Archive for category Things that are Busted

COVID-19: On Wearing Masks

There’s a lot of misinformation going around that spreading the idea that wearing a mask is pointless because it doesn’t significantly reduce your chance of avoiding the disease.

That idea doesn’t address the primary benefit of wearing a mask at all.

Here’s the important thing to understand: One of COVID-19′s major vectors for infecting others is via virus carried on moisture exhaled by infected individuals.

Even a simple mask considerably reduces the range and load you deliver when you breathe out if you have COVID-19. After you’re infected, usually there are 3 to 14 days before you become symptomatic. Not everyone is symptomatic, either; there may be no indication to you that you are infected. When someone is infected, wearing a mask can benefit many, many others while you are infectious and unaware of it, depending on your social interactions, distances, etc. over the course of those asymptomatic days.

If you continue going into situations where others could be exposed after you’re symptomatic and obviously still infectious, masks and social distancing will reduce the rates and severity of infection for others in that circumstance as well. Not that anyone should be out and about when symptomatic if it is in any way avoidable.

The rate of infections is a very important consideration: what we really don’t want is for someone to end up with severe symptoms when the healthcare facilities are operating at maximum capacity as has happened several times already due to people taking insufficient precautions such as masks, social distancing, washing hands, etc. If you need a ventilator, for instance, and they’re all in use, now you are at much higher risk of severe problems consequent to your breathing issue.

Even if everyone will eventually get COVID-19 and have to deal with it, it’s still eminently worthwhile to keep the rate down so those who need care can be certain they will get it.

On the other side of the coin, the higher the load in a healthcare facility, the more at risk the healthcare professionals are; that’s a cycle that even further reduces the facility’s ability to deal with additional cases. Every healthcare professional that cannot work reduces the ability of the facility to care for patients.

Everyone should be wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing. Both significantly reduce exposure of others when COVID-19 is present, and both work to reduce concurrent loading of healthcare facilities. As a bonus, these things also work to reduce the chances of spreading other diseases, such as the flu.

There’s another side to this as well. Although it is true that a simple mask does not reduce the chances of infection for the person wearing it by much, any reduction at all is a very good thing; for instance, if every infected person on average infects one other, and that is reduced to .95, then the disease will slowly recede. That’s enough reason to wear a mask all by itself. Likewise, if every infected person, on average, infects two others, and that can be reduced to 1.95, the load on healthcare facilities drops, which becomes very important when critically ill people need treatment — and that’s true no matter if you have COVID-19 or need your gall bladder removed. There are only so many beds in any one hospital.

  • Always wear a mask when others are present in public
  • Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from others as much as possible
  • Wash your hands / use hand sanitizer, break “touching-face” habits
  • Don’t spread misinformation

Comparative Mortality

COVID-19 deaths / year: 219,000 and still counting [As of October 18th, 2020]

FLU deaths / year: around 40,000 to 50,000

What is actually causing these deaths?

The critical question to answer here is “What does death from X” mean?

It means if you hadn’t had the primary infection — flu, COVID-19, etc. — you would not have died from whatever actually killed you.

For instance, you may encounter the argument that “people aren’t dying from the flu, they’re dying from pneumonia.” However, when the pneumonia is a consequence of respiratory difficulties brought on by the flu — that’s when it is accurate to say that it was the flu that caused the death. The same is true for COVID-19.

Trying to distinguish a consequent fatal pneumonia from the flu (or COVID-19) and then saying there’s nothing to worry about is as absurd as saying “jumping off the cliff didn’t kill someone, it was hitting the rocks below, so don’t worry about jumping off a cliff.”

The jump was the primary cause of death; without it, the rocks would not have killed the jumper. You should definitely avoid such a jump.

The flu and COVID-19 are both exactly this kind of killer; if someone becomes infected and dies, then a directly related follow-on effect is very likely going to be what killed them, just as the rocks killed the jumper, but if the flu or COVID-19 is avoided, then there will be no consequent pneumonia to die from, either.

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AA7AS 20m Propagation Report

Welcome to the AA7AS Propagation Report. Here, I give you the latest cold, hard scientific facts about what you can expect on the 20 meter ARO band.

Current Sunspot Cycle Analysis:

  • The current cycle has degraded below moped status. Further:
    • The chain has come off
    • Immediate status is stuck in a pothole
    • Handlebars are loose
    • The tires are flat
    • And… someone has stolen the seat
  • Protip: Clothes-pinning playing cards to the spokes is not a “linear” and will not count towards contest points.

That concludes today’s Sunspot Cycle Analysis.

Current f0f2

Current f0f2

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What is a Voicelid?

On the ham radio bands, a voicelid is an operator who is transmitting voice within, or partially within, a portion of the band traditionally reserved for data.

For instance, the USB carrier frequencies 14.230 MHz and 14.233 MHz have traditionally been reserved for slow scan television operations (also known as “SSTV”) for more than 50 years now:


20 Meter ARO Band

20 Meter ARO Band


So with regard to these frequencies, USB voice operation above 14.227 MHz (presuming 3 KHz voice bandwidth, which is generous) and below 14.236 MHz self-identifies the operator as a voicelid, as would (non-traditional, to say the least) LSB carrier point operation below 14.239 MHZ and above 14.230 MHz.

This is true both during non-contest and contest periods. Contests provide no legitimate excuse to intentionally interfere with others — that’s not radiosport. That’s simply rude, as well as outright forbidden.

This does not apply to USB voice transmissions on 14.230 or 14.233 that are actually SSTV related — those are part of normal SSTV operations.

So take a little time to learn about traditional non-voice allocations on all of the bands you operate within, and carefully respect the tiny bits of bandwidth they occupy. This is one of those important bits of operational knowledge that distinguishes the skilled radio operators from the unskilled ones.

#voicelid #sstv

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Hey, IAU: Some Reasonable Definitions

The IAU has, in relatively recent years, been fiddling with the definitions of what objects such as planets are. Quite aside from disrupting everyone’s general understanding for no good reason whatsoever, they did this very poorly.

Here’s a set of criteria for defining a body as a planet:

A Planet…

Planet Pluto

Planet Pluto

  • …is a natural object, such as a rocky ball or a ball of gas, or combination thereof, in hydrostatic equilibrium, which is to say it has enough mass to have pulled itself into a long-term stable oblate spheroid (like Earth) or sphere.
  • …isn’t in a long-term stable orbit around a significantly larger object of a similar nature to itself (in other words, it’s not a moon.)
  • …hasn’t lit up its own fusion reaction

That may not be a perfect set of criteria, but I submit that it is at least close. Also much closer than the IAU’s profound lapse of judgement.


Planet Ceres

Planet Ceres


So yes: Pluto is (still) a planet. We could, if we were being really anal, quibble about it being number nine; There’s Ceres, a 950 km diameter planet located in the asteroid belt, between Mars and Jupiter, for instance (at the left) which makes Pluto (at least) planet ten as counted outwards from our star; but Pluto is definitely a planet.

Unlike, for instance, Vesta (below), which is just as clearly an isolated fragment of something larger:

Vesta

Vesta

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Fix OSX’s weird (mis-)mapping of the home and end keys

So, one of the things that drove me nuts about MacOS/OSX for years is Apple’s non-standard mapping of the home and end keyboard keys to start-of-document and end-of-document.

The non-standard key combinations CMD+ and CMD+ are used to perform BOL and EOL instead.

Here’s the problem: That is not how it’s been done on other platforms that long pre-date MacOS/OSX or even the Mac itself. I typically switch between multiple operating systems every day, and consequently, coming back to MacOS/OSX fouled up my typing/editing every time. So I went looking for a solution. I found one in Karabiner.
Read the rest of this entry »

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Some answers on Climate Change

Someone asked some questions on climate change elsewhere, and I took some time to answer them. I’m cross-posting the questions and my responses here for the benefit of any of my visitors who might have similar questions:


Why should I support fighting climate change?

Do you have kids? Are there any kids in your near family, or do friends have kids you care about, or (reaching, but) do you care about kids in general? Because if this isn’t stopped, they’re going to be at least miserable, and possibly much worse.

What action should I take to help reduce climate change?

Change, if it’s coming at all, must come from both the top and the bottom.
Starting with your own actions… drive less, set your home to warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter, keep appliances off that don’t need to be on. Do this even if you’re in an area with hydro or other non-stank power, because power you don’t use can be shared to other areas that may not be hydro or other relatively clean power. Unless you’re 100% power independent, for instance, if you run your own isolated solar installation.

How much money is it going to cost me?

Your own actions will probably save you money, potentially quite a bit, but how much depends on your present circumstances. Next is getting your representatives — senators, congresscritters, the president — to take political action, which can be much more effective, but is comparably much more difficult to achieve. They can fund the science and technology that will be needed to counter the effects, and they can set emissions regulations that can slow the onset of the more serious problems somewhat, thus providing more time for the science and tech folk to create and implement remedial counters.

What will happen if I do nothing?

In the nearer term… food shortages as crops have to be moved to more northern temperate bands into the hands of farmers who are unfamiliar with them, and as ocean acidification increases and blows out the balance of life there, resulting in changes that may in fact turn out to be catastrophic — a lot of the world depends upon the ocean as a food source. If it’s unavailable to them, they’re going to want the other foodstuffs, and that will change the market price and availability — not in a good way. Violence is definitely possible over this issue. Harsher weather, generally speaking warmer and carrying more intense storms. In the longer term, some ocean rise, which will cause people in low-lying coastal areas to relocate, which will (a) reduce the available real estate people can live on, and (b) destroy or very seriously inconvenience all businesses that are presently operating in those locations.

End game… probably this will get solved, IMHO, but it may be well into some of the above problems before it is if our politicians and citizens don’t get after it. If it isn’t solved… might be pretty much apocalyptic within a few hundred years. Worst case… runaway warming… ever look at the climate of Venus?

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I’ve figured out politics

Often, we look at the activities of politicians and we fail to understand what they’re doing, or why they’re doing it, or both. The politicians themselves would generally like you to believe they’re playing 4-dimensional chess.

But that’s definitely not it. After many decades of observation, I’ve learned that what is actually going on is:

The game is checkers.
Angry checkers.
Being played by monkeys.
On a Go board.
With poop.

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Some observations about the news

I think it’s important to keep in mind that $$$-based journalism tends to have built-in mechanisms for all kinds of spin and/or information hiding. This is useful when considering not just what we are reading, but how and why it managed to get in front of our eyes. The following list, while not complete, serves to highlight some of the filtering going on:

  • The advertisers extend yea/nay force directly to the owner / publisher / board with $$$
  • The owner / publisher / board extends yea/nay force downwards to the editors and reporters
  • The editors extend yea/nay force downward to the reporters and the stories
  • The reporters extend yea/nay force to the choice of stories
  • The editors apply tone force to the stories
  • The reporters apply tone force to the stories
  • The reader’s reactions apply force upwards and this will slowly but strongly moderate the tone of the stories as the nature of the audience makes itself clear to the journalistic enterprise.
  • In some enterprises, the political correctness of a story will affect selection and tone
  • In other enterprises, backing agendas will affect selection and tone
  • The nature of the story – for example, “if it bleeds, it leads” can force other stories out, because drama=$$$ and there’s only X amount of time/energy to cover this or that, and advertisers primarily pay for eyes, and journalism, unfortunately, almost always devolves to a $$$-counting undertaking.

Long story short, the news that reaches us may not be the news that is most important to us, the coverage that highlights the details we should really know, or even remotely even-handed. All those pressures and factors are there almost all of the time, in almost all of the news.

On top of this, we may harbor various biases that are based on misinformation, social indoctrination (the long resistance to LGBT is one example of a source of this, as is the so-called “drug war”), and dogma from from various sources.

IMHO, much thinking is called for. My observation is that there isn’t nearly enough thinking being done by many. :/

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