; refusing to accept demonstrable facts, holding on to delusions, and becoming violent when challenged. It’s bad enough seeing this in the drug addicts on the street (at least they have a chemically-induced excuse for their madness), it’s quite another kind of horror to see it in the people who are running your country. What’s their excuse? Perhaps we should remove the “win at any cost” attitude from our sports programs as well.

Finally about that bit that got me in trouble with Farcebook. How dare I suggest traitors should be executed in accordance with the law, eh? Isn’t that what they’d want, though? As they pretend to be about law and order; give them what they demand. In reality you’d be doing society a big favour. You can not educate crazy people, and these people are crazy. It’s a type of zealousness found in many cults and it leads to social destruction. We’ve just seen it try.

We know there are people out there who will grab a hold of any cause, no matter how noble, and corrupt it for their own purposes. Often this is no more than the thrill of the power they feel when they destroy something knowing they’ll get away with it because the blame will fall on everyone. They are anarchists, which is the worst (arguably the only) threat to society. The disbelievers of reality set themselves apart and proudly wear their anti-societal banner, proclaiming themselves to be the problem and being proud of it. What the hell kind of way is that to behave? Your mother taught you that, did she?

It’s amusing the number of them who think being asked to wear a mask to protect against spreading germs to others is some kind of infringement on their rights. They think this is a totalitarian society? Brother, if it were they would have just disappeared in the dark night never to be heard from again. Rather a lot different than a mere fine for being an idiot.

Not just the ones who violate the law in the extreme, but the ones who aver no law applies to them if they don’t happen to like it. They go on about “god-given” rights or “fundamental” freedoms. There’s no such thing. The only rights and freedoms anyone has are those granted by the society they live in, and they are always subject to change. If you don’t like the way the society is structured, there are legal means to change it. Attacking the legislature by force is not one of them. Nor is making up lies and insisting you won “by a landslide” an election you lost – sixty times over.

There are too many people in this world, there is no need to accommodate those who don’t want to be a part of it. There is no place in this world for popular-opinion based reality, nor the people who advocate such nonsense. So this old protester hippy leftover from a generation soon to be gone will take up his own mantle of anarchy profess that these are the very people that need to be permanently removed from among us. We need to execute them (Farcebook be damned).

And we need to teach our children better.

A cold and cruel world.

The Gong Show that is Ebay

In an attempt to further my Master Plan I have been wasting, I mean spending time on Ebay looking for bargains that will fulfill the two camera needs I have. What I’ve found instead is evidence of consistent fraud. I’m an engineer: we’re good at seeing patterns.

The basic pattern is the classic auction fraud adapted to electronic media. Traditionally a crooked auctioneer would ‘accept bids’ from people in the audience who didn’t really exist to raise the bids from the real participants. It was called “bouncing bids off the walls”. The modern equivalent is sock puppet accounts run by the seller which magically step in and bid the item up if it isn’t going for enough money. These may even be automatic, requiring little actual effort from the dishonest vendor.

Without naming names (because basically this would be making an accusation of crime) I’ll tell you about my attempts to acquire a certain camera that would sub for the dying Nikon. The first thing you have to understand is that the initial offering price was very, very low. The second thing is that there were four separate listings for identical cameras all from the same seller at the same time. After that it got interesting.

Legitimate would-be buyers, including Yours Truly, made legitimate offers. The cameras, in sequence, went up to higher prices but still remained quite low cost. Strangely some other bidders appeared and pushed the price up, but still low. The real would-be buyers abandoned hope, and the items sat at one price until near the end when again suddenly the price shot up – and closed – at nearly double what people were willing to pay.

Then the pattern repeated as within a few hours the same seller had duplicate cameras available, again for very low starting prices. We’re not talking about two cameras, but four. Which turned into six. Which turned into eight. And then more. Sort of like they bought their own merchandise back and then offered it up again as a ‘new’ listing over and over. In reality there probably were only four, but since they couldn’t get the money they wanted they listed them again instead of letting each go for the price people were willing to pay.

This is classic “sock puppet account” action. Especially when you check some of the so-called buyers’ profiles and find that their actions have been 100% with the same seller. It’s pathetic, immoral, and probably illegal – but good luck making a complaint, much less getting anything done about it. The most you can hope for is to make a note of the shady vendor and avoid anything they offer. I must point out that since Ebay charges a fee for reserved bid listings (the amount is due whether or not the item sells) they encourage this unethical practice. It’s all about making money. Them making money, that is. If you don’t like it you don’t have to use their service (more on this aspect at a later date).

Incidentally, all ‘fourteen‘ of these cameras (real quantity; probably four) ended up in the $150 range before the auctions ended. In each case it took a few hours before the seller magically had yet another one to offer at a ridiculously low starting price. On Monday the ‘last four’ (in reality the only four) were suddenly at $80+.  By selling time they’d jumped up to the $150 range. I played the game until Tuesday, including watching the same action on some other models the same seller seemed to have an unlimited supply of. By this time I wouldn’t have bought from these people even if they let me have one for $1, shipping included. Frankly it’s not even a clever strategy as the immediately repeated listings not only are a blatant sign of the scam but also indicate even to the naive buyer that there are “plenty more where that came from” giving every indication of a high supply which is the economic basis for a low price.

Oh, Canada.

Now let’s look at an alternate scenario. A different camera from a different seller received no bids by the end of the auction time. It was relisted, but at a lower initial price than before. That is the legitimate way of doing it, instead of running a farcical scam to make people believe there are dozens of potential buyers willing to pay huge prices for whatever you’ve got. You need only to look at the number of offerings for any given camera model and see that there are plenty of them out there, and most of them are old and not worth a sou never mind near or above the price of a new model. (I choked looking at what Nikon P610s are offered at these days.)

(Side note: the camera listing cited above was somewhat crooked too, as it was listed as “untested”. It required 4 penlight batteries. The seller couldn’t be bothered to stick some in and see if it would fire up? Unlikely. Probably he tried it, found it didn’t work, and decided that the “untested” description was more likely to sell than “broken”.)

Another odd thing I encountered, in addition to the “you have been outbid” notice that sometimes rapidly appears immediately after you make a higher-than-listed offering no matter how many times you up your bid (thank automatic bids for that), was that I had been the “winning bidder” at one point for $51 when in fact I had never bid that amount. Would Ebay care to explain that? No, I thought not. The usual excuse is that it must be me that is at fault. It’s never ‘them’. That’s SOP for companies these days, and I can tell you a lot of stories of encountering this phenomenon from many businesses. It’s kind of silly when they try to pull it on an engineer who understands more about how the things work than they do.

As a Canadian I’m at a distinct disadvantage in Internet buying. Not many of the offerings on Ebay Canada are actually from Canada, and the cost involved with buying something from outside tends to make it too expensive to do. For example I watched this past week as our dollar sunk from 77¢ US to 74¢ US. Three cents isn’t much, right? Until you multiply it out over the price of a $300 US camera. That’s roughly the difference between paying $389 CDN and paying $405 CDN. On top of that shipping to/from Canada is obscene (approximately double the cost for sending the same package within either the US or CA), plus our government wants its cut as well. So for a Canadian buyer that $300 US camera ends up at the door costing $482 CDN. A pretty nasty mark-up as your income is in the latter not the former currency.

Oh shipping is another scam area. It should be based on weight and size of package and indeed can be calculated that way. Optionally, some sellers use flat-rate shipping (either of which is legitimate). But some people just pump the price way up to make sure they get enough money from whatever they are selling otherwise cheaply. A large number of items cost more to ship than to buy, even when the seller doesn’t do this. Ebay is not the only site suffering from this phenomenon either: Amazon is rife with sellers listing at ridiculously low prices to attract buyers and then making their profit on “shipping” charges.

Some other recent ‘adventures’ related to my Master Plan:

The local electronics outlet had a really good sale on the Sony a6000 camera with lens. It was tempting, because that is a nice camera. It is even capable of handling some of the tasks I require of my equipment. But not ones which aren’t already covered. Id est it can’t assume the super-zoom duties of the Nikon and it doesn’t have a full-size sensor for better low-light (night) shots (my two main goals now).

Likewise I passed on a deal for an older Olympus micro 4/3 camera. I found the configuration of it intriguing and the price was downright cheap. The fact it was only an 8MP sensor didn’t bother me at all. But once again it is just an interesting piece of equipment and not something that would add to my photography repertoire.

This is also why I didn’t jump on an old Pentax K110D. Nice 6MP camera, that I don’t need for anything. Having to constantly remind myself of this after decades of collecting and using cameras for the sake of the camera rather than the photos is the biggest challenge I face right now.

Even bigger than trying to get an honest Internet deal on equipment that would be useful to me.

Random Cats and Neglected Social Issues*

Attempting to get ‘normal’ pictures of our cats only reinforces the notion they are not normal. Not surprising since the world itself is far from normal.

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Her name is Boots

I could go on at length about the world situation right now, but to what end? In over half a century no one has listened to my opinions despite my being proven right repeatedly. So, random thoughts. (The words aren’t important: it’s about the cats. It’s always about the cats.)

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His name is Hannibal

And just like that, suddenly Colin Kaepernick was right.

Until it’s no longer fashionable to be anti-racist, that is. Then it will be business as usual again.

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Her name is Squeak

If you want to end racism you have to execute people of a certain kind.
The problem will not respond to any other methodology. Sensitivity training isn’t going to do it, and as long as their type are around (never mind in power) nothing changes. I’ve seen vast improvements in social conditions in my lifetime, and then saw them all but vanish in a few years. Why? Because the people who benefit from the hate were still there, lurking in the shadows and awaiting the opportunity to take advantage of fear. All they needed was a champion. No, not a champion but a figurehead; a symbol of authority to put the official stamp of approval on reprehensible behaviour. Even if that approval was only implied and not blatant.
If you’re not willing to end the lives of the people whose very existence causes everyone else trouble, you’re not serious about tackling the issues. We’ve fought wars over this.
Remember: they are perfectly willing (and indeed eager) to kill you to advance their cause.

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Boots, as normal as she gets

The prevalent economic system in the world today isn’t capitalism, it’s anti-socialism. All forms of government are some type of socialism. All forms of socialism involve equitable distribution of resources for the common good. Anti-socialism involves inequitable distribution for the benefit of a few at the expense of the many. That’s why feudal systems and dictatorships inevitably fail. You can see the signs of anti-socialism in CEO’s having their compensation cut to a mere $5.8 million during the pandemic when the people who actually did the work of the company are having to survive on a $2,000 per month government handout (that the government can’t afford to pay).

Remember that “socialism” and “society” have the same root word. If you don’t have one you don’t have the other; you have chaos and anarchy.

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Hannibal, sleeping as normal

57 police officers resigned in support of their comrades who beat up a 70+-year-old-man. That’s 57 job openings welcome. It also shows that every law enforcement agency (and indeed legislative body) needs to be vetted for these bullies, whether racist or just power-crazed, so that they can be permanently removed and given restricted social standing. Yes, let them feel what it’s like to be a minimum-wage slave for a change. Bar them from voting too, so they can’t build a political power base of abuse. Again.

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Squeak, who normally sleeps under the covers

Lessons from the pandemic include:

All false medical practices need to be stopped and outlawed.

People who actually do work are more valuable than unskilled and interchangeable executives who earn lots of money for contributing nothing to the company.

Symbolic gestures are just as useless and damaging as riots.

Gasoline that cost $1.38/L before the lockdown still generated a profit at $0.89/L. Because the law of supply and demand is based on greed, not some magic ability for more money to make a product appear out of thin air in an instant. Same goes for PPE.

Reality is not a matter of public opinion to be voted on.

Politicians are least able to deal with crises because they are the least qualified in any given field, yet are put in charge of everything.

No country should allow itself to become dependent on another country for essential goods of any kind.

The ecology actually is important. A lot of businesses are not.

If you are wounded, look for a man with scars.

Don’t do business with anyone who doesn’t share your ethical nature.

The current crises will all blow over and everyone will go back to doing things the same as before. Oh wait: that’s not a lesson from the pandemic, it’s a lesson from a long life.

I’m too old to deal with this stuff, to fight the battles, to try and educate the young. So I’m just reverting to my “selfish” lifestyle and I don’t care what anyone thinks of me, my life, or my opinions.

*The title is an adaptation of Edward Gorey’s “Dancing Cats and Neglected Murderesses”

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.

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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.

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Free Ravens

Let’s play

While all our governments are spending like drunken sailors in order to mitigate the economic damage they did by not clamping down on a disease outbreak until it became pandemic (because they didn’t want to hurt the economy) …

Let’s pretend money grows on trees and no one is ever going to have to make up the trillions of dollars flowing like molasses in winter while people can’t pay their bills …

So what if future generations have taxes that they’ll never get out from under, at least the rich will still be rich and no one will be taking any of their ill-gotten, economy-strangling hoarded billions from them …

Anyway, here’s some pictures of ice. I don’t know what the connection is: you work it out.

The Last Word on The Virus

(I promise to stop writing about COVID-19 soon. Really. After this piece upsets everyone who bothers to read it there won’t be much left to say, unless something significant happens in the world.)

Here we are, almost three months into the outbreak and the government is just starting to do things about it. The wrong things of course, because after all it is the government doing them.

Now they’ve got it into their heads to shut down … well, nearly everything. The idea is if no two people get together the thing can’t be transmitted from one person to another. After all it does not spontaneously generate, although some people don’t seem to understand this. For example we’ve had zero cases in this area, but people are still acting like it’s rampant in the streets (inexplicably taking their kids out of school, hoarding toilet paper, et cetera).

Let’s try to apply some sense.

First, we’ll start with my own test results which were negative. Yes it took over a week to get them back. Right there is a problem; you literally would be over the disease by the time you find out you have it. Strangely the PM’s wife got her results in a day. No inequality there, no sir! Any sense there was went out the window, however, as certain members of our community decided I was infected anyway (despite their utter lack of knowledge about the situation) and spreading it all over. This is known as “lying”, and my attorney assures me it’s actionable. The MLA and the hospital both had to put out statements saying there are NO cases in the area, but people still refuse to believe it. They want Armageddon.

So much for sense.

Now about this plan of closing down everything. There would be sense in that if they’d done this first. As it is they may be doing it last. You stop the spread at the start, when it’s only affecting a few people, not after it’s reached pandemic proportions. Consider Trump’s absurd travel ban plan: restrictions for everyone from Europe – except for citizens, et cetera. As if viruses check your passport before infecting you.

Again, so much for sense.

I think the main problem with this ‘barring the barn door after the horse has bolted’ tactic is that people do not understand in the first place what is important and what isn’t. So we have the sensible precaution of stopping entertainment events, a non-essential part of life, held on par with the idiotic overreaction of closing schools which are an essential part of life. Businesses and Government offices obviously need to be kept open. Legislatures? Well you can joke about how we’re better off when they aren’t doing anything to us, but really they should be doing their jobs now if they ever do them at all. They won’t and indeed can’t because this is a time when we need smart people who know how to handle the situation, but all we have are politicians who can’t even comprehend the basics of it.

Hey if you want to shut down something to stem the spread of misinformation, you’d better suspend Facebook’s servers. That has become the primary distributor of lies on the Internet (unless you count Trump’s Twitter feed). This applies to more than just the virus situation of course.

There are some characteristics of the infection that give us clues as to what actions we should take. The current proposed measures attempt to isolate and test the entire population, which is impractical in the extreme. Witness the fact that test kits are already in short supply, as are surgical masks (although the latter for no sensible reason). Instead we should isolate the most vulnerable segments of the population; those with other health problems who are at greatest risk of dying from the virus. This is a significantly smaller proportion of society and therefor much easier to look after. They can be effectively isolated, and anyone going near them tested in advance to be sure they are not infectious.

Meanwhile the rest of the populace can take sensible precautions, such as eliminating unnecessary travel and yes shutting down inessential gatherings for a while. It won’t eliminate the economic damage entirely, but it will reduce it and keep society running until this pandemic has passed. It is important that life goes on and that we understand some people will still get sick from this, and yes some more people will die. It is impossible to avoid this; we can only minimize the inevitable effect, including the disruption of daily life. (BTW the “social distancing” practice advocated by some professionals falls apart when you realize they say “1 meter” when we already know the airborne transmission range is nearly twice that.)

While we’re talking about life, let’s mention this mysophobic preoccupation with sanitizing every surface. The compounds being used for this are rarely effective against viruses (except in the form of physically removing them with the liquid used), but they do work on bacteria. Unfortunately not all bacteria are bad, and some are vital. Yes there really is a problem with over-cleaning, and it could be an environmental time bomb. Never mind the fact this is how MRSA developed or that an area free from bacteria can be an unrestricted breeding ground for viruses to mutate in. Yes, you could be making things much worse with all that cleaning.

Meanwhile the economic chaos being wreaked on the investment market should have been stopped with a total shutdown of all exchanges after the first 10% drop. Not some temporary “circuit breaker” interruption, but a permanent closing until the crisis has passed. Sure people would scream about that and complain that it’s “illegal” (it isn’t), but the alternative is proving to be even worse. If the markets were locked down for a couple of months the time could be used to pass legislation that would overhaul the way they work, eliminating the rampantly speculative aspects of investing as it is now.

On that same subject, if ever there was proof of the inequities of the existing financial structure it has come about from this pandemic. The idiotic plummeting of the markets, the massive disruption to business, and the fragility of the economic infrastructure laid bare before us all prove we need a better system. It’s somewhat amusing in fact to see that the people who complain about hourly wage workers and social assistance recipients are now taking it on the chin because those on the lower end of the economic scale aren’t spending their money to keep the wealthy rich. For any economy to work, the money (in all its forms) has to stay in circulation; anyone hoarding it makes everyone poorer, including themselves.

Speaking of hoarding, why are people doing this? I guess they don’t understand that from infection to symptoms is two weeks and from there to clear is another two weeks. In other words, the worst you’re likely to be holed up for is a month. Six weeks tops. The things they choose to hoard are another mystery, which points out they weren’t listening about symptoms or prevention and they also have basically no knowledge of how to manage their daily life without the disease, never mind with it. I strongly suspect there are millions of households out there with cupboards and freezers full of stuff who still have to go out and buy something to eat every day because they don’t know how to handle an inventory, even when it’s their own. Not everything keeps forever, you know. Not even frozen goods. Not even things intended for long-term storage.

Ah, it seems some of the hoarders are doing so to try and create artificial shortages so they can take advantage of their fellow citizens by selling them essential goods and obscene prices. Good ol’ price gouging! I mean entrepreneurialism!  These are one of the kinds of people our sustainable society could do without; the ones who take advantage of others in a crisis. The stores could and should have shut down this hoarding behaviour the moment it was detected, but chose not to. Perhaps we can have an inquiry as to why they didn’t.

What we’re really seeing here is society tearing itself apart. Not from the effects of war or famine or disease, but from the incredibly stupid reactions to a single, relatively insignificant virus. There have been outbreaks in the past, and they were handled better. But we did not learn from them and so when this latest infection came along we still had no plan ready, and this time we haven’t handled it so well. In fact it’s been a bloody awful mess. Even the healthcare professionals are making major mistakes, and the politicians in charge are totally at sea as usual.

It isn’t a matter of “letting the disease run its course” as “let” doesn’t enter into it: we have no choice. Without a vaccine to stave off further infection it is going to pass through the whole of society, effecting everyone to a greater or lesser extent (dreadfully it seems to have only two effects; either flu-like symptoms you get over, or death). We can slow it down a bit to mitigate the damage as much as possible and keep some semblance of sanity as life goes on, but we can do no more beyond that.

The good news is: 1). the virus is not that easily transmitted (it is not classified as “airborne”*) and; 2). 98% of people will survive it (the places where the death toll has been much higher have other factors causing the increase). The bad news is viruses don’t just go away because you survived the outbreak; until there is a vaccine the cycle will not be broken and COVID-19 remains a threat year after year.

Contrary to desires, we can not enact any plan that will give us 100% safety and effectively put us back to where we were before. It simply isn’t possible. Life does not have certainties, it has odds. To some extent we can control those odds, play the percentages and improve the probabilities, but never to 100% success. Unfortunately if you say to most people “Here is a wheel with 36 numbers on, you can pick 1 of them. What are your odds of winning?” most of them would say “excellent!” Then when they don’t win they’ll whine it was unfair and the government should do something about it.

All we can do now is accept the situation and learn from it. We see more people “telecommuting” and “tele-learning”, which they should have been doing all along anyway. Conferences as well need not be handled “in person” (especially not those taxpayer funded “working vacation” type meetings politicians are so fond of). We see industries devastated by shutdown, and need to evaluate whether they should alter their fundamental nature, have an over-inflated value to society that needs to be addressed, or indeed are necessary at all. Now is the time to re-evaluate every aspect of our world, and look to a future that makes more sense. Remember: viruses mutate into new forms; surviving this one just means we’re available for the next version. If we don’t learn the essential lessons, we’re still vulnerable. As it is the measures we take are just buying time; without a vaccine to break the cycle COVID-19 remains a threat. (I know I’ve said that twice.)

And yes I realize the likelihood of all this restructuring happening is about the same as that of winning the lottery. Perhaps not even that good. Probably around 7 billion to 1.

(Nota bene: students of history will recognize certain parallels herein to what happened from the Black Death in the 14th century. They are not coincidental.)

Editor’s note: I’ve proof-read, spell-checked, fact-checked, and edited this thing a dozen times already and I’m still not happy with its limited information, awkward structure, and omitted points. But not many people are likely to read it, it won’t change anything even if they do, and no one is paying me to write it so … buggrit.

*The size of the corona virus is large so it does not remain suspended in the air like the smaller rhinovirus does (this is the difference between aerosolized and airborne). This is why it is easier to catch the common cold; it can linger in the air after being exhaled by someone who has since moved from the space. Primary infection of both virus types is by inhaling them, with surface transmission to the respiratory tract secondary (the additional steps involved in moving the virus from an infected to a non-infected person increases the likelihood of removing or killing the virus before transmission occurs).

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.