Monthly Archives: July 2021

Covid thoughts

1.) The UK is finally opening up on 7/19.  The UK is on my somewhat lengthy list of “how not to handle Covid.”  They’ve “enjoyed” lengthy lockdowns and restrictions, and yet still have among the highest death rates in the world per capita – #16, slightly above the US and #6 among countries with at least 25 million people.  In any case, Boris has had enough, and the restrictions are going away.  Here’s their current case count graph, with the US for comparison.  My prediction is that the slope of case counts will NOT increase after restrictions are lifted, and in fact within two weeks at the most (by August 2nd) we’ll see case counts start to drop in the UK.

2.) Australia is dealing with a potential catastrophe.  You’ve all read my posts about Melbourne and their Covid troubles – and how they put their citizens on house arrest for 5 months.  Well, Sydney is in trouble now.  There are a few things going on here.

  • Australia has eliminated Covid within its borders multiple times.  0 cases.  That means all cases come in from the outside.  Sydney and Melbourne are most vulnerable to these cases since they have, by far, the busiest international airports in Australia.  I’m not even sure if other airports are taking international arrivals.
  • The latest outbreak occurred at least in part, perhaps in totality, because a taxi driver shuttling international arrivals to the quarantine hotel didn’t take any precautions in the taxi – windows open, mask, etc.  He just happily drove the passengers and then went about his life, positive for Covid.  This was apparently within in the rules.  Obviously just a small oversight when you consider the consequence – millions of people on lockdown for weeks or months, billions of dollars lost.
  • Sydney has apparently prided themselves on operating a safe and well-run hotel quarantine system – not like those Melbourne incompetents!  They also prided themselves on their contact tracing.  So when the outbreak occurred, they didn’t immediately go to a hard lockdown, but just implemented minor restrictions.  I was amazed at this at the time, and apparently justifiably so.  Even now, the Sydney area is in a “Level 3” lockdown.  (The months of lockdown in Melbourne were mostly “Level 4”.)  While Level 3 in Australia is more restrictive than anything in the US, it’s still, I think, too laid back to be effective, particularly with the more contagious Delta variant.  I think Sydney is in trouble and should go to Level 4 now – should have gone to Level 4 two weeks ago.  But we’ll see. Hopefully I’m wrong.
  • Again, I wonder what Australia’s end game is.  Vaccine skepticism is high there because Covid isn’t circulating.  Why get a risky new vaccine when there’s no illness?  (Not my opinion, obviously.)  So how does Australia ever open up?  Without any natural immunity, they are fully reliant on vaccination.  Let’s say 70% of people get vaccinated (currently they are at 10%).  Even then, opening up will likely rapidly produce a devastating surge of illness, without restrictions.  Maybe if they wait long enough – I’ve actually seen talk of not fully reopening borders until 2023.  Why not, I guess?  It’s a return to olden times, when leaving your country means not seeing your family again – ever.  They are currently engaged in building dedicated quarantine facilities that are more secure and have negative air pressure and so on, so they’re obviously thinking about the long haul.

3.) There are discrepant reports coming out of the UK and Israel regarding the Pfizer efficacy against Covid.  Unfortunately, I think we should trust Israel’s data.  (Israel claims the vaccine is about 65% effective; the UK said it was around 90% effective, both against symptomatic illness.)  The UK has an unusually high CFR.  This could either be due to poor medical care of people who contract Covid, or to insufficient testing.  Given the NHS isn’t exactly ranked at the top of the medical care stack, I’m sure that medical care is a small factor, but I’m guessing that most of this is due to lack of testing and failure to identify many Covid cases, many or most of which are probably mildly symptomatic and being caught by the Israelis.

The very high CFR in Australia is very puzzling.  It implies they, too, either have terrible medical care or are not catching all the cases, or a more vulnerable population.  It’s hard to believe that their medical care could be so bad as to result in a fatality rate FOUR times that of Israel, but they have very few cases and lots of testing.  If they didn’t have sufficient testing per case, you’d think it would be spreading like crazy.  Do they really have a more vulnerable population?  I’m skeptical of that as well.  So it’s a puzzle to me.  Maybe it’s a reporting issue.

4.) Ireland is sending a grandma to jail for 90 days for failing – TWICE! – to wear a face mask in the grocery store.  Despite their never-ending lockdown, they still have a fatality rate per capita 25% higher than WA state.

5.) The US is obviously heading into a Delta surge.  I keep reading about “two Americas” – the unvaccinated and the vaccinated.  How ironic that those of us living in the vaccinated half are still having our lives curtailed.  The latest?  I just found out my daughters will have to miss the first week of school so we can quarantine for seven days after our trip to New York and Virginia.  And then another week after our vacation to Hawaii this fall.  More on that later.

this and that

Isla has been playing piano again more lately.  She has set a goal of making her way through one book every summer (of the Alfred series) and is making good progress on Book 1B at the moment.

We are starting to plan another East Coast trip – NYC, then Roanoke.  Five flights.  I swore I would never do it again, and yet, here we are.  I am dreading it.  I haven’t had any anxiety issues since the months right after S was born, but I also haven’t had to deal with any real stress.  Travel has always been a trigger for me, and layering Covid precautions on top isn’t going to help.  On the one hand, I always get sick after plane trips, and I’m hoping masks might help with that.  On the other hand, one of my biggest issues with plane travel is claustrophobia and feeling trapped, and having to wear a mask is going to make that worse.  Thankfully, S is still 1, so we won’t have the charade of putting a mask on her.

We are debating whether to try and see fireworks tonight.  Normally, there would be several shows around town, but this year, there is only one, in Bellevue, and it’s going to be a zoo.  Meanwhile, it’s been super hot and dry around here, to fire risk is really high, and they’re discouraging people from setting off their own, which I fully support.  But to my mind, canceling all the other shows, including the big one in Seattle, is going to result in a lot more private stuff.  Let’s hope there aren’t any fires that result.

drug cheats and marijuana

Mainstream media is doing its usual absolutely disastrous job of covering track and field.  Two prominent athletes have tested positive recently and their tests were made public: 1.) Shelby Houlihan, the US’s best middle/long distance runner and 2.) Sha’Carri Richardson, the US’s best sprinter.  Houlihan tested positive in December ’20, and Richardson tested positive during the trials.  The media in its usual idiocy has been equivalating the two.  But they are not even remotely similar.

1.) Houlihan tested positive for a steroid.  She has already appealed to the highest court that normally reviews athlete bans and lost, and has been banned for four years.  She was almost certainly microdosing the steroid (nandrolone) and who knows what else.  Since her positive test came out, she has been lying, lying, lying and has accepted no responsibility.  Her career is likely over, and rightly so.  (The sympathetic treatment of Houlihan in the US MSM is extremely unhelpful.)

2.) Richardson tested positive for marijuana.  She has acknowledged her error, not lied, and accepted responsibility.  In my opinion, she did something stupid, like most of us do from time to time, but not something morally reprehensible, and unlike Houlihan, she didn’t lie about it.  Personally, I think they should get rid the of the marijuana ban.  (It’s an international rule, so it’s not in the hands of the USATF, as far as I know.)  Her error was extraordinarily poorly timed, but she is only 21, and she has a bright career ahead of her.  I look forward to seeing her hopefully run the relay in Tokyo and see great success in the future.

Perhaps the most egregious article was this one in the New York Times.  Crouse proceeds to compare Sha’Carri to:

  1. Tiger Woods, the sex addict (I love Tiger Woods, but come on.)
  2. Suzy Favor Hamilton, who worked as an escort, aka prostitute and has publicly struggled with mental illness for decades
  3. Gwen Berry, whose disrespect during the national anthem far surpassed any “taking the knee” or other thoughtful protests I’ve seen elsewhere
  4. Houlihan (not by name, but the implication is obvious)

It’s ironic that the article drips with wokish suggestions that Richardson is dealing with racism, which she may well be, but I’m not sure comparing her to someone who prostituted herself and a drug cheat is anything other than extraordinarily offensive.

bio class

I’m at the end of week 2 of my biology class, and wow, it has been a lot.  On the first day of class, I learned that the listing was wrong, and that the class wouldn’t in fact consist of 9 hours of mandatory synchronous lectures (plus 6 hours of lab and additional an addition hour or two of discussion), but instead all the lectures would be pre-recorded to watch “at our convenience” and instead, the 9 hours of synchronous lecture would be used for review.

That means they doubled the lecture hours from 9 to 18.

In effect, it isn’t quite that bad.  The synchronous lecture often “only” lasts an hour, and the recorded lectures are actually 80 minutes, not 90.  Still, this adds up to about 16 hours of lecture.  Each lecture comes with on average a full chapter of reading, where a chapter is 30 pages or so of dense information-packed reading.  So at night, I need to read a chapter, which takes one to two hours, and watch 80 to 160 minutes of lecture.  I get Saoirse in bed by 8:15 or so and am usually ready to start working at 8:30.  I need to be up at 6:30 to run.  You do the math.  It doesn’t really add up.

Nevertheless, I’ve been soldiering along and catching up / getting ahead on weekends and doing staying caught up so far.  I have a babysitter for the synchronous lectures during the day and for the labs, and I may have to get her for a few more hours as the summer progresses.  (The reason not to, obviously, is cost.)

I’m really enjoying learning again.  Of course I learned on the job.  Heck, I started in a whole new industry in 2019.  However, it’s just not the same as taking dedicated unpressured time to just learn something new over the course of weeks or months.  Some of the material is straight memorization, but other parts have a sort of logic that appeals.  I enjoyed learning about how all the various building blocks of proteins, lipids, carbs, and nucleic acids work, and how the bonds are formed and so on.  It’s like you learn various building blocks and can then put them together like puzzle pieces.  Jonathan learned a lot of this stuff (in less detail) in high school, but I never took Bio, so I’m seeing it for the first time, and it’s fascinating and intriguing.  One thing that is different than aerospace is that the textbook often states, “it is thought” or “it may” or flat out “it is not known.”  In aerospace, we may not have a perfect approach to solving all the equations, but most of the basics are known without much ambiguity.  That is not necessarily the case in biology.  There is uncertainty about many fundamentals that one encounters even in an introductory course.

On a personal front, the increased hours mean that I have completely dropped all hobbies except for a short daily run, and making time for that has taken some commitment.  Jonathan and I have basically not spent any time together since it started.  We used to spend an hour or so together in the evening most nights, and that has stopped completely.  It’s a 5 hour semester class compressed into half a semester, meaning it’s effectively a 10 hour class.  In any case, it’s only eight weeks.  I think it would be a lot more sustainable if I’d taken it over the course of a normal semester instead of in the summer.

The lab is online and lame.  Perhaps I would like it better if it was in person.  I think I’d like it a little bit better, but probably not much.  Thinking back, I’ve despised or at least disliked pretty much every lab I ever took – chemistry, particle dynamics, emag, aerospace structures, aerodynamics, and, yes, controls.  Were there any others?  If so, they didn’t make a big impression.  I don’t know what it is, but I just do not enjoy labs.  The question is whether that is incompatible with biology in general, since so much of biology appears to be experimental time in a lab.  I suspect not.