Foxfier shared this metal version of Angels We Have Heard on High. This singer actually sounds like he’s seen some angels – after recovering from being terrified out of your wits, you’d not be singing about the vision like some whimpy kid’s choir. You’d be belting it out like you mean it!
Finally, at Midnight Mass the choir sang Victoria’s O Magnum Mysterium, which I have written about before. This polished gem of a work may be the most perfect motet ever written. It’s certainly among the most beautiful and profound:
A. Back to back Thanksgiving feasts, Thursday with Elder Daughter & in-laws, Friday at soon to be Younger Daughter’s in-laws. (Should all that be hyphenated? “At the house of the family that will soon become our younger daughter’s in-laws” is what I’m saying. She’s already our younger daughter…)
It was very nice to hang out with friendly, descent people simply having a good time enjoying each other’s company. This is the antidote to the life of fear being rammed down our throats – which is why it is both critically important to do it, and why our self-appointed betters are trying so hard to keep us from doing it. People simply getting together with people without getting anyone else’s permission is the death of totalitarianism.
On to more pleasant aspects. Our new granddaughter was the star of the first gathering. One month old, and, sadly in one respect, a chip off the old block: sleep is strictly optional, and not to be indulged in when it would be most appreciated by mom. BUT: sleeping in the arms of granddad seems to work, so I got a bit of bonding in, sitting in quiet places, holding and patting the little angel as she slept. Prepping her for a sleepless night, no doubt. Sigh.
We finally got the 4-generations photo: great grandma, grandma (my wife) mom (my daughter) and baby.
On to Gathering: The Sequel. The soon-to-be in-laws raise pigs, so the highlight of the meal was a ham that had been part of a pig raised on the property not too long prior. Ham from a home-raised pig is a completely different thing: much redder, more tender, different texture altogether, and delicious. Not a huge ham fan in general, but this stuff was excellent. So daughter’s soon to be father in law (this is tiring!), a very generous man, weighed us down with frozen pork as we headed out the door. I’ve now got a couple pork chops the size of small dinner plates and nearly the color of beefsteak, a pound of bacon, sausage, thin-sliced ham, a nice hock, some dried meat sticks – very cool stuff. It’s probably going to stay in the freezer until Christmas, as we’ve got leftovers to last nearly until then!
But much more important: the house was full of children, I think I counted 6 who were 5 and under, and a handful of teenagers. Included were a set of 11 month old twins, crawling about.
And everyone was totally cool, herding the kids around when necessary, but otherwise just letting them be kids. I love that! In all the exactly 2 perfect and socially responsible children households among most of our acquaintances, the adults would not be able to simply let the kids do their thing without constant supervision. Here, all the adults – and the teenagers, including our youngest son – are perfectly fine at keeping one eye on the short people, doing a little minimal intervention if absolutely necessary, and otherwise acting like normal human beings. Exactly once, I corralled a crawling baby and redirected/redeposited him in the living room when he had headed out into the dining room – only because that’s where most of the older people were, and he seemed headed out of easy view.
I might have overreacted.
The baby took it completely in stride – big strange person he doesn’t know, scooping him up, making faces and yakking at him, moving him back to the room he’d just crawled out of, plopping him down next to his brother and a couple toddlers. He just got on with it.
One toddler had a wee bit of a poutfest because he’s a toddler. Otherwise, no fits or crying jags or acts of wanton destruction. Kids were absolutely having a blast playing with other kids, adults got to be adults. This went on for hours.
It might seem stupid to harp on people being normal and happy – but this -THIS – is what is our betters are trying to take away from us. THIS is what masks, lockdowns, mandates, anti-social distancing, fear, mind-numbingly STUPID propaganda, and getting the terrified to report on the sane, are trying to destroy.
So get out there and have fun with people you love!
B. Note: we didn’t host any Thanksgiving events ourselves. Yet, the total kitchen output leading up to Thursday and Friday:
The spousal unit: 14 pies, including the usual – pumpkin (both traditional and strudel), apple (both two-crust and strudel) – and specialties – hazelnut-pecan (to die for), mincemeat (the real deal) and carrot-ginger pie (which looks like a pumpkin pie, but tastes quite different)
The youngest son: whipped cream for pies, hard cream (whipped cream with brandy in it) for the mincemeat.
Me: 8.5 lbs. of pot roast, beef gravy, three loaves of pumpkin bread (to give to one of the ladies who helps with grandma), 2.5 dozen pumpkin cream cheese muffins (To share with neighbors), an apple pie (for the other lady who helps with grandma).
Team effort. There’s a ton of overlap in there – youngest son and I peeled a lot of apples, for example, and I was assigned the task of mixing up some pumpkin filling for pies my wife was baking, and she supplied the mincemeat and instructions, and I made the crust and assembled the pie. And so on. Output listed by who was responsible, but the work was shared.
Totally fun. We did our best to clean as we went, so the kitchen is only sort of a disaster.
C. A downside: Despite what Heraclitus says, the road up and the road down are not the same. 1 hour, 16 minutes to get home from Elder Daughter’s house; 2 hours, 10 minutes to get there; 1 hour, 23 minutes to get home from future in-laws house; 2 hours, 10 minutes to get there. The 80 corridor from San Francisco to Sacramento (and beyond to Lake Tahoe) is prone to heavy traffic. Returning later in the evening, we hit none; going up in the early afternoon was not so good.
That’s why we need to move closer to people we love (and farther from people we loathe. Win-win.)
D. More reality from Clarissa’s blog. Do things to be normal. Do things to be yourself.
When I was a kid, the women I admired the most were the ones who put make-up on first thing in the morning on weekends and holidays. This meant they saw themselves more as women than as cooking-cleaning-disciplining-yelling machines. With the makeup they were signaling that they wanted to be liked by men. This meant they were likely to smile more, scream less, and be easier-going. Kids automatically veered towards the make-up wearing ladies in the house because they were more open to playing with the kids or at least not as likely to police their every move.
Obviously, make-up isn’t necessary to be a happy woman and not a screeching harpy. But in the USSR, everything was designed to crush both womanhood and manhood. You needed to work hard to not feel like a sexless cog in a gigantic production machine. Men had their own rituals of maleness, just like the women had the weekend makeup.
If only you knew how hard it was to get makeup in the USSR. The fact of being willing to use the precious, rare substances when nobody outside of your family would see you signaled that you valued the private space over the public. And that was. . .not in keeping with the ruling ideology, let’s put it that way.
E. Got a bunch of way-cool Christmas presents to make, which – the best kind – require the use of power tools. Rain has not returned since the monsoons of October, and none are forecast before 2nd week of December. So, out come the table saw, router, sanders, and planers, in the nice sunny 60F weather expected for this afternoon.
Do something you like, with people you love. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.
Got all these posts to write, from serious – more analysis of the current panic – to fun – review of Galactic Patrol the latest book I’ve read off John C. Wright’s essential scifi list. But that gets to be work, sometimes. So, instead, let’s fire up the flotsam randomizer, and see what floats by:
A. If anyone says ‘the world has too many people’ anywhere other than on their own suicide note, such a one is a murderous bigot.
B. Space Alien Footstep? Look at this:
This (hard to see in the picture, not hard in real life) is a near-perfect rectangle of dead grass in the backyard. It appeared a week or so ago. It’s about the size and shape of a cooler, maybe slightly bigger.
So – what? I can’t remember puttying anything on the lawn, let alone anything that would kill the grass. Nobody else here can, either. The unnaturally exact rectangular-ness makes natural explanations seem far-fetched….
C. This deserves at least a dedicated post – Edward Feser’s latest, Ioannidis on the politicization of science, which begins with a link to a 2005 Ioannidis paper, Why Most Published Research Findings Are False Regular readers here know I’m saying ‘duh’ right about now. It seems that Ioannidis’ paper was well-received, back in 2005, in the sense that many scientists acknowledged its obvious truth. I trust you see what’s coming next: Ioannidis recently published another paper, applying his logic from the 2005 paper to COVID studies. As Feser says: ” In a new essay at The Tablet, Ioannidis reflects on the damage that has been done to the norms of scientific research as politics has corrupted it during the pandemic.”
These observations were not as well received.
I started a long response to Dr. Feser, which I may still complete, simply noting the observation that was the genesis of this blog – that, for the most part, one does not need to be a scientist to spot the errors in most papers, that logic, a basic knowledge of the history of science, and, most important, a fairly basic understanding of how science really works – what science can and cannot do – is sufficient to judge most claims made in the name of science. It’s not like it takes genius or a PhD to note, for example, that ‘cases’ are a moving target over time and space, with definitions and data gathering protocols being wildly inconsistent, such that any comparisons of one time with another, or one place or another, needs A LOT of ‘splaining – just assuming a change in the reported numbers reflects increases of infection purely is irresponsible, to say the least.
(Aside: you can separate out the posers at this point – they are the people who will say I’m nit-picking here. To such people, all technical criticism of methodology will appear as nit-picking, yet any knowledge of science history will show that such ‘nit-picking’ is how science works, when it does work.)
D. Just one thing about E. E. Smith’s Galactic Patrol prior to the full write-up: you can spot a dozen Star Trek episodes and most of Star Wars right there, in a book written in the 1930s. Jedis, way cool mind powers, Hero’s Journey, evil empire, fight to the death. It might be faster to list what’s missing: Dark Father doesn’t get redeemed or even exist; the love interest is not the hero’s sister, and Chewbacca is played by a dragon and Yoda by a disembodied brain. With way-cool Jedi mind powers. Stay tuned.
Start with something fun: this is Leonid & Friends, the band formed by Leonid Vorobyev, a musician from Russia, upon his retirement a few years ago. I’ve linked in the past to their insanely excellent Chicago covers. Leonid seems to know a large number of incredible session players. This is an original.
Aside: Ksenia, the lead singer, and Igor, the (insanely great) drummer, were the inspiration for two bits of flash fiction: Pig Farmer 1 and 2. One of the first and most profound ‘life is not fair’ moments for me was learning, as a child, that physical beauty and talent correlate pretty highly with intellectual talent. We’d love to believe in the dumb jock or airhead actress stereotypes – and some do exist – but the reality is not that fair: the high school quarterback and prom queen are more likely to be intellectually gifted than the typical high schooler.
I mention this because Ksenia not only has an angelic voice and looks like what Barbie would want to look like if she had better taste, but she also speaks and sings in a bunch of languages, like English, Mandarin, and Italian, and is otherwise insanely accomplished. She’s not a native English speaker, but you’d be hard pressed to tell that from this song. Life is truly not fair.
On a less fun note, here is someone demonstrating how to get around the algorithms:
Conservative Catholics are readying for their Truth Over Fear Summit that will begin on Friday, Apr. 30 and extend through the weekend.
The event is described as “a three-day online gathering of 40+ frontline doctors, scientists, attorneys, researchers, and journalists, who will share invaluable and eye-opening insights into the truth behind the headlines, Covid-19, the rushed vaccine, and the Great Reset.”
Once they got the conference going, Kartra, the service they used, shut them down. Unannounced.
Apparently, as they were doing the summit on Friday, the host (says the organizer) “Kartra killed the event—live—during the Q&A with Dr Scott Jensen, who is running for Governor of Minnesota.” Boom, gone. Now I have 42,000+ people texting and emailing about what happened.
So, actual credentialed experts want to discuss issues that fall within their areas of expertise – and that’s not allowed. Briggs says it’s been rescheduled for next weekend, but the Kartra account linked to has been deactivated.
First off, SF&F has a long and often even noble tradition of describing dystopian futures. Here’s Zachary Denman, a British guy making short sci-fi videos – that’s what they say they are – on the 2nd Person Tube. Wild speculations that, were they said seriously about right now, instead of a distant made-up future, might get one into trouble. Nonetheless, like all made-up fictional type stuff, they might provide some small insight into how people are thinking and feeling now. For example.
Second, a bit of conventional wisdom, I’ve heard, is that one should fight to the death, if necessary, when first being kidnapped. While in some traditional circumstances, your kidnappers will need you alive, and so you might bet on getting ransomed or released eventually, in other, more pathologically or politically motivated grabs, chances are poor you’ll ever get out alive once you’ve been stuffed in the back of the black SUV. Besides, “The initial phase of a kidnapping provides the best opportunities to escape.”
Third, for some reason this thought from Solzhenitsyn springs to mind:
“And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?… The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If…if…We didn’t love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation…. We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.”
You’re checking in to see what Sarah Hoyt and William Briggs are on about these days, right? John C. Wright happened to be taking a little walk with some friends on the 6th when some possibly interesting stuff happened.
Funny how unimportant the virus seems at the moment. In and of itself, I mean.
One last thought: although I have not slept well since March, one thought, a feeling, really, I can’t shake: this will all turn out better than we have any right to hope. Watching the Hindenburg go down in slow motion for going on 10 months now, seeing predictions of political, financial, and social doom come true, watching – most depressing of all – a large percentage, probably a majority, of people just go along and get angry with you if you don’t – well, it’s been interesting. But as I mentioned before, I had this vivid dream (I am a Joseph after all) where something utterly unexpected occurs just as all hope is lost. Weird. And, when I can focus enough to really pray, calm settles in. So, make of that what you will. Maybe it’s days, maybe it’s years, but everything is alright in the end. If it’s not alright, it’s not the end.
Seem the British, who, while generally charming, talk funny, have renamed Rube Goldberg ‘Heath Robinson‘ and did it a decade before anybody had heard of Goldberg. Sneaky, that.
Just ran across a Twitter thread where Katya, English woman with a background in economics and finance – kind of like me! – looked at Neil Ferguson’s model in excruciating detail:
When this whole panic started, I looked a model linked to a petition to the White House to lock us down for 2 weeks to ‘flatten the curve’ and then ease back to normal, or else 11 million Americans would die! Ah, those days of innocence. I didn’t get into the actual math of the model, I just played with the 4 most immediate inputs and observed how the model reacted. Conclusion: Garbage in, garbage out. Simply assume a death rate of 2.5, and R0 of 2.5, a population of 330 million, and nobody washing their hands or staying away from grandma if he is felling ill., and – Boom! 200M infections and 11 million dead! I saw no place to put in ‘died out in the spring’ or ‘maybe a bunch of people are already immune’ or ‘maybe it doesn’t spread the same in Montana as it does in Greenwich Village’ – nope. Buried in the math, I suppose.
To top it off, there was a magic mitigation slider: just decide how effective your mitigation efforts are, and watch the numbers change! Toward the end of the article, after the panic porn where you are told, effectively, that failing to sign the petition made you personally responsible for all the inevitable deaths, was the admission that nobody actually knows how effective any of the mitigation efforts are (or how they amplify or defeat each other, like how a lockdown in a nursing home or hospital very possibly raises the chances of the people in those places getting it. But I quibble).
Even I, with my feeble math chops, could see that no amount of fancy calculations was going to smooth over the insane unstated assumptions of this model and the weird lacunas.
The Ferguson model I never checked out, although it seems clearly the spiritual sibling of the one I did check out. There’s this little thing called ‘reality’ that models, if they are to be useful, are measured against. I don’t trust the Communist Chinese any farther than I can throw a pagoda, but: if Fergy’s models is remotely correct, the Chinese government is hiding millions of dead and hundreds of millions of sick people and perfectly suppressing the subsequent unrest – and that strains credulity. They’re every bit that evil, but nowhere near that competent.
And the Diamond Princess. And Japan, Singapore, and now Sweden.
So I’m grateful to Katya for her analysis, but I think the model fails the sniff test before you even get into the 450(!) variables and poor code.
Meanwhile, another guest post on William Brigg’s fine blog attacks some of the other issues I’ve covered here, essentially, the inescapable messiness of the data. Poorly defined or undefined terms, different standards of data gathering and reporting, different reporting schedules, lots of room for judgement calls such as: 99 yr old nursing home prisoner dies, not of old age, but of COVID 19, as does a 37 yr old drug overdoes victim.
Adding up causes of death is not going to tell you much beyond 1) how deaths are reported in aggregate; and 2) lots of people die, like pretty much all of them sooner or later. Since most people now days die when, by historical standards, they are very old and subject to the many afflictions of advanced age, it makes assigning a cause of death other than ‘the decedent was very old’ a reach.
If you’re going to put Grandma or Grandpa in a nursing home — don’t put off making a visit. That’s the upshot of a U.C. San Francisco study published this week, which reveals elders often don’t last very long in care facilities.
Of its sample of nursing home patients who died between 1992 and 2006, a full 80 percent were dead within one year, claims the study, which appears in the current edition of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
(UPDATE: Looked around for more data on nursing home mortality – it is made somewhat confusing, in that the definitions are not clear. What, exactly, is a nursing home versus Long Term Care? What kind of patient is in what kind of home? The most favorable study showed an expected annual mortality rate of 31.8% and an average stay of 2.2 years. Others were in between. Perhaps the 80% annual death rate is for a particular kind of nursing home? Alzheimer’s and dementias seem to take 5 or more years to kill their victims once they’ve been put in a home – perhaps the homes in the first study excluded such patients? Yet, even the low end annual mortality rate of 31.8% requires that nursing homes are home to a lot of people who are very near death.)
In the body of the report, it explains that numbers are not available for the US, Italy, Spain and some other places. Too bad. In the US, with only 35 states reporting, the report notes that there have been at least 10,000 nursing home deaths.
If we assume, not much of a reach, that the US is most likely more like the western European countries (+ Canada) on the right than the mostly smaller countries on the left of this chart, then the US rate might be 50% or more. We’ll have to wait and see if those numbers ever get reported. (I’m not holding my breath.) Also note that these numbers presumably do not include those cared for at home who might otherwise be in a nursing home, or hospital patients – also likely very sick people with a very short life expectancy.
(Aside: we also should not assume homogeneity: some people in nursing homes are a lot closer to the end than others – no reason to suppose COVID 19 isn’t killing proportionately more of the very ill. In other words, it would be simple-minded to assume 20% of the nursing home deaths attributed to COVID 19 were of people who otherwise would have survived the year. I bet close to 100% would have died this year– something like 95%.)
The bottom line here: my confidence that the total US deaths this year will not be much higher than the UN pre-COVID projection of about 2.903M is solidified by just about all the data that comes out. If 200K deaths are assigned to COVID 19 – unlikely, if they’re playing fair (Ha! I slay me!), then the total would go up by maybe 100K (a bad flu season)- IF it’s only the nursing home deaths that are padding the totals. I’m thinking, based on the ongoing collapse of US death counts (6 straight days of declining daily totals – Spring is here!), 200K is well out of reach.
When it is said, as it has been, that 95% of the COVID deaths in the US are of people with one or more “comorbidity”, that is identifying a population that is already a lot nearer to dying than the typical healthy person. To put it another way, 5% of the people who die of COVID 19 were otherwise healthy – for 70K deaths, that 3,500 otherwise healthy people who died of COVID 19. Not to be gruesome, but some percentage, probably a very large percentage, of the remaining 66.5K dead were going to die this year anyway, and thus were presumably included in the original death projections, and will thus not add to the number of overall deaths.
A: A happy, holy and blessed Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. True story: When I went to Italy as part of an art program in the 1980s, we we visited a number of smaller towns around Florence. Can’t remember exactly which one we visited on May Day (Lucca? Somewhere…), but we found ourselves in the middle of a somber little parade in the medieval town plaza. We watched mostly middle-aged men in their Sunday finest go by, each wearing a red carnation.
Communists. It was a little, um, odd. Then we went into the duomo, in front of which this parade had taken place. As I looked around and prayed a little, one after another of the men from the parade came in, took off their red carnation, and laid it at the foot of a statue of Our Lady. A nice pile of carnations was formed over the next half hour.
Someone, it seemed to me, was very unclear on the concept: Communism, the Catholic Church – pick one? They don’t really go together. But it seems Italians – and I love Italians – are not as troubled by niceties of consistency as I am. Or perhaps they see some consistency on a level that escapes me. Or – one can never rule this out – they’re basically crazy?
As a 20-something punk, this little moment has stuck with me ever since, and helped form my take on the world . People – hard to figure, sometimes.
B. Due to Sarah Hoyt linking to this post on Instapundit, I saw basically a year’s worth of blog traffic and a couple year’s worth of visitors over the course of a couple days. (Not saying all that much – my beloved regular readers are treasured, but few). Perhaps this kicked me up a little in Google’s algorithms, or maybe – I flatter myself – the blog picked up some more readers – In April, most days got over 100 views, even after the 5-figure spike was well past.
So, if you are a new reader, welcome! If the skewering of bad Science!, the history of schooling, curmudgeonly commentary on current events, reviews of SF&F and other books, and the occasional home improvement project and Catholic shout-out are your cup of tea, you belong to a very, um, select group – and this here’s a blog for you!
C: Bricks. We left it here:
Today, I’m hoping to finish this little piece up. Here’s how it stands now:
Once I cap the little towers in the corners, we will put potted plants on top of them, and long wooden planters in between. Something from this selection:
Should look nice. I wanted pots and wooden planters so that, come Christmas, I can move them and set up the Nativity scene there. Then on to the south wall/planter.
D: Planted a little herb garden in a wine barrel half. It’s sitting off the patio a couple steps from the pizza oven and the back door out from the kitchen. Previously grew herbs on the south side of the house, not handy if you’re in the middle of cooking. (Huge batch of oregano is still there. Will see if I can transplant some closer.)
E: Big stress here at the casa: our older daughter is to be married on May 30. Our unctuous, reptilian governor has continued the lockdown in the face of all objective evidence. This means the church and the venue for the reception are closed. On the off chance we do get to hold something (the marriage is going to take place on the 30th no matter what, even if it’s just bride, groom, priest and witnesses) have cleaned up the back yard, trying to make it look spiffy-ish:
Have a lot to do in the front yard, where my brick obsession has made quite the mess, but at least the plants are coming in strong:
In a month, maybe we’ll have some flowers or at least plants in all those pots and planters, to be distributed around. If we can do anything.
If you are the praying kind, prayers for our poor, stressed daughter would be appreciated. Thanks.
F: Don’t think I’ve ever posted on food per se – too much of that out there already – but this is maybe odd enough to be interesting. Somebody gave us a turkey months ago, don’t remember why, and it sat there tying up freezer space. Saw this guy on Youtube do something interesting, and thought – I should try that, get rid of that turkey:
Yes, it is time-consuming and not all that pleasant to debone a turkey, but, then again, carving a regular turkey can be some work as well. I did a poor job: the trick is to not cut the skin, which, when you roll it, is what keeps it all together. I tried to use a very cheap filleting knife that we’ve had forever, but it wasn’t up to the task, you need a very sharp tip to the knife, and this one just wouldn’t keep an edge. Got my eye on a Victorinox boning knife, if I ever do this again.
And I just might. However much trouble I had up front, it was very nice to simply cut slices without having to worry about bones and with a nice dollop of sausage stuffing right there in the middle. And it cooks a lot faster, too. FWIW.
G: Something proposed in a com box discussion here with Darwin Catholic, a man whose analytic abilities I respect: will COVID 19 result in more deaths in 2020 than would have otherwise occurred? I say: no. He says: yes, at least 75K. Now, even 75K is a tiny number on a population of 330M, but it should be noticable: the UN predicted around 2,930,400 deaths in the US from all causes before the current kefluffle. So: an additional 75K puts us a little over 3M. (Darwin wants to do a lot more math, with weighted average mortality over 5 years – OK by me, although I’m not sure what the gain in accuracy would be).
More important, and more obvious: the minimum number of dead with a continued lockdown was estimated at 100-240K just weeks ago. As the lockdown is eased or eliminated in more sane states, they theory goes, those numbers should get higher. So, anything short of about 3.03M lillion dead should be seen as an obvious fail, as far as any predictions go, and, realistically, anything less than 3.2M or so should lay a thick coat of egg on the face of the panic mongers. Not that they don’t already have lies in place to cover this.
The trouble here, as Dr. Briggs discusses here, is that the mitigation steps themselves have begun to kill people. First off, if biopsies and follow-ups for serious diseases, and the usual rounds of check-ups and screenings during which problems are routinely uncovered, are delayed, and thus problems are not discovered and treated promptly, prospects for those people are worsened. Some people will die. Same goes for some elective or non-critical treatments – something that looks non-critical today can get critical if pushed off enough.
But, by far, the major risk of death from COVID 19 is quickly becoming the psychological stress of lockdown and subsequent job losses. Suicide, taking stupid risks, drug abuse, domestic violence – these are real, and really kill people.
Is it enough to offset the ‘savings’ we might get from retarding the spread of *ALL* communicable diseases for a few months (insofar as that works. Not always and everywhere, that’s for sure, but some)? The longer the insanity of the lockdown drags on, affecting 330M people, not just the 1M cases of COVID 19, even a slight uptick in lockdown-related deaths could offset all gains. What a disaster, in terms of lives and morals. We want to believe we are not killing people with the lockdown, and so we do believe it. But we are, and it means nothing to us.
Someone somewhere should be putting together very targeted lawsuits against the people responsible for the government’s suspension of of our constitutionally guaranteed right to free assembly and, effectively, unlawful seizure of our wealth without any due process or review whatsoever. I’m saddened so many people accept this without a hiccup. Does it not occur to them that the patriotic need to be brave and face our enemies and risk death to defend our freedoms is still required, even if the enemy is a *&^% virus?
Been a week or so, so let’s look at some graphs, from Worldometers, as usual. Again, I focus on deaths, because however iffy the classification of deaths as caused by COVID 19, at least – sorry to be morbid here – somebody died and so there’s a body to count. Infections are unknown, and cases are a function of testing and changing definitions and instructions, and so can and do fluctuate unpredictably. I don’t know what to make of total case numbers, and I suspect neither does anyone else.
That’s not exponential growth, or growth of any kind. As the Philosopher pointed out 2300 years ago, what is not growing is dying. The curious thing: one would expect a decline at roughly the same rate as the rise. This seems to be falling more slowly than it rose. One reason might be that, with widespread infection and more broad testing, the listing of every death where COVID 19 appears on the death cert as a COVID 19 death would, over time, tend to cause the COVID 19 case death rate to converge with the overall death rate from all causes. In the hypothetical extreme, where everyone has been infected, every death will be attributed to COVID 19. This extreme is not going to happen in reality, but the principle applies: if, say, 30% of the population is determined to have or have had COVID 19 (so that they test positive), and that 30% dies at something like the normal rate, then 30% of all deaths for whatever reason would, under current practice, be classified as COVID 19 deaths.
The call for universal testing is a call, intentional or not, to inflate the number of COVID 19 deaths. If someone, say an older, weaker person, gets the flu, can’t fight it off, and it progresses to pneumonia and kills him – a very common way old people die – but tests positive for COVID 19, that is gong to be classified as a COVID 19 death just about everywhere in the West, certainly in the US, Italy and England. But – here’s the point – however classified, such a tragic death won’t push the annual numbers up. That death would have taken place anyway, so it doesn’t add to the annual total.
A plague worthy of the name adds to the total number of dead over its duration. So far , COVID 19 isn’t doing that, and there’s no reason to imagine it will going forward.
The UN projected that about 1.0658% of Italians would die this year, very slightly more than last year and in line with a decade long graduale climb as the population ages. Italy is home to about 60.5M people, so about 645K Italians were projected to die this year in the normal course of things.
So: will more than 645K Italians die this year? If a plague is killing a bunch of people, one might suspect so. But if people who, sadly, were going to shuffle off this mortal coil this year anyway, as people in nursing homes and hospitals frequently do, then COVID 19 will have little or no effect on overall deaths.
I bet there’s no increase, that right around 645K Italians die this year from all causes, just as if a no plague had taken place. Because (whisper) no plague took place. But because of the reporting requirements, virtually all deaths where COVID 19 can plausibly be claimed to be present in the deceased will be counted as COVID 19 deaths. Thus, unless they go with double counting, deaths otherwise attributable to heart failure and cancer and the afflictions of old age will drop, as will deaths from the flu, pneumonia, and any respirtory problems.
This switcheroo will only show up in the totals, or rather, will not show up in the totals.
Another thing – here’s the weather in Milan, the capital of Lombardy, over the last couple of months:
A bit cold and nasty-looking (to a Californian) until the second week of April – at least, cold nights and quite a few cooler days. Now, the weather is getting pretty nice, that lovely Mediterranean climate Italians and Californians love – and in which air-borne viruses quickly die out.
Same story. Here’s France:
French reporting has been very inconsistent, as this graph shows, but the trend, if any, seems downward. I’m reminded of a story I heard about the song April in Paris: Yip Harburg, the lyricist, was asked how he could write
April in Paris, chestnuts in blossom Holiday tables under the trees April in Paris, this is a feeling No one can ever reprise
…when every Frenchman knew April in Paris is cold, wet and nasty. He replied: May didn’t fit the rhythm. So the positive effects of Spring sunshine won’t likely be seen for another couple weeks.
Now, on to America:
What is happening here? We get repeated lesser daily counts for a day or two, followed by new highs – three or maybe four times so far.
Following new CDC guidelines: “As of April 14, 2020, CDC case counts and death counts include both confirmed and probable cases and deaths. This change was made to reflect an interim COVID-19 position statement issued by the Council for State and Territorial Epidemiologists on April 5, 2020. The position statement included a case definition and made COVID-19 a nationally notifiable disease.
A confirmed case or death is defined by meeting confirmatory laboratory evidence for COVID-19. A probable case or death is defined by i) meeting clinical criteria AND epidemiologic evidence with no confirmatory laboratory testing performed for COVID-19; or ii) meeting presumptive laboratory evidence AND either clinical criteria OR epidemiologic evidence; or iii) meeting vital records criteria with no confirmatory laboratory testing performed for COVID19″ [source]
Since over half the deaths have taken place in the NYC metro area, one would look first there.
And, on that same page, are updates on how, over time, other states have changed their reporting practices to be more generous and inclusive – in other words, to include more deaths under the COVID 19 heading, following revised CDC guidelines. Whether these changes are warranted or not, they skew the results in one way only: more deaths reported as due to COVID 19.
So, are we in the same situation as Italy, where I predict no significant uptick in total annual deaths? I say yes.
I had hoped to be able to say that the numbers clearly show the US is well past its peak; but at face value, that’s not quite possible, given the upward spikes in deaths. On a local basis, the New York City/Newark area, unlike the rest of the country, has seen overall ‘excess’ deaths over what historical trends would find reasonable. This is real, and cause for concern. On the other hand, I have seen no reports to suggest the profile of the people dying has changed – it is still 80% people over 65, and 95% people who are sick, elderly, or both. In other words, at most 5% of the victims are younger and healthy. I say at most, because the prudent thing to wonder is if those younger, healthy victims did not, in fact, have underlying health issues that were undetected – maybe, maybe not, but the thought all but suggests itself.
Finally, one more set of pictures: Weather in New York City
Again, from a Californian’s perspective (I’m sitting out on the patio typing this, 80F, light breeze, beautiful) that’s some nasty weather, mostly cold and damp, and erratic. Maybe if Spring finally arrives in the northeast, we can put a stake in this thing.
Item 1: William Briggs, Statistician to the Stars, has built an interesting model of viral outbreaks over time, and mapped the coronavirus outbreak against it. Here’s his Update III. Bottom line: recognizing that all statistical analysis is conditional on the quality of the data (among other things) and that some parties (China) might not be telling the exact truth, it looks like this is pretty much a typical viral outbreak, worse than some, not as bad as others.
This analysis is worth the read merely to see how a philosopher/statistician evaluates data. I’m am grateful to another statistician, Mike Flynn, for having made the point that ‘fact’ comes from ‘factorum’ (or whatever the correct Latin form is) and means: a thing made. Facts most definitely do not speak for themselves; rather, they speak for the assumptions and mechanisms used to create them. Trivial example: it is a fact that water boils at 100C – +/- the accuracy of the thermometer and skill of the observer, measured in a traditionally sanctioned manner (at sea level, under normal atmospheric pressure, etc.) PROVIDED the water is sufficiently pure (as determined by conventional measurements of purity) and so on a so forth.
Dr. Briggs brings out some of the less obvious factors forming the facts, here. I’ll belabor one: diagnoses do not equal incidents. Incidents proceed according to their own logic; diagnoses depend on how and how much testing is being done, and on whom, and on the quality (false positive and negatives abound in many tests). Turns out that, until the first diagnosis, the ratio of infections to diagnoses is infinite; then, the ratio, which can never be known (there will always be undiagnosed cases, usually lots of them!) will be thought to be falling – more and more cases are diagnosed, while the number of infections is – who knows? Eventually, unless we’re all going to die of this, the rate new cases are diagnosed will fall, eventually hitting near zero. Of necessity trailing diagnosis, the number of dead will rise and fall as well. Eventually, everyone with the disease will either die or get better. We can then make a guess as to the mortality rate – but will never know it, because the number of people infected will never be known.
Slightly less obvious: a similar pattern will happen every time the infection spreads to a new area: initially, as tests are administered, the number of diagnoses will rocket upward, only to level off and fall over time. This kind of spreading can mask what’s really going on, as falling numbers of cases and deaths in one area are offset by growing numbers of cases in newer outbreak areas.
IF – and no one, least of all me, will know this until this is all over – the coronavirus acts like any other typical flu-type virus, once the weather gets nice, this outbreak will quickly disappear. Sunlight will kill it, people will get out more and thus provide less opportunity for infection in crowded places, and, in general ‘flu season’ will be over.
IF – again, always conditional on assumptions and information – this coronavirus is nothing unique, the whole outbreak should be over in a few months. Caution is always prudent; panic is always an invitation to the unscrupulous to seize more power.
Item 2: The Great Storm of 1605. Turns out climatologists have coined a name for the once every 100-200 year storms that drown California and the West: ARkStorms. (The ‘AR’ stands for Atmospheric River). Cute, huh? I’ve mentioned this here. Thanks again to Mike Flynn, who first mentioned the Great Storm of ’62 and got me interested.
The last ARkstorm was over the winter of 1861-1862, where it rained for 43 straight days, turned the entire Central Valley into a lake, put Sacramento under 10′ of water for months, turned the entire L.A. basin into a big swampy lake, and otherwise wreaked havoc all across the West and down on into Mexico.
Climatologists and geologists have taken ocean bed cores off the California coast, and found these 100-200 year events that laid down far, far more sediment that is typical. The scary part: back in 1605, it seems there was an ARkStorm that put the 1861-62 one to shame – at least 50% larger.
Wow. That would be bad. And we’re due. This year, however, we’re back to drought gloom and doom after 3 years of near-normal to excellent rain and snow, as we’ve only gotten about 30% of season average so far, when we average about 75% by now. Still need around another 10″ of rain to get to average – unlikely. That this kind of weather – a near completely dry February – happens maybe 30% of the time doesn’t seem to register with some people.
Item 3: There was this excellent sci fi story I read once years ago, where a colony on an earth-like planet named Cygnus (I think) experienced an unprecedented storm, which caused havoc in all sorts of interesting and tragic ways. Of course I can’t find it now, I thought the title was something like After the Storm, but that’s a Hemingway story… Anyway, wonder if the author was thinking of the Great Storm of 1862?
Item 4: If I ever get around to writing more fiction, I’ve got to name a character Hacksilver Smith.