Tuesday, July 28, 2020

"A Vaccine Reality Check": Major free coronavirus coverage in The Atlantic

Capacitação dos profissionais da Saúde que atuarão nos terminais de ônibus - 49667698972

Sarah Zhang writes a long article July 25, “A Vaccine Reality Check”, in the Atlantic (coronavirus coverage is free). 

Most likely a vaccine will not be as effective as, say, measles, because this is a respiratory disease. It may require a booster, and be given every year.

It is likely that many vaccines will protect your internal organs and blood vessels but not stop the virus from colonizing in your nose and throat and being passed to others who aren’t vaccinated.

Also, the vaccine is likely to work only with people with normal or strong T-cell immunity, which forms a kind of “cloud backup” for neutralizing antibodies which disappear.

Some people seem to have a lot of latent or abstract immunity now with their T-cells.  This may help explain the large number of totally asymptomatic cases.

Generally, when there is a mass spreading event, every one gets infected (like in a family).  But members of a family cohort tend to react similarly;  in some families no one gets sick but do test positive. Most professional athletes have few symptoms, but Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves was quite ill and had a 104 fever.

Derek Thompson asks “How Long Does Covid Immunity Last?”   The basic answer is, well, T-cells. Don’t become immunocompromised. Covid-19 is starting to act like a semi-opportunistic infection. (If you think about it, several of the OI’s associated with AIDS in the past could devastate multiple organ systems).

There is also a link to a big photoessay, “Coronavirus in Brazil”, by Alan Taylor, with people sewing masks and preparing mass graves for Bolsonaro’s “little flu”. (Picture above from Wikipedia, embed, click for attribution.) 

On April 21, Connor Friedersdorf had written, “Let Volunteers Take the COVID Challenge”, young and healthy volunteers who would get infected deliberately if they got the placebo. There is a risk of a lifelong disability if something goes wrong.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

"What the Hell Is Happening in Portland?" Now (The Cut in New York Magazine narrative)


Madeleine Aggeler writes a long account of the violence this week in Portland Oregon after Trump sent in federal troops, apparently to protect ICE or federal buildings and monuments, in New York Magazine (digital subscription $50 year now), a column called “The Cut”. The article is titled "What the Hell Is Happening in Portland?" (Now) 

The article includes graphic accounts of injuries to protesters, including a skull fracture.

The political leadership of Portland has condemned the federal intervention, but in many confrontations in the past local law enforcement was unable to protect private businesses, which seem to be extorted to join some sort of Marxist revolution which despises private property and business and wants everyone to join their “suffering” (Maoism).


Video: Gutfeld from Fox: "Jim Jordan blasts Portland leadership" 

Portland Independent Documentarians has a lot of short clips on Twitter of the newest riots. 

The article has a detailed depiction of the “Wall of Moms” protecting protesters.

 Wikipeida picture: By Ted Timmons - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=91121562

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Bruce Feiler writes about his "Life Is in the Transitions"


Bruce Feiler speaks in a Wall Street Journal article July 10 (my birthday), “Leaning to Conquer Life’s Crises   This is a preview of his new book “Life Is in the Transitions: Mastering Change at Any Age”, published today by Penguin, 368 pages.  The book is a compendium of interviews of dozens of people facing life changing events and existential changes in sense of self as a result. 

He talks about two kinds of events:  “disrupters”, which happen every 1-2 years, and “lifequakes”, 3 to 5 times in a lifetime.  For most of us, the coronavirus is indeed causing a “lifequake”.

In my own life, I would say the “lifequakes” subdivide into “disrupters”.  The first quake arguable was my William and Mary expulsion in Nov. 1961.  There were disrupters (my first job in 1963, the “scandal” with my teaching assistantship at KU in 1966, and getting drafted in early 1968).

My first layoff in 1971 (and there would not be another one until 2001) was a near quake, but I settled in and lived a stable life until 2001, and then had another kind of stability afterward, too dependent on family wealth, with mother’s surgery producing a “disruption” in 1999, and another one with her passing in 2010.

Actually, the AIDS epidemic provided a life quake from about 1983-1986 when I was living in Dallas (with its two-year delay) but I never got infected.  There was a kind of new normal.  But the coronavirus threatens to force a change on me -- if I live long enough -- that really is existential and indeed ironic, maybe one my writings set up as a potential perfect storm. 


Monday, July 13, 2020

Toby Ord warns us about our civilization's "making it" in "The Precipice"

As a globalist who doesn’t feel allegiance to any particular minority, I do think more about existential threats to “our way of life” and the meaning of my own (schizoid) “independence”.  I think the power grid (or the pandemic) is a more important issue than bathroom bills – although the pandemic and anti-racism do come together.

(Interview video above is at the Future of Humanity Institute.)

Fahreed Zakaria has recommended Toby Ord’s “The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity”, published in May 2020, 480 pages, from Hachette.

The book apparently starts with the first atomic bomb test in New Mexico in 1945 for the Manhattan Project. People didn’t know if it could start a chain reaction to destroy the world (like a strangelet).

Stepan Jerabek provides a nice overview in Science Magazine.

There is a tendency when you look at your own life to realize that if you avoid death by one means (your own health) you face more risk of an end brought on by the actions of potential enemies.  The perception of the greatest risk changes. 

Ord apparently does fear a deliberately introduced pandemic based on political motives, one that is like Covid (asymptomatic people spread it) but much more inevitably deadly, like a casually contagious form of AIDS.  He also fears runaway artificial intelligence.  A virus, after all, is in a sense, a kind of chemical intelligence, evolving ways to reproduce itself merely through quantum opportunity which we seem to have underestimated.


Saturday, July 11, 2020

Izabella Hickle's Summary of Robin DiAngelo's 'White Fragility'

It isn’t real common that a controversial book gets summarized by another writer.  Jordan Peterson summarized his own “12 rules”.  No one has done me that honor with my three “do ask do tell” books.

Izabella Hickle apparently has written these for a few controversial books.  I’ll briefly go over her “Summary: White Fragility: Why It’s do Hard for White People to Talk About Race”, 62 pages, ISBN 9798661267184, 12 chapters, paper.

First, as to the writing.  Sometimes it is hard to tell if she is restating what the white person feels (as an assertion, in subjunctive mood, which is much easier to do in most foreign languages than in English), or stating Diangelo’s prescriptions. 

The sin of the white person is not their own decisions or actions in the normal sense of individualized personal responsibility;  it is the historical fact that they have unfairly benefited from systemic racism hardwired into the economic and social system and must now take responsibility to pay something back for this ancestral wrong. Many examples include segregated schools, redlining real estate, and especially police profiling, which seems to result from a mental reinforcement of past ideas.

In Chapter 2 she does provide some interesting detail about physical attractiveness, mentioning skin color, (scalp) hair texture, and eye shape.  It is not clear from what is given whether she (or Robin) thinks it is “wrong” to refuse to date out of your race (if you are white). One artifact on skin color;  Caucasian skin is generally not as thick.  The only reason for the difference in skin color is adaptation to distance from the equator.  People who live with a lot of sunlight need the pigment to protect them from too much ultraviolet light;  people with less sunlight need to make Vitamin D.   The hair comment is interesting.  Only whites normally (although not always consistently) have significant differences in body hair between men and women, as a secondary sexual characteristic. Hickle doesn’t mention that.  I’ll find out if Robin did when I read her book on Kindle (I couldn’t get hers in print, which is easier to follow;  I did get Hickle’s in hardcopy.)

My main issue so far is proximity. I do live and work alone and I don’t really have social situations where these issues come up. 

I will review DiAngelo's full book (Kindle) on my featured Wordpress blog as soon as I finish it (next week) 

There is one more book I don’t think has been mentioned here, Ibram X. Kendi’s “How to Be an Anti-Racist”, 320 pages, One World Press, 2019.  

There is also “Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism”, here, by Layla F. Saad, 258 pages, Sourcebooks, 2020, and this looks more like a personal instruction manual when looked at on Amazon (mentioned in video).  It reminds me of the Perry-Ellis "Do Ask Do Tell" workbooks on gay rights from the mid 1990s. 


Friday, July 10, 2020

"What Really Happened to Malaysia’s Missing Airplane" (Atlantic, 2019)


Good Night Malaysian, Three-Seven-Zero”, from the July 2019 print edition of The Atlantic, long story by William Langewiesche, Internet title “What Really Happened to Malaysia’s Missing Airplane”,  with the byline, “Five years ago the flight vanished into the Indian Ocean.  Officials on land know more about why than they dare to say.”

“The Event” with Malaysian 370 started on March 8, 2014, the good old days for me.

The gist of the article is that they found an artifact near Reunion Island (belonging to France), so many of the conspiracy theories involving Russia and the Ukraine disappear.

The airlines may have depressurized suddenly, resulting in quick loss of consciousness and death before the plane ran out of fuel and flew into the sea, maybe a hijacking.

For the passengers, no funerals, no remains to bury.


Monday, July 06, 2020

Should books by "problematic" authors be read and reviewed?

“Reading Books by Problematic Authors”, by the Artisan Geek.

Well, she really means to include “reviewing books” too.

As for authors with (today) unacceptable views, she thinks makes a material difference whether the author is still alive or is deceased, even long deceased.  She seems to give some heed to cancel culture, which almost any sin can trigger.  She mentions HO Lovecraft (horror) as an example, with his apparent racism.

If the author is still with us, then there is a question of their social creditworthiness, "the privilege of being listened to." 

She also considers whether the author committed an major crimes, or whether the behavior was criminal during their lifetime.  She mentions Lewis Carroll and notes that interest in underage girls was more acceptable (ironically) in Victorian England than it is today.


Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Coronavirus lockdowns slow down the traditional book publishing business, because they need in-person encounters all the time


Here’s a strategically important piece by Elizabeth A. Harris in the New York Times, “Books are a great fit for a quarantine; the Book business, not so much”, June 25.

This article seems to carry on a discussion here May 12 about how literary agents really work.

There’s a lot of business socializing among agents (who “intern”), and editors, and sometimes authors.  A lot of that has moved to Zoom, which is a little awkward.

What seems more relevant is that authors would not be able to set up booksignings at bookstores, especially independent bookstores, which were back on the rise until Covid hit them so suddenly in March.  Combine that with, say, the opportunities of Booktube.  I don’t yet know how this can come back.

The article links to another Times article about an online Book Expo event.