Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

MURDER HORNETS, RIGHT WING VIOLENCE, AND OTHER FUN TOPICS FOR A FUN YEAR

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The first murder hornet nest has been found and destroyed in the United States. Scientists just sucked it out of a tree with a big vacuum. Sometimes the old ways are the best. The first time they vacuumed Westminster Cathedral 12 cartloads of vacuumings were hauled off. I digress. The murder hornet nest wasn’t unexpected, they’ve been in British Columbia since last September. Obviously they survived the winter, which tend to be mild at low elevations there. Despite all the hype, in the greater scheme of things this is relatively minor. IE people will learn to live with them, just like they live with other hornets. And beekeepers can protect hives by surrounding them with wire mesh. Finally, despite their reputation, murder hornets are actually a beneficial predator of insect pests.

The headline says it all: FBI: Far-Right Extremist Posed As BLM Protester, Fired On Minneapolis Police Precinct. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to point out that a right winger posing as a left winger to commit violence is right wing violence. Most political violence this election season has been from the right, though I doubt they don’t mention that much on Fox News. A lot of fear mongering from the right, So scary election season 2020 continues.

And this scares me. Will my marriage survive? It’s up to the Supreme Court. Several sitting justices have signaled they might revisit marriage equality. Why does this scare me? First of all the weird logic of “Your marriage takes away my religious rights.” Your religion says you can’t get gay married, great, don’t. When your religion tells other people they can’t get married because of your religion, that’s not religious liberty, it’s religious tyranny. Secondly, if they do this, half a million families are dissolved in the eyes of the law. More chaos and pain in already troubled times, to placate their God? There are zero logical or scientific reasons to outlaw marriage equality, any more than there were good reasons to outlaw miscegenation, laws which weren’t struck down until 1967. Wanting to dissolve consenting adults marriages is purely driven by religion, if not simple bigotry and intolerance.

I find it hard to get my head around the idea that there are people who think they know what’s good for everyone, and will gladly use the state’s power to enforce their religious beliefs on them. The very same people terrified of sharia law being imposed on them, have no problem enforcing evangelical law on everyone. Except it’s not that hard to understand, I’m a reformed bigot. It’s actually pretty simple, people that disagree with you are less than human in some ways. They are others, the enemy, not of the tribe. And they should get with the program and be grateful for it, or get out.

And a lot of these people are really angry now, urged on by Trump. 9 days until the election of my lifetime. Anything could happen. One positive thought, the captains of industry so to speak, must be a little alarmed at the prospect of an actual civil war or widespread civil unrest. Yes, so far Trump and the pandemic have been fabulously profitable for the ultra rich, but a country gutted by partisan violence? They wouldn’t want that, right? They’d do what needed to be done to keep the situation under control? LOL. Yeah, right. Kruppes and Mitsubishi rolled through WW2 without a peep even as their nations’ were being bombed flat. We’re fucked.

Here in northern Iowa, the atmosphere started freezing and falling to the ground today. As a friend said, anyone who likes winter never had livestock. Looks like we will get at least one more warmer spell next week, but still, we’re about a month ahead of the average first snowfall of an inch or more. Well, 2020 has been consistent so far, why not an early hard winter? Hope all had a good weekend. #WinterSucks #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(image: Murder hornet. Credit: Gary Alpert Used legally, details here.)

Written by unitedcats

October 25, 2020 at 7:44 pm

SCIENCE! MOSTLY. EVOLVING CRABOIDS, ELECTRIC MUD, HUMAN ALIEN HYBRIDS, UNCRUSHABLE BEETLES AND WHO’S WATCHING US?

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One trump note to start, then on to science. At least it was a far more substantive debate than the previous yelling match. That’s about all that can be said about it. Trump reached dizzying new heights on the BS meter, almost everything he said was what the old folks called lying. Back when America was great, presidents didn’t lie through their teeth quite so constantly.  Just saying. Doesn’t matter, if Trump said it, it must be true. Trump has truly turned the GOP, or his core at least, into something pretty much indistinguishable from a religion. If Trump said or promised it, they believe. Like Trump’s health care plan to replace Obamacare, promised it during his 2016 again, now he’s promising it again. Or Trump’s Covid-19 plan. Lies and empty promises, well, it worked in 2016. Even using the same promises. Sigh.

Moving right along, a whole concept I’d never heard of before. Carcinization. This is when an arthropod evolves into something like a crab. It’s happened no less than five times. Yes, parallel evolution is a thing, but five different times, that’s special. God likes crabs? No, it’s obviously a highly effective animal design in certain habitats, so it’s evolved repeatedly. It’s proved to be a great way to study evolution. Yeah, probably only of interest to the biology nerds: Animals Keep Evolving Into Crabs, Which Is Somewhat Disturbing. I just think it’s neat that there’s a specific word for it. Carcinization, going to be a challenge to fit into daily conversation.

And in more biology, electric mud! News to me, I can’t keep up with everything. Hell, so much new is being discovered these days, that no matter how much one tries, there’s more to learn every day. Anyhow, about ten years ago, in a freak experimental discovery scientists found out there are bacteria that form electrical circuits so to speak. Allowing them to perform biological functions over a distance. It was so weird it was disbelieved at first, but now two species have been discovered and it’s definitely real. I mention it because it’s interesting, and a wonderful example of how science is self correcting. This discovery will require rethinking a lot of things about, well, mud. Here’s the article for the suitably nerdish: ‘Electric mud’ teems with new, mysterious bacteria.

It’s more or less common knowledge now that while Neanderthals have been extinct for some 30,000 years, a lot of their DNA (possibly as much as 20% of it) remains mixed into human DNA, because humans and Neaderthals cross bred. Slightly less known, the Denisovans, another recently discovered extinct human ancestor that cross bred with humans, thus some of their DNA also survives in human populations as well. Well, studying modern human DNA scientists have discovered DNA that’s neither human, Neanderthal, or Denosivian. They don’t actually know what it’s from, Homo erectus is the best guess so far. Pfft, sometimes scientists have no imagination. It’s clearly alien DNA, I mean they had to be doing something with those probes:  Mystery ancestor mated with ancient humans. And its ‘nested’ DNA was just found. Helpful illustration above. People just love to have sex. And not even necessarily with other people.

Speaking of aliens, ever look up at the sky and wonder if anyone was looking back? Well, scientists wondered if aliens using the same technology we use to discover exoplanets (planets orbiting other stars) would be able to see Earth? They found about sixty nearby G-type stars that could conceivably detect Earth, and in fact they could likely tell a fair amount about Earth. I wonder if the SETI people will give them a good look, if they can see us it stands to reason they might try to contact us. Or worse: Aliens From These Worlds Could Be Watching Us Right Now

In more news to me, there’s a type of beetle that can survive getting run over by a car. It’s called a diabolical ironclad beetle. That’s a pretty neat trick, normally cars running over bugs is a quick trip to that great windshield in the sky, or wherever bugs go after they die: The diabolical ironclad beetle can survive getting run over by a car. Here’s how. Obviously this might well have practical applications, keeping things from getting crushed is always a good thing.

Lastly, in the “humans have issues” file, I found out what happens to items returned to Amazon. I would have just guessed they were returned to inventory and sold to someone else. Nope, for the most part they get trashed: Hidden cameras and secret trackers reveal where Amazon returns end up. It bugged me, seems like such a waste. Certainly another indication of how inherently worthless most things are in the modern world. I realized what bugs me though. If they are just going to throw it out because it’s cheaper than restocking it, why not just cut the cost further and have the consumer toss it? Wouldn’t that be the greener and cheaper solution?

And once again I wish my friend Peter was still alive to ask him of this, he was a world class economist. What a strange world we live in. Even before  Trump and Covid-19 it was weird, now, well, that’s why I blog every day. 2020 America, books will be written. Stay safe and have a great weekend everyone. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Best free image I could find of a Neanderthal. I wonder what they would have to say about the times. Lost forever I guess. Credit: Stefan Scheer Used legally, the various legal stuff here.)

Written by unitedcats

October 23, 2020 at 7:43 pm

TRUMP’S LATEST ATTACK ON BIDEN … BIDEN CAN’T BE TRUSTED, HE’LL LISTEN TO SCIENTISTS!

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The strange index for this election just keeps going up. Yes, Trump is trying to inspire, scare, something his supporters by claiming that Biden is going to do exactly what Biden promises to do listen to scientists! It’s hard for me to get my head around. While I understand that there are many people who actually think science is all made up shit or whatever, most people understand when one has a science based problem, time to talk to the scientists. It’s up there with “Listen to your doctor, lawyer, or car mechanic.” Granted there’s crooks and charlatans in all fields of endeavor, but a crooked car mechanic doesn’t mean all car mechanics are crooked.

It’s a fascinating election, two weeks to go. In 2016 the mainstream Dem consensus was “Trump is a dangerous joke, but Clinton’s a shoe in.” This time, a lot less complacency. Looking good for Biden, but the country is so volatile and times are so uncertain, best not to make assumptions. Trump though, boy. He isn’t making any attempt to appeal to people outside his base. It’s always been his way, but recently, he’s like doubling down on it. He’s a one trick pony. He seems almost manically determined to alienate anyone outside his core followers. This is beyond politics even, it’s cult recruitment in a way.

Another and final Trump/Biden debate event is going to happen. My prediction: Eff if I know. A steaming shitshow of some kind seems certain, will certainly be wildly watched after the last … whatever it was. More to blog about, not that there’s ever a shortage. Covid-19 is resurging in Europe, the dread second wave. Third wave ramping up nicely in America.

So, checking the news. These are the topics for the upcoming debate: “American families, race in America, climate change, national security and leadership.” Yeah, this would be like a debate in 1944 that didn’t include the war. I’m sorry, but the only thing to debate right now is “What are you going to do about Covid-19?” It’s in the top four mass death events in US history, and no end in sight. If that question isn’t included, the debate is more or less farcical.

The photo above is a few miles from my home. I went on a photoshoot mini road trip, and it was pretty much a fail. The first place I stopped, nothing, not a single thing inspired a photo. Then a long period of driving around and finding nothing. My second stop, looked promising, hiked a ways … camera batteries dead. Garment rending time. On a lark stopped at a third spot. Had promise, but the light was wrong, and there was a car parked ruining an interesting view. Walked around and took a pile of shots, digital cameras have sure made that easy. Hoped maybe one or two would be OK.

And this picture above pleases me. It’s OK. And boy, talk about living in a bubble of privilege I drove a car around for hours, to take pictures. A luxury most of the people in the world, past and present, would never experience.

Oh well, it is what it is. Even more random train of thought blogs are coming. Got a month of good health left, what to do? Write about anything I want to! Next blog, my explanation for the Fermi Paradox. Unless some new 2020 event blows up. Aliens use Ouija Boards to open a portal for their invasion fleet? Pence divorces his wife to marry his pool boy? Turns out Biden was just a bunch of squirrels in a suit?

Stay safe everyone. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(image: Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.)

Written by unitedcats

October 19, 2020 at 7:46 pm

TRUMP TELLS WHITE HOUSE CROWD THAT CORONAVIRUS IS ‘DISAPPEARING’ AMID SHARP INCREASE IN CASES

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Yes, yes he did. From march until today that’s been Trump’s response to Covid-19 … it’s no big deal and it’s going to magically go away soon. Guessing that every day fewer people believe him as they see their friends and relatives sicken and die while Trump does nothing except make empty promises. Here’s one man’s horror story as he found out just how full of sh*t Trump’s claims are: He called it a ‘scamdemic.’ Then his family fell ill, one by one. Please dear reader, do everything you can to avoid this plague, the lives you save may be your loved ones.

In more grim Covid-19 news: Covid-19 virus ‘survives on some surfaces for 28 days’ Granted this isn’t as scary as it may seem at first pass, it’s looking pretty solid that airborne transmission is the main vector. As it’s been pointed out, if one gets Covid-19 one has usually been in a bar, restaurant, or church in the prior two weeks. Or been in close contact with someone who has. Still, another reminder that when it comes to avoiding Covid-19, an excess of caution is the watchword. I need to put a new bottle of alcohol in my car.

In the “Dr Faucis’s days are numbered” file: US Election 2020: Anthony Fauci says Trump campaign ad quote misleading. Basically the Trump campaign edited a quote by Doctor Fauci to make it appear he was saying Trump did “everything he could” to fight Covid-19. Doctor Fauci said nothing of the kind. In other words, while ignoring Doctor Fauci’s recommendations, they lie and claim he supported Trump. A lie inside a lie. This is how Trump has fought Covid-19, by lying. No national shut down, no monitoring the borders for Covid-19, no national test/trace/quarantine program. No nothing, except giving a giant pile of money to the pharmaceutical industry to develop a vaccine. And even if they do, which is by no means certain, a vaccine is only a part of a strategy to fight an infectious disease. By itself it certainly won’t get in under control. Millions of Americans still refuse to wear masks or take other precautions, safe bet they will refuse a vaccine as well.

If the Vietnam War was going on, I’d be blogging about it every day. Covid-19 has already killed about four times as many Americans as our misbegotten war in Vietnam, so yeah, I’m going to keep blogging about it. As so many feared, a second wave is starting up in Europe, though granted it’s nothing like the ongoing carnage in the USA. It means Covid-19 is going to be with us for a while yet. Hell, it’s going to be with us forever most likely, I can’t see it going away any time soon. No matter how much Trump thinks he can bend reality to his will by saying Covid-19 is going to magically disappear.

And people really aren’t ready for the economic fallout that’s coming either, especially in the USA. Huge numbers of small businesses aren’t coming back any time soon. Whole classes of employment have been wiped out, like house cleaners.  In countless ways the cost of Covid-19 is going to be staggering. We’re talking trillions and trillions of dollars in the US alone. It’s hard to imagine how that’s going to play out, but in a country where the sole mission of government is to facilitate the upward transfer of wealth, it’s not going to be pretty.

In non Covid-19 news, I took a mini road trip today. Of the dozens of pictures I took, I think two were passable. I’m gonna share them now, because, well, tomorrow will likely bring a dozen new blog post topics. 2020, the gift that keeps giving.

I have high standards, these are both mediocre photographs. Slideshow OK though. Enjoy! Photography is an art, like writing. Taking these images is an example of white privilege though. I’ll try to explain that in a future blog.

Short post today, but if a picture is worth a thousand words, I’m good. Hope everyone had a safe and sane weekend. Comments, shares, likes appreciated.  #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Top image: Facebook grab, attribution in the image, claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. Second and third image: Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.)

Written by unitedcats

October 11, 2020 at 8:49 pm

Posted in 2020, Covid-19, Iowa, Science, Trump

TRUMP’S TELEVISED MEDICAL EXAMINATION, CRAZY END TO A CRAZY WEEK. PLUS REVERSE ANTHROPOMORPHISM IN CATS.

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It’s true: Trump Will Undergo Televised Medical Evaluation on Friday Night, Fox News Announces. I guess tomorrow I’ll blog about the results, if they aren’t boring. (See * at end) Boring is rarely a word associated with Trump these days as the last few weeks before the election slide by. Can’t even hardly keep up with Trump’s nonsense, some of which is increasingly incomprehensible. Like this: “They literally want to take buildings down and rebuild them… with tiny little windows. Tiny little windows so you can’t see the light.” Trump was ostensibly talking about the Green New Deal or something, nobody really knows what that was about. Maybe he’s seen a secret report about a secret plan? Here’s rest from the same interview: Here are 7 ridiculous moments from Trump’s wacky and nonsensical remarks.

Well, if Trump is having cognitive issues, no surprise: Nearly one-third of hospitalized COVID-19 patients develop brain malfunction, study finds. The second debate has apparently been cancelled at this point, wouldn’t surprise me if there weren’t any more debates. The first one pretty much jumped the shark. Trump is however planning more rallies and superspreader events. Even Doctor Fauci has chimed in on Trump’s refusal to face reality: White House hosted Covid ‘superspreader’ event, says Dr Fauci. At this point wondering if we are going to see Trump slip further and further into madness in the weeks to come.

The good doctor Novella blogged about Pence’s climate change denialism: Climate Denial Talking Points. Almost unprecedented, but scientists all over the world have realized that Trump’s utter failure to address Covid-19 in a rational scientific matter really means he’s off the rails. Climate change denial, it’s not that hard to swallow. At this point it’s a social belief inculated by the GOP and the fossil fuel industry. It may be driven by money or ideology, but at least in the short term it’s not insane.

Covid-19 denial, that’s a whole different ball of wax. There’s no reason to deny its reality, there’s every reason to fight it tooth and nail like pretty much every other nation on the planet. Instead Trump has been the greatest dissembler of Covid-19 misinformation on the planet, and to this day has refused to launch a national effort to fight Covid-19. It’s no wonder scientists are starting to speak out, the economic cost and social damage of letting Covid-19 rage out of control in the US is going to be staggering. In most of the world’s democracies, the Trump administration would have gone down in a vote of no confidence months ago.

I know, I know, in many ways I keep saying the same thing in different ways. Just in the hopes that as my words wander through the Interwebs, maybe they will make a few people think here and there. Denialism of all sorts is a cancer that’s destroying America now, even as it makes the rich ever richer. Covid-19 denial is killing thousands of Americans a week now, I don’t see that I have any choice but to keep writing about it. Keeps me from jumping up on park benches and speechifying. That rarely ends well.

Here in Iowa autumn is definitely upon us. I chose the image above because it captures the colors and mood of autumn, and reminds me of Iowa. Trees, lakes, boats. An Alfred Sisely painting. “Autumn Banks of the Seine near Bougival.” Painted in 1873. It looks so peaceful. I guess life does go on after awful things. 1870-1871 was the Franco-Prussian War, which saw northern France invaded, Paris captured, France humiliated. Hundreds of thousands dead. It was no world war, but was a huge deal in France at the time. And here just a couple of years later Sisely is painting beautiful landscapes.

So here’s hoping a few years from now the sorrows of 2920 are behind and I will be writing about kittens and science again. And here’s a nice story about the same to end my Friday night. A study has confirmed that slow blinks work on cats. Wait, what? Yes, a human who slow blinks at a cat is far more likely to be approached by a cat in a friendly manner. A slow blink is eyes half closed, blink slowly. This is how cats smile, and when they see a human smiling at a cat, they respond favorably.

Not a huge surprise to cat lovers, “don’t look straight at them and keep eyes half closed” has been the advice forever. Nice to see it pass scientific muster, it is real apparently. Does lead to a lot of further questions. I mean, just what is going on here? Somehow part of the cat brain that is wired to communicate with other cats is also responding to human faces? Can the human brain be so tricked? Is this reverse anthropomorphism? Food for thought: Study Confirms ‘Slow Blinks’ Really Do Work to Communicate With Your Cat.

Have a safe and sane weekend everyone, enjoy the nice autumn weather if you have it. Comments, likes, share appreciated. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

*Trump’s “medical exam” did not impress apparently: Commentary: Trump’s made-for-TV ‘medical exam’ is as much a sham as his COVID-19 response

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Autumn Banks of the Seine near Bougival, Alfred Sisely, 1873. He’s been dead 120 years, so in any sane world his work is public domain, and so claimed under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

October 9, 2020 at 8:40 pm

94 DAYS, AND HERE COMES AUGUST

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“Constant incredulity is the only non-contrived response to life.” My ex-wife said that decades ago, she was wise beyond her years. Not surprised she divorced my sorry ass, I wasn’t much of a husband. These days, my incredulity is in danger of burning out. Today’s theory is that huge numbers of Americans are so out of touch with reality that they wouldn’t recognize it if it hit them in the face. Though certainly hearing stories of people coming around as they are sick or dying of Covid-19. Covid-19 is actually a real thing, go figure.

In that vein, looking like a lot of otherwise OK Covid-19 survivors have damaged hearts. I’m sure plenty will dismiss this as “fake news.” Decades of Rush Limbaugh and his ilk have turned a lot of brains to mush. I’m getting less inclined to be diplomatic as this insanity continues. We have a president praising a “doctor” who’s about as much of a quack as it’s possible to be (see previous  post,) so it’s no wonder so many of Trump’s remaining supporters keep thinking (if thinking is the operative word here) that actual science is some sort of plot to embarrass Trump. OK then.

Continuing in this vein, a new study indicates that Covid-19 aerosols remain infectious in the air for up to 16 hours. IE the droplets expelled by infectious people from simply breathing. This is apparently unusual, most viruses start breaking down much sooner. Although not surprising in that the evidence is very much pointing at Covid-19 being mostly spread by being in a room with a Covid-19 infected person. We knew really early on Covid-19 was a freakishly contagious disease, now we’re starting to understand why. Now if science could only  figure out why stupidity is so contagious.

I saw this article, not exactly sure how to take it. Claiming that Jared Kushner’s coronavirus task force decided no national response to Covid-19 was needed, because it was primarily a Blue State problem. It’s certainly believable, the GOP has politicized Covid-19 from the very beginning. That’s not really debatable, they turned wearing masks into a freaking political issue for Christ’s sake, which is so stupid as to beggar belief. These are the people who turned married couples’ genitals into a political issue though. In any event, the reason why no national response to Covid-19 has been launched doesn’t freaking matter. It’s stupid beyond belief no matter what the reason, as dumb as Roosevelt saying “Well, Hawaii can handle the Japanese, the attack on Pearl Harbor isn’t really a national problem.” As my friend Jonny recently said “We’re just so screwed man it’s sad.” Three months to go.

Anyhow, weekend coming up, here’s a few non Covid-19 links I found of interest. Scientists won an Ig Nobel Prize for a study about whether cats should be classified as liquids or solids. From Wikipedia: “The Ig Nobel Prize is a satiric prize awarded annually since 1991 to celebrate ten unusual or trivial achievements in scientific research, its stated aim being to “honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think.” The name of the award is a pun on the Nobel Prize, which it parodies, and the word ignoble.” Being an ailurophile, I got a big kick out of it: Are cats liquid or solid?

Well, Japanese scientists did a study that required them to paint zebra stripes on cows. Science is often fun, what can I say. I mean, getting paid to paint zebra stripes on cows, how cool is that? The idea being that maybe zebra stripes protect against fly bites. Looks like a good study, looks like the stripes really did reduce fly bites. They aren’t sure why, they conjecture it somehow confuses the flies’ visual perception. I’m a little puzzled, if it was so effective wouldn’t more animals have evolved zebra stripes? And I always thought the purpose of zebra stripes was dazzle camouflage, IE it made it harder for a predator to single out a single zebra in the herd? Fun stuff though, if one starts seeing zebra striped cows, this is why.

Lastly, I Dream of Jeannie. My older readers will recognize that, a classic sitcom from the sixties. 1965 to 1970 I believe. A different world then. Especially television, there were only three networks, and it was much easier for shows to achieve cultural icon status. I was just a kid, wasn’t one of my faves, I was into science fiction even then. I was one of the kids who thought “Lost in Space” was much better than “Batman.” That was the big schoolyard debate then, simpler times. Less nuanced times? The lost country, as I’ve mentioned before. Anyhow, stumbled on this article analyzing the show from a sociological perspective: Jeannie’s American DreamThe Assimilation of a TV Icon. I thought it was a fascinating thought provoking read, I hope my readers enjoy it.

Stay safe and stay sane this weekend gentle readers. I will continue to blog daily as long as I am able. Judging from my doctor visit today, that might be more limited than I had hoped. No one lives forever. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Random image publicly posted on Facebook of unknown genesis, used without permission. Claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

July 31, 2020 at 8:51 pm

COVID-19, PERFECTLY TAILORED TO TARGET THE WILLFULLY IGNORANT? AND HOW DID TRUMP MISS THE OPPORTUNITY OF THE CENTURY?

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Was Covid-19 designed to target the willfully ignorant? What do I mean by that. I mean that unlike most ongoing natural disasters, this one’s easy to mischaracterize. The lava is coming, the dam has broken, the earthquake is happening … everyone is pretty much going to agree what to do, even if it’s just screaming and running. To some extent all plagues are more deniable, but Covid-19 hits under the waterline in additional ways. It kills a lot of people, but not enough to really freak everyone out. If it killed 10% of it’s victims, everyone would be going nuts. Better yet, it mostly kills the old! Makes it easy to ignore all the healthy people it kills. And finally the frosting on the cake, and the full horror and diabolical extent of this is still being revealed, for every person it kills, dozens have long term or permanent health deficits from Covid-19.

In other words, Covid-19 was the perfect weapon to fire at groups of willfully ignorant people and governments. I don’t mean stupid people, I mean people who use religion, ideology, magical thinking to guide their life. As opposed to people who at least try to use reason and science. The former’s risk assessment skills are spotty at best. (“It’s just a cold folks!” “It will all be gone by Easter!”) The latter, well, Vietnam took Covid-19 seriously in January. No fatalities, a handful of cases. My freaking American rural county has fared worse than the entire nation of Vietnam. Jesus wept.

So yeah, Covid-19 is the perfect weapon to deploy against Trump and similar? Is it going to kill/maim far more Modi/Trump/Boris/Putin people than others? Sure looks like it. If this aspect of Covid-19 turns out to be real, what does it mean? Is it just a coincidence? Did some secret liberal/commie lab invent Covid-19? Satan? Aliens? Let’s speculate …

First of all, I think the evidence is overwhelming that Covid-19 is a natural or feral virus. The experts in the field, and viruses are a very well studied field, say it has all the earmarks of a naturally evolved virus. There’s no global dissenters, the entire virology/epidemiology  field agrees. If evidence to the contrary emerges, I’ll reassess, but for starters we can safely eliminate this possibility as unlikely.

Are there other possibilities? Well, aliens. Maybe. At least if we postulate they exist, they would have the technology to do so, unlike hypothetical human agents creating Covid-19. Still, it’s a magical possibility. Same category as “God did it!” Or “Satan did it!” Circular reasoning, special pleading, whatever. As with the comic book idea that a human lab created Covid-19, if evidence emerges supporting the above, I’ll reassess.

So was Covid-19 being the perfect weapon to defeat Trump just a coincidence? Yeah, probably. Occam’s Razor tells us that. It’s the possibility that requires the least number of assumptions. Doesn’t always turn out to be the case, but only because new evidence shows up. With the evidence we have, Covid-19 was a natural and utterly predictable event. Especially since experts in the field have been warning us about this possibility pretty much all our lives, especially since the 1990s. It’s the most likely explanation, people that can’t accept that as a starting point in a debate, well, be careful, they may not be taking proper Covid-19 preparations either.

So, moving on. One caveat. It’s important to understand there are two faces to  an event. What actually happened, and how people responded to it. And by that I mean that yes, Covid-19 was a naturally occurring event … but … in January 2020 the smart with-it generals and other experts tasked with protecting nations … or concentrations of wealth … started having meetings. Started sitting down and brainstorming “What does Covid-19 mean, what threats does it pose, and can we use it to our advantage?” Is any major power or player using Covid-19 as a weapon yet? Maybe, I don’t see any evidence of it, but something to watch out for.

The speculation I wanted to put forward based on all of the above is this, what if Covid-19 is evidence that Evolution works in ways we don’t yet understand? What if on some as yet scientifically unexplored level this virus evolved to target things like Trump rallies, Evangelical church services, and other gatherings of Covid-19 denying folk. The perfect storm nature of the Covid-19 sure makes me wonder.

And it all could have been different too. Trump could have lept into action in January 2020, closed the borders, and used the awesome resources at his disposal to set up a  huge national test and trace program to stop Covid-19 from getting a foothold in America. He would have been ridiculed for a few months … and he would be an American God by now. If he had pulled off a Vietnam type Covid-19 response, with only a handful of dead Americans while hundreds of thousands died world wide, pretty sure his reelection would be a shoe in.

So in other words, Vietnam defeated us in war, and now they’ve defeated us in peace. Johnson and Nixon get the blame for the former, Trump gets it for the latter. He missed the golden ring he’s always aspired to, and will now go down in history like Nero at best, Caligula at worst. He wanted to be a Caesar, instead he is a Didius Julianus. Or a Commodus. One of history’s great, if largely unknown, losers.

Covid-19 is basically a test to see how in touch with reality people are. Welcome to the Universe. Stay safe and have a good week everyone. Sanity is optional at this point. Next post, black Holes. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Random image publicly posted on Facebook of unknown genesis, used without permission.)

Written by unitedcats

July 21, 2020 at 9:02 am

I THOUGHT WHEN THE APOCALYPSE HAPPENED PEOPLE WOULD NOTICE

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In other words: “The fire’s under control, it just looks bad because we installed all sorts of smoke detectors, if we hadn’t done that things would look great.”

It’s not reported because that’s not how it works Mr. Trump. His quote is like saying: ‘We’re making so many rifles, more rifles than any other country, we’re winning the war!’ No Mr Trump, it’s not how many rifles we make, it’s how they are  used. Having a lot of tests is useless if one isn’t using the tests to isolate infected people and track down and isolate the people they infected. And in that respect, the US is failing miserably. And no as well, on a per capita basis, our testing is lower than some other countries. And we’re not doing well fighting Covid-19, other countries are shutting Covid-19 down and cautiously reopening their economies. And lastly the 1/100th thing is so stupid it’s beyond my comprehesion.

So I’m still in shock here. What a fascinating time and place to be alive! Mass insanity! The Children’s Crusade? The Tulip Mania? <cue: hysterical laughter.> Future historians, not to mention most of the rest of the contemporary globe, will be challenged to explain how this happened. How did the USA, self supposedly the greatest nation on Earth, become the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic?

Actually, we know how it happened. This isn’t complicated for the Trump supporters who are still reading. If one’s car breaks, one calls a mechanic. If one’s roof leaks, one calls a roofer. If one’s pipes are clogged, one calls a plumber. Right? This isn’t rocket science. By the same token, if one is facing a pandemic, one calls the pandemic experts. There’s no politics here, no religion; it’s just civilization, we have a complex society and expert knowledge is what keeps it running. There’s no room for reasonable debate here, one has a problem, one consults the people who have spent their lives and careers dealing with the problem. Right? Right?

Trump did not do this. He fired the pandemic experts on the White House staff years ago, and when the pandemic struck, he ignored the plan the pandemic experts had put together. The result has been exactly as the pandemic experts predicted, Covid-19 is exploding out of control in the US. In every other developed country (and plenty of undeveloped ones) Covid-19 has been shut down and they are slowly reopening their economies. And making sure to keep plague carrying Americans out. OMFG.

I just. I just keep having to rewrite this end of the world post because to my continuing shock and horror, maybe 2/3rds of Americans still aren’t getting it. Trump and company are still using tortured motivated reasoning to pretend everything is OK, we’re winning the fight, and everything will be fine in a few months. And if that’s the people one hangs out with and the “news” one watches, I guess it’s understandable. Sort of. One wonders how they will fare as the situation worsens, but hey, most people in North Korea think things are worse off in “American occupied” South Korea.

The other third who are not getting it  though, not Trumpers. Just normal folks who haven’t yet accepted that things have changed. A horrible new plague is spreading throughout the world. I guess it’s human nature to live in the world we create in our mind, normally that’s a good thing. “The map is not the territory” though. When reality updates, and Covid-19 is a reality update, time to change one’s internal map of the world. Harder to do for some than others. One freind for example, hates Trump, watches anti-Trump media constantly … has made essentially zero changes in his life plan due to Covid-19. Another friend is sure we’ll “muddle through.”

The problem with the former is that if things get really bad, which they could well, he’s going to be utterly unprepared. And the problem with the “muddling through” idea is that states that try to “muddle through” national disasters don’t. We don’t need muddling, we need effective national leadership. That’s not happening with Trump, his muddling has made the USA the world’s epicenter of Covid-19. More muddling is bad, not good. It’s magical thinking.

As an aside, Covid-19 has driven some people off the deep end. IE they have been completely consumed by Covid-19 Truther and conspiracy theories. A few Facebook friends. One irl friend. Last time I saw this sort of thing was 9/11, that unhinged a few people. When great tragedies happen, some people snap. A human interest offering, and further evidence that yes indeedy, Covid-19 is a big deal.

So yes, in short, I think I’m witnessing one of the greatest ongoing failures of national leadership ever in the face of a global disaster. Convince me otherwise. Hint: Tweets like the above are the opposite of convincing. So I’ve decided all in all it’s a sign. My kin have mostly deserted me, the world I knew is coming to an end, and to top it all off, it’s a freaking medical mystery why I’m even still alive. What does it mean?

It means it’s time to finish my damn book. If I can spend months planting onions and stacking cans of beans, I can spend the same furnishing my book. Or finishing it as the case may be. Now or never, since my odds of surviving Covid-19 are about 50-50 I figure. So my blog posts might drop in frequency, I dunno. I’ll do my best.

Reality is so weird now I sometimes seriously wonder if I did die some time back, and the whole Trumpian Covid-19 nightmare is a dark fantasy generated by my dying brain in its last moments. Sadly for my readers, I don’t think so. Stay safe and stay sanish everyone. Wear your damn masks. #StaytheFHome

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Presidential tweets are an official channel of the US government, and thus Public Domain.)

Written by unitedcats

July 9, 2020 at 8:34 pm

THIS IS NOT NORMAL, AND NOT ONLY DOES TRUMP NOT HAVE A PLAN B, HE DOESN’T HAVE A PLAN A

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I’m torn two ways these days. On the one hand, I feel compelled to be as productive as possible before the coming storm. Planting food, stockpiling food/essentials/tradeables, growing local food share contacts, etc. It’s hard work but sure feels like I’m doing something about Covid-19, besides trying to be a voice of sanity in a rising tsunami of madness. God only knows the federal government apparently isn’t going to do anything. On the other hand, this might be the last time in my life I can call the good times, plenty of good food and beer, no pressing concerns. So why not just say “screw it” and enjoy life while I still can? And after much thought, I’m gonna do both! Two days of work, one day of play. Hopefully that will keep me on an even keel and I won’t start slashing wildly at invisible demons with my chainsaw. I always end up having to buy new drapes when that happens, it adds up.

So yes, I’m still predicting this pandemic is going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better, especially in the US where huge numbers of people don’t seem to grasp that reality has a liberal bias. Great article linked there, at least for people still in touch with reality. Trump supporters laboring under the pretext that Covid-19 is some sort of Democratic/liberal media  plot to make Trump look bad, I don’t know how to reach them. I mean, nearly 100,000 dead, with no end in sight. The same people who spent years yelling about Benghazi and four dead Americans have no problem with America having the highest Covid-19 death toll in the developed world. Once one has become wedded to an ideology or a religion as a guide to life, I think the brain turns to mush. Not limited to Republicans of course, but Dems believing Russians are undermining America aren’t doing the damage that Republicans believing Covid-19 is “just the flu” are.

Vietnam is a great example of how to fight Covid-19, yes, it is possible. Right next to China. Near 100 million people, many living in huge densely crowded cities. They must be getting slammed by Covid-19, right? Nope. 300 cases, zero deaths. How did they manage that? They took it very seriously from the beginning, closed their borders and country down, and did what needed to be done to keep people safe. At the time it was considered by some as an overreaction. In hindsight, they are now re-opening their country with robust systems in place to deal with Covid-19. And, again, 300 cases, zero deaths. And the question here is, if America with all its freedoms and democracy and such that make it oh-so-much-better than a communist one party state got hammered by Covid-19, maybe we could have done better? And my point is not “communism is better” or some stupid shit like that, it’s as stated: “Maybe we could have done better?” And maybe Trump’s boasts about how great he has handled this should be taken with a large dose of salt?

Sigh. What I am also afraid is happening is that Washington has just decided to “normalize” Covid-19. Trump and corporate America turn Covid-19 into a “fact of life” and just carry on and accept Covid-19 deaths as just part of normal life like heart attacks or car accidents. Because this is exactly what the castle or whatever one wants to call the corporate/military cabal that runs the nation wants. They want the serfs back in the fields, just go on creating wealth for the planet’s elite, granny was sick and old anyhow. And people do hate change, they do want “no problems” times. I can see why huge numbers of people are in denial and thinking things will get better.

I guess there’s two ways moving forward. We do what needs to be done to fight Covid-19, which means a lot of effort to protect workers and the vulnerable. MacDonald’s may have to forgo spending $10k per employee per year buying back their own stock. Or we do pretty much nothing, and carry on, which appears to be Trump’s plan.  Well, if he turns it around, I will cheerfully admit I’m wrong and vote for him this fall. And I hope to win the lottery while I’m at it.

In other End-o-the-World news, here’s a good article on our current understanding of how masks work, short version, they work pretty good when used properly in conjunction with other measures. It bears repeating that global warming is still getting worse, and oddly enough many of the very same people in denial about global warming are in denial about Covid-19 as well. Whole other blog post there, for now, pretty sure that ultimately denying reality is a failed strategy, no matter how high the stock market gets. And with Covid-19, we’ll know in months, not decades.

More empty shelves in the supermarket yesterday. Meat prices are spiking. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst is my motto of the day. Lastly, an article I’ve posted before but it bears repeating, it’s the best I’ve seen on how Covid-19 spreads and how to avoid catching it. No one in their right mind wants to catch this disease, and I mean that literally. Have a great weekend everyone, stay safe, stay sane. #StaytheFHome

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Massacre of the Innocents, Bruegel circa 1566. It depicts Spanish soldiers slaughtering Dutch children. I chose it because it depicts a terrible scene. And because it’s the original version depicting the slaughter of children. Then the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II had the nasty parts painted over. Fake news is nothing new in other words, today he’d run the Fox network no doubt.)

Written by unitedcats

May 16, 2020 at 8:30 am

THE INVISIBLE ENEMY

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nuts_and_bolts_flying_saucer

The Invisible Enemy. This is how Trump has been characterizing Covid-19 recently. And got to give the man his due, in this instance, he’s right on the money. Covid-19 very much is an invisible enemy. And more on point, it’s an unknown enemy. A lot of people are not understanding that. Let me try to explain. In December 2019 an army of microscopic alien beings invaded Earth, from God knows where, but they landed in China. And you know what these invaders wanted? Our lungs. They found that they could use human lungs to grow ever more invaders, human lungs were perfect for their alien breeding facilities. And breed they did, infecting millions of lungs all over the planet, despite valiant attempts to hold them in check. The aliens have a foothold on Earth, a still expanding foothold.

What do these invaders want? Easy. They want to infect every human being on Earth. That is Covid-19’s “plan.” Or the reason for their existence or whatever, these aliens want to colonise every set of human lungs on Earth. Yours included gentle reader. An actual alien invader, just like the freaking things in the Aliens’ movies, wants to use your lungs to grow more copies of itself. Concerned yet? This is where we separate the wheat from the chaff. Because the next question is, so what if they win? What if Covid-19 does overwhelm our defences and infects a huge percentage of the human population? Again, easy. We don’t have a fucking clue. Let me repeat that, we have no idea what the long term effect on people Covid-19 will have.

This is where people confuse the map with the territory. Yes, Covid-19 might turn out to be “just another flu.” Might. Might also have all sorts of other consequences. The below quote goes into some of them. Or in another way, aliens have invaded Earth, should we just surrender to them to save the economy? Read the following to see what that may entail:

“I’ve seen a lot of people itching to “reopen” the country. Maybe I can add a tiny bit to this conversation and hopefully not be castrated for it. I’m a physician (ER Radiologist) and I’m seeing these patients. Right now there are many, many unknowns.

1) A high percent of people who get sick are dying, including young and healthy patients. For some reason the statistics being reported in the news is not what I’m seeing. I’m seeing a high proportion of dying patients in their 40’s. I’ve seen probably 2x more 40 year olds dying than patients over 70.

UPDATE 4/21/20: Since there have been nursing home outbreaks, the morbidity and mortality age statistics I’ve observed have started to reflect what is being reported in the media. Understand, though, this disease still greatly impacts younger individuals in very high numbers.

2) The ones who are surviving, including those who have “asymptomatic” random findings I see in the ER’s end up having elevated cardiac markers. In other words, this virus is messing with young patients’ hearts… and not a little bit. I’m talking WILDLY elevated cardiac markers. This could result in a massive need for heart transplants in the next decade and only time will tell if these patients convert to full blown cardiomyopathies (not a diagnosis I would wish on my worst enemy). If you are not scared of “a little” pneumonia and a small percent chance of dying from it, you should ABSOLUTELY be scared of getting a cardiomyopathy (and being among many at one time who will be getting it). This would be devastating for society.

3) This is only the first wave of the infection. All pandemics we know of come back with a vengeance. We won’t know when and we won’t know how bad. The (now decreased) estimated loss of life only takes into account ONE wave WITH mitigation. Any other assumptions after this one wave is truly a blind guess.

4) We don’t know whether or not infected individuals are gaining immunity. We also don’t know when a vaccine will be declared effective. It will be at a MINIMUM (best case) 18 months before we know, not a worst case.

5) We don’t know the effect of viral load yet. Whether the amount of virus you’ve been exposed to or remains in your body is a factor. Does it take repeated exposures or just one to become ill?

6) We don’t know ALL the effects of this virus yet. We know a common symptom is loss of smell and taste. Besides being incredibly “inconvenient” it means this virus is infecting the neurologic system. Herpes/Varicella viruses infect the neurologic system and then can get reactivated as the immune system weakens or when you get older. (How would you like to go through a life threatening illness every year of your life when you get older?) We also know many viruses cause cancer… HIV, EBV, HPV, etc. We don’t know if that will be the case with this one yet.

7) We don’t even know how to treat this well yet… forget cure, I’m talking about “well.” Once infected and progressing to the need for a ventilator, this infection doesn’t behave at all like what we’ve seen before. Hence, ineffective treatment and ~80% mortality on a ventilator. You don’t want to be in that situation. The last thing you’ll experience is suffocation and intubation and no family or friends around you. Not a great way to go.

— My take: Now, I don’t know about you, but if it meant that I stay locked up in jail (and we are not) in order to save my wife’s life or my children’s lives, you damn well believe I’d do it. I’ve seen the biostatistics, the epidemiology, the lack of trustworthy data coming from other countries, the conspiracy theories, but most importantly I’ve seen these patients’ lives and families be destroyed. Play the long game and don’t be impulsive. If we have no people left to participate in an economy, in a government then none of this is worthwhile. The best thing you can do for yourself and this world right now is avoid this infection at all cost and stay alive. 

Dr. Fred Weiss

Can I comment on the above? No, I’m not a doctor or an epidemiologist. What I do know is this, if the overwhelming majority of experts on the topic think we should do all we can to prevent the spread of Covid-19, it’s crazy not to listen to them. We live in crazy times though. So gentle reader, please, do whatever you can to avoid getting this disease. Be a survivor, not a statistic.

Have a great week everyone. Stay safe, stay sane. #StaytheFHome Comments, shares appreciated.

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Public domain image from Snappygoat.)

Written by unitedcats

April 27, 2020 at 5:17 am