Thursday, February 24, 2022

Ukraine Abstractions End in a Split Second

This morning I heard an NPR host--don't know if he was national or local--summarizing their upcoming news, call Russian's invasion of Ukraine the "largest rearrangement of geopolitics since the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1979." That seemed awfully convenient and narrow-sighted. What about the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan? The U.S. invasion of Iraq?

It's amazing how abstract all this seems until you see something like this:

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

2020 By Far the World's Worst Economic Year in My Lifetime*

From FRED:
*if you're poor or lower middle class (global). If so, too bad, so sad for you. You should have arranged to be born somewhere better, of course. No one really cares about you. Again. 

A Dolphin and a Whale

Here's a dolphin and whale doing...something quite different, according to this expert, which we'd like to interpret as a cute, cuddly dance, but the ocean is vast and brains are weird and deep and we really don't know, given that these species are millions of years old and here long before us. We can't at all expect this behavior is just now being seen for the first time, given the size of the ocean and the lifetime of these species....

Still, it's delightful!

Galbraith Quote

“The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.”

–– John Kenneth Galbraith

Andrew Dessler on Joe Rogan's Podcast

Notable climate scientist Andrew Dessler just recently was on Joe Rogan's Podcast:

I just learned of this and haven't listened to it yet--doing that now--but knowing Andrew I anticipate it will be very good. Especially in light of the recent Jordan Peterson laughable claim about climate models on Rogan's podcast.

More later.

More, 3:45 pm:

Monday, February 14, 2022

COVID Cases By Income Level

At first glance this was surprising to me--I thought it should be the opposite, with the highest incomes having the lowest COVID case counts and vice versa, since they have the best access to vaccines, therapeutics, doctors, etc. But after thinking about these data I guess it's about (at least) two factors.
  1. Those with higher incomes travel more and are more exposed to a wider group and variety of others as they go about their daily business, while the poor stay primarily in their local environment. (But then wouldn't COVID easily burn through those poor, local areas and essentially infect everyone?)
  2. Data collection and reporting are much better in wealthy areas than in poverty-stricken areas, so the results are biased towards counting cases among the wealthy, etc. down through the various income levels.
Any other suggestions?

An Argument for Keeping Mask Mandates

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Some Sense on COVID

I think this guy makes a lot of sense. I read someone who said we've had great success in running a marathon but why stop before we've finished? Case rates and death rates are still high -- falling (case rates in the US, anyway), but still high -- in fact, still higher than any peak of a previous surge. Deaths are just slightly lower than the peak of the second surge. I get that everyone is tired of the pandemic, but quitting precautions too early will only prolong it.

Monday, February 07, 2022

A Hiking Robot

How long until these things are racing up and down the Appalachian Trail to see which can do it the fastest, and can they beat the fastest humans? (Don't laugh.)

Fortunately, there are steps and cliffs and ladders (and a few bridgeless streams) on the A.T. that these robots can't yet handle. So maybe the (longer but easier) Pacific Crest Trail. But the day is coming.

A Statement from Putin

Macron should have insisted on the chair down to the far left and not taken no for an answer.

About Whatever's Going On in Canada

I'm starting to lose the thread of what's going on in Canada, except it seems disappointingly American, minus the military wannabes in camo with assault rifles hung over their shoulders. Instead there's a lot of honking and some rude behavior, which is very disappointing for such a civilized country, I have to say.

It started over truckers protesting -- what else -- having to roll up their sleeves and get a little shot or two in their arms in order to deliver goods across the US-Canadian border and minimize infecting the populace in the process with a serious disease that has already helped killed over 900,000 Americans and 35,000 in Canada -- the equivalent of about 300,000 if you adjust for population. (So Canada has 1/3rd the number of deaths per capita. See why this protest is so disappointing.)

Ottawa's mayor has declared a state of emergency. WaPo:
The emergency declaration was designed to give officers more “flexibility” to respond to the hundreds and sometimes thousands of truckers and their supporters who are gathered in the streets to denounce coronavirus measures, Mayor Jim Watson said Sunday. And, he said, the declaration reflects the “serious danger and threat to the safety and security of residents.”

Fireworks were shot off, drivers blared their horns and streets remained blocked for the second weekend in a row, and Watson admitted Sunday that authorities were “outnumbered” and “losing this battle” against groups who were “calling the shots.”

Ottawa Police Service said in a statement Sunday it had launched over 60 criminal investigations amid the ongoing protests — including thefts, hate crimes and property damage. At least seven arrests had been made as of 9 p.m. Sunday local time in relation to property damage and other acts of “mischief,” police said. “Multiple vehicles and fuel have been seized,” the statement said.

Among the more than 500 tickets issued this weekend were notices of “excessive honking” and seat belt violations.

On Sunday morning, police said officers had issued more than 450 tickets since the day before, including to trucks with no insurance and obstructed license plates. Another 100 tickets were announced Sunday evening, including to people who were driving the wrong way or had alcohol readily available.

Police also said that it had issued a warning to the public that they could be subject to charges if they were found to be supplying demonstration trucks in the red zone with fuel.
So far it seems no worse than you might see in any parking lot of a National Football League game in America on a Sunday afternoon in October, but clearly some right-wing Canadians have been taking notes. The whole thing seems surprising since Canadians seem down with vaccine mandates. This is from last August:
According to a recent Ipsos poll, in light of the recent mandate that vaccination will be mandatory for air and train travel as well as for public servants, Canadians show that not only do they agree with these measures, but they would support imposing a vaccine mandate for healthcare workers and teachers as well. A strong majority agree with the recently announced mandatory vaccination for federal public servants (80%) and the requirement for proof of vaccination for flying on an airplane or taking a train international or inter-provincially (82%). Similar proportions support mandatory vaccination for healthcare workers (84%), for teachers (81%), or vaccine passports to enter restaurants, gyms, or other indoor spaces (72%).
I saw that the protest has now spread to Toronto and Vancouver, at least. Perhaps there's something more going on here than a protest over just vaccines, that's it become about Trudeau's policies in general, I don't know. I hope my Canadian readers can provide some insight.

[And right in the middle of hockey season! Tsk tsk.]

Sunday, February 06, 2022

A Haunting Picture from World War 2

Update: Here's the true story of this train and its rescue, and more pictures.


I found this picture on, I think, YouTube. All I know of it is that it was taken by an American GI, of Jews leaving a train that was on its way to a Nazi concentration camp, a train the Americans (Allies?) has stopped, liberating the prisoners onboard. 

I find this picture to be joyous and tragic and haunting and uplifting all at once, and more. I know the woman and her child in front are saved, in the center of the picture, but the person who really gets to me is the women in back of them on the left, in the black coat with her arms out and a scarf or hood over her head. I can only guess, but she looks like she was just a few minutes ago beyond all hope. She looks like a ghost, like a skeleton, like she was just dead. She has black pits for eyes, sunken cheeks, huge forehead. And now she seems risen from the dead, out of a grave, just now realizing she is alive again, that she is no longer a breathing corpse but is just now again a human being. She can't smile wide enough. She's not yet on even ground but she knows it is there at the top of the hill, and even though her face is unclear it seems to have a look I've never seen before. Or maybe I'm imaging it. But that's part of what a great picture does.  

Thursday, February 03, 2022

Why I'm Not Watching the Winter Olympics

I'm not going to watch the Winter Olympics on television.

A big reason is that I don't have television. Or at least cable TV. I don't get NBC, the network carrying the Winter Olympics.

I gave up on television in 2008, a good decision for me. I'm not saying everyone should do it. You have to be a bit of a misanthrope. I'm not going to linger over that issue here. It always sounds like bragging anyway, when it's just a lifestyle choice. I still have Amazon Prime, Netflix in the last month, and watch YouTube Shorts. And hockey on ESPN+ on my big desktop screen.

I could have TV if I wanted it, of course. I even would if I wanted just to watch the Winter Olympics. I'd subscribe to the NBC's Winter Olympics via their streaming service, Peacock, or Fubo TV or Sling TV maybe or some similar bundler who carries them (if they are, not sure).

But to the point, I'm not watching the Winter Olympics on purpose.

A big reason is China's human rights abuses. They're not slowing down and no one is really trying to stop them. I'm not pretending I am either. I'm nothing really. 

With that is NBC's ignoring these abuses for the sake of profits, and other corporate sponsors doing the same.

The official worldwide partners of the Olympics are Airbnb, Alibaba, Allianz, Atos, Bridgestone, Coca-Cola, Intel, Omega, Panasonic, Procter & Gamble, Samsung, Toyota, and Visa.
Of course I'm not perfect on this. I have a couple of Visa cards I'm not getting rid of. I think my laptop has an Intel chip and my next laptop likely will as well. I may drink a couple of Diet Cokes in the next couple of years, though vastly fewer than I once did. Proctor & Gamble probably makes more of what I buy--soap and toothpaste and whatnot--than what I'm aware of.

But I'm not going to be an easy chump.

I'm also not going to acquiesce to the vast and obvious corruption of the IOC (International Olympic Committee), who seems to no longer know any bounds of vice and corruption. A couple of weeks ago I read about their requirements for cities hoping to host a winter or summer games, and it actually included the requirement that the host city provide a separate lane on their streets for the use of only Olympic officials for travel between Olympic venues.

These people think they are fucking royalty.

This kind of thing, plus all the horrendous, seemingly constant bribery that takes place to garner the right to host the Olympics in a certain country, are just revolting. 

It's now all politics, ideology, nationalism, marketing, corporatism -- a perfect blend of a 21st-century dystopian novel in the making, come to real life. As if nothing else were ever possible, as if nothing else could have ever even come to pass.

Yes, the athletes worked hard to get there. I'm sorry, I can't satisfy everyone, they'll be fine.

So I'm just going to stay home and suffer the pandemic, suffer cabin fever and gray Oregonian skies, watch hockey, read too late, chat too late, blog too late, watch Amazon Prime and Netflix too late and fall asleep too early. Daylight Savings Time starts on March 13th. Maybe then it's OK to poke my head up and start looking around again. If not I'll hunker down some more with my cat and we'll stay here until god damn summer if we have to, I swear, and I just might hold my breath until then too.

Sidney Crosby Doing Sidney Crosby Things

It's the All-Star break in the NHL, also what was to be the break for guys to go play in the Olympics, until it was decided they wouldn't go, because of COVID and losing too many league games. Big disappointment. 

But still gives us time for some Sidney Crosby of my Pittsburgh Penguins.

The guy is amazing. Literally almost every game he does something you just don't see almost anywhere else. Some recent examples:

An amazing assist:

Crosby almost makes an amazing one-handed deflection for a goal in overtime, then unfortunately completely runs over the goalie Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets. Unfortunately. No penalty (there were only 11 seconds left in OT anyway) but Crosby did at least ask if Buycky was OK. Oh yeah, Crosby then went on to score the only goal in the shootout series, winning the game for the Penguins.

Jumps up out of the way while blocking the goaltender for an Evgeni Malkin goal:

I already mentioned Crosby's banked empty net goal, completing a hat trick for the night:

Tonga Eruption from 73 km Away

Here's video from someone who was only 73 km away from the Jan 15th Tonga eruption.

Actually it's isn't as hair-raising as I might have expected. I mean, you can hear some bits of ash falling against the windows, but not really see any, and see some pressure waves in the atmosphere, but it doesn't look all that devastating.

It's surprising because it looks like, from the following point-of-view, the eruption quickly covered the 73-km mark and further:

(Sorry, this is a YouTube Short, YouTube's answer to TikTok, and I don't see how to embed it.)