A Moment Which Will Live in Infamy

 

In this, the first week of May, 2020, many are arguing for the reopening of the US economy, often arguing that the COVID-19 pandemic just isn’t bad as the media makes out. Let’s look at that claim.

It is true that in 2020 thus far, with social distancing (such as it is), the US has seen “only” 75,000+ COVID-10 deaths compared to nearly 400,000 heart disease & cancer deaths in a typical year during the same period. But there is a vital difference that makes these numbers incomparable: we are not developing 200,000 new cases of cancer & heart disease every WEEK (as we are currently with COVID-19) and cancer and heart disease are not contagious and cannot double in number every few days as COVID-19 can.

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The Bounce Commeth

Today, Texas is living in denial. In a month, its people will be paying the price.

Back in March, when Harris County unexpectedly cancelled the Houston Livestock & Rodeo, residents were taking things seriously. SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 has a slow incubation time, but the numbers don’t lie when you plot them. Slowly, new confirmation rates started growing at a slowing rate as the virus burned through the supply of infected but not yet ill people. Then, by the first week of April, the growth of new cases flattened, then actually started to drop.

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How Much Radiation Leaks From Your Oven?

Very little, and it’s mostly in the form of light shining through the door.

“Radiation” just means anything projected through space. It includes potentially harmful neutron, gamma, and x-ray radiation, but it also includes sunlight, new ideas, and the petals of flowers.

The word “radiation” does not mean “magic death cooties,” and just because a device emits radiation doesn’t mean it can hurt you without falling off a counter and hitting your foot.

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COVID-19 is not the Flu.

A huge misconception about the SARS-Cov-2 Coronavirus is that it’s similar to seasonal fluenza. Well, both are respiratory infections (as are colds) but that’s where the similarities stop. And the more we learn about this new virus, the stranger it appears.

  • The Flu’s R0 number is 1.3 whereas COVID-19 is 2-2.5, meaning it’s about twice as contagious;
  • The incubation period for the flu is four days whereas COVID-19 is 14 days; meaning it can spread far and wide before it’s detected.
  • The average flu hospitalization rate is 2% whereas COVID-19 is 19%; meaning that even for the young and healthy, it’s more likely to be costly and leave lasting disability.
  • The flu’s case fatality rate is 0.1% whereas COVID-19 is 1-3.4%;
  • Currently, there is no COVID-19 vaccine whereas there is are effective vaccines for most flu virus strains;

There is, however, one way that SARS-Cov-2 is like the flu — an infected person is most infectious before they develop symptoms. This has been known about flu for decades, and why it hasn’t influenced public health advice much during the pandemic is hard to fathom.

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Winter Pledge Drive

Harlan Ellison told the story of how once he, L Ron Hubbard, and a gaggle of other “Golden Age” writers were sitting around drinking and complaining (as writers do) about how impossible it was to survive on the going wage of a penny a word. As Harlan told it, Hubbard joked that the only way a writer could survive would be to start his own religion. The others laughed and spent the rest of their inebriation inventing ever more outlandish ideas with which this hypothetical scheme could squeeze blood from the stones of the gullible.  Some time later, Ellison told us, they were all horrified when Hubbard actually went out and did it–complete with all the outlandish blood squeezing.

This would have been some time around 1950, so a penny in those times would be worth almost eleven cents today. Friends, I can tell you with authority that genre writers today do not make almost eleven cents a word. The pro rate today is six cents a word, and the pulp market no longer exists, so it’s no longer possible to do what Hubbard did at his peak and sell 25 pro-rate stores a year.

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Goodbye D.C. Goodbye Dorothy.

I will never get a change to tell D.C. Fontana what she meant to me as a little boy growing up in turbulent times, or as a grown man tempted by the writing bug. Dorothy, who wrote under the byline “D.C.” because the world isn’t what it ought to be, has died at the age of 80.

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THERE. ARE. NO. HOMEOPATHIC MEDICINES!

I just went to get cough medicine for my dog. Dogs take the same cough medicine as we do, guafinesin as an antitussant to loosen up the phlegm and dextromethorphan as a suppressant so they can rest without coughing up a lung. They can take human meds here as long as it’s carefully dosed using liquid medicine in a syringe.
 
No problem, only I had to go to three stores to find it in liquid form, because the first only sells cough syrup with acetaminophen (Tylenol) in it, and mixing meds like that is never a good idea, especially liver toxic meds when trying to dose a dog. Then the second store had the same, but also a bunch of baby cough syrup containing homeopathic “medicine”—-why is this still a thing?
 
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Have Spacesuit, Will Jazzercise

Last week, NASA announced the new spacesuit for it’s Artemis program. The suit, which actually has been in the works in various forms for many years, is called the xEMU, or “Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit.”

The suit is an evolution beyond the current Enhanced EMU used on the ISS in much the same way the EMU was an evolution beyond the A7L used during Apollo.

Much about the suit is familiar, and much falls short of what NASA would like, but as it often the case with NASA hardware, it’s not bad and it will definitely work.

Like the EMU, the xEMU used a rigid upper torso unit and comes in sized components to fit many astronauts. Unlike the EMU, the limbs are also rigid and move using angles bearings, like the joints in HVAC ducts, only much smoother.

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Hell and High Water

In Houston, we have a saying that every citizen is expected to know: “real chili has no beans.” But we have another saying that’s more germane to the topic at hand, “Turn Around, Don’t Drown.” We see it on the traffic signs all around town, and every time there’s a major storm, we see the results when our fellow citizens fail to heed this simple wisdom: don’t try to drive through high water. Every time, vehicles are totaled by the hundreds, motorists are stranded or have to be rescued, and all to often, people die–tragically yes, but as we are all quick to add, also needlessly, foolishly, presentably.

Except that isn’t always true. Not at all, in fact.

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