3/29/2020

Thoughts On A Sunday

Here it is, another Sunday in Coronavirus America.

The governor in my home state of New Hampshire released a Stay-At-Home executive order that took effect at midnight Friday night. While not nearly as restrictive as other states’ and cities’ Shelter-In-Place orders, a number of businesses have been ordered closed, restaurant dining rooms closed and the restaurants switching over take-out and delivery only service, and other businesses and local government offices changing over to limited hours/appointment only service.

The WP Mom and I did venture out both yesterday and today to take care of our regular weekly shopping. We didn’t buy anything out of ordinary, didn’t have any issues with shortages of any goods, though the toilet paper supply is still a little spotty in some stores.

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Something to remember when it comes to pandemics, specifically when it comes to China, is that the number of cases doesn’t suddenly drop to zero. They taper off until the number of new cases reaches zero.

That China has suddenly reported no new cases is suspicious on the face of it. But as I have linked to before, the reason no new cases have been reported in China is because it is no longer testing for coronavirus.

If no testing is being performed then there could not possibly be reports of any new cases. Instead, they have reclassified any new deaths as caused by ‘regular’ influenza or pneumonia, but not coronavirus.

Sorry, but I’m calling “Bulls**t!” on this one.

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Don’t believe the coronavirus numbers the media is reporting. Why?

Because they are usually comparing apples and oranges.

While the US now has more coronavirus cases than China (supposedly – see above), looking at the per capita incidences of coronavirus patients you will see the US is at the bottom of the curve, but you won’t hear the media talk about that aspect of it at all.

One note: You will notice that the graphs in the linked post do not include any figures from China.

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Is the Covid-19 pandemic a possible media extinction event?

I hope so. Too much of the media no longer reports the news, but tells you want to think about what little news they actually report.

Perhaps TV newscasters should end each segment with “More of the alleged news after this…”. Call it journalistic truth.

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I find it interesting (but not surprising) that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is blaming President Trump for the coronavirus problems, choosing to conveniently forget that she has been one of the biggest blockades to getting things done.

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The Manhattan Contrarian offers some advice for dealing with the coronavirus.

The more you read about this, the more you realize that the key to true success against the virus is to embrace environmental incorrectness. Many of the environmental fads of the last few years turn out to be exactly what you should not be doing. Like it or not, you are now going to have to use more plastics and increase your “carbon footprint.” Hey, it’s the least you can do to keep yourself and your family and friends alive.

Read the whole thing.

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And that’s the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where folks are dealing with restrictions caused by coronavirus with aplomb, most folks aren’t really noticing many differences, and where some folks are think the 6-foot distancing is too close...and always have.

3/28/2020

Is The Day Of "Papers, Please" Coming To America?

Hearing that Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo (D) has the National Guard going door-to-door looking for “Noo Yawkers” who recently came into the Ocean State from the Metro New York City area has given me a case of the willies. Seems a little too late-1930’s Germany to me.

“Right now we have a pinpointed risk,” Raimondo said at a news conference Friday. “That risk is called New York City.”

The state police in Rhode Island have begun pulling over cars with New York plates. Raimondo says anyone from New York City found to have recently come into the state will be automatically quarantined for 14 days.

Apparently New York governor Andrew Cuomo is taking exception to the Governor Raimondo’s actions, saying “I don’t believe it’s medically justified.”

Not medically justified? Hey, Andy. There are 44,000 people in your largest city who have tested positive for the virus. The only thing in this situation that might not be medically justified is building a wall surrounding the Big Apple and turning it into one big hospital ward. Or perhaps some kind of Escape from New York prison.

Of course none of this will matter if President Trump quarantines parts of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

3/27/2020

Social Distancing - Northern New England Yankee Style

In line with what has been going on in the US, particularly here in New Hampshire, and with social distancing having become the norm, I figured it was time to show you how we’ve always done something like that up here in Northern New England. Call it the “Surly Northern New England Yankee Curmudgeon Socially Distanced Greeting:

Surly Curmudgeon #1- "Good day?" (Translation: "Are you having a good day today, friend?")

Surly Curmudgeon #2- "Ayuh. You?" (Translation: "Yes, I've been having a most excellent and exceedingly good day. How about you?"

Surly Curmudgeon #1- "Ayuh?" (Translation: "As am I. Will I see you later down at the general store/dump/Agway/diner/town meeting?")

Surly Curmudgeon #2- “Ayuh.” (Translation: “Most assuredly. I look forward to discussing matters of great import at length with you.”)

Cuts right to the chase, is efficient, and keeps interactions to a minimum. Ayuh.

UPDATE: A fellow Northern New England Yankee added a bit to this:

Yet Another Surly Curmudgeon: "Six-foot separation for 'social distancing'? Why would I want to get that close to anybody?"

Ayuh.

3/22/2020

Thoughts On A Sunday

Here we are, yet another week into dealing with coronavirus. The number of confirmed cases is increasing as expected. (More tests means more infections being detected, even those that show little or no symptoms.) The media is still sensationalizing rather than actually reporting the news, still trying to blame President Trump for everything, and scaring folks for no other reason than they can.

Most of the folks up here are taking it with little fear or trepidation. Other than the initial surge of panic buying of paper towel and hand sanitizer, things have pretty much settled down. There have been a few spot shortages here and there (Half-and-Half and Jello being two of them for no reason I can determine), but I haven’t come across anything that is truly in short supply. Some of the local supermarkets are instituting special shopping hours for their elderly customers to help reduce the possibility of infection by Covid-19.

Local government is limiting access to town and city halls, with as much of the services provided as possible being shifted online in order to reduce person-to-person contact as much as is practical. Police and fire departments are closing access to the public from their facilities, trying to move as many of their non-emergency services as possible online and telephone.

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Is China’s claim of coronavirus recovery fake? Knowing how the Chinese government has prevaricated about coronavirus since the beginning, can we believe it now?

A supplier for my company located in Wuhan has been telling a different story than the ‘official’ story from the Chinese government.

I am more inclined to believe our supplier as they are on the scene.

UPDATE: It seems the reason why there are have been no more cases of Covid-19 reported in China is because China is reportedly no longer testing for it.

No testing, no reports.

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I’ve stated more than once that the push away from ‘single-use’ plastic shopping bags was a mistake considering they are less expensive, less impactful on the environment, are actually reused in a number of ways, and are less likely to spread disease than reusable “sustainable” cloth totes. Banning of single-use plastic bags is based more on virtue signaling than being environmentally responsible and may be responsible for helping spread Covid-19.

As the government, businesses, and individuals move to slow Wuhan coronavirus’ spread, one of the environmentalists’ pet “green” projects is under threat. Many municipalities and states banned single-use plastic bags due to heavy lobbying by those who insist that officials replace them with germ- and bacteria-laden reusable shopping bags.

That seems to be changing, much to environmentalists’ dissatisfaction, in the face of the Wuhan coronavirus. Because the virus can survive on such items and thus spread infection, many plastic bag bans are being delayed or lifted to shut down the petri dish of contagion these reusable shopping bags represent.

Science and knowledge about disease and contagion must take second place to the watermelon environmentalist narrative. That the reusable bags can spread disease and death is not seen as a bug, but as a feature by the purported environmentalists. Anything that cuts down the human population is seen as a plus by a lot of these folks.

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There is one thing that is more shocking than the coronavirus and it has shaken many of us to the core.

Tom Brady signed a two-year $60 million contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There is also a $9 million performance incentive to go with it, and a promise to rename the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the Tom Brady Buccaneers.

(OK, so maybe I’m exaggerating. It might have been only a $6 million performance incentive.)

Needless to say, a number of tears of anguish were shed in New England. The end of an era has come.

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This sounds like a good idea whose time has come.

It’s time for an open source project to review “all the laws which have proven themselves unnecessary.”

My home state had something called a Sunset Commission that reviewed all existing laws and regulations and made a list of those which either no longer served a purpose or caused more problems than they solved. Quite often the legislature would repeal the redundant ones and repeal or modify the problematic ones. Unfortunately a Democrat governor convinced the state legislature in the late 70’s/early 80’s that it was no longer needed and it was itself “sunsetted”, a mistake we’ve been paying for ever since.

It’s time to bring it back to New Hampshire and to bring it to life at the federal level.

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And that’s the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where the ice is breaking up, discussions and preparations are already being made for the coming boating season, and where we expect commuting traffic is going to be pretty sparse for a while.

3/21/2020

An American Solution To A World Problem

Everyone has been complaining that testing for Covid-19 is taking a long time.

Here's one possible solution:



(H/T Powerline)

3/20/2020

Another Day In This Part Of Coronavirus America

Coronavirus is still the leading story in the news and the topic of discussion just about everywhere. Reading various blogs and forums about it has shown everything from people feeling a little overwhelmed to experiencing nothing much different than what they see every day. For me it’s somewhere in between those two extremes, leaning more towards the latter.

I have to admit it’s been eerie being in work and being one of the few in our building. There were just six of us there today, and three of us left before noon to “get a jump on shopping” before the weekend. Everyone else was working from home.

I did get quite a bit of work done in one of our hardware labs, something I needed to do as part of my job. There are some things that can’t be done online, and lab work is one of them. So I and my fellow hardware engineer spent our day toiling away in our respective labs, keeping our development work on a new product rolling forward. (He was working on the second floor and I was working on the first floor.)

My trip home was almost as eerie as the Friday afternoon traffic I usually see just wasn’t there. I’d have to say it was about a quarter of what is typical for this time of year. (It is quite heavy during the summer for obvious reasons.)

I’ve seen a number of seasonal homes that are typically unused this time of year being occupied by their owners, perhaps as a “bug out” destination to ride out the pandemic. (Of course we wish they’d stay where they came from because who knows if they’ve brought the very thing they’re running away from with them.) The folks who bought the home just behind The Gulch last year arrived up hear last Friday, admitting to being one of those “bugging out” from central Massachusetts. They both already work from home and their kids’ schools are closed for the next few weeks and are schooling online. At least they brought a lot of supplies with them rather than stocking up once they got here. Not that they would have had any problems if they had done so.

Other than a few products like toilet paper and hand sanitizer, I haven’t seen any shortages of food items. I guess the first wave of panic buying has pretty much dissipated and folks are being more reasonable, at least around here. I can’t speak about other areas in the country, or even elsewhere here in my home state, but I’d like to think that folks in New Hampshire have regained their sanity and won’t be trying to buy up a year’s worth of items going forward.

It doesn’t help that the media is pumping up fear, stopping just short of yelling at the top of their lungs “We’re all gonna DIE!!!!!!” I’m not sure all of the precautions being taken are either a) effective, or b) necessary. Are some precautions over-the-top? Probably. The problem is that we don’t know one way or the other. This may be one of the few times where the Precautionary Principle applies. Maybe.

And so it is during another day in Coronavirus America.

3/15/2020

Thoughts On A Sunday - Coronavirus Edition

I kept thinking that I should devote this entire TOAS to the coronavirus, but is being done to death by just about everyone else. Not that I won’t make mention of it here and there during this ‘episode’, but I’m not going to obsess about it like so many others.

I will mention that I saw plenty of empty toilet paper shelves at out local Walmart while shopping there this morning. Not that we needed any, but I did notice them as I was making my way to the drinks aisle to pick up a couple of 2 liter bottles of Dr. Pepper.

I admit I did make one concession to the coronavirus ‘hysteria’, that being buying a new spray bottle of Clorox Clean Up. That’s it. No 55-gallon drums of hand sanitizer. No one-dozen 48-roll packs of toilet paper. Just a single spray bottle of Clorox Clean Up.

People need to get a grip on reality.

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As one last concession to coronavirus, I am going to mention the large number of schools and colleges here in New Hampshire closing for the next two or three weeks with instruction moving inline for many of them, as well as town/city offices limiting access and canceling/postponing meetings. Even our state legislature is suspending their session and closing legislative offices for a week or so. Churches have canceled services for the next couple of weeks. Some towns have postponed their town meetings until April.

My little town has suspended use of the town hall meeting facilities for non-government meetings, canceled all out-of-state travel (mostly for training purposes), and has been making preparations in case some town employees have to work from home. My place of work has changed all meetings to teleconferences (no face-to-face meetings), canceled all travel including any travel between company facilities, and closed facilities to outside visitors.

I’ll admit it’s all a little eerie.

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I agree with Skip on this: Make them live up to their own rules.

Seems fair to me.

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I was hoping to limit my coverage of coronavirus, but it seems that the media and most of my usual sources are focused entirely on the subject, so I figure maybe I can cover subjects tangentially related to Covid-19. In this case, the subject is remote schooling, aka online schooling. (Link is paywalled.)

Remote schooling is nothing new. Goodness knows homeschoolers have been using resources like Khan Academy, VLACS, and K12 as well as a host of other online education resources. Maybe it’s time for towns and cities to consider making more use of online schooling.

Fortunately, we live in a different world than we did in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans and closed all but a handful of schools for almost a year. We now have the technology necessary to teach students effectively and efficiently using the internet. These tools can ensure that learning continues uninterrupted during a crisis, while providing schools with collateral educational and financial benefits.

Many schools and districts already use laptops, tablet computers, smart boards and other devices to support classroom instruction. Not every district in the country has the ability to convene students in virtual classrooms, but every school system has at least thought about ways to instruct students remotely in the event of a disruption. For those that haven’t yet developed strategic plans to build an instructional system with remote-learning capacity, the current crisis should drive home the need to do so.

A ready and waiting remote-learning system is a game changer during a major emergency, not to mention more common disturbances such as weather-related disruptions, localized health hazards and students forced into long-term absences for various reasons. Even when school is in regular, nonemergency session, remote-learning infrastructure enhances classroom instruction and individualizes students’ learning experiences. Students who can’t attend school in a traditional setting because of disabilities or health issues can “dial in” and participate fully in class through the remote-learning system.

One of the advantages is that remote learning can help effectively expand existing school facilities because not as much classroom space will be needed if some students are learning from home.

I can see another positive aspect to this, that being that students can learn at their own pace. For some this means they aren’t being held back from learning at an accelerated pace and for others that they aren’t being left behind.

Is remote learning a cure-all for educational issues? Of course not, not by any means. But it is one more tool in the education ‘arsenal’ we should be exploiting.

UPDATE: New Hampshire Governor Sununu has ordered all New Hampshire schools closed for the next three weeks. Education will be moving online starting Monday, March 23rd. (Some schools are already doing so.) This coming week will be used to move schooling online.

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And that’s the coronavirus abbreviated news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where most folks aren’t panic buying, some folks from away have decided it’s a good time to ‘visit’ their vacation homes up here for a couple of weeks, and where we’re waiting for all of this to blow over.

3/14/2020

Reusable 'Sustainable' Shopping Bags Ain't All They're Cracked Up To Be

Amid the coronavirus precautions being taken by states, towns, schools, sports leagues, and places of employment making the pandemic real for many folks, it’s ironic that one of the virtue signalling activities so many have embraced may actually be helping spread the disease.

What am I talking about?

Reusable shopping bags.

The COVID-19 outbreak is giving new meaning to those “sustainable” shopping bags that politicians and environmentalists have been so eager to impose on the public. These reusable tote bags can sustain the COVID-19 and flu viruses—and spread the viruses throughout the store.

Researchers have been warning for years about the risks of these bags spreading deadly viral and bacterial diseases, but public officials have ignored their concerns, determined to eliminate single-use bags and other plastic products despite their obvious advantages in reducing the spread of pathogens. In New York State, a new law took effect this month banning single-use plastic bags in most retail businesses, and this week Democratic state legislators advanced a bill that would force coffee shops to accept consumers’ reusable cups—a practice that Starbucks and other chains have wisely suspended to avoid spreading the COVID-19 virus.

--snip--

The COVID-19 virus is just one of many pathogens that shoppers can spread unless they wash the bags regularly, which few people bother to do. Viruses and bacteria can survive in the tote bags up to nine days, according to one study of coronaviruses.

I have heard so many make the claim that the sustainable bags are better for the environment and save money, but being the engineering type that I am, I find the claim to be dubious because the numbers don’t seem to add up.

A 2000-bag pack of plastic ‘single-use’ shopping bags available from places like Staples cost about 1¢ a piece. In the volumes most supermarkets use bags the cost per bag is closer to 0.2¢ a piece. What does a ‘sustainable’ shopping bag cost? My mother has three that she bought for $2 per bag (a special price through her church). That means each one of those sustainable bags wouldn’t reach the break even point in cost until they had replaced 1000 plastic bags.

Assuming the folks using the sustainable bags never wash their bags, and the average number of plastic bags used a week for shopping is 8 bags, and the number of sustainable bags used for the same amount goods bought is two, it would take 500 shopping trips to reach the break even point. If one further assumes one grocery shopping trip per week, that works out almost 9.5 years to reach that point.

If they do wash their bags, then one has to add the cost of washing them to the total cost of ownership and is likely to add a few years to the break even point.

This begs the question: How long do these reusable bags last?

Somehow I doubt anyone will keep their bags for ten years. As such, the break even period is never.

Between the extra energy and materials needed to manufacture the ‘sustainable’ bags, their propensity to spread disease if not regularly washed, and their cost, the sustainable bags aren’t looking all that sustainable. On top of that, many of those single-use plastic bags aren’t used only once. I know I don’t as I use them to line wastebaskets or dispose of cat poop from the litter boxes of the feline contingent here at The Gulch. Many other people do the same kind of thing. And of any of those bags left over, they end up in the big shopping bag recycling barrel at the entrance of our local supermarket.