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Monday, March 29, 2021

A 4th Covid19 wave coming?

Per the NY Times.
The recent downward incidence trend has flattened and hints at the onset of a resurgence. President Biden's CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky is voicing anxiety.

With good reason?
Of so many tragedies to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the saddest to me – and probably the one with the longest-reverberating consequences – has been its wholesale discrediting of our health science institutions.

Here we are, over a year into this pandemic, and we cannot get a straight answer on whether or not this relatively cheap and safe drug saves human lives from COVID-19 or not. Worse, we can’t even seem to properly investigate it. All questions bring hysterics, or hardly-believable obfuscation, or (informed?) outrage, no matter what authority we turn to. The fallout in my own life from watching all this unfold has been… dramatic.

I don’t trust what the CDC says. I don’t trust what the WHO says. I don’t trust what the FDA says. I don’t trust Pfizer and the rest of the pharmaceutical companies any farther than I can throw them. I look with suspicion on my own scientist acquaintances, wondering if they are really following the data, or if they are clinging to a chosen worldview that science in America still works, oh god it still works, oh god it hasn’t been completely discredited, no it cannot be, my life work must have meant something, it must still work, it must still work….??

None of this means that ivermectin works–or for that matter, that it doesn’t work. It means that I have realized, slowly and then all-of-a-sudden, that I cannot know. Nor can any other layperson. We are alone, our economy is collapsing in slow-motion, and our lives are at stake. Or so we think! If we doubt so much, how much more should we really be doubting? I believe, for what it’s worth, that COVID-19 is real and that these experimental vaccines probably won’t kill us. At least… not that many of us.

But I wonder now, in my darker moments, whether the claim of those who don’t believe such things that refusing the vaccination is a “Darwin’s test – pass it and survive” have grokked something that was beyond me, in my previous worldview. How could it have come to this…? And if I am feeling like this, how must people with less scientific background (I attended a science magnet school) be feeling about it all??

Will my children be safe from measles, etc in the years to come? I have vaccinated them with the whole slate, and feel fine about that choice, but will the fallout from this debacle mean the end of herd immunity in America, as trust in the ‘health experts’ collapses into dust? How can we get it back, then – at gunpoint? With all that would imply… is it even worth such a high price…?

A Covid Tragedy: “Wholesale Discrediting of Our Health Science Institutions”
From my Excel sheet (JHU data). Daily US cases, Q420 thru Q121.

 Yeah, beginning to trend back up (the black line is a 7-day moving avg). We shall see.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Colorado, again


The "inherently dangerous instrumentality" tort principle is what finally brought the tobacco industry to litigative and regulatory heel ("no safe use"). The analogy here is, yes, just a tad imperfect, but close enough for meaningful comparison in that the sole purpose of a firearm is that of the damage or destruction of the objects—living or inanimate—impacted by the projectiles it targets and launches.

And, yeah, I know, we don't care about beer bottles, road signs, or paper targets. Still...

You won't find me shedding any tears over the inconveniencing of "gun enthusiasts."

Monday, March 22, 2021


Roughly 60% of humanity are phenotypically / ethnically and by national origin "Asian." Roughly 4.7+ billion of us.

That's way too much hate. (Not that any is OK.)

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Artificial Intelligence and U.S. National Security: NSCAI policy recommendations report

756 pages in PDF, a hefty read. Unduly alarmist? Upper tier tech insiders "talking their own Book?"

 Just for contexual speculative grins, See WIRED's preview of "2034: A Novel of the Next World War."

Of particular interest to me is this Report section.

The basic purpose of the American government is to protect the security and liberty of the American people.

Americans have a long tradition of debating how best to achieve these twin goals when tensions arise between them.

The two decades following 9/11 saw intensive efforts to calibrate the government’s powers to stop another terrorist attack with its obligations to respect individual rights and liberties.
I have written on these issues at some length across the years.

tangentially apropos,
Before he came to meet me at South Kensington station, Nigel Oakes visited an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum entitled “The Future Starts Here.” While strolling through the exhibit, Oakes suddenly found himself freezing in front of a display that startled him so much that his heart rate shot up and he had to rush outside for air.

The display, Can Democracy Survive the Internet? was dedicated to a “global elections management” company called Cambridge Analytica. Cambridge Analytica claimed to have gathered five thousand data points on every American voter online. What you liked and what you shared on social media; how and where you shopped; who your friends were—Cambridge Analytica claimed to be able to take this imprint of your online self and then use it to understand you better than even your closest relatives could and then use that information to change not just what you think but how you act. The boast seemed backed up by success. Cambridge Analytica had worked on the presidential campaign of Donald Trump; it also ran successful campaigns for the US senator Ted Cruz (twice), and all across Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and Latin America.

Oakes was so overwrought by this display because here, finally, was proof that he had been right all along. Cambridge Analytica was a spin-off from a company he created, Strategic Communication Laboratories, and it drew on his philosophy. All his adult life he had tried to prove that he had discovered what he proudly called the ultimate weapon of persuasion. At first, he had been laughed at, then criticized. But now his ideas were being presented as the future that “starts here,” imitated by all…

Pomerantsev, Peter. This Is Not Propaganda (pp. 179-180). PublicAffairs. Kindle Edition.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Get your Covid19 vax, STAT!

WASHINGTON — The White House will soon unveil a wide-reaching, $1.5 billion public relations campaign aimed at boosting vaccine confidence and uptake across the U.S., Biden administration aides told STAT.

This television, radio, and digital advertising blitz, set to kick off within weeks, will focus on Americans outright skeptical of vaccines’ safety or effectiveness as well as those who are potentially more willing to seek a Covid-19 immunization but don’t yet know where, when, or how. Specifically, the campaign will target three groups in which access, apathy, or outright skepticism may pose a barrier to vaccinations: young people, people of color, and conservatives, according to a Biden aide.

The effort highlights a looming and underappreciated public health c    hallenge: Though millions of Americans are currently clamoring to receive a Covid-19 vaccine, in a few short months, or even weeks, the opposite may be true. Instead of scrambling to manufacture doses, the government may soon be scrambling to find arms willing to receive them…
As of last Wednesday, I am fully "Modernafied," having gotten my 2nd vax at Kaiser. After-effects weren't severe.
Get yours if you've not thus far.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Friday the 13th, 2020

A year ago I played my last hoops games at the Towson BYKOTA Center, which has now been shut down ever since.
This week I got my 2nd Moderna Covid19 vax. And finally got to meet my new Great Grandson, Kai.

That was awesome.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Covid19 Pandemic one year anniversary

What a year. Terrible losses worldwide.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Brain food

Current and recent reads.

Just where are we these days in the neurosciences (including implications for AI)? Comparing some current, learned views. Stay tuned. How do humans reason? WHY do humans reason? (Hint: "The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword." Whether any given "pen" is an effective purveyor of BS is wholly another matter.)

to wit,
Lots to cross-eompare in these books. "Livewired" was particularly enlightening and inspiring. David Eagleman concludes:
…If you’ve ever doubted the significance of brain plasticity, rest assured that its tendrils reach from the individual to the society.

Because of livewiring, we are each a vessel of space and time. We drop into a particular spot on the world and vacuum in the details of that spot. We become, in essence, a recording device for our moment in the world.

When you meet an older person and feel shocked by the opinions or worldview she holds, you can try to empathize with her as a recording device for her window of time and her set of experiences. Someday your brain will be that time-ossified snapshot that frustrates the next generation.

Here’s a nugget from my vessel: I remember a song produced in 1985 called “We Are the World.” Dozens of superstar musicians performed it to raise money for impoverished children in Africa. The theme was that each of us shares responsibility for the well-being of everyone. Looking back on the song now, I can’t help but see another interpretation through my lens as a neuroscientist. We generally go through life thinking there’s me and there’s the world. But as we’ve seen in this book, who you are emerges from everything you’ve interacted with: your environment, all of your experiences, your friends, your enemies, your culture, your belief system, your era—all of it. Although we value statements such as “he’s his own man” or “she’s an independent thinker,” there is in fact no way to separate yourself from the rich context in which you’re embedded. There is no you without the external. Your beliefs and dogmas and aspirations are shaped by it, inside and out, like a sculpture from a block of marble. Thanks to livewiring, each of us is the world.

Eagleman, David. Livewired (pp. 244-245). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Got onto this author and his new book by way of an Atlantic article.
Goes to the questions "How and Why Do Humans Reason?"
FORTY YEARS HAVE PASSED SINCE MY PARENTS WERE PURSUED BY THE KGB over the simple right to read, write, and listen to what they chose and say what they wanted. Today, the world they hoped for, where censorship would fall like the Berlin Wall, can seem much closer: we live in what some academics call an era of “information abundance.” But the assumptions that underlay the struggles for rights and freedoms in the twentieth century—between citizens armed with truth and information, and regimes with their censors and secret police—have been turned upside down. We now have more information than ever before—but it hasn’t brought only the benefits we expected.

More information was supposed to mean more freedom to stand up to the powerful. But it also has given the powerful new ways to crush and silence dissent. More information was supposed to mean a more informed debate, but we seem less capable of deliberation than ever. More information was supposed to mean mutual understanding across borders, but it has also made possible new and more subtle forms of conflict and subversion. We live in a world of influence operations run amok, where the means of manipulation have gone forth and multiplied, a world of dark ads, psy-ops, hacks, bots, soft facts, fake news, deep fakes, brainwashing, trolls, ISIS, Putin, Trump…

Pomerantsev, Peter. This Is Not Propaganda (pp. x-xi). PublicAffairs. Kindle Edition.