Wednesday, August 12, 2020

A short opinion

That choice of Kamala Harris for Biden's VP seems pretty good to me.   Helps deal with the Republican law and order panic campaign; she seems smart, basically likeable, and ticks the "should appeal to people of colour and immigrants" box as well.     

Still a hockey stick

First, this tweet:


I read some tweets by Stephen McIntyre criticising this study due to some alleged massive mistake on (I think) Antarctic proxy temperatures.    However, when I go back to his twitter feed now, it seems he has become massively obsessed with proving a scandalous and earth shattering injustice was caused to Trump and his team regarding the Russia interference investigation.  Honestly, he has 60 tweet threads on the topic, and comes back to it again and again.  He seems, in short, a complete Right wing nut now. I can't even find the climate related tweets I read only (I think) last week, they are so swamped with political, conspiracy like, guff.

And, I should point out, as with his previous criticisms of Mann and the hockey stick, the key point should be "what difference does it make?  Do your own reconstruction the way you think it should be done and let us know what it looks like."  But as far as I know, he never does. 


Tuesday, August 11, 2020

COVID efficiency

Yesterday, an important co-worker in the office wanted her GP to give her antibiotics for what was almost certainly a sinus infection that had started with an earache and moved into post-nasal drip affecting her throat.  She rang him for a telephone consultation.  He insisted on her getting a COVID 19 test, and self isolating at home until the result was in.  He emailed the form to her at work.

She went and had the test at about 11 am yesterday.  This morning she got the result emailed to her - negative, as expected.   She is back at work at 9 this morning.

The GP had said the tests were only taking about 24 hours in Brisbane now, although at the pathology place they said 2 to 3 days, but they would mark this one "urgent".  Came back in way less than 24 hours.

Pretty impressive.

Anyway, I am still in a ridiculously busy patch at work.

Also - the continual flurry of pathetic and unhelpful commentary on COVID 19 from the Right is pretty depressing. Who would have thought the harm to democracy and good government that would come from political commentary being monetarised in the way it has been (and primarily from the Right).  

Monday, August 10, 2020

A noodley day

Today, I eat 600 calories.

Yesterday, though, I made some very nice blueberry pancakes for breakfast (with ice cream and maple syrup); a big plate of char kway teow for lunch from a cafe at Sunnybank, where lots of Asian eating abounds; and my wife made Hiroshima style okonomiyaki for dinner (which has noodles in a layered fry up which is, I have decided, nicer than the more flour batter based Tokyo style.   It is a fiddly thing to cook, though.)

Back to char kway teow:  it was a disappointment when in Singapore (and Malaysia) 19 months ago that this dish did not seem as ubiquitous as I hoped it would be.   Mind you, we only spent time in Malacca in Malaysia, so maybe it is slightly regional in popularity?   Anyway, I have always liked it a lot as a fried noodle dish, and it is not always easy to find a cafe in Brisbane that does it justice.  Yesterday's was pretty good.

Sunday, August 09, 2020

Dr Sleep confirms it...

...I really, really don't care for Stephen King.

The sequel to The Shining has turned up on Netflix, and I can see why it was a box office flop.

I have read that the book of The Shining had much more of what I think could be called magical realism, and it was Kubrick who turned it into a more ambiguous and realistic psychological study, well capable of different interpretations.  And King didn't like it. 

So I presume this sequel follows his book closely, as the magical realism abounds.   No ambiguity here - the ghosts from The Overlook have followed Danny all of his life, and ancient quasi gypsies tour the world looking for kiddies with psychic power to suck it, or their souls, out of them.  Danny finds himself in contact with one such potential victim and decides to help her.

I think it's an idea that could work, and for much of the first hour (which is about as long as the first act takes to unfold - it's a very leisurely told story) it kept reminding me of Ray Bradbury - in particular Something Wicked This Way Comes, which happens to be my favourite novel of his.   While the movie never bored me, it was more a case that I kept expecting it to develop into something with genuine suspense, dread or scares:  but they simply never come. 

I think it became clear that was from a writer devoid of good ideas when many of the supernatural villains were taken out in a very typically American way [I say so as not to be accused of too much as spoiler].   This is probably about 3/4 of the way in, and the movie from there just kept getting less and less convincing.

I also had a problem with the lead villain actress - it's hard to put my finger on it, but there was just something sort of smug about her performance and physicality that carried no menace at all.

So yeah, not a great movie, and I blame Stephen King totally for a bad story.


Friday, August 07, 2020

A tragic case

So Trump pronounced it "Thighland", and ridiculous Dinesh leaves millions jaw-dropped by tweeting about it:

Amongst many funny comments following:

Update:  this was the complete Die-nesh (that's how you pronounce it, no?) discussion:

More amusing tweets follow:

It's a control freak's paradise

I mean, who doesn't want to micro manage their own city state?:

I hope they have done something about lycra wearing cyclists.  Or perhaps it's completely unnecessary, given the climate?

Update:  one problem that Singapore seems surprisingly incapable of adequately fixing is the amount of dengue fever - which is running at some sort of recent record high at the moment:
SINGAPORE -- Singapore has been hit by an outbreak of dengue fever on pace to shatter records, adding to the burden on its health care infrastructure already taxed by growing coronavirus cases.

The country reported more than 20,000 dengue cases this year as of late July -- close to the full-year high of 22,170 in 2013. Infections are rising at the fastest-ever weekly pace.

The disease is widespread in Southeast Asia, and there is no effective vaccine or treatment. Some of the initial symptoms, including fever and body aches are similar to those of COVID-19, making them difficult to distinguish. And both diseases often cause no noticeable symptoms in patients, yet can be fatal in severe cases.
I have seen on CNA and elsewhere that the country is trying out the bio control line of releasing treated mosquitoes which breed with females who then have infertile eggs (which has been trialled in North Queensland too, I think), but it seems it's still under assessment and improvement, and it's hard to breed enough mosquitoes to make it effective.


Big loss

Disney is bleeding money:
For months it’s been clear that Disney, the country’s most prominent entertainment company, was facing a financial disaster unlike any in its history.

On Tuesday, it became evident just how deep the carnage has gone.

The company revealed that as a result of the coronavirus pandemic it took in just $11.8 billion in revenue and $1 billion in operating income in the three-month period that ended in June, the height of lockdowns in the country. The numbers are a significant drop from the same period a year ago, when it generated $20.25 billion in revenue and $4 billion in operating income, among the worst slides of the modern era.

In more "what's Graeme thinking?" news

Long time readers will hardly be surprised to know that Graeme is complaining from inside the  moderated comments cage I built just for him that I haven't posted about the Beirut explosion disaster, because (of course!) it was actually an atomic strike by some nefarious Jews.   He's calling it "the Jewish nuclear attack on Lebanese Christians".

I think we can safely assume that if he stubs his toe on the furniture in the dark on the way to the toilet at night, he immediately starts wondering about the surname of  the last tradesman in the apartment because he was probably a Jew who moved the drawers just enough to cause the accident and is now gloating about it at the Synagogue.

[Waves to Graeme inside the moderated comments cage.  You nut.]

Update:  I'm sure that, according to Graeme, this will be e-vil psy-ops:

I may, or may not, let you know what he says while shaking the cage.

Thursday, August 06, 2020

The odd Churchill family

Another link from Arts & Letters - this time to quite a long review of a biography of the woman who became the Churchills' war time cook.  The bits I liked:

Among Landemare’s regular clients in the mid-1930s were Winston and Clementine Churchill. Churchill was not at the time a minister, but he understood the political power of food. ‘He treated the dining room as a stage, and dinner as a performance.’ Happier as host than as a guest, he and Clementine gave dinners twice a week and frequent lunches. As lunch remained a less formal occasion the balance of the sexes didn’t matter. Winston and Clementine each held their own parties and she particularly enjoyed her ‘hen luncheons’.

 Although the Churchills always lived beyond their means, by the end of the 1930s Landemare’s prices had exceeded the Churchills’ reach. The outbreak of war, however, altered domestic economics once again. The demand for grand dinners declined and Landemare decided a permanent post would be desirable. The Churchills took on ‘Mrs Mar’ in February 1940, less than a month after rationing started. Clementine was ‘enchanted ... I knew she would make the best out of rations, and that everyone in the household would be happy.’ In May, Churchill became prime minister and Landemare moved into 10 Downing Street the following month. Here, at last, she becomes visible in history as a person described by others: ‘a round body’, according to one of the Churchill secretaries, ‘who could tell one in detail the intricacies of marriage and divorce among the aristocracy’. A woman who was ‘open and generous-spirited’ and ‘very calm indeed, whenever there was a mini-crisis’. She was quite often to be found sitting in the kitchen ‘half an hour or so before a big dinner ... with everything under control, reading the Sporting Life’. In October 1940 this sangfroid nearly cost her her life. Churchill ran into the kitchen during an air raid and told her to get into the shelter, but Landemare, who was making a delicate pudding, refused: ‘If I’d’ve turned it out it’d’ve been no more – it was so light you see.’ Churchill insisted, and moments later the 25-foot plate-glass window at the back of the kitchen exploded into shards. ‘Ooh the rubble, terrible,’ she recalled.‘He saved my life, I’m sure.’

Throughout the war she cooked at Downing Street, Chequers and occasionally in the tiny kitchen under the Cabinet War Rooms. Churchill was an enthusiast for chain eating, which was his interpretation of the medical advice he had been given before the war. He liked soup last thing at night and insisted, even at Yalta, on operating on ‘tummy time’. He was not a glutton but, as Gray puts it, ‘he was used to good food and plenty of it.’....

The Churchills were famously terrible employers. Many a cook and kitchen maid had left in tears and one had reputedly gone mad. Mrs Mar, however, did more than stay the course. She became a trusted ally and a friend to Mary, the Churchills’ daughter. She took a practical view of Winston’s peculiarities. If, as sometimes occurred, he ‘absent-mindedly wandered around stark naked’, she told him off and he would apologise. His roast beef ‘always had to be underdone’, but since he was often late for meals this could be difficult to achieve. Landemare’s method was to ‘watch till I knew he was in, then he’d have to have his bath and then I knew to put the meat in’.

The odd Mozart family

Via Arts & Letters Daily, a short article from the US edition of the Spectator talks about the peculiar things we know about Mozart and his family from his letters.

First - execution as exciting public entertainment for the kiddies:
It’s 1771, you’re in Milan, and your 14-year-old genius son has just premiered his new opera. How do you reward him? What would be a fun family excursion in an era before multiplexes or theme parks? Leopold Mozart knew just the ticket. ‘I saw four rascals hanged here on the Piazza del Duomo,’ wrote young Wolfgang back to his sister Maria Anna (‘Nannerl’), excitedly. ‘They hang them just as they do in Lyons.’ He was already something of a connoisseur of public executions. The Mozarts had spent four weeks in Lyons in 1766, and, as the music historian Stanley Sadie points out, Leopold had clearly taken his son (10) and daughter (15) along to a hanging ‘for a jolly treat one free afternoon’.
And dinner table conversation with the whole family must have been, um, fun:
That’s probably the most notorious aspect of Mozart’s letters: the filth. Quite how gamey they get varies with the translation. The classic English version — some 616 letters covering the period 1762 to 1791 — comes in three fat volumes, translated by Emily Anderson in 1938 in the best possible taste. More recent paperback selections by Robert Spaethling and Stewart Spencer are less reserved: ‘I’ll shit on your nose so it runs down your chin,’ writes the 21-year-old Wolfgang to his cousin Maria in Augsburg, and if you’ve seen Amadeus, you’ll know that there’s plenty more where that came from. (Mrs Thatcher famously disapproved of the scatology.) One advantage of Anderson’s edition (and Spencer’s 2006 translation) is that it includes letters from the rest of the Mozart family, and it’s clear that they were all at it — mother, father, daughter and son, all cheerfully potty-mouthing away. ‘Stick your tongue up your crack,’ Nannerl urges her brother.

Living in a tube on the Moon or Mars

Some interesting talk here of the size of lava tubes on the Moon and Mars, and their likely safety for a base:
The international journal Earth-Science Reviews published a paper offering an overview of lava tubes (pyroducts) on Earth, eventually providing an estimate of the (greater) size of their lunar and Martian counterparts....

"We measured the size and gathered the morphology of lunar and Martian collapse chains (collapsed lava tubes), using digital terrain models (DTMs), which we obtained through satellite stereoscopic images and laser altimetry taken by interplanetary probes," reminds Riccardo Pozzobon. "We then compared these data to topographic studies about similar collapse chains on the Earth's surface and to laser scans of the inside of lava tubes in Lanzarote and the Galapagos. These data allowed to establish a restriction to the relationship between collapse chains and subsurface cavities that are still intact."

Researchers found that Martian and lunar tubes are respectively 100 and 1,000 times wider than those on Earth, which typically have a diameter of 10 to 30 meters. Lower gravity and its effect on volcanism explain these outstanding dimensions (with total volumes exceeding 1 billion of cubic meters on the Moon).

Riccardo Pozzobon adds: "Tubes as wide as these can be longer than 40 kilometers, making the Moon an extraordinary target for subsurface exploration and potential settlement in the wide protected and stable environments of lava tubes. The latter are so big they can contain Padua's entire city center."

"What is most important is that, despite the impressive dimension of the lunar tubes, they remain well within the roof stability threshold because of a lower gravitational attraction," explains Matteo Massironi, who is professor of Structural and Planetary Geology at the Department of Geosciences of the University of Padua. "This means that the majority of lava tubes underneath the maria smooth plains are intact. The collapse chains we observed might have been caused by asteroids piercing the tube walls. This is what the collapse chains in Marius Hills seem to suggest. From the latter, we can get access to these huge underground cavities."

Francesco Sauro concludes: "Lava tubes could provide stable shields from cosmic and solar radiation and micrometeorite impacts which are often happening on the surfaces of planetary bodies. Moreover, they have great potential for providing an environment in which temperatures do not vary from day- to night-time.

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Back to the Axios interview

Despite my reservations about Swan, it should go without saying that Trump's interview with him was a terrible performance highlighting all of his gargantuan inadequacies not just as a President, but as a person.

The worst look for his character was surely the response to the invitation to say something good about John Lewis, in which he made it clear that he views personal relationships in a purely transactional way. 

We already knew this, really:   all a mad dictator has to do is praise Trump to his face, and Trump will transactionally sing the praises of said dictator forever more.   But don't turn up to his inauguration, and no way will Trump say anything good about you.

How can his cult members find such a deeply cynical, "what's in it for me" attitude appealing?  

Sudden success comedian

Yeah, I saw the viral video of "Uncle Roger" watching the fried rice video and was amused.

I see that this character by Malaysian comedian Nigel Ng has a new video out, and I have to say, while it starts slow, his interactions with (real or fake, I'm not 100% sure) customers often made me laugh out loud.

I think Nigel, who seems to have been around for a while (with what appears to have been moderate success - he has toured as a support act in Britain, for example) may have a major hit on his hands with this character:

Still suspicious

This is not going to be a popular take on the matter, but nevertheless....

I watched all of the Jonathan Swan interview with Trump on Youtube last night, and I can understand the praise for an interviewer actually doing follow up questions, and looking openly sceptical and aghast at some of Trump's comments.

But you know, it still made me uncomfortable, or at least suspicious, as I kept thinking "why isn't Trump losing his cool with Swan?   Has Swan pre-endeared himself to Trump somehow such that Trump will tolerate anything he says, or any face he pulls?"

I saw on Twitter afterwards someone asking more-or-less that same question, and one person claimed that Swan is buddies with Jarod Kushner.   But I see that he did an interview with Jarod last year that lots of people think did not go well for the son-in-law.   So how true could this be?

When Swan started at Axios, I noted quite a few tweets which made me suspicious of his politics - I actually thought he should be sacked, as he was looking to me to be much like a Chris Uhlmann character - positioning himself as a moderate or objective middle man, but in fact conceding too much to the Right to really fit that picture.

I still have my suspicions about him.

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

I would try that (if the price is right)

I must be a bit weird,  because I usually enjoy airline food.  Perhaps it's because I find flying per se a wondrous thing, and the added bonus of being able to eat food prepared for me while simultaneously hurtling around the planet at 40,000 feet just makes the total experience even more awesome.   [The only downside, apart from the leg room issue and the occasional unpleasant co-passenger, is trying to suppress flatulence until in a place it is "safe".  Sorry.  :)]

Let's not rush to conclusions - unless it's about how a white person should never do time for killing a black person

The Right white commentators are high five-ing themselves over leaked footage showing more of George Floyd being arrested and acting as if he may well have been high at the time.  This includes the "I'll turn my opinion on a dime if I can find a way to excuse a white guy in any confrontation with a black guy" CL at Catallaxy:


The video shows Floyd was handcuffed as soon as he got out of the car (at gun point).  And, I would guess, was probably patted down for weapons, but you can't tell from the video.  [Update - yes you can, I just hadn't watched it long enough.  They checked his pockets before trying to get him to sit inside the police car, and before he was on the ground with a knee on his neck.]  

So supposedly, huge, drug affected, hand cuffed people have been well known as dangerous killers for years, according to policing expert CL.

Finally, the deep regret at ever thinking that a white police officer was acting dangerously while kneeing a black guy's neck for 9 minutes:

Basically, no person who is an active commenter at Catallaxy should ever be allowed near jury service, especially if it involves an accused of colour (or, for that matter, a Muslim.)    It's like the veneer of "not racist, just being reasonable" is about a micron deep.

What I don't understand about Tik Tok panic

Peter Navarro tries to explain:
White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said Monday that the Chinese-owned social media app TikTok poses a threat to privacy and national security, telling the Axios Re:Cap podcast, "Let's not downplay the threat here: the mothers of America have to worry about whether the Chinese Communist Party knows where their children are."
I dunno:  if someone from the CCP could give the mothers a call and let them know, most of them would probably think it's a useful service.

Everyone knows the average user of Tik Tok is really young;  young people don't tend to do anything that is of national security importance.    Who cares if the CCP in theory might be able to ask the company to hand over data that could tell them that Johnny is probably skipping high school (or his college class) today?  

Given the incredible depths of information that Google and Facebook collect on nearly every single adult in the West, and (one would have to suspect) the ease with which China could get some internal company spy to leak some of that information, worrying about Tik Tok just seems wildly disproportionate to me.

Stiglitz on debt

Despite my feeling that economics is having something of a crisis in understanding what is happening in the world at the moment,  I still sense that Joseph Stiglitz is credible and well worth listening to.

Here he is in The Guardian warning of a looming debt crisis, and what should be done about it:
While the Covid-19 pandemic rages, more than 100 low- and middle-income countries will still have to pay a combined $130bn in debt service this year – around half of which is owed to private creditors. With much economic activity suspended and fiscal revenues in free fall, many countries will be forced to default. Others will cobble together scarce resources to pay creditors, cutting back on much-needed health and social expenditures. Still others will resort to additional borrowing, kicking the proverbial can down the road, seemingly easier now because of the flood of liquidity from central banks around the world.

From Latin America’s lost decade in the 1980s to the more recent Greek crisis, there are plenty of painful reminders of what happens when countries cannot service their debts. A global debt crisis today will push millions of people into unemployment and fuel instability and violence around the world. Many will seek jobs abroad, potentially overwhelming border-control and immigration systems in Europe and North America. Another costly migration crisis will divert attention away from the urgent need to address climate change. Such humanitarian emergencies are becoming the new norm.

This nightmare scenario is avoidable if we act now. The origins of today’s looming debt crisis are easy to understand. Owing to quantitative easing, the public debt (mostly sovereign bonds) of low- and middle-income countries has more than tripled since the 2008 global financial crisis. Sovereign bonds are riskier than “official” debt from multilateral institutions and developed-country aid agencies because creditors can dump them on a whim, triggering a sharp currency depreciation and other far-reaching economic disruptions.

Back in June 2013, we worried that “shortsighted financial markets, working with shortsighted governments,” were “laying the groundwork for the world’s next debt crisis.” Now, the day of reckoning has come. This past March, the United Nations called for debt relief for the world’s least-developed countries. Several G20 countries and the International Monetary Fund have suspended debt service for the year, and have called upon private creditors to follow suit.

Unsurprisingly, these calls have fallen on deaf ears. The newly formed Africa Private Creditor Working Group, for example, has already rejected the idea of modest but broad-based debt relief for poor countries. As a result, much, if not most, of the benefits of debt relief from official creditors will accrue to the private creditors who are unwilling to provide any debt relief.

The upshot is that taxpayers in creditor countries will once again end up bailing out excessive risk taking and imprudent lending by private actors. The only way to avoid this is to have a comprehensive debt standstill that includes private creditors. But without strong action from the countries in which debt contracts are written, private creditors are unlikely to accept such an arrangement. These governments therefore must invoke the doctrines of necessity and force majeure to enforce comprehensive standstills on debt service.
No doubt I have copied more than I should, but go to the article to read about his proposed response.

Monday, August 03, 2020

Meanwhile, in unreleased comments...

....Graeme is going on and on about how upset he is that I am have stopped letting his pro-HCQ and other "how to avoid COVID-19" nostrums through anymore. 

Graeme, it's a great pity your anti-Semitism conspiracy theories prevent you participating at Catallaxy, as your wildly disproportionate certainty in your own expertise and conclusions means you are a natural "fit" for all of the armchair experts-in-everything that inhabit that awful place.

You've had more than a fair run in comments here about your solutions to COVID-19, and it's become boring and repetitious.  Even though all sensible people reading this blog should know I don't endorse your views on nearly anything, I'm calling a halt to your publication of dubious amateur hour medical advice via my comments.

Call me "unconvinced"

If I was one to use the meme, I would be saying this quote has me reaching for my revolver:
In her foundational 1977 essay, “Poetry Is Not a Luxury,” the Black feminist writer Audre Lorde argued that the art form transcends the constraints of the written word. Poetry doesn’t just reflect the world as it exists, she insisted; rather, it ushers in a new one. “It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action,” Lorde wrote. Later, she added that “there are no new ideas … only new ways of making them felt.”

Demon seed not enough to stop Andrew Bolt

Look, we know he has to bloviate for a living, but I still find it remarkable that he would write in defence of a demon seed believing doctor's opinion on COVID 19:

How can he ignore this part?:
Immanuel said in her speech that the supposed potency of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment means that protective face masks aren’t necessary, claiming that she and her staff had avoided contracting COVID-19 despite wearing medical masks instead of the more secure N95 masks.

“Hello, you don’t need a mask. There is a cure,” Immanuel said. 
Update:  I've now watched the video of his editorial - he knows she said masks don't matter; he knows she believes demon seed causes some illnesses.  He just shrugs and says on HCQ, she may be right, she may be wrong.  (Exactly the same open minded attitude he brings to climate science - Ha!)  But he's sure the motive for taking her video off social media is because she supports Trump.   Just another grand Bolt conspiracy theory, in other words. 

He cares more about defending Trump from an imagined political attack than the spread of crank disinformation that would further bolster the crank anti-mask refuseniks in America and Australia.   More interested in politics than public health.   A disgrace.

Good to see

France 24 notes:
Thousands of demonstrators gathered outside the official residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday and thronged the streets of central Jerusalem, as weeks of protests against the Israeli leader appeared to be gaining steam.

The demonstration in central Jerusalem, along with smaller gatherings in Tel Aviv, near Netanyahu's beach house in central Israel and at dozens of busy intersections nationwide, was one of the largest turnouts in weeks of protests.

Throughout the summer, thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets, calling for Netanyahu to resign, protesting his handling of the country's coronavirus crisis and saying he should not remain in office while on trial for corruption charges. Though Netanyahu has tried to play down the protests, the twice-a-week gatherings show no signs of slowing.

Israeli media estimated at least 10,000 people demonstrated near the official residence in central Jerusalem. Late Saturday, thousands marched through the streets in a noisy but orderly rally. Demonstrators hoisted Israeli flags and blew loud horns as they marched. Many held posters that said “Crime Minister" and “Bibi Go Home” or accused Netanyahu of being out of touch with the public.

There should be a pushback

I have seen a couple of recent articles about the dangerous rise of Qanon within Republican circles.  There's one in The Guardian, and one in WAPO.   Both articles show that the Trump campaign is courting these nutters.

I don't understand why there isn't a stronger Democrat pushback on this.   If I were Biden, or his advisers, I would be on the front foot in the media pointing out often that this is a nutty and dangerous conspiracy that only one party is condemning.  

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Adam whips himself into a frenzy

Update:   And in an article we can be safely assume Adam would not read, or at least, let influence him, Science magazine notes the vexed issue of lingering effects of infection:
“Everybody talks about a binary situation, you either get it mild and recover quickly, or you get really sick and wind up in the ICU,” says Akrami, who falls into neither category. Thousands echo her story in online COVID-19 support groups. Outpatient clinics for survivors are springing up, and some are already overburdened. Akrami has been waiting more than 4 weeks to be seen at one of them, despite a referral from her general practitioner.

The list of lingering maladies from COVID-19 is longer and more varied than most doctors could have imagined. Ongoing problems include fatigue, a racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, achy joints, foggy thinking, a persistent loss of sense of smell, and damage to the heart, lungs, kidneys, and brain.

The likelihood of a patient developing persistent symptoms is hard to pin down because different studies track different outcomes and follow survivors for different lengths of time. One group in Italy found that 87% of a patient cohort hospitalized for acute COVID-19 was still struggling 2 months later. Data from the COVID Symptom Study, which uses an app into which millions of people in the United States, United Kingdom, and Sweden have tapped their symptoms, suggest 10% to 15% of people—including some “mild” cases—don’t quickly recover. But with the crisis just months old, no one knows how far into the future symptoms will endure, and whether COVID-19 will prompt the onset of chronic diseases....

For Götz Martin Richter, a radiologist at the Klinikum Stuttgart in Germany, what’s especially striking is that just as the illness’ acute symptoms vary unpredictably, so, too, do those that linger. Richter thinks of two patients he has treated: a middle-aged man who experienced mild pneumonia from COVID-19, and an elderly woman already suffering from chronic leukemia and arterial disease, who almost died from the virus and had to be resuscitated. Three months later, the man with the mild case “falls asleep all day long and cannot work,” Richter says. The woman has minimal lung damage and feels fine.
 In one respect, the article reports something that's not as bad as it could be:  it seems that COVID 19 causes less lung lesions than SARS did.  Seems like the range of other effects outweigh that, though.

Trump on how to make enemies with every American high school student

Banning Tik Tok seems a pretty ludicrous idea to me;  so naturally it's appealling to the Orange One.  Nevermind:

Friday, July 31, 2020

Extraordinary heat

While the world frets (rightly) about COVID-19, terrible temperature records are being set:
Record high temperatures have been plaguing the Middle East, the mercury soaring to extreme levels during a blistering and unforgiving heat wave. Baghdad surged to its highest temperature ever recorded Tuesday.

Tuesday’s preliminary high of 125.2 degrees (51.8 Celsius) in Iraq’s capital city shatters its previous record of 123.8 degrees set on July 30, 2015, for any day of the year.

On Wednesday, Baghdad followed up with a temperature of 124 degrees, its second-highest temperature on record. On Monday, it had reached 123 degrees.

The crippling heat forced many residents indoors, and street sellers had to seek whatever shade they could find. With the state electricity grid failing, many households were relying on generators to power fridges, fans or air-conditioning units, the machines adding a guttural hum to the city’s already-noisy streets.
Yes: the failure of a power supply in heat like that is surely an invitation to death.

Surprising tech news

On re-watching Goodfellas

Last weekend, I re-watched Goodfellas on Netflix for the first time since I saw it in the cinema, waaay back in 1990.

To be honest, not much had stuck with me about it over the years.  I remembered thinking Ray Lolita was good in it, and for some reason I could recall the bit near the end when he felt the authorities finally closing in on him as he kept looking up and suspecting a helicopter was following his car.   While nominally handsome, I always felt there was something about Lolita's face or gaze which made him look like he was not being sincere, and that you were dealing with a personality mask rather than a genuinely open person.   Not sure why he always gave me that feeling, but it works a treat for a character like the one in this movie.   (I get the same vibe about Eddie McGuire, as I have mentioned before.  I need a supercomputer to analyse the faces of men I feel are inherently untrustable to tell me what it is that is causing this reaction.)

On re-watching it, I realised I had forgotten how much humour and nostalgic music was in it, given that it was about mob gangsters.   My son said it might be accused of glamorising the criminal life somewhat, which is something I am often sensitive about in watching this genre.  But when they start eating their own, I think it's hard to say that's the effect of the movie overall.  (I still argue that glamorisation of the criminal underworld is a huge problem with Tarantino, however, despite his movies' body count.)  

Speaking of violence, it shows how far normalised movie and television depictions of violence have become.  Now whole effects studios seem to be engaged in adding blood sprays from bullet shots to the head in every show under the sun on Netflix;  whereas just one graphic blood spray in 1990 was enough to get an R rating at the cinema.   I long for the days when depictions of violence had more impact because it was genuinely considered shocking to show the graphic effect of violence for entertainment purposes. 

Anyway, I certainly could understand the praise for the direction, and overall, I would say I had forgotten how good it was. 

Libertarians say the stupidest things

According to Sinclair Davidson, cultural and political polarisation are the result of Leftists telling exactly the sort of extremely sexist, often racist, gay appalled, extremely rude, science rejecting, think-they-are-experts-on-everything commenters at his very own blog that they are being extremely sexist, often racist, rude, homophobic, etc.

He has this to say about a Jack the Insider column this week:
I actually laughed out loud when I read:
There is no sense of community, no looking after others.
Like, no shit Sherlock.
No sense of community? What? Not in the most left-wing state of Australia under the most left-wing government in Australia? After decades of lefties telling us that we’re all racists, and bigots, and there are haves and have-nots, and insiders and outsiders, and rich and poor, there is no such thing as a uniquely Australian culture, and definitely no such thing as western civilisation, and whatever other bullshit story they are capable of pulling out of their backsides,  what do you really expect?
Jack – I left my sense of community at the Tax Office.
I don't even know what the last line means.  It seems too stupid to take it at face value.  (He also fits in at the end of the post a "all taxation is theft" jibe.)   So does he really think that higher taxing, European style social democrat countries have less social cohesion than the tax minimising, gun toting, "we don't let government tell us to wear masks", conspiracy-rattled USA is displaying at the moment?

[Once again, I will also note that he seems to take COVID 19 as a serious health risk - how can he deny that the commenters at his blog - not to mention his nutty mate with fully paid up membership in Cult Trump (Steve Kates) - have always and continue to be in full denial of its seriousness?   How serious can he be that it's the Left being mean to them has made them reject expert evidence and prefer conspiracy theories and any demon seed theorising doctor's opinion on how easy it is to defeat the pandemic?] 

The explanation is this - libertarians and small government, minimal tax ideological types are in denial that the more their ideological views are enacted into policy it leads to greater entrenched inequality and worse social cohesion, and hence they have to try to deflect blame to someone else for the apparently deteriorating state of the community.   So they chose to demonise the Left as the source of all evil, because, you know, communists and Hitler (a cryptic Lefty, of course) killed people and still want to kill people and crush out all that is Goodness and Light in society.  (Hence they tend to also attract the "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" support of religiously inclined social conservatives who hate the Left for its social progressiveness and see evil behind it, such as happens at Catallaxy.) 
It's not exactly sophistry - it's too transparent for that - it's just culture war, ideological driven attempt at deflection. 

Why California?

Can't say that I have seen a good explanation of why California, which I understood to be pretty aggressive in its shut down for COVID precautions from the start, and not one of the States considered to be politically inclined to rush to re-open, is doing so badly with COVID at the moment.

The New York Times had a go at explaining it about a week ago, I see.   Some extracts:

California was the first state to issue a stay-at-home order this spring, helping to control an early outbreak. But after a reopening that some health officials warned was too fast, cases surged, leading to a new statewide mask mandate and the closure of bars and indoor dining again. With more than 420,000 known cases, California has surpassed New York to have the most recorded cases of any state, and it set a single-day record on Wednesday with more than 12,100 new cases and 155 new deaths.

And as California struggles once again to contain the virus, the multitude of challenges playing out across America have collided in every corner of the state, as if it were a microcosm of the country itself....

It is in some ways California’s sprawling nature, with 40 million residents spread across urban downtowns and rural areas, liberal strongholds and conservative alcoves, that has aggravated the feeling of back-and-forth. What applies in one area may not feel necessary in another, even as residents live under statewide orders. And the sense of confusion is often made worse by conflicting political messages from local leaders, the governor and the White House...

Gov. Gavin Newsom is wrestling with how to convey a consistent message, while dealing with local officials who have resisted both new shutdowns and enforcing a mandatory mask order. Some rural areas of the state remain relatively unscathed with low case counts, while cases in Los Angeles are skyrocketing. The city’s mayor, Eric M. Garcetti, has warned that a new stay-at-home order could come down in the coming days...

In Los Angeles and San Diego, classrooms will be empty this fall, after public school officials decided they were unwilling to risk in-person instruction. But in Orange County, a recommendation by the Board of Education that children return to school without masks became political fodder for debate, even as the governor announced that most California schools would not be able to teach in person.

The contradictions span the state, creating a sense of regional dissonance. In Imperial County, on the southern border with Mexico, hospitals have been so overwhelmed with virus cases that patients have had to be airlifted elsewhere. But in the northernmost tip, the virus has yet to hit Modoc County, an agricultural community of around 9,000, where there were zero known cases as of Thursday.

In Los Angeles — which has seen the most cases in California, and where hospitals are filling up — parts of the city feel under siege and in other areas, there is little palpable sense of the severity of the situation. Unlike in New York City during the height of the outbreak, most Angelenos have not had to absorb the piercing wail of ambulance sirens at all hours, a sound that came to define the pandemic there.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Unusual hobby noted

Well, I like to have a craft beer at West End in Brisbane every now and then, but it is a pretty bohemian suburb, and if I had to pick an area in Brisbane where this activity was most likely to happen, it would either be there (or the sleazier Fortitude Valley, I guess):
Police went to the West End flat of electrician Ryan Andrew King, 27, in inner city Brisbane while investigating a bizarre mutilation last weekend.

Police and paramedics were called to a city backpacker hostel last Saturday night where they allegedly found a 26-year-old Sydney man with his genitals partly removed.

It is alleged the man had arranged to be partially castrated by Mr King in one of the rooms, after meeting online.

Mr King, who works as an electrician at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre and has volunteered in the SES, is not believed to be medically qualified but allegedly taught himself castration from online research.

It is alleged he may have used a Cryopen, a device for removing lesions such as warts and benign skin spots with nitrous oxide under high pressure.

After finding the allegedly mutilated man at the hostel, police searched Mr King’s West End apartment and allegedly found a human penis and set of testicles in his freezer.
Here's an abstract from a 2004 study in Archives of Sexual Behaviour (sounds a fun journal) about this weird fetish/interest: 
We used a survey posted on the Internet to explore the motivation of men who are interested in being castrated. Out of 134 respondents, 23 (17%) reported already having been castrated. The 104 (78%) individuals who said they had not been castrated were asked why they wanted to be castrated and why they had not actualized that desire. They were given multiple-choice answers to select from. The major reason (selected by 40% of respondents) for desiring castration was to achieve a “eunuch calm” and freedom from sexual urges; however, a large proportion (∼30%) of respondents found fantasies about being castrated sexually exciting and a similar percentage desired castration for the “cosmetic” appearance it achieved (which we interpret to mean scrotal removal along with an orchiectomy). This high interest in castration as either a sexual stimulus (a fetish) or a cosmetic enhancement was unexpected and contrasted with the more classically stated motivation for voluntary castration in the psychiatric literature, i.e., libido control and transsexualism. Internet discussion groups that serve these men may encourage them to act out their castration fantasies. Alternately, Internet discussions may give them a displacement outlet for their fantasies and decrease the risk of castration by nonmedically qualified “street-cutters” or by self-mutilation. Forty percent of our respondents claimed that they would have an orchiectomy, if it were cheap, safe, and simple. A quarter wanted to try chemical castration first, but 40% were embarrassed to talk to their doctors about their interest in castration. Information now available on the Internet provides these men with increasingly easy access to street-cutters and directions on how to perform surgical castrations, putting them at risk of permanent injury and disability. Physicians need to be aware of these risks.

The French and their drugs

Huh.  I didn't think that France under Macron would be keen to crack down on marijuana, but there you go.  More reason for me to like the country:
Spot fines of 200 euros ($233) have been tested in several French cities in recent weeks and will now be applied nationwide, Castex said, ruling out a decriminalisation of cannabis.

A French law dating back to 1970 allows for illicit drug use to be punished with up to a year in prison and fined with up to 3,750 euros, but few users actually do jail time.

French people are Europe's leading consumers of cannabis and hold the number three spot for cocaine use.

The new measure would simplify police procedures by "inflicting punishment without delay", Castex said during a visit to the southern port city of Nice, and would be an efficient tool against sale points run by drug dealers "which are eating away at neighbourhoods".

If paid within two weeks the fine will be reduced to 150 euros, but will rise to 450 euros unless settled within 45 days.

The move honours an election campaign pledge by President Emmanuel Macron, who said spot fines should be used to deter petty crimes that often end up unpunished in overloaded courts.

Will submarines ever be designed to not feel claustrophobic?

I fell asleep last night half way through this recent video, but I should go back and finish it:

I have to say, it's a tad disappointing to see how cramped even a modern nuclear attack submarine seems to be.    Just watching the confined and cluttered spaces (and apparent low ceiling height) of most of the spaces started giving me claustrophobia vibes.   (Oddly, I don't get that when watching images from the ISS or spaceships.   Maybe its the thought of the crushing pressure outside a sub that helps contribute to it?)

Ban trout pout entry

Thank God I have a teenage daughter who agrees that "lip enhancement" is just the stupidest, most unnatural looking thing ever, and agrees with me that in 30 years people will be looking at photos of this fashion and saying "what were they thinking?" 

Hence, I would bet that it's this aspect of these two quasi Typhoid Marys which is immediately noticed in the media attention they are receiving:

As I said to my daughter:  of course you can't trust the common sense of 19 year old women with "trout pout" (I had to Google a derogatory slang term for lip enhancement - I thought it might be "duck lips" but that seems to be more a pose than a permanent feature), and it would simplify Queensland border protection to just ban any woman with that feature trying to enter. 

Anyway, the question will now be debated as to how fair it is for the media to get on board with a good social media pile on.   In a way, I suppose it isn't.  On the other hand, this is just what young people should expect if they want to promote their image on social media, and do really stupid and dishonest and dangerous stuff.


Probably most of my readers have already read about the crank doctor/Chistian minister and her pro Trump PR stunt about HCQ for COVID.   But I thought one of her theories sounded pretty unique:
Some of her other claims include blaming medical conditions on witches and demons - a common enough belief among some evangelical Christians - though she says they have sex with people in a dream world.

"They turn into a woman and then they sleep with the man and collect his sperm… then they turn into the man and they sleep with a man and deposit the sperm and reproduce more of themselves," she said during a sermon in 2013.
She's from Nigeria: is it rude to say it sounds like an African bit of demon folklore?

Also amusing to read about the sort of pro-HCQ company you keep, isn't it Graeme?

This be true

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Pass the lithium

Yes, I have posted on the topic before, but another study seems to indicate the link between higher natural lithium intake (via the water supply) and lower suicide rates:
Professor Allan Young, Chair of Mood Disorders at King's College London, said: "This synthesis and analysis of all available evidence confirms previous findings of some individual studies and shows a significant relationship between higher lithium levels in drinking water and lower suicide rates in the community. The levels of lithium in drinking water are far lower than those recommended when lithium is used as medicine although the duration of exposure may be far longer, potentially starting at conception. These findings are also consistent with the finding in clinical trials that lithium reduces suicide and related behaviours in people with a mood disorder."

Professor Memon added: "Next steps might include testing this hypothesis by randomised community trials of lithium supplementation of the water supply, particularly in communities (or settings) with demonstrated high prevalence of mental health conditions, violent criminal behaviour, chronic substance abuse and risk of suicide. This may provide further evidence to support the hypothesis that lithium could be used at the community level to reduce or combat the risk of these conditions."
Hmm.  Somehow, I can't imagine those who freak out about fluoride in the water supply are going to take well the suggestion of adding lithium for its psycho-active benefits.

Update:  from a short article elsewhere, a brief history of lithium as an additive:
Until 1950, popular soft drink 7-Up2 contained lithium citrate and even beer3 was brewed with lithium-heavy water and promoted for its mood-enhancing abilities.

However, both the real and perceived health benefits of lithium were overshadowed when lithium was prescribed to patients with heart disease as a replacement for salt.4 The resulting overdoses and deaths led to the US banning lithium as an additive in 1950.
It seems there is nothing to stop people buying a lithium supplement in Australia, but I would be pretty cautious about it. 

First, would be good to know what the lithium level in the local water supply is, but Googling doesn't turn any pointers towards that information.  I mean, I did find this:

but no entry for lithium.  :(  That puts me in a bad mood, and in more need of lithium.

Big in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak was sentenced to 12 years in jail and fined RM210 million (US$49.38 million) on Tuesday (Jul 28), following a guilty verdict in his first corruption trial involving millions of ringgit linked to state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

The charges include abuse of power, money laundering and criminal breach of trust.

High Court judge Mohamad Nazlan Mohamad Ghazali said when reading the judgment: “I find that the prosecution has successfully proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt. I therefore find the accused guilty and convict the accused on all seven charges."
From CNA.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Fish problem

Someone like Lomborg or his new best buddy Schellenberger might respond to this story with "so what, we now farm heaps of fish", but I suspect this is a much bigger problem because of the role such fish apparently play in fertilising the great forests surrounding the rivers.  (Something most of us probably only ever realised via David Attenborough pointing it out in one of this relatively recent series):
Populations of migratory river fish around the world have plunged by a “catastrophic” 76% since 1970, an analysis has found.

The fall was even greater in Europe at 93%, and for some groups of fish, with sturgeon and eel populations both down by more than 90%.

Species such as salmon, trout and giant catfish are vital not just to the rivers and lakes in which they breed or feed but to entire ecosystems. By swimming upstream, they transport nutrients from the oceans and provide food for many land animals, including bears, wolves and birds of prey.

The migratory fish are also critical for the food security and livelihoods of millions of people around the world, while recreational fishing is worth billions of dollars a year. The causes of the decline are the hundreds of thousands of dams around the world, overfishing, the climate crisis and water pollution.


A clear case for that "Why not both?" meme

Spotted at Twitter:

Jeez, Jason - there's no need to chose between either Carlson or glibertarians in the credibility stakes.  Both are terrible.

On Carlson in particular - he has been sending out contradictory messaging on COVID and masks, just as Hannity has, and both would clearly be responsible for a large percentage of the Fox ageing audience not taking COVID precautions seriously. 

Of course, he is also escalating, for political purposes, the sense of a national security crisis and encouraging Trump to use his heavy handed response which polling would indicate even most Americans think is hurting the situation rather than helping.   (See this article in Washington Post today.)  

I think there is room to criticise a lack of effective Democrat leadership on trying to get protesters to de-escalate too (Biden should be taking a higher profile on this), but any President should be taking a de-escalation approach.   (Yeah, I know, Trump is constitutionally incapable of being a figure of unifying appeal - but it's still a scandal that a "news" network works to goad him into being even more divisive than he needs to be.)

Capitalism in transition to...something?

What's the movie meme with the woman shouting "What's happening?!" ?  Oh yeah - one of my all time favourite Spielberg related movies - Poltergeist.   Disappointing that I had to Google that to double check.

Seems to me that those in the field of economics ought to be doing more of that, because I've been increasingly suspecting over the last few years that there is a crisis of confidence going on with respect to the understanding of some of the very basic concepts in the whole field. 

I don't know that John Quiggin would agree, but I take support for my gut feeling from his recent post:  The End of Interest.  Some extracts:
Amid all the strange, alarming and exciting things that have happened lately, the fact that real long-term (30-year) interest rates have fallen below zero has been largely overlooked. Yet this is the end of capitalism, at least as it has traditionally been understood. Interest is the pure form of return to capital, excluding any return to monopoly power, corporate control, managerial skills or compensation for risk.

If there is no real return to capital, then then there is no capitalism. In case it isn’t obvious, I’ll make the point in subsequent posts that there is no reason to expect the system that replaces capitalism (I’ll call it plutocracy for the moment) to be an improvement.....

In thinking about the future of the economic system, interest rates on 30-year bonds are much more significant than the ‘cash’ rates set by central banks, such as the Federal Funds rate, which have been at or near zero ever since the GFC, or the short-term market rates they influence. These rates aren’t critical in evaluating long-term investments.

The central idea of capitalism is, as the name implies, that of capital. Capital is accumulated through saving, then invested in machines, buildings and other capital assets to be used by workers in producing goods and services. Part of the value of those goods and services is paid out as wages, and the rest is returned to capital, as interest on loans and bonds or as profits for shareholders. Some of the return to capital is saved and reinvested, allowing growth to continue indefinitely. Workers, on this account, can become capitalists too, by saving and investing some of their wages. At a minimum, they should be able to save enough, while working, to finance a decent standard of living in retirement.
I await his further posts with interest.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Still surprising to be reminded of this...

More information on this topic:
The national exit polls have broken out their survey results by racial group since 1976, and since that year, the Republican nominee for president has received, on average, 54.8 percent of the white vote, while the Democratic nominee has garnered an average of 40.6 percent. In 1980, 1992, and 1996, third-party candidacies affected the distribution of the white vote. The highest percentage secured by a Republican was the 66 percent won by Ronald Reagan in his landslide re-election in 1984; the lowest Democratic number was Walter Mondale’s 34 percent in that same election. Jimmy Carter received the largest percentage of white votes for a Democrat with 48 percent in 1976; George H.W. Bush received the lowest at 41 percent in 1992 when Ross Perot ran, splitting the white vote and dropping Bush from the 60 percent white share he received in 1988.