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Announcing Complete Sentences

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And now for something completely, totally, top-to-bottom (for me at least) different: I present Complete Sentences, a short novel about two very articulate high-IQ 12-year-olds. Not in space. Not in the future. Not on some other planet nor in some unlikely fantasy world. No hyperdrives. No monsters. No magic. Nossir. On Earth, our Earth, our timeline, in Wisconsin. In 1966.

I’m not even sure the term is still used, but when I was first making my name in SF, we called such fiction “mainstream.” In other words, a story about ordinary people in the here and (approximately) now, with no fantastic elements at all. Yes, I wrote mainstream fiction. I’ve done this only one other time in my increasingly long life, back when I was in college in 1972. I wrote a short story about two guys my age who were sweating bullets about the draft lottery during the thick of the Vietnam meatgrinder. My Modern American Literature prof loved it and told me I should try selling it. The story is grim. One guy pulls #244. He’s free. The other one pulls #6. He runs. Mainstream literature is full of stuff like that, which is why I now mostly avoid mainstream literature.

So what’s it about? Let me borrow the descriptive text I uploaded to Amazon with the book:

It’s late summer 1966. Family camping is the rage. Boomer kids are everywhere. Star Trek is brand-new. Smartphones and social media haven’t even been dreamt of yet. So summer crushes happen the old-fashioned way: young face to young face.

While scoping out sites for stargazing at Castle Rock Lake, 12-year-old Eric meets a girl from the next campsite over. Charlene and Eric are both gifted, highly articulate kids: Eric in math and science, Charlene in art and composition. He shows her the constellations in the ink-black Wisconsin night sky; she sketches him and writes him poems. An attraction neither has ever felt before soon blossoms between them. Eric’s sensible parents caution him that 12 is too young to fall in love, while Charlene’s parents barely speak to each other, let alone her. She aches for the love she sees in Eric’s family, and takes strength from the attention and kindness that Eric offers her.

For Charlene has a secret, one that cuts to the heart of who and what she is. When the conflict in her family threatens to end the campout early, she must explain that secret to Eric, and begs him to accept the vision she has of her own future. Facing the possibility that they may never see each other again, Eric and Charlene struggle to put words to the feelings that have arisen between them. They discover the answer in the language they both speak, and had spoken together all along: Complete sentences.

I’ll post a sample chapter tomorrow.

In the meantime, you all might reasonably ask, Why? For the same reason I wrote whacko humorous fantasy like Ten Gentle Opportunities and Dreamhealer: To prove that I could. Before I wrote Complete Sentences, I didn’t know that I could write mainstream fiction. Now I know. Before Kindle made self-publishing possible, I had to write what publishers wanted. I first tasted the forbidden fruit 25+ years ago, when Coriolis established a book publishing operation and I was the one who decided what to publish. Could I have sold The Delphi Programming Explorer to Wiley or Macmillan? That was a gonzo book. It was also the Coriolis book that sold the most copies and pulled in the most revenue for all of 1995. I (maybe barely) sold Assembly Language Step By Step (under its original title Assembly Language from Square One) to the late Scott, Foresman in 1990. That was just as gonzo, if not moreso. (My four-fingered Martians are standing up and cheering.) A guy once sent me an email telling me that that book saved him from flunking out of his computer science program. Yeah, that book is nuts. But I have independent evidence that it works, in the form of hundreds of fan letters. Not to mention the fact that it’s been in print now for 31 years.

These days I write what I do largely to push back personal boundaries–and sometimes try things I’ve been wanting to try for literally decades. I always wanted to write a love story where the nerd gets the girl in the end. It took awhile. Then there was Dreamhealer. I don’t call it a love story. But it contains one–in fact, two.

In writing Complete Sentences, I drew on bits and pieces of my own history. (Just bits and pieces. It is pointedly not autobiographical.) When I was 12, I found myself longing for female company. Not love, nor, lord help us, sex. I didn’t know why, exactly, but alluvasudden I wanted girls to be my friends. I remember that feeling clearly. I didn’t know what to call it, and for the most part it was an annoyance, at least for the next couple of years. I now know what to call it.

Complete Sentences is not a love story, not in the usual sense of the word.

Or…maybe it is.

You tell me.

 

Watch This Space…

(Something interesting coming soon to a Contra post near you…)


By the time Eric reached the road, his mother was already headed back to their campsite. He had to trot to catch up.

“She’s an interesting girl,” Marcia Lund said, when Eric drew alongside her.

“I think so too. But how did you…”

“No, I mean interesting.”

Eric’s mother had used that word with that emphasis before, sometimes of things she didn’t entirely approve of. “Mom, c’mon.”

Marcia laughed. “She came up to me and introduced herself. Dad came over and she introduced herself again. She said she wanted to meet you. I said you were down at the beach. Then your father invited her to have lunch with us.”

Eric grimaced. “Just like dad.” He took an uneasy breath. “Um…will she?”

“If her parents don’t object. And why would they?” Marcia grabbed her son’s forearm and squeezed it.

Eric waved her hand away. “Ok, ok. Now, what makes her, um, interesting?”

“Everything she said, she said in complete sentences. You could learn a few things from her.”

Eric groaned. “You’re an English teacher even on summer vacation.”

“I get paid year-round. And my kids will not be illiterate.”

They left the road and rounded the family’s big blue tent.

Charlene was already sitting at the campsite picnic table across from Eric’s younger sister Lisa, with a bright orange Melmac plate in front of her and a very big grin on her face.

Review: The CopperFlo Pool Ionizer

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Everybody with a swimming pool knows that the price of the canonical 3″ chlorine tablets went through the roof over the past year. We can’t blame it on teh viris this time–an explosion and damage at the Louisiana plant that makes most of the tabs was the culprit. Supply is no longer a problem, but the price is still a lot higher than it was a year or two ago.

Enter the solar-powered pool ionizer. I had never heard of pool ionizers until a couple of weeks ago, while I was severely low-energy and just caroming around the Web looking for anything interesting. What I discovered was a whole new way to sanitize your pool. How they work is pretty simple: A small solar array provides a voltage across two metallic elements, a copper rod surrounded by a steel helix that has a silver coating. The voltage creates metallic cations. The cations kill bacteria and algae on contact.

The device is about a foot in diameter. The drawing below shows what’s inside:

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In truth, there’s not a lot of there there. The one I bought was from NoMoreGreen Technologies and is called CopperFlo. It was $179.98 on Amazon. It comes with a bottle of test strips to measure the ion concentration in the pool water, plus a little brush to scrape calcium scale off the copper electrode once in a while. No batteries, no moving parts.

I set it down on the surface of the pool, where it just drifts around. Any reasonable light on the solar array will generate some ions, and full Arizona sun will generate a lot of ions, hence the test strips. I let the chlorine tablets shrink down until there was only one tablet in one floater. The pool did not turn green. I’ve dealt with green pools a time or two, and I know that keeping the chlorine levels up is crucial. To me, seeing a sparkly clean pool with only one tab in a floater is borderline miraculous, especially when it’s still an Arizona summer and the water is between 86 and 88 degrees F. Supposedly you only need one sixth of the chlorine tabs to keep the water clean as you would absent the ionizer.

Besides the fact that in one summer it will save me enough in chlorine tablets to pay for itself, it’s a cool concept. It’s only been in the pool for twelve days. It’ll be interesting to see how it performs long-haul.

Odd Lots

  • Research shows that ivermectin works. Here’s a paper published this past July in The American Journal of Therapeutics. I’ve read in a number of places that ivermectin is one of the safest drugs known. No, the FDA hasn’t approved its use against COVID-19. The Pfizer vaccine wasn’t FDA approved either until a few days ago. I can’t help but think that people are dying needlessly because of all the government screaming and yelling about people taking horse medicine, when taking horse medicine is a vanishingly small phenom. If ivermectin has no serious side effects, why not let doctors try it? What’s the downside?
  • Here’s a 30-page review of evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of ivermectin in treating COVID-19. Again, if it’s a safe drug that’s been on the market and widely studied for 30+ years, why not let people try it?
  • It’s become harder and harder to find evidence of the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) in combination with zinc. I’ve looked. The early clinical experience emphasized that the two work together or not at all. I find it weird that nearly all the studies I’ve seen test HCQ either alone or with azithromycin–but not zinc. Clinical evidence shows that the combo doesn’t work well on late and severe cases, but rather when symptoms first appear. Still, if ivermectin works as well as recent studies show, HCQ’s moment may have come and gone.
  • I may have backed the wrong horse. Recent research seems to show that the Moderna vaccine generates twice the antibodies as the Pfizer vaccine does. Now let’s see some research on the rates of breakthrough infections versus vaccine type.
  • Here are some recent stats on the prevalence of breakthrough infections. The real eye-opener would be to know which vaccine is best at preventing breakthrough infections. That said, the chances of breakthrough infections occurring is very low. If you don’t read the paper, at least skim down to find the odds chart. Cancer risk is 1 in 7. Breakthrough infection risk is 1 in 137,698. I like those odds.
  • Ugggh. Enough virus crap. Let’s talk about something else. My pre-2000 pandemic penny jar (a thick glass bottle that once held cream from Straus Family Creamery) continues to fill. Last week I got a 1950-D wheat penny. A few days ago I got something a little odd: A 2 Euro cent coin from Ireland, dated 2002. It’s almost precisely the same size as a US penny, and if I didn’t look closely at coins I might have missed the fact that it was 19 years and an ocean away from home. Getting pennies from the 1980s is an almost everyday thing now. The penny jars are clearly still out there and still emptying into the McDonald’s till.
  • We lived near Santa Cruz for three and a half years and never visited its famous Mystery Spot. It turns out that mystery spots, roads, hills, and holes are all over the place. Here’s another interesting compendium. Yes, it’s bullshit. Yet I get the impression that it’s often very clever bullshit, and I wouldn’t mind getting a look at one or two.

Close Harmony

I’ve been low-energy for most of this past week, and haven’t made much progress on various projects. These things happen. I filled in some holes (of which there are many) in my memoirs, but mostly I’ve been prowling YouTube for new music. I hear occasional classical cuts on KBAQ that I’ve never heard before and buy them as singles on Amazon, usually for 99c or (at most) $1.25. So I have classical covered. I do like pop music. My collection is…big. But I’ve been gathering it since I was in high school, and I’ve heard it all a lot. I’ve caught myself being impatient when one track or another isn’t over yet. That’s a pretty clear sign that I need to freshen up the collection a little.

I’ve been looking on YouTube. A lot of people probably haven’t caught on to the fact that whatever music you like is probably in buried in that huge pile somewhere. Really, it’s not all cute puppy videos. I consider the Monkees’ cover of the Mann-Weil song “Shades of Gray” pretty obscure. It was never on a single, even as a B-side. But it’s there. The accompanying video is forgettable. In truth, I generally don’t watch the video portion of a song playing. The other day I was taking notes on The Molten Flesh and listening to a lot of different things. I put the browser down in the taskbar. It’s a lot like listening to the radio, and all it takes to “change the station” is to bring the browser back up into view and look for something else.

As long as I’ve listened to music, what has mattered to me are melody and harmony. Youtube does a pretty good job of suggesting tracks I might like after I play something. So I jump from one song and one artist to another. There are plenty of misses. The hits I add to a playlist. The best of the best I buy on Amazon and copy to the thumb drive that plugs into my stereo in the Durango.

One of the first things I found startled me for a number of a reasons. It’s the Podd Brothers’ NYC Virtual Choir and Orchestra, performing the old hymn “How Can I Keep from Singing.” There must be a hundred singers and musicians, all at home, each shown in a window in a matrix that scans around as the track plays. The harmony, wow, particularly toward the end when the orchestra goes quiet and the singers go full a capella. I was startled by the faces, which are the faces of ordinary people, which is to say, not movie stars or rock stars, of all ages and races. Any of them could have been my friend, and by the end of the song I caught myself wishing that all of them were. And that’s music, with a capital M!

Most of my old friends were present. I’ve been listening to Celtic Woman for a long time. Some of my colleagues dislike the big stage productions they prefer, but I’m not in it for the video. Their cover of “The Parting Glass” is wonderful. I’m not a huge fan of bagpipes, but in this case, well, it fits. Another solid piece they have is “Tir Na Nog,” which I had not heard before.

Perhaps the best discovery so far is Brigham Young University’s Noteworthy, an a capella group of college-age women, and they are good. Close harmony doesn’t get a whole lot better than this. Consider their cover of “When You Believe” from the animated film Prince of Egypt. It’s a powerful piece from anyone who performs it well, and this is hands-down the best I’ve ever heard. “Be Thou My Vision” is another favorite hymn here. Listen to harmony on this one, yikes.

The biggest single surprise so far is almost certainly the One Voice Children’s Choir. Getting what looks like most of forty or fifty kids to sing harmony is a feat that boggles the mind. And they are really, really good. Consider their cover of the Chainsmokers’ 2017 hit, “Something Just Like This” It’s a terrific song, and even better when the voices are this good. The first time I heard it I had a weird realization: This song could be a duet between Larry and Sheri, the stars of my novel Dreamhealer. Larry reads all the old books (which get him into quite a bit of trouble) whereas Sheri wants a good man at her side, and she could do without all the occultish dream arcana. (Sheri loves him and follows him anyway, all the way to the center of the Collective Unconscious, to face down the Architect of All Nightmares.) One Voice also does a cover of “When You Believe,” and it’s excellent. Ditto “J’Imagine.” Kid choirs seem to be a thing right now. Here’s one from Ukraine, singing “Something Just Like This.”

Maybe you’re not that into close harmony. No sweat. I don’t listen to rap. As best I can tell, it’s all here. Set aside an evening, pour yourself a drink, and poke around. Whatever might be bothering you, I’m pretty sure you’ll feel better. Worked for me.

Announcing the Publication of Odd Lots

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It is with considerable pleasure (and a great deal of relief) that I announce the availability of my newest book, Odd Lots. It’s available in both ebook ($2.99) and trade paperback ($12.99) format.

I announced the project here last October. It’s taken a lot of time to put together in part because I had to OCR so much of it, and I hate OCRing. The other time-consuming element was trying to decide what-all should be in it. The bulk of what I’ve written on programming is now obsolete, and what isn’t obsolete is in published books that are already available. But my DDJ columns? DOS programming? Modula 2? Extinct. I suffered over those decisions more than I should have. I gave myself a 250-page topstop for the paperback. It came in at 235 pages, so I could have thrown in another Contra entry or two. At some point I simply had to say, “It’s done.”

What’s in it? Five topical sections:

  1. Essays, idea pieces, and editorials from PC Techniques/Visual Developer.
  2. Entries from Contrpositive Diary
  3. Parody (most of which came from the magazine)
  4. Memoir
  5. None of the above.

Part 1 contains pieces from the magazine that I felt had lasting interest, like “The All-Volunteer Virtual Encyclopedia of Absolutely Everything,” a few essays about the wearable computers I called Jiminies, “Pay Them Forward,” and “Hail the Millennium!”

Part 2 contains entries from Contra, again items I felt had lasting interest. I threw in my oddball series “50 Days’ Meditation on Writing,” which I posted on Facebook on fifty consecutive days way back in 2014.

Part 3 contains humor and parody, some of which was originally published in the magazine, and some in fanzines that now go back almost fifty years.

Part 4 contains excerpts from my memoirs, along with the very first written item I ever sold for money, which ran in 73 Magazine in December 1974. Some of that appeared here on Contra. A great deal of it is published in Odd Lots for the first time.

Part 5, well, some things don’t categorize well. Whatever didn’t fit in the first four categories ended up here. A couple are funny, including one that might be considered a parody of myself. The others might be classified as “inspirational,” depending on what inspires you.

The cover photo, some might remember, came out of a 2015 Contra entry called “Samples from the Box of No Return.” I think it qualifies as a collection of odd lots, just not written ones. It’s a shame I couldn’t photograph everything in the box, which has a lot more stuff in it than shown here.

Again, I assembled the book because I regularly get emails from people asking where they could find one or another editorial or idea piece from the magazine or Contra. I posted a few on my site. I don’t have word processor files for most of them, and had to OCR them. It’s almost a private publication for my fans, some of whom have been reading me since I launched Turbo Technix at Borland in 1987. I freely admit that some of it sounds like bragging. Hey, I really did predict Wikipedia in 1994, using technology we had in the early ’90s. Keep in mind that I wrote a great deal of that early material with a grin on my face. It was blue-sky stuff, satire, and primarily entertainment. I’ve never been one overly given to seriousness. Please read it with that in mind.

And I once again thank all my long-time readers for giving me a reason and a forum for writing interesting and funny stuff, and for (finally!) having a place to put it.

It’s done. Whew. Go get it! And if you think Odd Lots was odd, heh–just wait until you see my next publishing project. (Stay tuned.)

Odd (COVID) Lots

  • Here’s an excellent summary of studies of SARS-CoV-2 mask effectiveness from Swiss Policy Research. It’s not an article so much as a list of research studies and papers from mostly European sources, all with links. A number of very clear graphs indicate how infections have mapped to mask mandates. The news is all bad for mask fetishists: Masks do not appear to have any significant effect on the spread of SARS-CoV-2. Be sure to watch the video, which supports my long-term contention that masks propel aerosol viruses via jets around their edges. Given how far air from those jets travels, I’d guess that being next to a person jetting around a mask is more dangerous than standing the same distance from somone not wearing a mask at all.
  • Here’s another solid item from Swiss Policy Research on COVID-19 treatment protocols. The US seems peculiarly reluctant to actively treat the disease with known protocols like zinc plus an ionophore or (for no reason I can discover) ivermectin. Yes, ivermectin does work. There is some recent research suggesting that HCQ + zinc will not work, but against that is a fair amount of research, some pioneered by Dr. Zev Zelenko in New York. Here’s the study to which Dr. Zelenko contributed.
  • If masks don’t work, what’s the best thing to do? Our doc suggested taking quercetin plus 50mg zinc gluconate every morning as a preventive. Quercetin is a strong ionophore that escorts zinc into cells where it can stop viral replication. Note that not all zinc is created equal. The bioavailability of zinc oxide is essentially zero. Stick with sulfate or gluconate. Quercetin is OTC; we use the NOW formulation that includes bromelain. Whether quercetin is as strong an ionophore as HCQ is something I’ve researched and found nothing useful. I find it interesting that quercetin is used in Erope to treat existing infections, and not merely as a preventive.
  • Nitay Arbel posted a link to a study suggesting that the Moderna vaccine’s protective effect is longer-lasting the the Pfizer vaccine’s. If you’re interested in pandemic science at all (as opposed to pandemic politics) bookmark his site and check it regularly.
  • Here’s a paper that discusses the differences between ivermectin and HCQ against COVID-19. The TLDR summary is that ivermectin acts against both early cases and more advanced cases, while HCQ+zinc work far better in early cases than advanced cases. HCQ alone doesn’t work at all. I’d suggest bookmarking the page because it contains a huge number of links to pertinent research of all kinds.
  • If you’ve never supplemented zinc before and are confused by all the options, this page will lay it all out. It’s a subtler business than I originally thought.

Daywander: The Penny with the Upside-Down Date

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In 1961, when I was nine, our family went to the Illinois State Fair in Springfield. We took a tour of the town, saw Lincoln’s tomb, and had a lot of fun together. The fair was wonderful. My father ran into Larry Fine (1902-1975) of the Three Stooges at the beer tent and bought him a drink. When we reconvened toward the end of the day (my mother had carnival-ride duty) he had a gift for me: A 1961 penny with the rare upside-down date.

It wasn’t all that rare. In fact, I got one in change at the Mickey D drive-thru this morning. Now, the poor thing has clearly spent some time in a parking lot, but you can see from the photo that the date is indeed upside-down. Well, the nine-year-old I was in 1961 certainly thought so. It took me a week or so to figure out that he was not just pulling my leg, but yanking on it so hard it squeaked. And yes, when I figured it out I thought it was funny as hell.

Today was a weird day. Last night we got almost two inches of rain. Two inches. In Phoenix. In one night. Now, on average, Phoenix gets 8″ of rain a year. So last night represented 25% of our annual rainfall. Oh–they’re predicting another 2″ tonight.

I guess this is going to be a wet-ish year. Our ash trees may survive after all.

Now, has anyone else ever heard of “heat lightning”? When we were kids, we sometimes saw lightning flashing along the horizon (or at least above the nearby houses) on hot summer evenings, with no least whisper of thunder. Nobody explained why it was called “heat lightning.” Light travels farther than sound, and heat lightning is just lightning so far away that the thunder can’t keep up with the flash.

It must be important. Heat lightning has a Wikipedia page, and I don’t. However, the Wikipedia Gawds are threatening to delete the page if some acceptable peer-reviewed studies aren’t produced immediately to provide evidence that heat lightning is real and not a hoax. Don’t you dare suggest a Primary Source. Primary Sources make the Gawds drool on the floor and then start throwing chairs. The only way to escape them with your life is to run while screaming “I’m not notable!” at the top of your lungs until you’re past chair-throwing distance.

Heh. And you think I’m kidding.

Masks as Inadvertent Variolation

Yesterday’s post on the effectiveness of masks reminded me of something I had taken notes on over a year ago: masks as variolation. The insight wasn’t original to me, but alas, I don’t recall where I first saw it.

Variolation, if you’re not familiar with the term, is the process of generating immunity to a virus by exposing people to small amounts of the virus. It was invented for (and named after) smallpox (variola). The process, however, can be applied to other viruses. I wonder if wearing a so-so mask within a population carrying SARS-CoV-2 would allow the inhalation of enough virus to cause antibody generation via a mild or even asymptomatic infection, but not enough to cause a full-bore and possibly severe symptomatic case.

This isn’t where I saw it, but an article in the New England Journal of Medicine from late 2020 makes precisely this point. In my article on masks I was talking about the aggregate effectiveness of masks, which depends on how many viruses you inhale through the filtration medium–and how many viruses are squirted out through jets at the edges of your mask when you exhale. No mask is perfect. A lot of them are worthless, but quite a few are effective enough to reduce viral load by some percentage, which obviously varies by the type of mask and how it’s worn.

Which brings me to my pet peeve, which is pertinent here: The media never talks about COVID-19 deaths. They only talk about cases, which can include mild or asymptomatic infections–or, in truth, false positives on the fluky PCR test. What the media absolutely will not talk about is natural immunity, that is, immunity conferred by an actual infection with the pathogen. We know such infections happen. We have no idea how prevalent they are. My hunch is that many or most of these new cases are not cases as generally understood (a sick person!) but positive tests from people who have had an infection and threw it off, perhaps thinking it was a cold or without even knowing they’d had anything at all.

I’ve seen studies indicating that natural immunity is stronger and longer-lasting than vaccination immunity. This post on The Blaze mentions some of them. What this means is that the “exploding case count” the pornpushers are screaming about could well be a count of positive-test people who now have natural immunity and will probably never contract the disease again.

How could this be? Simple: The vaccine gives you a quantity of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, which teaches your immune system to recognize the virus by its spikes. An actual COVID-19 infection teaches your immune system about the whole damned virus, spikes and everything else.

Obviously, nobody wants to catch the disease, since the panic industry has pushed what I call “mask-it or casket” porn, typically just-so stories of some guy who claims the vaccine is fake and then dies of COVID the next day. The vaccine is not fake; Carol and I got it as soon as we were eligible. (I do wonder whether we would test positive under PCR. It might be worth the cost of the tests to find out.) What I’m talking about is that huge unknown: how prevalent natural immunity is–and how we came to get it.

Masks don’t protect you completely (as the government seems to imply) but they protect you some–and maybe enough to generate that natural immunity without suffering from the disease itself. That’s variolation.

As several of my friends have found, even mentioning “natural immunity” on Twitter or Facebook will get you banned, most likely because natural immunity argues against all the panic, and argues in favor of our hitting a degree of herd immunity (also a ban-attractor) soon or even already. Remember: A case is a positive test, symptoms or no symptoms. It’s very rare to contract the disease again after you’ve had it and thrown it off. It’s much more common to contract it after vaccination. (We’re ready for that, though given the prevalence of comment harpies, I’ll share details only with people I trust, and then one-on-one.)

Now, this notion of masks as variolation is just speculation. I bring it up because it exposes a huge gap in the coverage of COVID-19 that we’re getting from conventional online sources, who are censoring all mention of natural immunity and its related topics. It’s also why I keep my own instance of WordPress on my own hosting service rather than an account on the WordPress site. I don’t talk about controversial topics very often, but when I do, I don’t want the conversation to be suppressed.

Masks Can’t Work–But Not for the Reasons You Think

I’ve been pondering this issue since last fall, waffling constantly about whether I should write about it at all. I was sure that any number of other people would make the point I’m about to make, but I haven’t seen it. Maybe it’s too simple. Maybe people are past caring. I don’t know.

Here’s my point: Consumer-grade masks can’t stop SARS-CoV-2. It’s impossible. But not for the reasons you might think.

First, some background. Surgical masks were originally developed to protect vulnerable patients from pathogens exhaled by doctors. They were not designed to protect healthcare workers from patients. Some people recognized this early on, in memes stating (rather too confidently) “My mask protects you. Your mask protects me.” In a perfect world, that might be true. Such a world does not and cannot exist.

The key word here is perfect.

In order to be effective, a mask must meet these requirements:

  1. It must be made of a material allowing the flow of air while seriously restricting the flow of droplets and aerosol virus particles. Such masks are uncommon. The only ones I know of are N95 masks, without exhalation ports. (Exhalation ports render an N95 mask pretty much worthless, as this study showed.) And I’d just as soon reserve N95 masks for front-line healthcare workers.
  2. A mask must fit close to perfectly. I don’t know how anybody expects one mask design to fit all the infinite varieties of human faces. Fit often requires that the mask straps be very tight, so tight as to be nasty uncomfortable. A couple of loose straps over your ears won’t do it, especially if your face is unusually long or wide.
  3. The mask must be worn perfectly. If adjusted for comfort, even a perfectly fitted mask will leak like a sieve and ceases to be effective.
  4. Touching the filtering medium of your mask is a no-no. If you’re in an area with aerosol virus particles floating around, those particles will accumulate on the outside of the mask. Touching them transfers them to your fingers, which can then easily transfer them to food or tissues.

The primary failure mode for masks is leakage. When the whole mask fetish first became a thing, we bought some masks and I did some experimenting. I put a mask on as best I could, dipped a finger in a glass of water, and held the wet finger around the edges of the mask while I breathed normally. I could easily sense jets of air at several places around the edge of the mask, no matter how I adjusted it. These jets did not pass through the mask material, and if the wearer is contagious, the aerosol virus particles will be sent in several directions with significant force. I was surprised, in fact, at how much force was behind the jets from even normal breathing.

Think about jets of air for a moment. Even a tiny amount of air will move quickly if forced through a small hole or gap. Those jets leaking around the edges of your mask will carry aerosol viruses a long way. Sure, droplets quickly fall to the ground within the standard distance of six feet. SARS-CoV-2 travels as both droplets and as aerosols. Droplets are big enough to be trapped by the mask’s filtration medium. Aerosols are so small that most go right through it, absent expensive materials like those used in N95 masks. Cloth masks depend on the nature of the cloth. Cheap surgical masks barely stop them at all. Woodworking masks are completely worthless. Hold that thought; I’ll come back to it.

I’ve found some interesting videos. In this first one, a woman takes a hit off her vapestick, puts her mask back down, and then exhales. She immediately blows two jets of smoke right into her eyes, and then starts choking. Bad idea. The takeaway is that smoke came out the edges of her mask in a hurry. Obviously the mask was not being worn correctly. Hold that thought too; I’ll come back to it.

Here’s another, better video, in which a man wearing several types of masks inhales from a vapestick and exhales while wearing the masks. (I can’t tell whether he’s wearing the masks correctly or not, though it looks correct to me.) Smoke or vapor (I’m not especially familiar with the technology) streams out from the edges of the mask on every side. The smoke or vapor is there there simply to help you visualize how leaky cheap masks are. Clearly, my mask doesn’t protect you, and your mask doesn’t protect me. (The video was originally posted on YouTube several times, and taken down every time. It’s now on BitChute. The Powers obviously don’t want you to see failure modes in enforced conventional wisdom.)

Even a high-quality mask will leak around the edges, especially if you have a nonstandard face. We needn’t mention gaiters, which have no mechanism for preventing significant jets through the gaps on either side of your nose.

Now, I told you all that to tell you all this: Suppose a high-quality, perfectly fitting mask worn perfectly traps a significant number of aerosol particles. Here’s the extra-large economy-sized question:

How do you guarantee that all mask wearers are wearing effective masks that fit well and are worn correctly?

We all know the answer: You don’t. Masking is a collective exercise. It’s gotta be almost everybody or it might as well be nobody. There is no enforcement mechanism that will render a mask-wearing public immune to SARS-CoV-2. I’m pretty sure there’s no enforcement mechanism that will keep a mask-wearing public from exhaling massive numbers of aerosol viruses. Post mask cops on streetcorners, checking mask types and adjusting them to fit correctly and well? Really? Most of the public doesn’t like masking and will do the minimum necessary to meet a mask mandate. I’m thinking a lot of them will wear their masks as loosely as possible, just for spite.

My conclusion is this:

Enforcing an effective mask mandate on the public is impossible.

I can already hear the crowd screaming at me: “The perfect is the enemy of the good!” Well, yes. In this case, the chain of contingencies leading to effectiveness is so long that anything less than perfect is just about no good at all.

“But if a mask stops even one virus…”

The fifty billion other viruses gleefully jetting away around the edges of your mask might want a word with you. Or maybe they’ll just laugh.


Note well: This is a controversial topic, and as with all such topics, I require heroic courtesy from all commenters. Screaming at me won’t convince me of anything; it just makes you look like a moron. I’d appreciate that if you take issue with something I’ve said, take issue with the point I actually made.